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,

 

 

FUTURE OF BLUFFS PARK DEBATED

If you live in Malibu, as I do, you have to love Bluffs Park, with it engaging range of out door diversions on a spectacular site with stunning views

Physically, it is one of the outstanding features on Malibu’s singular seacoast, and a treasured public open space, in all of California.

But politically, for the poorly served city government, it is a swamp. into which City Hall appears to be sinking, as witnessed at the recent council meetings, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, cityobserved, and select websites, and in the LOCAL.

A prime problem is the park’s proposed plans, which after much fumbling and feinting is an ambitious, if not unrealistic, wish lists of facilities. This includes a few new ball fields, an aquatic center, a skateboard board park, a dog park, and more parking

The problem: not only there were no price estimates; worse, the Coastal Commission staff took strong exception to the proposed excessive facilities, and their sitting compromised the Bluffs’ environmentally sensitive acreage and an unstable slope. I

In short, the woeful plan was given faint hope of approval by the Commission.

City Hall had to expect this; they had been cautioned, but as is the city’s s.o.p., the pubic was deluded. All those planning sessions, consultant fees, and council posturing, they are long gone and forgotten.

Nevertheless, the council called for a hearing, and out came the persevering proponents of open space, as well as the ever-hopeful coaches and kids. But before pleading their causes they had to first suffer through hours of strained poetry and murky engineering.

All this also was for naught, just as the past hearings had been, for the facilities most likely wont be built on the Bluffs and if the city keeps bungling, sadly nowhere. The open space advocates will win by default, sadly because many also are in favor of the sports facilities, as long as Bluffs Park is left as is.

Or is it bungling? Maybe its bad advice? Or maybe City Hall really doesn’t want to build it, but instead just keep it on their desks shuttling between the in-and out baskets, as bureaucratic busy work.

It is not like the there is some special private interests promoting ball fields, or as in the past like a water treatment plant to satisfy an E.I.R to accommodate more civic center development and serve nearby luxury housing. Then cover it with earth, some plants, call it a park, and let the city pay for it.

Actually, what is now Legacy Park was once considered for the needed ball fields some 20 years by the city’s Parks and Rec Commission, on which not incidentally I as a little league coach was then serving.

But City Hall back then had its own private agenda, worked out a deal with a few deep-pocketed property owners, and buried the ball fields for the treatment plant. Lots of money was involved.

So here we are again, searching for sites for sports facilities. Bluffs Park isn’t going to work.

Maybe we can renegotiate and reconstruct Legacy for the needed ball fields, or buy some civic center sites instead of seeing them go for not-needed malls? And certainly one or two can easily fit onto Trancas Field without disturbing the neighbors?

The search certainly is going to be a test of Malibu’s moxie and civic will.

 

 

 

MALIBU DEBATES PARK PLANS AD NAUSEAM

 In Malibu, where talk is cheap but real estate expensive, talk continues among neighbors whether the City should declare itself a sanctuary city, or not.

As had been argued at length in local websites, the declaration is seen as a gesture of defiance and in protest of the executive orders of a not very presidential Trump, calling for a crackdown on illegal immigration, and unfortunately sending a shiver through the millions of legal immigrants.

In roughly equal comments, some unfortunately personal and perfidious, the declaration was put down as an empty gesture, indeed a conceit, since the city of Malibu can do little to protect and aid the illegals. Resistance has its responsibilities.

Nevertheless, the council was unable to get to the agenda item at its last scheduled meeting, and hear the anticipated milling audience. Instead, the council, as its wont, became immersed in the continuing debate over the proposed plans to enlarge and enhance Bluffs Park, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

Actually, that debate has been going on for decades, at least back 20 years when I served on the city’s parks and recreation commission. While speaker after speaker, including a batting order of bright eyed kids, argued for more playing fields and an aquatic center, an equally heartfelt contingent of sluggers followed them to the dais to make an emotional case for open space, and to leave the Bluff’s essentially as is.

No one argued against the need for more active facilities, especially more and better accessible soccer and baseball fields. A strong argument also was made for the aquatic center, citing Malibu’s renown for its water polo teams and diving and surfing.

But repeatedly raised was the nagging question that whatever and how many facilities might be agreed upon, would the omnipotent Coastal Commission approve?

