FIVE VIE FOR MALIBU CITY COUNCIL

The fear that local elections might be lost when moved to coincide with the traditional state and national election day of the first Tuesday in November appears to be unfounded, at least from my down home and dog park perspectives.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, this may due to the fact that though this is not a presidential year, politics is very much on the public’s consciousness.

No doubt this might be due to the contentiousness and confusion emanating from the White House daily dominating the news, and I add perhaps intentionally to distract the public from the critical issues of climate change and no less than the future of our democracy.

But perhaps because what is going on in Washington is so far beyond the pale, to one weaned on the credo of civility and civics, to be so outrageous to be almost unreal, the focus instead on the local political scene can be considered something akin to an escape.

Here in Malibu questions are being asked, impressions shared, the ubiquitous roadside signs are everywhere, and seemingly almost every night there is a forum or debate featuring the five candidates vying for the two spots on city council.

In accordance with FCC rules, as a member of the news team at KBUU I cannot endorse a candidate, though as a commentator can review the campaign. So does my trusted official disservice dog, a companionable Corgi, who answers to Bobby the bad and tends to bark when impatient. But so do I.

Make no mistake, this local election is critical to those who embrace the city’s mission statement that boldly declares “Malibu is committed to ensure the physical and biological integrity of its environment through the development of land use programs and decisions, to protect the public and private health, safety and general welfare.”

And as it proclaims to be such a “unique land and marine environment, and residential community,” Malibu urgently needs a tough experienced city council willing to make hard decisions and not incidentally exert leadership over what has sadly become a less than transparent, self serving bloated bureaucracy. Who do they work for, anyway?

With that in mind one must look hard at the candidates, in particular what has been their presence and experience in Malibu, presented here briefly, and in alphabetical order.

Olivia Damavendi: Was Mayor-for-the day not too long ago as a Malibu High student, and later City Hall publicist and Malibu Times reporter, though I don’t know if they’re recommendations.

Karen Farrer: Long time resident (40 years) as an activist parent and articulate advocate in many challenging leadership roles on behalf of independent and improved Malibu schools.

Jim Palmer: An involved local of many years, as a restaurateur and vintner, environmentalist, and public works commissioner.

Mikke Pierson: Life long resident with deep roots as a parent and community activist, notably six years on the planning commission, and in efforts to aid the homeless.

Lance Simmens: Three year resident, briefly president of the Adamson House Board, a self published author, and touting self described senior political posts in Washington and elsewhere.

Those are the choices. You decide, I’m still pondering,

 

PT. DUNE SCHOOL PLANS QUESTIONED

A seemingly sincere Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District and a cadre of its consultants descended on Pt. Dume several day ago for a public meeting to review a draft environmental impact report for its proposed ambitious realignment of Malibu schools.

A sparse audience of about 20 Point residents and parents heard that though the report raised some hackles, it was nevertheless needed to expedite the project that will combine the Pt. Dume and Cabrillo elementary schools on the Pt. Dume campus; in the first phase in temporary prefabs and a second stage in a new classroom building

As I comment on public radio 99.1, KBUU, and select websites, the audience had to be wary, given the Santa Monica dominated district board’s long history of short changing Malibu schools. And this despite the real estate rich seacoast city’s disproportionately subsiding the district’s budget to the tune of millions annually.

In summarizing the dense 700 page plus report of mostly boilerplate bureaucratic blather, the district contingent sought to minimize concerns. In particular, these included the traffic impact on local streets and the siting of a two story, 28 foot high, bulky classroom building fronting Grayfox street.

There also was an impassioned call immodestly by me wearing my proud Pt. Dume parent hat for the flexible design of a community school with a progressive curriculum, to serve adults and seniors as well as students, and lend the Point a prominent public presence.

The consultants tried to assure the gathering that the traffic generated by the school doubling its capacity to nearly 400 students can be managed by tweaking commuter patterns. Good luck to that.

