When asked what one word would best describes post disaster Malibu, I offered “fractured,” then amended it to “hurting,,” then “changing,” followed by “challenged.” Actually words really don’t describe the conflicted feelings residents have for their Malibu these days.
No, make that “anguished feelings” correcting my City Observed commentary in the Localmalibu.com and other select websites.
Still, others asked have suggested “sad,” “frustrated,” or bluntly “fucked,” depending if their houses were burnt to a blackened heap, or are still standing but covered in toxic ash, or damaged in myriad ways, and whose estimates being questioned by obnoxious neophyte insurance adjusters from another planet.
To be fair, there are others more fortunate and found their insurance adjuster sympathetic and with an appreciation of what things cost here in a grounded Malibu rather than in a disparate Kansas City: that for instance ash just can’t be cleaned by a $11.50 an hour hire for two days, as a I heard had been determined in at least one instance. Ha.
It is too bad that many anguished homeowners affected by the fire have felt the need to hire a private insurance adjuster, if not a lawyer, to represent them. Some have suggested the more aggressive, if not intimidating, the better. (Though I have found my rose with-a few-thorns of a determined Irish smiling wife to be effective.)
Coming out of this quandary, I hope someday soon there will be a consumer’s report of sorts to evaluate home-owner insurance policies. And maybe at City Hall some sort of ready help desk for belabored homeowners not filing rebuild plans but in need of answers to a host of practical questions, or perhaps an advocate.
Now there is a concept, indeed a challenge, for City Hall denizens that can perhaps begin to mend some of the antipathy many resident feel for those who supposedly are to paid to serve them. Among the pressing complaints these dark post disaster days is the city charging permit fees for people struggling to rebuild.
As the irrepressible Gail Block said in an appeal to the city to drop the objectionable fees, “We aren’t getting permits out of choice; it’s out of necessity. The faster and easier we make it for the permanent population of Western Malibu to back to their properties., the better it will be for all interested groups–schools, small businesses, realtors, and especially the displaced people (self included).”
The ever-persuasive Block notes that L.A. County and the city of Santa Rosa have waived fees, among other gestures to somehow ease the pain, if not the trauma, of the rebuild process.
It isn’t that those fees are needed to pay for the staff headed by our overpaid city manager, the unapologetic Reva Feldman, despite what fawning former mayor Rick Mullen might mumble for whatever reason.
Certainly someone who billed the public for $250,000 in over time in a recent year, most of which was sleeping at a fire house, would not be a person expected to conduct a personnel evaluation, administer a payroll, or to aid those struggling in rebuild hell. His house was saved, served reportedly by a fire engine seen on Ramirez for that sole purpose, ignoring the pleas by neighbors for help. As if another reason was needed for the recall of him and Skylar Peak.
Then of course there is the majority of Malibu residents in the civic center and east whose homes were spared, though are undoubtedly concerned, touched as they are by a survivor’s guilt, or virtuous feelings for their neighbors to the west, or just how the fire will affect real estate prices, in the present and future.
So too are the hordes of real estate agents that compose the city‘s principle employment and represent its number one industry. They have tended to see fires in the past as opportunities, with prices in the immediate at bargain lows and inevitably in time rising to new highs.
And this prompts the local old Testament types to answer the question of what one word defines Malibu these days with, naturally, a question, “So what’s “fractured,”or even more metaphysical and introspective, “what Malibu?”
That is also what we should be concerned with, for unquestionably many burnt out residents, particularly families, wont be returning, raising the question of what will be the Malibu of the future. Something to ponder.
To end on a positive note, a plug for somehow Izzy’s Donation Center to continue serving victims of the fire, under the magnanimous management of Maggie Luckreath. Be it in the old post office building behind the Post Office, as she suggests, or as a free rent pop up in one of our vacant village center stores, somewhere to keep that flame of local philanthropy burning , warming our hearts and serving those still aching.