To put the hearing in perspective, it was noted that the present Council conundrum was prompted by Coastal staff in the past turning down or discouraging several more ambitious plans. They were cited for both being too “local,” catering to mostly Malibu residents and not regional serving, and also encroaching on an environmentally sensitive slope.

Indeed, Coastal was the elephant in the auditorium, silent and menacing. And despite the parents and children wanting more ball fields, and wanting to the city to throw spitballs at the beast to get it to move off, it was obvious to those who have been in this jungle before this elephant is very much a stubborn bull, has longevity, a long memory, and doesn’t read petitions..

Meanwhile, standing impatiently in the batter’s circle, waiting to step up to the plate, are the kids. swinging away for a ballfield. Somewhere, soon, I hope, a location can be found for one.

And before I forget, this coming Tuesday, March 7th, there is a single item on the ballot in Malibu, Measure H, a modest increase in the sale tax for a limited number of years, which promises to bring desperately needed help to the homelessness.

There should be no argument against this measure, and actually in the official ballot there is none. Only obvious endorsements.

 

3.4 .17

BINGE WATCHING THE MALIBU FOLLIES

If you unfortunately didn’t have anything better to do on a recent Monday night, you might have inadvertently turned to public access Channel 3 and glimpsed the City Council follies. I did, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites

Talk about binge watching an amateur production of what might be labeled City Hall E.R., as staff and consultants in a discordant concert with a fractured City Council struggled to patch up an overblown proposal for a single-family house on Wildlife Road.

Starring in the pitiable production for the developer was Malibu’s Mr. Fixer, Don Schmitz, and a scene-chewing, off script councilman, Skylar Peak in a role that sadly for him, and unfortunately for the audience, seemed beyond his skill set.

In lesser Council roles was a confused Laura Rosenthal, who kept unusually quiet, and neophyte Rick Mullen, who tried to lend some reasoned perspective to the proceedings, in a shining but in vain monologue.

Not being able to steal a scene, Mayor Lou la Monte let the farce run into the late hours, as the audience drifted off. Most had been there for a Trancas Field item.

There also were walk-on roles for the house builder, Richard Sperber, known locally for being one of the developers of the Lumber Yard project, and as a member of the Civic Center Design Standards Task Force, an appointment of Laura Rosenthal. His family also founded the Valley Crest Landscaping, which in the past has done business with the city

If I am prejudiced it is because of the involvement of Schmitz, who seems to be everywhere when a developer needs a hired gun, such as for the civic center’s La Paz and U2’s Edge’s residential proposals. When he is for something, I tend to be against it.

Then there was the protagonist, the next door and former friendly neighbor Chris Farrar, whose objections prompted the tortured chronology of the Wildlife project and the latest City Council hearing.

As for the back story, what had been a relatively routine proposal for a typically immodest Malibu residence of 6600 square feet, plus the usual pool and an unusual bocce court , turned into a farce when changes to the original plans by Sperber were approved over-the-counter by a city planner.

The changes involving shifting the building site and extensive landscaping should have required a public hearing, a fact the City later admitted when pressed by neighbor Farrar, and tried to correct while ordering a construction stop.

Too late, said Sperber. No, it’s not said the city. And that was just the overture to the first episode. Appeals and law suits followed.

It all presumably ended Monday night when the Council voted 3 to 2 to approve, with a confusion of conditions added by Peak. Hearing him redesign the project from the dais was like following him trying to knot two live wires blindfolded in a hidden electrical outlet.

My view is flavored by having been an adjunct in the UCLA graduate landscape program for several years, and where I continue to serve on juries. I would have to give Peak a failing grade.

Voting against the project was Wagner and Mullen, and another indication that the much hyped slate they formed with Peak in the past election is not functioning as a reform bloc as promised.

Ending the evening on another ominous note for those who had hoped the City be less pro development was the mumbled announcement by Mayor La Monte that his interim appointment to the Planning Commission would be long serving former mayor, Jeff Jennings.

Jennings is known for his articulate support for development, however it might compromise the city’s code and mission statement. Paramount is property rights. I expect we can expect some more heated debates on an enlivened city’s public access channel.

Better set my timer to record.