As for the indicated siting of the permanent classrooms, district spoke persons said that was just a so-called place holder to expedite the approval process in the project’s first phase, and that the eventual design process in the project’s second phase would include broad public input. And good luck to that, too.

It also should be noted that designating a place holder is a violation of state planning laws, but the district stumbles on.

To be sure, there is little question that in principle that the Malibu school alignment project is needed, as is the pending passage of Measure M to fund it. Malibu schools are a half century old and outdated.

Certainly it will enhance the city’s image and desirability, and while most importantly serving its children and democracy’s paragon of pubic education. And as a bonus it can be expected to boost real estate prices.

It also should prompt the inevitable, and I feel imperative, school district divorce allowing Malibu to establish an independent district, hopefully without paying an exorbitant and unjust ransom.

 

 

 

PLANNING IN MALIBU: HOPE OVER EXPERIENCE

Being observed in particular these days is the 18 acre so called Christmas tree lot at the southeast corner of Heathercliff and PCH, now that the city has purchased it and revealed, surprise, it does not have to be used for a Metro park-and-ride site.

That use originally disclosed by city manager Reva Feldman was suppose to be in return for the city receiving $2 million from Metro toward the total purchase price of $42 million for the lot and two other commercial zoned parcels in the city.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, the purchase was ostensibly deemed a good deal, approved by our neophyte, undiscerning council; no one at least publicly wants to see more commercial development in Malibu.

But it was subsequently made clear that residents do not want it paved over for a not needed park-and-ride lot. And there are other considerations, dare I mention aesthetic in this age of philistines, for some sort of eco friendly project to serve as a focal point for public use and pride.

Beyond its seasonal use for the overpriced sale of forlorn fir trees, the lot has to be one of the non descript blights among many that mark the city’s fragmented PCH façade.

Yes, Malibu’s spectacular seacoast setting of sprawling beaches set beneath a backdrop of striking mountains distinguishes it as a singular rural seacoast village, arguably one of the prettiest and pricey settings in the world: as the city’s gateway signs proclaim: “21 miles of scene beauty.”

But by any architecture and landscape measures, most of meandering PCH through Malibu is sadly unsightly, studded with strip commercial, off-putting restaurants, bland housing, and vacant lots mooning its main street:

21 miles of schlock that if its wasn’t for glimpses of water would be not much different than most of Southern California’s inland sprawl,

So the central question is: whither the Christmas Tree Lot at the ignominious ugly entry to Pt. Dume? Will it be used for a community amenity or just as another political exercise for a paper shuffling bloated Malibu City Hall? And where is that “robust and transparent” community dialogue promised? Or is it just more bureaucratic b.s?.

It should be noted that some interesting ideas for the lot have been proffered in the social media and in response to KBUU commentaries. And some respected design locals have indicated they would volunteer their talents in an open planning effort, a welcomed gesture of hope over experience.

One does have to be wary, given the city’s nefarious history of subterfuge and obfuscation, hiring servile staff and consultants, yielding to special interests behind closed doors, and generally compromising the Malibu.

Governance in Malibu is clouded, and not a pretty picture, and as a result neither is the Malibu cityscape. Perhaps the promised planning of the three parcels will be an exception. Perhaps.

 

 

 

 

 

]\

 

HOPE FOR A POINT DUME COMMUNITY PARK

A surprise out of our less than transparent City Hall: It appears that after all there is flexibility in the agreement with Metro to build a park-and-ride lot at the front door to Point Dume. We may not have to.

As originally announced by wily City Manager Reva Feldman and a braying council, the agreement was in exchange for $2 million to be used toward the total $42 million plus needed for the purchase of three prime commercial parcels. And as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, that includes the 18 acre so called Christmas Tree lot at Heathercliff and the PCH.

When first reported as a park-and-ride site the announcement prompted a wave of protests and several alternative proposals. These included mine for needed, well-designed affordable housing for seniors and those who serve the city, but most others were for community facilities and open space.

