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.

 

 

 

 

 

PUERCO CANYON A TEST FOR MALIBU CITY HALL

The Puerco Canyon carbuncle continues to fester in the form of the pending proposal of an overnight camping and cook out conceit heralded by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

I know festering carbuncle is an ugly image, but uglier is the devastation in the wake of a wildfire, the probability of which locally will be dangerously heightened by the ill conceived project born out of a blunder by a former fumbling Malibu City Hall. (So, what else is new?)

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU, and select websites, it is unthinkable that any self-proclaimed environmentalist posing as a conservationist could promote such a project in a tinderbox canyon in this day and age of hot and dry weather, sporadic wildfires and constant threats of more.

Meanwhile, there is the Authority’s continued use and abuse of lands entrusted to its care and management, much to the concern of canyon homeowners and neighboring residents. Indeed, all who care about our fragile environment also should be concerned. (And that includes our feckless leaders.)

This abuse included the recent invasion of the canyon top by a film crew for a shoot involving explosive approved by a permissive rouge Authority, but apparently not monitored for fire danger as required by State and industry guidelines. Also observed was a designated smoking area, in violation of public lands prohibitions

And the abuses continue. Just last weekend, as fires raged across the State, the public canyon was leased out by the MRCA again for private use, this instance for a large wedding party. Residents reported vehicles constantly running up and down the canyon during the day. (No inner city kids seen.)

Though presumably this time not privately profiting was the family of MRCA fat cat, autocrat, Joe Edmiston, as they used to be for such leases, and subsequently admonished by the State. Shame, for this and other reported transgressions by the self-serving Edmiston.

Nevertheless, Edmiston perseveres, a tin pot power broker on the public tit, who plays a tough hand of poker, cajoling politicians and dominating the MRCA’s board and advisors.

This includes Malibu’s reticent representative, Patt Healy, who declines to speak out on the canyon conflict, until, she stated in an e-mail, she studies the yet to be issued E.I.R. Though it should be noted, the usually discombobulated City Hall already has actually expressed concern, and it is her responsibility to represent the city, not herself. (A friendly reminder.)

To be sure, the abused canyon site is outside the city limits, on State land. But the lone road to it from the PCH road winds through the city of Malibu. This gives the city a wild card to play if it wants to, either by taking the rare initiative or if pressured by vocal residents.

As has been pointed out by KBU’s Hans Laetz, the city can delay, delay, and delay by various strategies hindering any improvements the steep, switch back road may need, to make it safe for access to the campsite. And it can dead end it.

The city also should raise numerous issues in the E.I.R. , suggest other sites, more studies, and generally become obnoxious, as Edmiston most certainly is.

And why isn’t Malibu’s State lobbyist, California Strategies, pressuring the MRCA on behalf of the city. Just what has it done for the $1,000,000 plus the city has paid it over the years, other than glad hand councilpersons. ( Oversight anyone?)

It’s time for City Hall and friends to try to earn their keep, and our respect. Consider the Puerco Canyon conundrum a test.

THE PUERCO CANYON TINDERBOX

For all that I have observed, and loved, about my Malibu– the unique seacoast setting, the expansive views of the ocean and mountains, the soothing weather, and the flourishing flora and fauna, — there is always the fear of fire.

That is especially a reality during the hot and dry seasons that now seem year round, prompting my sense of smell to become acutely alert to whiffs of smoke, and my vision to scan the distant horizons for a glimpse of flames.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, my first view of Malibu some 40 years ago was the Agoura-Malibu firestorm, jumping over the PCH at Trancas Canyon and scorching Broad Beach. That fire raged for days, and in total destroyed 200 plus homes and burned 25, 000 acres. (It apparently had been the work of a 15 year old arsonist.)

Then in 1993 there was the Old Topanga fire, roaring into Malibu from the east, down Carbon and Las Flores canyons, and several others, destroying 268 homes and hovering over Malibu for several scary days. (That incidentally depressed real estate in the city, as fires do, opening a window for us to buy on Pt. Dume.)

The next major fire was the Corral, which burned nearly  5,000 acres, reportedly set by teenagers partying up the canyon. The flames were racing toward Paradise Cove and the Point, before the winds miraculously died down.

And still fresh in memory is the Thomas fire in nearby Ventura, which a year ago consumed 300,000 acres and destroyed 1,000 plus structures. It was California’s worst ever, until I fear the next one.

Fires are frightening, as I have witnessed from our terrace and as a television reporter, live on the front lines of several major Southland conflagrations. The overtime was great, but the experience at times was harrowing.

What brings this to mind is the camp and trailhead project being pushed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority up in Puerco Canyon: An overnight, cook out conceit with a $4 million price tag on a nearly inaccessible tinderbox site, at the end of a twisting switch back dirt road, certainly not for fire trucks or buses filled with kids.

What could anybody connected to the project be thinking? And that includes Malibu’s acquiescing representative on the Authority, Patt Healy, and a gaggle of local bobble headed politicians. I wonder if they have ever walked up Puerco to the proposed site?

And why does it seem our rightly concerned city council, headed no less by a fire chief and a city manager who once was an MRCA bean counter, always seem to be the last to know that Malibu is being once again compromised?