2.18.17

 

SOME POSITIVE PLANNING BOOKS FOR THE TOUGH TRUMP YEARS AHEAD

There are a few treasured, dog-eared planning and urban design books I return to periodically for inspiration, and a little nostalgia, as I comment on public radio KBU and select websites.

Dating back to the 1960s when I was a metropolitan reporter for the New York Times during the day and a community activist in East Harlem at night, the books then and in the years following served as guides, generating both ideas and hope.

Yes, there was hope back then spurred by the emerging civil rights movement, urban consciousness and advocacy architecture, employing a host of innovative planning and development programs.

Good intentions prevailed, unlike now in the perverted programs proffered by a loathsome Trump and his stooges. They appear in lockstep, dead set to gut our democracy and the fragile efforts serving our cities and the less fortunate; indeed to only serve themselves and the obscene one percent.

And so we escape to books that remind us of their inherent good will. How insightful was Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City, awakening our awareness, and appreciation, of the cityscape.

Then there was William H. Whyte’s The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, which he called more of a manual than a book, exploring with a camera and insight what makes public plazas and streets work for, and don’t work, for pedestrians.

Enlightening also was Jan Gehl’s “Life Between the Buildings,” which I like for not being about touristy city centers and staged occasions for the leisure class, but about everyday people experiencing the public realm.

That is what I also like about Alexander Garvin’s recently published “What Makes a Great City.” Be the title taken as a declarative, or a question, Garvin declares in the preface it is the people and public spaces that makes a city great, not the architectural icons, beauty or function.

The well illustrated and accessible book, from the environmental advocate Island Press, goes on to identify several essential characteristics needed to make a city attractive to people, and noteworthy.

These include being open, inviting and offering something for everybody, sustaining a habitable environment and nurturing a civil society. And he notes where and how it is happening.

I was hoping that is what “People Cities” by Annie Matan and Peter Newman would also be so informative, published as a celebration of the life and legacy of Jan Gehl also by the resolute Island Press.

While touching upon a selection of city planning projects Gehl pursued, the book is more a parochial testimonial to the however deserving and inspired cityscaper.

I prefer reading Gehl’s old books, while looking ahead, beyond the Trump misadministration.

 

MALIBU NEEDS AFFORDABLE HOUSING

With only a few days left for public comment on the proposal for a memorial park in Malibu, I have moved the item to the front burner of local planning concerns, and so I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

Therefore, my continued review of what I have labeled the Trancas Field Follies will just have to wait. There is time, since it seems the fate of that site in West Malibu has been sent to staff Siberia, while the city continues discussions with the Coastal Commission concerning the Bluffs Park plans.

No doubt both items will be put off until the a new council is seated next month, with a new majority promising to look closer into the city’s planning process, and the need for more transparency and improved community outreach.

Certainly needed for a second look and more public comment is the pending proposal for the memorial park and cemetery on a prime site at the northeast corner of PCH and Malibu Canyon Road.

The original plans for a luxury hotel there having been rejected, the new plans propose a two story chapel, a number of free standing mausoleums, 4,000 crypt internments and 29,00 burial plots, and ,of course, the necessary visitor parking .

Maybe it is the reluctance to speak ill of the dead, or raise questions of internment, but no one seems inclined to take exception to the plans. The only comment heard so far is that funeral corteges may exacerbate traffic on the PCH.

\Though sensitive to these issues, I am frankly more sensitive to the need for affordable housing for Malibu’s work force and seniors.

And further, from a land use point of view, the memorial park’s would make for an infinitely better residential development. Indeed, the 27 acre site could be masterly designed for perhaps 200 or so two story town houses in a well landscaped setting with striking views.

The site is in walking distance to the Civic Center, shopping, the library, Legacy and Bluffs parks , the beach, the proposed college extension, and accessible public transit. Score it a ten on the planning scale.

By workforce I am specifically referring to our public school teachers, first responders, city employee, shop clerks, waiters and waitresses; all those who toil and lend life to Malibu.

Most live beyond the 27 miles of scenic beauty that is Malibu, and must commute long distances to work, which of course adds to the traffic on the dreaded PCH.

And then there is also the need for senior housing for those increasing long time residents, many of our neighbors, who no longer can afford and maintain their now too large homes here, but want to stay in the Malibu they have roots in and love.