Well, according to the city attorney, it now seems those Metro funds CAN be used for more broadly defined transportation purposes, not necessarily park-and-ride. It seems a lazy and bloated City Hall just hadn’t pursued a more flexible MTA. So what else is new?

But now there’s word that the city motivated by the public protests will soon initiate a public outreach program, to come up with some alternatives for the lot, and others, and that the effort will be “transparent,” as promised.

There are a number of specific uses that come to mind, beyond my housing proposal, which for now is here being put on the back burner, given the tenor of the times fed by misinformed recalcitrant locals, and also that it might be better located elsewhere, say in the civic center. Hope springs eternal.

The other uses include the long sought playing fields, which I recall, from my Little League coach and Park Commissioner days, was once proposed for the site. Go Point Dume Dodgers.

A sensitive sitting of the fields also could allow room for a community garden, a demonstration landscape, protecting the ESHA there, and, if designed well, some flexible parking to satisfy Metro and serve park users. And there is the possibility also of a multi use facility and band shell.

Not incidentally, that also could take the local pressure off for more recreational facilities on the hallowed Bluffs Park.

The city should have the funds for this, and not be put off by lame duck Laura Rosenthal, who warned at the recent Council meeting that without the income from short term rentals the city may not be able to pursue the development of the sites.

As for her questionable argument allowing de facto hotels in residential zones, more on that in a later commentary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PT.DUME PARKING FIASCO; WILL THE CITY EVER LEARN?

So the supposedly solvent, financially canny, city of Malibu, to get a relatively modest $2 million from the MTA, needed to complete the $42 million plus purchase of three prominent parcels, has agreed to the questionable construction of a two acre park-and-ride lot at the entry to Point Dume.

There are so many things wrong about that decision: Unwise, not needed, and lazy are a few words that come to mind, though I feel sadly it is typical of a small town-and-minded Malibu, as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites.

If it is any comfort, other cities across the country also are reported beset, our tenets of democracy everywhere facing a mounting wave of ignorance and incompetence.

And in Malibu, further burdened with a part time pampered and uninvolved population, so much for the promised “robust and transparent” discussion. That was to be pursued by the city with the community over the public use of the parcel at PCH and Heathercliff, known as the Christmas Tree lot.

What we can say is that if the city has its thumb in the pie it typically will yield design prerogatives to obsequious consultants and uncaring staff, whomever, with the probable result the egress and access of the lot will be eyesores, the landscaping poorly designed and planted, and the environmentally sensitive gulley there threatened.

To the backburner unfortunately goes my persistent hope for attractive, landscaped, affordable, planned unit development, sponsored by a local, morally motivated non profit consortium, not big government, to serve those who serve us.

We are not proposing stereotypical low income housing for a potential criminal element, as had been claimed by a few neighbors who should know better. We are talking local teachers and fireman here, maybe even a city employee, though frankly it would be nice to hear from them.

Meanwhile, a bloated bureaucracy and neophyte council again out of ignorance and laziness, or whatever, have compromised the public face and planning potential of the sadly fading rural seacoast village character of Malibu.

Don’t want to sound too dramatic, but these seemingly minor decisions affecting a few acres here and there, a parking lot, a structured garage, arbitrarily and most time behind closed doors, are what really shape our aesthetic experience, and pride in, and value of, our city.

It is an old, and true, adage that cities are shaped not by pricey master plans, but by one project at a time.

And incidentally, the $2 million the city said it needed to close the deal is about what Malibu has paid our State consultant California Strategies, for the last decade, and still now, apparently just to glad hand our councilpersons and city staff when boondoggling in Sacramento.

