PLANNING IN MALIBU: HOPE OVER EXPERIENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

]\

 

MALIBU’S DOG DILEMMA, CONTINUED

Yes, I know there is real news out there that deserves, indeed demands, my attention and commentary, but I’m also a dedicated dog person, and cat and reluctant parrot person, too, so allow me some latitude.

So this week for City Observed on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the serial drama of the fate of the Trancas Canyon Dog Park continues, as the Malibu burgeoning bureaucracy does what it does best: postpone any actual improvement as it moves the item slowly between the in and out baskets on their desks.

If you recall, in the last episode of the continuing drama, or is it a farce, of the Malibu City Hall foibles starring my willful Welsh speaking aging Corgi, Bobby the Bad, our canine hero was complaining about the raw surface conditions of the dog park.

They were abusing his paws, and those of dozens other dogs who visit the park, though not having the vocal chords of Bobby, they were not as shrill in their canine cursing of a recalcitrant City Hall that the pets and their owners remember had promised the resurfacing.

But the bids came in well above the $80,000 that had been budgeted, indeed from $132,000 to over $300,000, to replace the current decomposed granite (DG) surface.  The reason for the high bids was said to be the limited vehicle access to the park , one of a number of design flaws in the original design, along with using the cheapest DG.

Cited for this rejection also was that not enough people had complained about the condition, as if there is some magic number before the city acts, or do there have to be complaints when a condition is so evident.

It’s a problem when you have a neophyte city government that plays it cards close to its chest, and is quick to tell you why something can’t be done, rather than how it can.

So for the future there will be no resurfacing of the raw dog park surface, and the pets will just have to try to stoically ignore the pain as they do now while playfully romping.

However, to be sure the city did compose a cautious e mail in which it recognizes that there is a constituency that uses the park.

Perhaps if the city desk jockeys actually visited the parks to review the issue with real people and their pets, they would not have to create an annoying SurveyMonkey poll, as it is wont to do when postponing confrontation with actual taxpayers.

You know them, the minority of the modest 13,000 residents who actually live in Malibu, instead of just partying here on weekends, or rent their house out legally or not, as an air n b, hoping that it will keep appreciating as the smiling realtor promised it would.

Who worries about dog parks anyway, dogs don’t vote, nor do many of their owners show any inclination to get involved in civic matters.

Not that they don’t care, most who live here do, but many unfortunately have been turned off or turned away by a City Hall, with its long, sad history of imperious leadership.

Welcome to small town government in, I fear, a failing democracy, for people and dogs. .

 

 

 

DOG PARK DIALOGUES

One of the distinguishing physical characteristics of my companionable Pembroke Welsh Corgi, known to all as Bobby The Bad, is his dark eyes etched in black rims, which when the occasion calls for it can be penetrating and accusatory.

And so they were recently at the Trancas Canyon Dog Park of which he considers himself lord and master, as I comment this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere.

Bobby’s eyes were indeed ablaze, and he was noticeably snarling, at the informal afternoon socialization and therapy session at the park as he broke from a pack of canines he was herding and limped up to me where I was perched among a gaggle of owners.

The limp and the look were enough to tell me why he was angry, but just to make sure that as a sometime bird brained human—his anthropomorphic description, not mine – I understood, Bobby let out with a volley of all too familiar annoying loud barks.

Since confidentially I‘m conversant in Welsh Corgi, I interpreted Bobby’s barks to say that the coarse gravel underfoot was hurting his paws when herding, and uncomfortable when lying down, and where in the hell was the fine decomposed granite promised several years ago by the city of Malibu?

I reminded him that last year when the bids to resurface the dog park came in slightly higher than anticipated, I think by $20,00, city staff recommended that it be rejected, and that the proposed contract be renegotiated or new bids solicited.

So what happened? barked Bobby. Isn’t the Malibu City Hall suppose to be a font of outsourcing? Just look at the money being pissed away – that ‘s Bobby’s language –on reseeding the grass playing fields at Trancas every few months.

Yes, soft, sweet smelling grass, like they have in other dog parks in less affluent cities. Bobby of course was right, as he usually is.

And he added with a snarl, “That’s a drop in the bucket when you think about all those trips councilmembers and the city manager take to those dogshit conferences, and what the city pays to its suck up consultants for making a few phony phone calls about what we are never told.” Bobby does have a butt sniffing nose for that sort of stuff.

That got the owners gathered at the bench talking: how the city short changes west Malibu, like not following through on the promise of the right turn lane off the PCH at Trancas Canyon Road.

“This city is going to the dogs,” chirped an owner.

“Are we talking a canine consultancy here?” I asked.

“If only,” barked Bobby, in Welsh.

 

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT HALPRIN REMEMBERED AND EXHIBITED

This week, it is not city observed, but landscape architecture observed, at the A+ D museum, that’s A for architecture and D for design, at 900 East Fourth St., way downtown L.A.

On exhibit there is an appealing overview of the life and work of the pioneering landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, who I consider one of the most influential designers of his time, right up there with Frederick Law Olmsted.

My opinion is of a critic who for a while taught design history at USC and landscape architecture at UCLA, and not because Halprin was born in Brooklyn, as I was, and attended Cornell University, and eventually settled on the West Coast, as I did.

But I must admit to being akin to Halprin –he died in 2009 at the age of 93 –and very much into his humanistic approach to urban design, which he articulated in his book, entitled “Cities,” written a half century ago, and still relevant.

While “we do not have a clear picture of the ideal form of a city,,” he wrote, we do have a clear image of the purpose of an ideal city: “

Simply put, he added, it is to provide a healthy, creative environment for people to live in. And this in turn he explains means respecting its topography, people, and cultural heritage, in sum what he labels the character of a place.

Yes, that hard-to-define “neighborhood character” that many communities are now debating, from Malibu to Manhattan.

The book should be required reading for all those involved in the debate, and also those entrusted with shaping our environment. That includes rank-and-file planners, practicing architects, city managers, to our neophyte politicians, being whispered to by project lobbyists and lawyers.

The exhibit also is recommended, consisting of mostly 56 newly commissioned photographs of a selection of his projects. These include the iconic fountains in Portland, Oregon, the plazas in Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, the open space in Sea Ranch on the California coast, and the F.D.R memorial in Washington, D.C.

In L.A. there is the Maguire Garden, a welcoming landscape marking the western approach to the Central Library, not incidentally covering a parking garage. To the north of the library, connecting 5th and Hope, is a distinctive landscaped stairway, graced with cascading water.While the photos, and other glimpses of Halprin’s life organized by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, are engaging, there is nothing like experiencing some actual projects.

So in conjunction with the exhibit, the Los Angeles Conservancy is offering walking tours of Halprin’s downtown project on upcoming Sundays, November 5, 19th and December 17th. www.laconservacnby.org/upcoming-events. You might want to check it out.