Not only is affordable housing good land use planning, I feel as I’ve said before, it is the moral, right thing to do.

I also like to think that the affable and inventive developer of the memorial park , Richard Weintraub, would be open to the alternative, though I’m not sure he or any developer would want to suffer the controversy a proposal for affordable housing is sure to stir.

Nonetheless, in a community that hosts and cares about all forms of life, the sea and mountain lions, dogs, cats, birds, and turtles too, in backyards and beyond, should care about the people who serve them, and their aging neighbors.

Let us plan with our heads, and also our hearts.

 

 

.

 

WEST MALIBU SHORT CHANGED AGAIN BY A SLEEPY CITY HALL

The new curbing is finished at PCH and Trancas Canyon Road but without a right turn lane as requested by residents and promised by the developer and City Hall.

Unless you live in West Malibu, as I comment on 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites, this is really not much of a concern, such as traffic on the east PCH.

But I did think it worth noting as an indication of the fog enveloping City Hall, and how such items annoy.

Indeed, my dogs become noticeably agitated if I must wait a minute plus before making a right turn at the light at the corner, on the way to Trancas Canyon Dog Park for their daily social engagements,

However, as some residents revealed, the failure to install the turning lane is just one of a number of oversights by City Hall concerning the development of Trancas Canyon Market.

And this was a development for which there were numerous  public hearings where residents raised a host of concerns, which both the Planning Commission and City Council promised to address. And so did the developer.

Apparently holding public meetings to review a major project is one thing in Malibu, while getting the actual plans for the project stamped and approved at City Hall, another.

To be sure, the shopping center is popular, if not a little pricey; the Starbucks and the Vintage market attracting both locals and tourists, as do the mom and pop’s, such as Natii.

And the outdoor concerts have been a big success. Parking is also adequate, though access and particularly egress onto PCH difficult.

Nevertheless, according to residents who have monitored the planning, the 17 acre project is not as promised, and not as environmentally and people friendly as it could be. No words were minced.

Observed a former city planning commissioner in an e-mail that was circulated publicly, the project was bungled from the get-go, adding, perhaps “deliberately? “

She contended the net acreage was not calculated correctly, of course in favor of the developer.

In addition, the dedicated equestrian trail recorded on the parcel map was not installed, although it was to be a condition of approval. Further, the east parking lot was allowed to intrude into the riparian habitat area of the creek, and added that no historical survey was done although demanded.

Also noted was that a pedestrian path to the beach from Morning View Drive was not installed as required.

However, she added that “a strange structure,  with no permits, popped up behind the employee parking lot, blocking the view of residents on Trancas Canyon.”

The residents were further short changed by the developer failing to construct an emergency evacuation route for Malibu West, as had been promised when a parking lot blocked the original route.

She added “with various conditions incomplete or ignored and obvious violations not addressed at all, the city allowed the shopping center to open for business.”

Though issuing a public e-mail, the planning commissioner requested her name not be used, out of fear that the city might retaliate, with flash property inspections or a law suit.

Another resident added another condition of approval ignored was that the power lines supplying the shopping center across PCH were supposed to be “temporary” and buried, and are not. Several others conditions also have not been met.

And I thought City Hall was just napping when it failed to follow through on the turning lane.  It now appears it was fast asleep on many items promised the public, or frankly just duplicitous.

Is its negligence endemic? To be continued.

BEYOND MALIBU AND INTO THE FUTURE L.A., NOT!

 

Having focused on parochial planning issues in my recent commentaries for public radio KBU, in print and on various websites,, I thought perhaps a more universal perspective was needed, if only for a break.

With this in mind, and in a gesture of hope over experience, I attended a symposium on the future of Los Angeles.

Through the years I have gone to many, particularly back in the days of print when I was a design critic for the L.A. Times and several other publications.

Perhaps now that I’m an octogenarian, I frankly feel focusing on the future is an indulgence; an excuse not to deal with the present.

Whether labeled symposiums, conferences, or workshops, the gatherings prompt the infamous quip among the free loading media of, “call it anything, but don’t call me late for your lunch.”

