REAL PLANNING (NOT B.S.) NEEDED FOR MALIBU PLAYING FIELDS

The proponents of a sprawling recreational center atop of Bluffs Park persist, with pleas and petitions to prompt the Malibu City Council to reverse itself and approve an environmental impact report for their wish list of facilities.

So what if the costs are going to be prohibitive, the Coastal Commission most likely will reject the plans, and probably suggest the city look elsewhere. I certainly do, wearing various hats that include a former little league coach.

But where there is a hope, there must be a way, declare the sincere if misguided playing field proponents. And by the way, they add, why do people opposed to the plan hate children. Personally, as a father of four, I don’t.

Their arguments have been particularly emotional. These include the fatuous playing of the gender card since all three council members who voted for the park’s status quo were male, to the more pertinent review of the promises of playing fields not kept by past councils.

The councils did have several opportunities to increase the playing fields, without compromising Bluffs Park.

There was what is now Legacy Park, which was proposed 20 years ago when I was a Parks and Recreation Commissioner.

But City Hall and several successive servile mayors back then had their own agendas. (That they are now publicly quoting the Mission Statement in support of compromising the Bluffs is pure hypocrisy.)

They had worked out a back door deal with a few commercial property owners, and opted for a water treatment plant. That would satisfy an E.I.R. to allow more civic center development. while covering the plant with vegetation, call it a park, and let the city and gullible locals pay for it.

I feel Legacy still could be sensitively landscaped for a few playing fields, if the city really pushed it.

And then there is Trancas Canyon Park, whose exercise field can easily accommodate several playing fields, and with a few inexpensive touch ups, almost immediately, certainly much faster than the city putzing around with Bluffs Park.

Again, all the city has to do is amend its specious agreements now banning active sports there, which it did to please a few vociferous locals. It is not like the park doesn’t host active sports now, at least what I view daily from the dog park overlooking the field.

Hey, neighbors, times change, needs change, and it seems many of the kids in active sports are from west Malibu and Point Dume. It certainly would be convenient. Then there is also Trancas Field and its potential. Hopefully the city didn’t buy the fields as a private front lawn for few dozen homes.

This prompts me to suggest that city first and foremost contract for a new needs assessment study. We know what the park advocates want: everything, of course. But what we really should know is what actually is needed: how many kids are expected, from where, now and the future. Details please.

This was not done three year ago to by city’s cozy, costly, consultants. Their workshops were a charade, as is the city’s bumbling planning process.

Needed also is a site analysis: what can the Bluffs’ geology actually accommodate: more structures, cut and fill, or just light footed outfielders?

Those are questions that should have been answered first if City Hall didn’t do things ass backwards, and before some council members made promises.

Hold the divisive grandstanding, Lets get the facts, and then consider the options. Come on city, play ball!

 

 

 

THE IMPERATIVE OF THE SANTA MONICA MALIBU SCHOOL DISTRICT DIVORCE

Talk about a divorce, no matter how amiable the negotiations, reasonable the settlement, and the mutual agreements for the sake of the children, as the split nears, there is always something.

Who will get to keep the wedding gifts? Who pays for the additional legal costs? Anybody who has gone through the proceedings has a story to tell of a last minute demand.

As I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites, usually it’s the money. Hence the classic joke of: Why does a divorce cost so much? The answer being: because it is worth it!

In the divorce of the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District versus Malibu, the proceedings have become sticky, and the majority representing Santa Monica heretofore magnanimous in their stance as liberals, has morphed into ingenuous conservatives; parochial and greedy, and sanctimonious.

The Santa Monica majority on the school board is now said to wants $100 million as the price to let Malibu have its freedom. And just leave the jewelry and credit cards on the nightstand.

This no doubt will be discussed Tuesday night when the school board meets in the Malibu City Hall. It should attract a big turnout of Malibu residents, many who feel the construct of a local district is being held as a hostage by an avaricious Santa Monica contingent, and the monies just the first payment of a ransom.

But beyond the money, is the question of power, not what is good for the kids, but what do those involved win or lose.

