A CITY CHANGED, AND MAD AS HELL

Stepping back from the aftermath of the Woolsey wildfire and the depressing burnouts and despondency cast over my Malibu, trying to be optimistic I actually see some heartening and hopeful positives emerging from the ash

And that includes the insistent call for City Manager Reva Feldman’s resignation, or her firing, and if those requests fail to gain Council support, then the vexation of a recall and the election of new responsible and responsive council members alert to a changed city.

Primarily, as an immodest chronicler dedicated to adding a perspective to the disaster, listening to friends and neighbors and reading the tea leaves of Social Media, I sense in the conflicted comments and the demands for redress a healthy rise in a community consciousness.

It certainly enhanced the identity of residents with the construct and conceit of Malibu, and I am theorizing made them consciously reassess why they live here; what makes the place so special that people accept the risks of periodic fearful fire and floods, and the daily hell of the PCH. It just can’t be the real estate prices.

This consciousness manifested itself in those who defied the mandatory evacuation orders, and what must be added whenever that it is cited; the mismanaged execution by all levels of government, which is still to be explained. 

Abandoned by misguided first responders, the self-appointed scattered brigades of locals banded together to battle as best they could the flames threatening their homes and those of neighbors, and in the days that followed, stomped on the smoldering flareups.

And there were the others, ferrying people past arbitrary barriers, bringing in supplies, serving meals, tending animals, and personally speaking that included chickens. The individual efforts made for a communal spirit, typically experienced by long ago pioneers, bands of soldiering brothers, your platoon buddies, or post disaster survivors. Those feelings tend to linger.

Then there also in our Malibu a rising political consciousness, as the slow realization dawns as revealed in conversations among neighbors old and new, on social media, and in videos (Thank you John Watkin!) that government had failed to provide its most basic services, the health, welfare and safety of its constituents.

Those services are suppose to be pledged to all under the fundamental founding principles of the Social Contract, the basis of our democracy.

But our City Hall screwed up, big time, and that it didn’t do all it could have to both prepare for the inevitable disaster, and also didn’t when it came to advocate for Malibu when in dire need, and the days after. You don’t pay a city manager $304,000 a year to be a messenger or an apologist for whatever reason or vanity. 

Giving notice is a nasty business, and not many people like to do it, so you can understand the hesitancy of the council. 

But having your home, or your neighbor’s, with all its memories and value, turn to ash, is more than nasty.  It’s tragic, and it should make you mad.  Mad as hell, and want to do something about it, like sign the petition, and march on City Hall.

Book Review: An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles

By Sam Hall Kaplan01/17/2019

When first embracing Los Angeles as a surprisingly livable city to be explored and appreciated 40 long years ago, what I found absolutely essential was a copy of the second edition of Robert Winter and David Gebhard’s An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles, priced at $13.95. Now a new century, and nearly a score of years after the fifth edition, comes an ambitious sixth, fully revised by Robert Inman, intelligently reorganized, and containing several hundred new additions, and fresh photographs. The revitalized and, not incidentally, costly guide ($45), put out by a persevering Angel City Press, is much welcomed in these days of waning print, and is being appropriately celebrated locally.

Actually, the first edition had been a modest booklet surveying the whole of sprawling Southern California, as well as the fractured cityscape of Los Angeles, and was assembled in 1964 for a national gathering of architectural historians. The effort dragged past the meeting and was published in 1965. It was enthusiastically received, proved a coveted guide for locals in addition to visitors, and was expanded in a 1977 edition.

My copy quickly became dog-eared and battered, squeezed as it was into the glove compartment of a trusty convertible that was de rigueur transportation for migrants from Manhattan. You had to love the benign, sunny weather and then relatively light traffic that made touring with the top down so pleasant; an accessible — and free — parking space was a given, too.

So I snapped up the next edition, dated 1982, and then the next, in 1985, which in a short time became essential in my work as the design critic of a then ascending Los Angeles Times, as well as in my labors over the architectural history LA Lost & Found, illustrated with the photographs of the indefatigable Julius Shulman.

Over the years, which included the untimely death of Gebhard in a bicycle accident in 1966, Winter continued to update and tweak the contents, which were invariably wrapped in the same blue cover, displaying iconic towering palm trees. In this latest noble effort, Winter was aided by a former student, Robert Inman, who has written some modest urban walk handbooks.