The light feedings aside, the gatherings of late usually have turned out to be a parade of self-promotions for the principal speakers and a pageant for their self-serving sponsors.

These include the academic urban institutes justifying their own existence and paying homage to their benefactors, and tenure. And then there are the self-satisfied foundations with their supercilious staff secure in their sinecures.

There is also the assorted independent, non-profit think tanks, some admittedly I occasionally wrote for and whose largess I once enjoyed.

Most are staffed with articulate, earnest wonks, good government types, and indeed engaging. Though a few I must add sadly are simply well groomed, glad-handed grifters.

Whatever, in retrospect it is still mostly a mystery how they exactly affect policy as they purport to do, and improve anybody’s quality of life other than their own.

Nevertheless, I found myself at the recent Los Angeles Times Future Cities Summit, for, quoting the newspaper, “a discussion on urban development, resiliency, architecture and the design of the urban environment.” This is grist for my mill.

There also was the promise of the Times to “convene the world’s foremost thinkers, policymakers, developers, entrepreneurs and industry stars for a conversation on shaping the city of the future.”

My former employer frankly has not been doing well, and I was curious to witness its latest endeavor as an event planner and so-called summit sponsor, and perhaps see some former colleagues.

I did indeed saw a few, and that was pleasurable. But I have to report the Summit was not. It was a pretentious affair, and deserves to be criticized, indeed as if I would do if still writing as an unforgiving, if unloved,  critic for the paper.

The estimated 250 or so curious, half filling that the 500 plus seat Broad auditorium in Santa Monica, regrettably heard very little about the future of Los Angeles, and a lot of what the guests were doing at present. That is when they could get a word in edgewise.

The moderators were Times staffers who arguably might be decent deadline writers, but not necessarily discerning futurists and discussion facilitators. This made the speakers and the audience skittish.

There was a second string FEMA official reviewing preparation for the next disaster: boring. And art curator and gallery operator Paul Schimmel talking about a vibrant downtown arts district. Nothing new here and how lucky he was to be there, not mentioning his ignominious departure from MOCA.

But he did adroitly avoid answering a question about the egregious plans for a new LACMA and how it might negatively affect the city’s future cultural scene, but not its director’s edifice complex.

Particularly discursive was a panel discussion on how L.A.’s housing shortage and homeless problem might be solved, weighed down by a wordy and distracted moderator.

The only nugget came from was Tanya Tull of Partnering for Change, who declared the answer to homelessness, is a house, but stopped there.

Their was no real reaction from the architects on the panels, Michael Maltzan and Brian Lane, who did not seem especially inspired to lend a design perspective. Good architects do not necessarily make for good visionaries.

A cautious architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, did not press the issue, other than to comment, as he has in the past, that Los Angeles would have to face up to the challenge of a growing and changing population. As my annoying Green Amazon parrot squawks. having perched for years in a newsroom, “Stop the presses!”

The depth of discussion was like the paper these days: thin.

And so it went, prompting of the audience in this new age of communications to turn their attention from the stage to their I phones, for whatever.

Though if indeed you are interested in the future of cities, I found some excellent informed presentations on a TED playlist. Check it out.

https://www.ted.com/playlists/29/our_future_in_cities?

 

 

WHY THINGS LIKE A RIGHT TURN LANE GO WRONG IN MALIBU

Every time I make a right turn from PCH to Trancas Canyon Road –and that is several times a week-– I am reminded how our city government disappoints.

Whether the powers-that-be are asleep at the wheel when it actually comes to enforcing agreements with private interests, or whether the city staff is just not motivated, whatever, the fact is the city’s persevering residents are not particularly well served.

And that is especially if they also are not well connected or deep pocketed, and live in West Malibu, as I comment in my latest city observed on 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites.

The failure of a right turn lane not being included in the curbing project now being completed at the northeast corner of PCH and Trancas is not a big item. Actually it is piddling in the public infrastructure realm of billion dollar traffic and transportation budgets.

But it is nevertheless a case in point of how local government – that’s the council and staff –just doesn’t seem to be functioning well these dog days of democracy. They fumbled the right turn issue several times, before simply dropping the ball.

Lot of fingers are being pointed in the social media and where West Malibu denizens meet whom might be to blame for this failure: the haughty owner of the market, the conflicted City Council, a remote Cal Trans, or a somnolent city staff.