We’re talking here of the district’s bureaucracy, the loss of jobs, cuts in salaries, and, god forbid, greater workloads.

So what if the communities are separate and distinct, Malibu a rural seacoast village; Santa Monica, a bayside city ten times larger, and increasingly urban, the last stop on a transit rail line, and the first stop for socializing millenniums.

Obviously from its origins the district has been a marriage of convenience. There might have been early moments of a youthful fling, a tumble on the sand, if you will, but not any more.

This makes it all the harder to face the truth, and in the case of the divorce of the school district, to do the right thing.

And it prompts the thought if Santa Monica was in the position Malibu is, and an appendage to the L.A. Unified School District, and wanting to break free. No doubt Santa Monica would then most likely argue that as a distinctive city its needs its freedom, while L.A. would counter it needs Santa Monica’s money, to bolster the less affluent communities it serves, such as Compton and South Central.

And Santa Monica would answer that its independence is a democratic imperative, and frankly ethical. Therefore, for Santa Monica to contend anything different in its relationship to Malibu, I feel, would be hypocritical.

 

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MALIBU CITY COUNCIL STUMBLES

Can we talk? Really, for it seems nearly everyone with a passing concern for Malibu wants to talk, specifically and not humorously, about the last City Council meeting,

“Exasperating” was the one of the kinder word heard to describe the meeting. That was in reaction to the words upon words that flowed from the dais past Midnight, from what appeared to be conflicted and confused councilpersons and servile city staff.

The votes recorded and the actions notwithstanding, the deliberations I and others witnessed was marked by rambling remarks, self-serving statements, and contradictory comments. In a word, embarrassing, and so I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

Those who actually attended the meeting to or near the bitter end left disappointed, even those who seemingly got the vote they wanted concerning preserving Bluffs Park.

Those watching it at home, as I was, said they turned it off at some point, or fell asleep, as did their pets. Mine did.

For political observers, the meeting also was a vivid demonstration of that infamous mathematical formula being cited more and more these dog days, from the White House to State Houses, to local Civic Centers, which is: Public service equals megalomania divided by paranoia.

Here in Malibu, the lame ducks on the council need to lower and limit their quacking, and the so-called reform slate frankly needs to be reformed, or simply better prepped.

Perhaps their comments should be limited to 3 minutes, at the public meeting, as they do for residents in the audience wanting to speak. That also should apply to the many lawyers and lobbyists that haunt City Hall who seem to talk on and on.

Meanwhile, isn’t there some sort of instructional orientation offered to neophyte office holders by one of Southern California ‘s many academic institutes? For City Hall personnel as well?

If not, there certainly should be, staffed by astute former legislators, enlightened educators and experienced journalists. There should be a few around. This I feel could be a legitimate expense, as opposed to, say, the many self congratulating, glad handing good government association get-a ways that several of our council members seem to love to attend.

As had been suggested previously, perhaps it is time for the city to consider an independent ombudsman, for oversight, or some sort of ad hoc citizens committee to monitor the city’s governance. Formation might be tough.

But expressing hope over experience. I like to think there are some knowledgeable residents who would come forward to volunteer their expertise. But can City Hall handle it?

I note that our big city sister to the south, Santa Monica, recently created an ad hoc committee of residents to review the cost and effectiveness of the city’s government.

Talk about poking a hornet’s nest with a stick.

 

CITY SEEKS QUESTIONABLE LOBBYI$T

Amid the daily circulation by the city of Malibu of mostly self aggrandizing, press releases there recently was a brief announcement that city is seeking the services of a highly qualified government relations and lobbying firm .

According to the brief item was that the city needs a firm to serve as “the conduit for communications with elected officials and other agencies.” No specifics were listed, whether this meant making introductory calls, chaperoning meetings , or just going to long lunches and charging the city.

That just may be revealed in the “six printed and bound” proposals the city is soliciting from lobbyist firms registered by the state, due in a few weeks.

But don’t expect wide distribution, for our city suffering as it does a passive aggressive institutional mindset, likes to keep these matters in house and quiet.