Notable is the fact that the cover of the revised edition is accented by a background of smog brown, evoking the dystonic mood of the classic sci-fi film Blade Runner and an unappealing futuristic L.A. There are no palm trees on the new murky cover, but rather an uplit historic, classical City Hall, foregrounded by a distinctly high-tech modern government edifice, the Caltrans District 7 Building, which was designed by Pritzker Prize-winner Thom Mayne of the edgy local firm Morphosis, and a plaza with shadowy figures in a descending darkness. Gloomy.

How intentional that effect was must be asked of book designer Amy Inouye, cover photographer Martin Summers, or Paddy Calistro of Angel City Press. But as indicated in Nathan Masters’s breezy preface, the city is changing, and, to the authors, “seems a different place in many regards.”

Indeed, though single-family houses do dominate as in past editions, this one features more multiple-family, mixed-use buildings, and star architect conceits, including, of course, several singular constructs by the ubiquitous homegrown Frank Gehry. Though cited, there is no accompanying photograph of his signature, sculptural, and frankly off-putting Disney Concert Hall, though the adjacent welcoming, veiled Broad Museum, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is illustrated.

More importantly, the guide does hint at an encouraging social consciousness. Masters writes: “the aesthetics and originality of form are often secondary considerations of how a building addresses or fails to address some social goals, such as the need for sustainability and housing many people.” Noted are the protests and political muscle of status quo-conscious homeowner groups and the pressure of changing neighborhoods.

The compilers are to be particularly commended for citing the persistent, and growing, challenge of homelessness: “The centerpiece for any discussion about the future of Los Angeles County is the long term homelessness that, as this book goes to print, forces more than 50,000 individuals onto the streets.” Homeless encampments are very much in evidence in an otherwise gentrifying central city.

With its emphasis on social change and a new focus on public architecture, on top of the past editions’ wealth of historic landmarks and buildings of cultural interest, the sixth edition is (cover notwithstanding) a refreshing guide beyond its original intent as a professional and academic resource. It offers both locals and visitors a rich survey of the past, present, and future built environments of our ever-evolving city.

BEYOND THE PCH: THE ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Principally on websites here and there are my immodest provocative political and planning perspectives of Malibu, and sometimes beyond. But also are my arts and entertainment observed, previews and reviews of my abiding love of the cultural scene, in Los Angles and beyond.

These of course include the conventional, mainstream productions, featured at the Music Center downtown. Upcoming by the city’s venerable Center Theatre Group is “ Linda Vista,”  a new play by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning Tracy Letts, a post #MeToo adult tragic comedy about middle age life crisis.  It opens at the Taper January 16 and runs to Feb. 17, and promises to be an entertaining must see, and worth the drive from Malibu.

For something a little closer and challenging, upcoming at what I consider our local museum, the Getty. for one night only, Saturday the 12th, is artisdt, musician Lonnie Holley.

He will be performing his singular improvisational compositions inspired by his Southern roots, that blossomed into his drawing, painting, sculpture, photograph, stage presence and sound.  Expect the unexpected. It’s free, but you’ll needs tickets, so call ahead: getty.edu/360.

You might consider going early and making a day at the Getty, where there are several excellent exhibits at present.  Quite evocative is the haunting photographs of Sally Mann, which is on display until February 10. Explored is her native South, her family, and a landscape rich in history,

Also on display is a fascinating exhibit exploring the evolution of The Renaissance Nude.  When reviewing it when it opened, I hailed it as one of more engaging art histories in recent years. It runs until January 27.  

If you schedule seeing it on the 12th, and your timing is right and you’ve called ahead for tickets, there is a lecture at 4  PM  on how the nude was viewed in the Renaissance, enhancing religious devotion or desire.  This will give you a little time before the evening concert to catch a bite in the reasonably priced and comfortable self-service café, as I do.

And if you are into nudes, there is a conference at the Getty that next day, Sunday, the 13th, beginning at 10 AM running until 5 PM, of a gathering of scholars discussing  the various attitudes in different cultures to the art form. Entitled The Nude in the Pre-Modern World, 1400 -1700, it is open to all.  Clothing optional?  

And for something really different, is the renown actress Isabella Rossellini and her dog, Pan, in the heralded “Link Link Circus,” at the Broad Stage in very accessible Santa Monica.

