Stepping back from the aftermath of the Woolsey wildfire and the depressing burnouts and despondency cast over my Malibu, trying to be optimistic I actually see some heartening and hopeful positives emerging from the ash

And that includes the insistent call for City Manager Reva Feldman’s resignation, or her firing, and if those requests fail to gain Council support, then the vexation of a recall and the election of new responsible and responsive council members alert to a changed city.

Primarily, as an immodest chronicler dedicated to adding a perspective to the disaster, listening to friends and neighbors and reading the tea leaves of Social Media, I sense in the conflicted comments and the demands for redress a healthy rise in a community consciousness.

It certainly enhanced the identity of residents with the construct and conceit of Malibu, and I am theorizing made them consciously reassess why they live here; what makes the place so special that people accept the risks of periodic fearful fire and floods, and the daily hell of the PCH. It just can’t be the real estate prices.

This consciousness manifested itself in those who defied the mandatory evacuation orders, and what must be added whenever that it is cited; the mismanaged execution by all levels of government, which is still to be explained. 

Abandoned by misguided first responders, the self-appointed scattered brigades of locals banded together to battle as best they could the flames threatening their homes and those of neighbors, and in the days that followed, stomped on the smoldering flareups.

And there were the others, ferrying people past arbitrary barriers, bringing in supplies, serving meals, tending animals, and personally speaking that included chickens. The individual efforts made for a communal spirit, typically experienced by long ago pioneers, bands of soldiering brothers, your platoon buddies, or post disaster survivors. Those feelings tend to linger.

Then there also in our Malibu a rising political consciousness, as the slow realization dawns as revealed in conversations among neighbors old and new, on social media, and in videos (Thank you John Watkin!) that government had failed to provide its most basic services, the health, welfare and safety of its constituents.

Those services are suppose to be pledged to all under the fundamental founding principles of the Social Contract, the basis of our democracy.

But our City Hall screwed up, big time, and that it didn’t do all it could have to both prepare for the inevitable disaster, and also didn’t when it came to advocate for Malibu when in dire need, and the days after. You don’t pay a city manager $304,000 a year to be a messenger or an apologist for whatever reason or vanity. 

Giving notice is a nasty business, and not many people like to do it, so you can understand the hesitancy of the council. 

But having your home, or your neighbor’s, with all its memories and value, turn to ash, is more than nasty.  It’s tragic, and it should make you mad.  Mad as hell, and want to do something about it, like sign the petition, and march on City Hall.

Published by


Parallel careers as an urban planner and a journalist, principally at present airing commentaries on pubic radio 99.1 KBU.FM The many arrows in my quiver have included Emmy award winning reporter/ producer for local Fox Television News, design critic for the Los Angeles Times, urban affairs reporter for The New York Times, an editor of The New York Post, contributor to various popular and professional publications, news services and broadcast outlets, including Reuters, NET, NBC, CBS, NPR and the BBC. Founding editor of the East Harlem (NY) Independent. A diversity of professional positions and consultancies in the private and public sectors, (Metro, Disney Imagineering, Howard Hughes, M. Milken, NYC Educational Construction Fund, US Comptroller of the Currency etc,) assorted academic appointments (UCLA, USC, CCNY, Art Center etc.), and always open to new challenge. And let us not forget fashioning sand castles and acting on 90210, crafting TV docs, design reviews, master plans. Books: "The Dream Deferred: People, Politics and Planning in Suburbia," "L.A. Lost and Found," an architectural history of Los Angeles, "L.A. Follies," a collection of essays, and co-author of "The New York City Handbook." Writings have appeared in academic texts, commentaries on the web, scripts for TV, and wherever, latest the Architects Newspaper, The Planning Report and Planetizen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.