Certainly it does not seem to have gone to influence the MRCA, Coastal Commission, or MTA. As a former strategic planning consultant to MTA, I’m confident the agency would have been more accommodating, if the parties involved displayed more concern for the community and not just for the money. And the paper shuffling.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR THOSE WHO SERVE MALIBU

This week some thoughts prompted by Malibu’s purchase of three parcels of land, the development of which is promised by City Hall to be explored in a “robust and transparent process.”

Nice catch phrase, as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites. But looking over the deformed and unattractive development to date of Malibu, from the perspective of a former architecture and design critic, for the LATimes, among others, I have to be wary. And as a long time resident of Malibu, I have to sadly add, downright distrusting.

So before the usual suspect cast of commercial developers, rapacious, resident realtors, city hall would-be wheeler-dealers and neophyte planners start their back door discussions, an immodest suggestion:

My focus is on two of the three parcels, the nearly 10 acres in the fractured so-called civic center known as the chilli cook-off site, and 18 acres at the entry to Point Dume, at PCH and Heathercliff, know as the Christmas Tree sale site.

Maybe, just maybe, at long last, the timing might be right for Malibu to pursue the development on the sites of much needed, indeed desperately needed, affordable housing, for those who serve us well, and many of our long persevering, seniors.

Developed modestly and tastefully by a non-profit consortium, the parcels could yield several hundred plus low rise apartments in an attractive landscaped setting.

It is time in particular to provide housing options for our public school employees, some who commute several exhausting hours a day because they love working here, which is reflected in the quality of education. Nice.

And with Malibu hopefully soon to establish it own public school district, the housing could be a real bonus attracting the best teachers, some of whom have shied away from Malibu because of the prices here and the commute.

The same goes for our first responders, who would make great neighbors, especially given the disasters Malibu is so prone to, and the worrisome recent rise in petty crime. Schools could use their kids, too.

And Malibu definitely has a need for affordable senior housing. As heard in the debate over the Airbnbs recently, many elderly residents must rent out rooms regularly to make ends meet, and so be able to stay in the Malibu where they have lived most of their lives and love. And we love them!

With senior housing available, they will have the option to sell and still stay, which would be windfall for them and many of our realtors. They’ll also be in walking distance to shops, which will be good for our frail community-serving businesses. And there’ll be less commuter traffic.

Finally, pursuing affordable housing could begin to refute the city’s reputation as a selfish, spoiled community, which true or not, emboldens rogue bureaucracies like the MRCA and Coastal Commission to ignore legitimate local concerns.

Meanwhile, I wonder what the five city council candidates have to say. Keep tuned.

MALIBU NEEDS A GOOD COUNCIL LIKE IT NEEDS RAIN

To say that the attempts by the last several City Councils to lend some needed leadership to Malibu has been less than stellar is perhaps being too kind.

As the Mayor-for-the-moment Rick Mullen commented in a rare burst of candor about the recent cross walk calamity, it appears the city dropped the ball allowing the Malibu Beach Inn’s latest subterfuge involving a cretinous Cal Trans.

And as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, it really is sad to witness council members yield repeatedly to the prerogatives of local, regional and state bureaucracies.

Perhaps prerogatives is also too kind; machinations might be more apt, given the paper shuffling and payroll padding of Malibu’s city hall, the blatant hard balling of the Mountains Conservancy, the disdainful dismissals of the Coastal Commission, and the imperious plodding of Cal Trans.

Let’s face it: our local government just does not seem to be working well, despite its constant self congratulations. Not that the present council is any worse than others in the past, though I feel the Barofsky years were particularly shameful.

It is just that the challenges are becoming more pronounced: PCH, planning, pollution, parks, parking, party houses, the fear of fires and effects of climate change. The list just gets longer.

That is why the upcoming city election is so critical. To say we need some tough, transparent leadership is like saying we need some good rain.

Well, some clouds formed and there was a little moisture in the air last week at the first public forum between the five councilcandidates, hosted at the Red Ladder Gallery, that is a noble temporary addition to the civic center.