And whatever might be submitted by the gaggle of glad handing firms in the political swamp that is Sacramento, is the more germane question of whether modest Malibu really needs to spend $10,000 or more a month –my informed estimate of a range of expected bids – for an archaic service?

The answer here by someone familiar with fleeting legislative friendships and obsequious bureaucratic associations, and also my opinion of Malibu’s questionable benefits of past relationships, is a resounding NO.

And that also should be the city council’s judgment when the city manager Reva Feldman slips the recommended winning proposal under the door.
Perhaps in the bad old day of backroom politics when a pricey password was needed into a smoke filled room, but not now, in this age of the Brown Act, pledges of transparency, the social media and the internet, as well the open door policy of the area’s county, state and congressional representatives.

If access is needed, and if you are doing the job for which you were elected or appointed –I note here that our city manager is paid about $50,000 a year more than our congressman and U.S. senator– you really don’t need to pay someone outside City Hall to make the calls, draft emails , and arrange meetings.

Indeed, I recall a city press release of a few months ago announcing that council members Lou La Monte and Laura Rosenthal and City Manager Feldman had garnered a bevy of honorific posts and were headed to the state capitol to –quote ensure that Malibu’s concerns are heard.”

And in expense reports viewed in Freedom of Information request filed with the assistance of KBU, it appears they have been making quite a few of these trips, and others, presumably to benefit Malibu., with no mention of a lobbyist whom the city paid nearly $2 million over the last dozen years. .

 

 

MALIBU PAYS SACRAMENTO CONSULTANT HOW MUCH? AND FOR WHAT??

For the last 13 years the city of Malibu has dutifully paid the firm of California Strategies nearly $2 million, without any apparent written accountability.

And as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBUU and select websites, , this is contrary to commonly accepted consultant practices, especially in the public sector.

With the Sacramento-based firm’s contract with the city of Malibu soon up for extension, perhaps it is time to halt the reflex action of rubber-stamping that has been the practice of past councils, and openly review the agreement. Time seems ripe for some City Hall transparency.

In answer to a pointed question, Malibu City Manager city Reva Feldman stated the firm has provided verbal “updates and political context,” to her several times a week, though she noted “we do not keep written logs of those calls or of meetings in Sacramento.

The firm principal Ted Harris added California Strategies does not prepare or submit written reports,” nor does it have a written list of the City’s goals, objectives, and priorities in our files.”

That was in response to a city request, prompted by a Freedom of Information inquiry I submitted with the assistance of KBUU and several concerned citizens.

In variance to the statement, Harris signature is on the firm’s recent contract with Malibu in which goals, objectives and priorities of the city are prominently listed. The executed contract further states “all files of the Consultant pertaining to the City shall be and remain the property of the City,” and “the consultant will control the physical location of such files.”

In addition, a scan of reports obtained in the FOI request indicated tens of thousands of dollars have been expended by councilpersons Lou La Monte, Laura Rosenthal and Skylar Peak, and Feldman, on numerous trips to mostly Sacramento, and also to San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Not found was any reference to California Strategies.

While their expenses were documented, no notation could be further found indicating what particular venue was visited, what was discussed, and how it might affect Malibu. There have been brief oral remarks at Council meetings, of events attended but no specifics recorded.

ln the public and private sectors, when dealing with consultants, there is among professionals a commonly accepted hypothesis of “a reasonable expectation of service.” .

Perhaps this would be a good time for City Hall to adopt that standard, starting with a review of its agreement with California Strategies.

 

 

“PUTZING” WITH THE PCH

When it comes to the city fiddling with the dreaded PCH, it is one step forward and one step back, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

Actually, the PCH is a state highway and the city really can’t fiddle with it, only make suggestions to the bureaucratic overseer CALTRANS.

And given the city’s proclivities, politics, and personnel, fiddle may not be the correct word. Let me suggest the Yiddish “putz” around with it.   So we have situations like no right hand turn lane at Trancas Canyon Boulevard, and other screw ups.  Or the latest involving parking on PCH.

