MALIBU REELING AND ROILING 12.1.18

BACK HOME AT LAST, AND OBSERVING WITH SORROWFUL EYES AND AN ACHING HEART MY RAVAGED MALIBU, IN THE WAKE OF A DISASTROUS WILDFIRE THAT RAGED THROUGH ITS SCATTERED, SYLVAN NEIGHBORHOODS, DRIVEN BY MERCILESS SANTA ANA WINDS, TO TURN AT PRESENT AN ESTIMATED NEARLY 500 HOMES AND STILL COUNTING INTO CRUMBLED AND TWISTED BLACKENED HEAPS AND TOXIC ASH.

MY CLIFFSIDE HOME OF NEARLY A QUARTER OF A CENTURY WAS MIRACULOUSLY SPARED, SAVE A HEAVY DUSTING OF THAT ASH AND A FEW MISPLACED EMBERS, AS WAS MY NEARBY NEIGHBORS ON POINT DUNE, THANKS IN PART TO CAPRICIOUS WINDS AND LOCAL RAG TAG TEAMS OF SMOLDER STOMPERS.

 DEFYING THE MANDATORY EVACUATIONS TO STAY BEHIND TO FIGHT THE FIRES ON THE POINT AND ELSEWHERE WITH GARDEN HOSES AND WATER BUCKETS TO SAVE WHAT HOUSES THEY COULD, ARE THE TRUE HEROES OF WHAT WAS MALIBU’S WORST FIRE EVER.  THE NEIGHBORHOOD RELIEF CENTER WAS WELCOMING RESPITE.

WHILE THE TIP OF THE POINT WAS SPARED, NOT SO LUCKY WERE HOMES A FEW BLOCKS AWAY, DESPITE THE PENINSULA BEING CONSIDERED RELATIVELY SAFE, WITH A RESIDENT FIRE HOUSE AND A CONCEIT THAT THE PAMPERED PROPERTIES THERE WERE JUST TOO PRICEY NOT TO BE PROTECTED.  SO MUCH FOR MALIBU MYTHS AND REALTOR REASSURANCES.

WORSE WAS THE DEVASTATION OF WESTERN MALIBU AND SEVERAL OF THE CANYON COMMUNITIES, THAT INCLUDE TRANCAS, DECKER, KANAN AND LATIGO, WHICH I TOURED CHECKING ON THE HOMES OF FRIENDS, UNABLE TO RETURN TO THEIR PROPERTIES IN THE HELLISH FIRST WEEK OF MANDATORY EVACUATIONS, AND UNABLE TO FILTER THE FRAGMENTS OF INFORMATION AND RUMORS TRICKLING FROM A HOST OF QUESTIONABLE SOURCES, PRINCIPALLY TV AND THE INTERNET.

HOWEVER, CACOPHONIC AND UNFILTERED AS THE SOCIAL MEDIA WAS, NEXT DOOR, AND VARIOUS FACEBOOK SITES, SUCH AS FRIENDS OF MALIBU, WERE WELCOME IF UNVETTED SOURCES THAT YOU HAD TO READ CAREFULLY AND CONSIDER WHO WAS DOING THE WRITING.  WELL INTENTION AS SOME WERE, MOST WERE UNFORTUNATELY UNSUBSTANTIATED AND UNRELIABLE.

TO BE SURE, HAVING SOMEONE WHO IS AN IT AND AN EDITOR IN THE HOUSEHOLD WAS HELPFUL, AND ROOSTING IN LOCALES THAT HAD WIFI. 

FRANKLY THOUGH, ONE HAD TO TOUR THE NEIGHBORHOODS TO SEE THE DESTRUCTION, TALK TO THOSE WHO FELT THE HEAT OF THE FIRES, AND HEAR THEIR  WOES, FEVERISH FRUSTRATION AND PALATABLE ANGER AT WHAT THEY WITNESSED WAS THE CONFUSION AND FUMBLING OF THE POWERS-THAT-BE.

 THAT INCLUDED FIRST RESPONDERS  AND, IN PARTICULAR, THE CITY OF MALIBU.

RESIDENTS CHARGED WITH PALATABLE ANGER THAT THE FIRE SADLY EXPOSED AN OVERPAID AND UNDER ACHIEVING CITY ADMINISTRATION THAT WAS ALL BUT IRRELEVANT, FROM FAILING TO EXPEDITIOUSLY ACTIVATE ITS CERT VOLUNTEERS, TO NOT PROVIDING A TIMELY, EASILY ACCESSIBLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION. THEY ADDED THAT NOT HELPING WAS THE CITY’S TOUTED EMERGENCY WEBSITE THAT REGURGITATED SHERIFF AND COUNTY ITEMS HOURS AND DAYS LATE, WHILE ISSUING PRESS RELEASES OF CLICHÉD CONCERNS OF CITY OFFICIALS. 

PARTICULARLY DISMAYING WAS ALSO THE CITY’S MISMANAGEMENT OF ITS MANDATORY EVACUATION DIRECTIVE THAT APPARENTLY WAS NOT PHASED OR COORDINATED WITH FIRST RESPONDERS AND NEIGHBORING MUNICIPALITIES.

PCH FOR MANY LEAVING EARLY ON THAT FATEFUL FRIDAY IT WAS A FOUR AND FIVE HOUR FRUSTRATION GETTING TO SANTA MONICA, WHICH NOT INCIDENTALLY IN A GESTURE OF ILL WILL CLOSED THE STREET ENTRANCES INTO ITS DOWNTOWN. THE SITUATION DID GET BETTER FOR THOSE FLEEING MALIBU LATER IN THE AFTERNOON, WHEN IT WAS ANNOUNCE ALL LANES WERE OPEN EAST, BUT NOT REALLY, UNLESS YOU CHANCED THE CENTER LANES, AS WE DID LEADING A CARAVAN.

RETURNING THE NEXT DAY THANKS TO PRESS CREDENTIALS I HAVE HAD SINCE MY DAYS WITH THE NYTIMES 60 YEARS AGO, THE DEVASTATION WAS BLEAK AND DEPRESSING. TO BE SURE, THE FIRST RESPONDERS WERE OUT IN FORCE, HAVING STRAGGLED IN FROM FIGHTING FIRES ELSEWHERE AND STANDING GUARD AT PEPPERDINE, BUT FOR MANY HOMEOWNERS IT WAS TOO LATE.

THE RUINS THAT WILL BE WITH US A LONG TIME SHOULD BE A CONSTANT REMINDER OF THE TRAGEDY AND A SPUR TO AN INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF WHAT WENT WRONG, WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE, AND WHAT LESSONS HAVE WE LEARNED TO CONTEND WITH THE FIRE NEXT TIME, FOR AS ALONG AS WE REBUILD AS THE CLIMATE CHANGE INEXORABLY CONTINUES, THERE SURELY WILL BE A NEXT TIME.

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hallkaplan

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.

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