Hopefully it will be will be an engaging election campaign, but here in the interest of brevity are some first impressions, the emphasis on first and brief:

Karen Farrar: She was the most grounded and concerned for local control, based on her impressive leadership over many battling for a better Malibu public school system.

Mikke Pierson: The most open and affecting, based on his persevering on the planning commission and aiding the homeless.

Jim Palmer: The most disheartening, for all his sincere concerns and years on the public works commission admittedly being ignored by the city, and not doing or saying anything until now.

Olivia Damavandi: She was the most tentative. From a former city reporter and city hall flack, we got platitudes rather than policies.

Lance Simmons. To recommend building inland parking garages and bus shuttle to the beaches says a lot of his being in Malibu for just 3 questionable years.

And though he’s not running, a shout out for the moderator, an amiable and informed Eamon Harrington. That he has been a neighbor for the last 22 years is purely coincidental.

 

WHILE MALIBU CITY HALL TWIDDLES ITS THUMBS…

Upcoming is Labor Day, the traditional end of summer, time for a beach picnic, a backyard barbeque, kick back and reflect, as I do on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites.

If anything, it has been a Summer of discontent for my Malibu. There is of course the natural beauty that attracted us to this singular seacoast village, the benign climate, the beach, the mountains, space to breath. These are blessings.

However, creeping into the conversation among family and friends, the dog park crowd, in the social media and the KBU “real news” sanctuary, is an unease with what I perceive is the drift of local government.

For me the unease chills to the bone, even in this day and age of record temperatures. Fires are a constant concern, prompting my pointed opposition to the mindless (or is it Machiavellian) ) MRCA proposed campground atop Puerco Canyon, and a seemingly helpless city.

And what has the city’s paid State- wired consultant done for the millions of dollars, yes, millions, paid over the years, other than to make the occasional councilperson feel important in Sacramento or attending spurious conferences, padding their expenses accounts in the process?

Why isn’t someone kicking the MRCA’s fat ass? I don’t think giving him a Dolphin Award will help.

Meanwhile, there are other local concerns, most often voiced being the traffic, on the dreaded PCH. But also on secondary streets, leading to the beach and trail heads; the clutter and the crowds. And the city continues to twiddle its thumbs.

Why isn’t someone at City Hall riding full time herd 24/7 on Caltrans? And what has happened to the long promised traffic improvements on PCH. Or just the right turn lane at Trancas?

Then there are the once family friendly homes in our neighborhoods metamorphosing into second house trophies for the distant one percent, or weekend party pads rentals. And too bad about the parking, trash and noise. And the recent rash of petty car robberies have to be a concern.

Too bad also about the long promised new surface for our dog park. Dogs don’t vote anyway.

The list unfortunately goes on: the curbing of the misshapen mansionizations corrupting neighborhood character, and the misdirected legacy of Legacy Park, for which the city is to be billed a half a million dollars and no doubt more to redo. It is not nicknamed Lunacy Park for nothing.

You would think the open space deeded to the city could be amended to allow a ballfield there, maybe a skateboard park, a community garden, and a well designed dog park.

And, by the way, what has happened to plans for the recently acquired Trancas Field, paid for by the public for I assume public use and not someone’s front lawn? And what is going to happen to the city’s latest land purchases?

Meanwhile, City Hall is making more hires to do exactly what is not known beyond the usual bureaucratic babble, though, most likely there will be an increase in pay, perks and pensions. Yes, it high time for some oversight and perhaps an overhaul.

These are issues that should be raised by the city council candidates this election season, which traditionally heats up after Labor Day. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

MALIBU PLANNING FOLLIES

Observed with dismay was the recent Malibu Planning Commission and the city’s compliant staff, twisting themselves into a knot at a recent meeting reviewing the Malibu Beach Inn’s latest development requests.

A painful review of the convoluted chatter rfevealedthat after commission indicated it would probably reject the requests, it wavered as city staff blabbering on suggested some half-witted and unattractive alternatives.