And perhaps instead of describing the action as a step back, let me morbidly suggest the image of a brightly vested young valet parking attendant, darting back and forth on PCH, as if his or her life depended upon on it, because it just might.

Their life and perhaps the driver of the car that swerves to avoid hitting the jaywalking or running valet, and collides with oncoming traffic or a parked vehicle.

For the probability of this tragic scenario, I feel, has been unfortunately heightened by the hapless Malibu City Council’s approval to allow a hotel to park their cars off  its property, and most probability relocate them across PCH.

The request was made by a local anything-for-a buck architectural firm on behalf of the Malibu Beach Inn, to allow the hotel to replace its existing on-site parking with a swimming pool for guests. Nice.

Of course this opens the door for any oceanside hotel, motel or B&B to apply for off site parking to better use and profit from their guest serving facilities for whatever, a swimming pool, a sauna, a smoking lounge, maybe even a few more guest rooms.

Each case will be decided on site specific particular, so whomever might see dollar signs in all this, just pay your fee to the city, and get on line.  And don’t forget the extra charges for having the city and its ever-ready consultant produce the necessary studies on how traffic will be affected.

But anybody who has driven on PCH when hotel or bar patrons, or the valets, are desperately trying to park, or retrieve cars no doubt can guess the affect: scary. And not incidentally it will naturally slow traffic, assuming that you value life and your car.

Ignored in the city’s rush to please a commercial developer is that this is a case of local spot zoning, compromising established state highway standards dating back 70 or so years, and just may be illegal. Yes, another city screwup.

I can understand councilpersons Lou La Monte and Laura Rosenthal voting for it , given their accommodating view of anything commercial to add to the city’s coffers, and their business friendly posture in their lame duck term.

But the vote of first responder Rick Mullen is a puzzle. He did indeed comment that the proposal seemed to be bad for traffic and safety, yes, before voting for it anyway. Go figure.

 

KITES SOAR AT MALIBU CITY HALL

If you happen to be going to Malibu’s City Hall for some dirty deed or other, like depositing hazardous wastes or turning in old batteries, do check out in the atrium on the second floor for the Cultural Art Commission’s latest offering entitled, “Painting the Sky.”

Actually, you do not need an excuse to go see the modest exhibition in the makeshift municipal gallery, for the kites hung from the ceiling that were designed and built by the late Tryus Wong and the photographs of Sara Jane Boyer of him and his kites, are a delight, And so I comment on public radio 97.7 KBU and select websites everywhere.

The dozen or so colorful hand painted kites depicting a menagerie of animals appear to sway and shimmer in the raised, sun light bright space. Of course not as a soaring as if they were aloft on a nearby sandy beach, but the spirit of sky seeking kites can be sensed.

Loved the animals, that included swallows, cranes, owls and dragon flies. Most arresting was the 22 foot long undulating kite shaped like a caterpillar that serves as the centerpiece to the display.

The caterpillar was no doubt one of Wong’s favorites, and can be seen in a series of photographs by Boyer of being teased off the beach and into the air by an attentive Wong.

These and the other accompanying fine art photographs of Boyer complement and celebrate Wong, who interestingly photographed him for the last ten of his 106 years, on the beach, flying his kites., for which he had become renown .

One appreciates that the respected Boyer’s composed fine art technique focusing on the subject and not her skill. She respected Wong.

The kites were clearly Wong’s love, and designing and flying them obviously filled his extended later years with soul enriching art and the enjoyment of cavorting on the sandy beach, delighting himself and onlookers.

As I can attest, and my children acknowledge, flying kites can be fun, and challenging, depending on the construction of the kite, the fickle winds, and your skill.

Of course, Wong came to this mastery with a quiver of abilities honed working at Disney, among other studios., and in particular for his animation on such films as “Bambi.” The kite making came after his retirement in 1976. He died last December. His kites endure.