The MRCA’s autocrat Joe Edmiston, who obviously has stayed at the authority’s trough a little too long to become a bureaucratic fat cat, appears to have it in for Malibu. Do we threaten his family business? Whatever, he’s no conservationist, but a public serpent wavering between megalomania and paranoia. Sad.

From my perspective of an experienced land use planner and an advocate for more parks offering wilderness experiences for everyone, especially less privileged kids, the Puerco site abuses every land use criterion and a host of fire safety concerns, and is beyond the pale.

There is much the city and others concerned can do to block the ill conceived project, if they have the gumption or live in a fire danger zone. And that now happens to be all of Malibu. Stay tuned.

 

 

WHITHER MALIBU’S WOEBEGONE VILLAGE

Upcoming is July 4th, Independence Day, and if you are looking for a flag to salute, and if you don’t mind it being pastiche, there are several variations on the iconic star and stripes design on display in the Red Ladder Gallery in Malibu’s woebegone Village.

You know where the so-called Village is. That fractured shopping center/ tourist trap, a PCH pit stop behind the obtrusive gas station in the uncivil civic center: Malibu ugly, and so I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites.

The gallery– you can locate it by looking for a red ladder on the façade — is a praiseworthy venture of local resident Eamon Harrington. An Emmy award winning documentarian by trade, Harrington recently has been tirelessly pursuing painting.

In the interest of personal disclosure, he and his attractive family are genial long time neighbors on the Point. Even if you try to avoid the Civic Center, especially in the crush of cars in Summer , do check out Harrington’s artwork.

As an added attraction, the Red Ladder at 3832 Cross Creek Rd. will be hosting a schedule of readings and talks. Check its website and Just bring your own seating.

But sadly I expect the Red Ladder life expectancy might be short, for it is what commercial realtors call a “pop up”, a temporary tenant, a space holder of sorts.

The stratagem is for pop ups to lend some needed life to a shopping center as its landlords scratch like barnyard chickens for deep pocket tenants who will commit to long term leases.

What they hope going for them is the promise and profit of Malibu’s cachet. Not incidentally, this is what whetted the greedy appetites of many of the city’s past powerbrokers and politicians, and prompted Malibu’s misguided and compromised planning practices, tree huggers be damned.

But reality bites. Negating much of the city’s nefarious history of backroom politics is that the picked-over civic center is fast becoming a commercial tar pit of sorts. The Red Ladder might be around a long time.

Malibu these days may indeed attract wandering-window shopping, celebrity-seeking looky-loos, but whether the numbers can justify the escalating commercial rents is questionable as the real estate industry struggles in the wake of the boom in preferred on-line shopping.

They can write off the local population, which increasingly goes over the hill for its shopping, dining and entertainment, certainly now that Malibu’s lone commercial movie theatre has closed Noted is that its replacement will be another pricey “shamata” shop. Just what Malibu doesn’t need.

What the civic center needs, of course, is affordable housing, specifically for our teachers, first responders and seniors. And in deference to the Red Ladder, maybe some live work lofts for our emerging artist community,

Besides creating a more viable, and livable, sea coast village, it is the right thing to do, as I have stated in the past, and no doubt will again, and again, until the city finally acts. It’s time.

WHY DID THE LA DA RELEASE THE DOGS?

The case still is sealed revealing what and who prompted the county District Attorney to turn loose 22 investigators on a recent morning to search two residences and a business in Malibu linked to long time local resident and present pro tem Mayor Jefferson Wagner.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, who might know is not saying, certainly not now having seen the support for Wagner, guilty of whatever or not, and the questioning of the actions by the DA’s office. We’re not talking here of potential crimes against persons and property, terrorists acts, drug deals and me too entertainment industry incidents, certainly not in our Malibu.

To be sure, DA Jackie Lacey has some explaining to do, and not in a vague press release slipped under the door on Saturday morning of a holiday weekend. It is time for some transparency to counter the paranoia swirling on the local scene.

This is a case that should not disappear, whether the city comes to the defense of Wagner or not, as has been urged by an outpouring of city residents, some of whom have funded a lawyer for Jefferson.

One asks what else does the city council do anyhow, except bark like trained seals in approving the issues and items dutifully prepared for them like fish snacks by the inveterate city manager and city attorney in the bunker that has become City Hall.

Meanwhile, the fumbling governance of Malibu by a sadly neophyte City council continues to exasperate, witness its distressing yielding to a self serving, bloated bureaucracy and well compensated consultants. And for this the council actually congratulates itself. Lost in its hazy, lazy ways is oversight and accountability.

It is no wonder that specious conspiracy theories persist, as well as rumors of past favors and future sinecures. Yes, small town politics, be it middle America or Malibu, stumbles on.

Sustaining it is what can be described as a cult of amiability, cultivated by Malibu’s modest size where most people know who their neighbor are, if not their names, certainly the names of their pets, thanks to social media.

It is this cult that no doubt prompted Wagner to in effect apologize this week for the no vote of confidence by his council colleagues while testifying to their good intentions.

Amiable, yes, and that is what makes Wagner so liked. But it also makes him not as forthright as what is needed now to save Malibu further embarrassment as a slipshod city.

And I say that as a friend, and also as someone concerned about our failing democracy, locally as well as nationally.