To be sure, all are in part guilty to some extent. But mostly I blame a compliant city council and staff that always seems ready to tell you why something can’t be done, rather than how to do it, and indeed get it done.

At City Hall hearing after hearing over the years, whenever planning and development affecting West Malibu was discussed, inevitably the need for a right turn lane off of PCH was raised.

It was never, ever an issue. Everyone concerned apparently agreed, the area’s residents, the shopping center developers, the city’s public safety and planning commissions, the city council, and, of course, city staff.

Also giving a nod to the turning lane was various traffic consultants, PCH study groups, and the condescending Cal Trans. The right turn lane was no brainer: facilitate traffic at a busy corner, and make PCH a little safer.

However, when the plans for a new and improved 17 acre Vintage Market shopping center were approved by the City Council several years ago, the turning lane was not made a condition. The city dropped the ball, only to have it handed back several times by a concerned resident, but dropped it again.

Even when the item was brought back before the City Council, and the developer’s lawyer publicly agreed to the condition, the city did not follow through.

The city said it was Caltrans responsibility, Caltrans said it was the developer’s, the developer said it was the city’s, while alternatives have flown back and forth: move the curb, move the traffic signal, move PCH.

But no one wanted to move his or her ass, and so the construction being completed at the corner now does not include a turning lane.

With any gumption, the council and staff in concert could have taken the initiative, talk as they incessantly do about making PCH safer. But instead, they seemingly, blithely, went out to lunch.

And then at tables in the city’s favored eateries , they no doubt are wondering what the electorate seem so angry about, are our jobs in jeopardy, our pensions?

 

10.8.16

 

 

MALIBU CITY HALL CONCEIT, CONTINUED

 

Still needing more comment is the recent candidate and city leadership workshop at Malibu’s City Hall. which I had presumptuously labeled a gabfest. It actually was more.

The event was sponsored by the Malibu Times as a non-partisan presentation of what one needs to know to run for office in Malibu, or at least to be involved. It also exposed a few municipal conceits, as I note in my City Observed commentary for public radio KBUU and select websites.

As I had commented previously, the gabfest began with a session focusing on the workings of the City, delivered with a modicum of megalomania and a pinch of paranoia.

Displaying a touch of the megalomania was recently anointed mayor Lou La Monte, and seemingly enjoying it.

The paranoia was expressed by skittish city manager Reva Feldman, persevering city attorney Christi Hogin, and planning apparatchik Bonnie Blue. The gist of their remarks is that Malibu is a preferred city manager form of government, ostensibly relying on professionals, in short themselves.

This conceit had been adopted across California in the last century to avoid local government being infested by political appointees. However, some feel that over time it has replaced political corruption with bureaucratic corruption, at the whim of local office holders.

The afternoon session was to be a discussion of specific issues, not a forum for airing grievances, or candidate grandstanding. This would make a rare Malibu event.

Despite being weighted with pro development panelists, the session did get off to a coherent start with school board member Craig Foster giving an optimistic update on Malibu’s efforts to divorce itself from the Santa Monica dominated School District.

He noted that the issue of finances was methodically being resolved, as is the safety and upgrading of school facilities. And this despite the persistent criticism of a self-promoting parents group and the unfortunate over reaction of the district. That brew over the presence of PCBs and what to do about them has been politically toxic.

Then it was on to the rising resident concern of over development, with realtor Paul Grisanti stating how it was undermining the pressing need to upgrade the city’s water infrastructure.

Echoing that concern was lobbyist Don Schmidt, who went on a length to comment on the imperative of development, adding that the city was going to have to let property owners build or it would have to spend big bucks buying them out. More tempered was former conservative mayor and now planning commissioner Jeff Jennings.

Long time resident Barbara Cameron also was on the panel, but being on the city payroll she wisely kept mostly quiet. Not so the iconoclastic John Mazza, who reportedly elbowed his way onto the panel, as he is wont to do, and argued convincingly that Malibu already was overbuilt and PCH just cannot handle more traffic.

And so it went, with mostly Schmidt and Mazza trading observations, making me feel that I was sitting cramped between the two in a car on gridlocked PCH.  8.24.16