 

 

MALIBU’S PURGATORY; THE DREADED PCH

 

Time for a local gut issue, and there is nothing better in Malibu to seed anxieties, send a shiver down most spines, and set teeth gnashing: what to do about traffic on the city’s main street, the dreaded PCH.

Forget the debate over Malibu as a sanctuary city, whether it is a conceit or courageous. It’s political posturing that after all the rhetoric will affect no one.

But traffic on the PCH affects everyone, in Malibu, and more specifically the haphazard parking along the PCH that exacerbates the traffic.

Now that is an issue all living in Malibu, or just visiting, or passing through, in a car or on a bike, can relate to., and so I comment this weekend on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites

Traffic is an emotional and frustrating issue, and it is on the agenda Wednesday night at City Hall, where there will be a joint meeting of the public works and public safety commissions.

They and anyone interested will hear a final draft report of a protracted study of parking along PCH prepared by the city in collaboration with the Southern California Association of Governments and Caltrans.

Making this study especially appealing is that in addition to examining current road and shoulder conditions , it notes parking related collisions, assesses safety, and concludes by making specific recommendations, for troubled stretches of the PCH, which of course is most of the PCH.

And it boldly prioritizes them, all 63 of them, weighing them 1 for highest through 8. In a world of bureaucratic babble, you have to love the detailed recommendations. Though I suspect some people will take exception.

In particular, since there will be a loss of public parking, it be interesting to see how the Coastal Commission reacts. Will its commitment to public access yield to public safety concerns, or vice a versa?

The parking issue is particularly urgent, prompted by recent deadly accidents involving pedestrians along the PCH. And then there has been the obvious increase in the visitors to Malibu, as evidenced by the chaotic, indeed frightening, scene edging the PCH on most weekends.

Can it be made safer, by limiting parking, narrowing driving lanes, and better signage and striping? And what about more policing? And how about revisiting speed limits, and just everyone going slower?

If the hearing ever gets to public comments, expect a recitation of studied concerns, churlish complaints, and probably an obscenity, or two. A prayer might help.

The recommendations if implemented no doubt will make PCH safer, and prompts me to amend my opinion in the past, that if Malibu is a piece of heaven on earth, as many residents contend, then the PCH has to be its hell. Perhaps more apt would be to describe driving PCH as a form of purgatory, an intermediate state between heaven and hell.

However, as a planner, I should note that improving roadways almost always generates more traffic; traffic being like water, flowing downhill, to find its way into the most conducive channel. And if I need to remind those who live in Malibu, the PCH is the one and only channel,

 

 

MALIBU SANTA MONICA SCHOOL DIVORCE PROCEEDS

 

As Shakespeare wrote, and Henry the V exclaimed, “ It is once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more .”

Once more a mass community presence is needed at a hearing of a critical report on the proposed severing of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District .The hearing to be held by the Santa Malibu Unification Negotiations Committee will be at Malibu City Hall Monday, night at 7 o’clock. That’s after a scheduled brief, let me repeat with fervent hope, brief, city council meeting., and so I comment this weekend on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

Actually, the meeting on the long awaited results of a long and arduous district divorce will be a repeat of one held earlier this week in Santa Monica. The repeat was felt necessary to also be held in Malibu, so locals not wanting or able to trek down the coast could hear the details and comment if they wanted to. But even if they don’t testify, their presence in large numbers are needed, to indicate strong community support for the separation.

The Malibu separation advocates feel it’s important for parents and the community to understand the financial implications of the proposed separation, though in my opinion they will be what they are.  I feel they really wont make a difference in the long run, as Malibu having it own school district becomes a point of pride while spurring real estate values. Good schools tend to do that.

But to be sure, for that to happen, Malibu is going to have to address its own academic and administrative school issues in a timely, responsible and reasonable manner. Ideologues and demagogues need not apply.

As has been noted , Malibu is essentially an attractive small, rural seacoast community; Santa Monica very much an urban entity, with a disproportionate voter ratio of 84% to 16. And for all its pretensions and popular liberal image, Santa Monica, and particularly its school board, has been innately conservative, yielding to a self-serving bureaucracy.