This included painting a questionable “do not block” traffic zone in front of the Inn, ostensibly for guests and parking valets. Also suggested was allowing a particularly ugly multi level parking lift fronting the hotel site, by relocating a proposed swimming pool. Talk about dumb and dumber

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, you would think staff was in the employ of the developer, and not working for the city and therefore sensitive to residents and the city’s mission to protect its rural seacoast character. The only person making any sense at the hearing was Lester Tobias, a local architect, rising from the audience to take exception to the requests and the city’s mishandling.

You would have hoped that at least the commission would remind staff of its job, but they, like the council members who appointed them, tend to be self absorbed. Malibu, we have a problem, that the next local election may, or may not, solve.

Meanwhile, as for the commission hearing, it involved the beachfront hotel requests to park on the landside of PCH, in the former Hertz property. This would allow it to build the swimming pool on its present inadequate parking lot.

The formerly immodest motel has been consciously compromising the city’s building and zoning codes, and the local coastal plan in recent years as it morphed into a high end hotel and over priced restaurant. To be sure, this has been accomplished legally, however arbitrarily, while a less than competent city smiled, however amiably.

The latest incursion was the construction of a signaled cross walk that screwed up commuter traffic for several days. This compounded the crush of cars already there for the slavering celeb scene at nearby Nobu.

As I have previously riled, Caltrans had typically mindlessly approved the crosswalk, while the city, also typically mindless, had explained that the PCH was not its jurisdiction. It is, if City Hall would only assert itself.

But after being chastened, city council members indicated it would not approve the hotel’s latest artiface, though after the planning commission aired it. That was the last meeting, where the air was unfortunately hot air.

Another hearing has had to be planned, which unfortunately will be the night before the Fall election. Hopefully the rejection then will be a no brainer. Actually, considering that the planning commission and city staff will be involved, better make that a half-brainer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PCH CONTINUES TO PLAGUE MALIBU

As I have commented in the past, on public radio KBU and select websites, the PCH is the bane of Malibu, and the city does nothing.

Reminding us of this recently was a frightening fatal crash on a stretch of the roadway that I happen to drive almost daily, to the Trancas Canyon Dog Park, and weekly to the KBU’s very homey recording studio.

Indeed, almost every day there seems to be something delaying and diverting traffic on the PCH. And sometimes you don’t even know what caused it, be it a serious accident, a fender bender, or wayward bicyclists, riding tandem hogging a lane. Or simply a double parked car.

Then there is the badly timed or badly planned construction, a cross walk or a truck making deliveries to a building site, approved without thought of time and traffic by an uncaring county or Caltrans bureaucrat, or witless city worker

Or it could be just a failed or faulty signal, too many cars driven by tourists in the wrong lane at a snail’s pace taking pictures of the views, or just too many cars, going too slow or scarily too fast: traffic hell being others cars and drivers.

Whatever, also maddening the traffic improvements that could and should have been be made, and have not been, the millions spent on studies, and the continued twiddling of thumbs by not particularly conscientious or competent city and its consultants. Need an example?

How about the promised right turn lane at Trancas and PCH, requested by Malibu west residents, agreed to by all, principally the Vintage Market, only to be nullified behind closed doors at City Hall by an overpaid public serpent at the quiet request of the developer, saving all money, of course?

And when the City and Caltrans sheepishly admit this was an error, then doing nothing about it, puts the dunce cap on all involved. This might be a minor item, considering all that is wrong with Malibu’s main street, but these things add up.

Still, the city is yet to take the initiative, parroting the excuse it is not within its jurisdiction, at the same time increasing it budget, staff and benefits. And for what? To look for ways to avoid taking responsibility for the safety and servicing of those who live here.

It is definitely time for some oversight, and perhaps an overhaul of the city’s staff and priorities. It may not clear up the mess that is the PCH, but it could be a start.