Student needs should be the bottom line, not money, which incidentally does not necessarily translate into a better educational environment.

Meanwhile, all through the protracted negotiations the Santa Monica representatives have been viewing Malibu as a cash cow for the district. And this while Santa Monica wants to admit it or not, is itself a burgeoning, gentrifying city with a increasing tax base and a decreasing student and minority population. The district also I feel frankly has been recalcitrant, no doubt feeling its staff will have to be trimmed.

In the middle of this morass is an evolving Malibu and no less than the efficacy of public education and local control, if not convenience and community identity. It is a dream that has persisted for nearly 30 years, before Malibu became a city, and actually was in the minds of many when they voted for cityhood. Colonization in this day and age is an aberration.

The separation is a democratic imperative that cannot be denied, the arguments for it are heartfelt and cogent, and also frankly ethical.

See you at the hearing Monday night, which I’ll be going to as the parent of two children who began their education in then welcoming Santa Monica public schools, and eventually graduated with honors from our esteemed Malibu High School.

3.25.17

CITY AND STATE RESISTING AN UNPRESIDENTIAL TRUMP

Yes, the weather in Malibu has been oddly hot and cold, and foggy and sunny.

And in many ways the weather has been matched by the city’s politics, the so called reform slate swept into office in the last election having been fogged over by a hot and cold Skylar Peak.

The political fog, I feel, also enveloped the City Council recently in its vote of 3 to 2 to declare Malibu a sanctuary city, as I commented on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and, select websites.

The vote prohibits the city assisting in any way the federal government in enforcing immigration laws, which in fact the city does not do now nor does the local police and sheriff.

All agreed that the vote was purely symbolic, a thumb at the nose for an unpresidential Trump; outside our city purview, said Mullen; courageous said Rosenthal. And so went the debate, on and on, as the council tends to do before a dwindling audience. Perhaps it’s time the 3 minute rule limiting public speakers be extended to those sitting on the dais. You think city attorney Christi Hogin was not being paid enough that she also might be getting a bonus by the word.

The term loquacious or long-winded might be used to describe councilperson Rosenthal. She also might be more cautious in her comments, revealing as she did in the debate that a number of children in Malibu schools and their families were illegal immigrants and vulnerable. A dramatic utterance that I hope was not picked up by the malicious feds.

What prompted my questioning the christening of Malibu as a sanctuary city is that I feel, however arbitrary and vain glorious the labeling, such an effort should have been at least accompanied by the allocation of needed support services, such as legal representation and shelter. That is what ensnared illegal immigrants will need, not just a friendly wave from a liberal in a passing limousine, however sincere.

Not incidentally, a bill is advancing in the state Senate that would make the entire state of California a sanctuary, banning all local police and sheriffs from arresting or detaining people for federal immigration status violation, unless there is a different crime or a warrant from a judge.

Also from Sacramento, comes the news of a legislative package labeled Preserve California, which has the noble intent to insulate the state from the dangerous rollbacks in federal environmental and public health regulations. Now that has the promise of needed substance beyond niceties.

In a press release from the Democratic wheelhouse in the state capitol, the thrust of the package is to establish “strong and legally enforceable baseline protections for the environment, public health, worker safety, and other areas of federal regulatory law that could be dramatically and recklessly weakened by the Trump Administration.” It continues:

“Measures would also protect federal lands within the State of California from sale to private developers for the purpose of resource extraction; ensure federal employees are not penalized under California law for whistle blowing; and shield public information and data resources from federal censorship or destruction.”

“The Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress are racing to weaken decades-old environmental and public health protections,” stated California Senate Leader Kevin de León of Los Angeles. But he added the package makes existing federal laws – like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts – enforceable under California law, “so we can preserve the state we know and love, regardless of what happens in Washington.”

“This is pretty straightforward – just common sense measures to preserve minimum safeguards for clean air and water,” explained Malibu’s own, fresh faced Senator Henry Stern  “We still have a ways to go to clean up our environment, but at the very least we should not be backsliding.” Way to go Henry. Let’s have more than words.