Assisted by a puppeteer and animal handler, and incorporating home movies and animation, the unconventional production runs Jan. 25 through the 27th.

My alma mater The New York Times called the show “surrealist humor.”  That, and featuring a dog, makes it a must for me to see.  I suspect it will also for others, and suggest you might want to get tickets earlier.  No service dogs, please.

THE TWO MALIBUS 12.8.18

Very much on display at the recent City Council meeting was what I would describe as the two cities of Malibu, one angrily testifying with justification what they witnessed in the wildfire of last month, the other vainly absolving itself.

As I comment on radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, my two city theory is at the core of the mismanaged fire, and more generally at the disappointment and discontent with the city administration and the strident calls for the dismal of the city manager, Reva Feldman, and her top staff.

It is the city manager that in effect acts as a de facto mayor, at the helm of a bureaucratic construct that is the dominant city, its rank and file experiencing their domain in the glare of computer screens, their responsibilities spelt out in bureaucratic babble.

As for our hapless mayor, Rick Mullen, you had to rail at him at the meeting looking bored while oozing insincerity. Whatever he said had to be taken with a heavy dose of skepticism, in light of the LA Times story revealing that he had padded his overtime snoozing away at the fire station to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars last year.  He leaves as mayor this Monday, not soon enough. What an embarrassment.

The other city I would describe as a resident conceit, be they a homeowner or renter, for the most part pleased to be living in arguably one of the world’s most agreeable climates, 21 miles of scenic beauty, not withstanding escalated real estate prices, the bane of the PCH, and frustration with local government.

For most of the last quarter of the century since Malibu was incorporated, the conflict between the two cities has been considered minimal; with residents periodically protesting development with limited success. And if even aware of alleged problems of cronyism and mismanagement, most residents deferred to the city manager form of government. 

As exposed in the fire, there are real problems in the limits of local government, as there are problems in governments everywhere at every level, as skeptics note in defense of their disinterest in any political accountability.

 So much for the concept of home rule and Jeffersonian Democracy. There is a lot of talk in Malibu these days for reforms, but few people appear ready to spend the time necessary to make government work.

However, this might have changed. Listening to residents in the wake of the fires, I believe, the inherent conflict of the two cities has been brought to the front burner, and to a boil, that fateful Friday of November 9th .

It is then when the unchecked fire roared into Malibu, destroying in its capricious path hundreds of homes thought in the past to be safe.

So, while saddened residents are sifting through the ashes of their homes, I contend it’s time for the incoming council to sift through the city’s service contracts with administrators and consultants, as part of a needed review of the debacle.

And hopefully it will do so with the aid of a little Hoover Commission and independent interest groups, such as the L.A. Emergency Preparedness Foundation. Let’s really find out who was responsible, and who was irresponsible, who pretended to serve our city but in harsh reality just served themselves, before we lynch anyone. I hate lynch mobs.

MALIBU STRONG! SMART?

Malibu  strong, yes. But Malibu smart? That is still very much in question. As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, that will depend on what the new City Council and the everyday staff will or is even capable of doing.

And that will require the Council aggressively pursuing what exactly went wrong in the Woolsey wildfire, and how the City might learn from it and somehow return to normal, chastened but smarter for the experience, better prepared for the next disaster, sure to come.  Just as the County has promised to do.

More specifically, the City must answer the challenge of how the rebuilding of homes be expedited through a reasonable fast track permit process, and also how its bureaucracy might be reconstructed and rededicated to better serve, and protect, its residents, consistent with Malibu’s worthy mission statement.

Questions, questions, questions, the answers to which I contend should be pursued independent of the city manager, city attorney and their consultants, for they indeed might be part of the problem, and possibly might subvert the review .

Some of those answers hopefully will be provided by the venerable Malibu Township Council, which will be reviewing emails and all city records pertaining to the fire disaster, specifically involving City Manager Reva Feldman, Mayor Rick Mullen, and City Attorney Christi Hogin.  Good luck to them.

Arguably, even before the fateful fire, City Hall did not particularly serve well the needs and desires of residents, though it has served itself well by pampering a vainglorious council while fattening and compensating colleagues.

And it sadly did even worse, plausibly failed, during the devastating fire, and in the chaotic aftermath, while obnoxiously congratulating itself at every opportunity for what I don’t know. For placating the public, perhaps.

To be sure, terrible mistakes were made by all levels of  government: the dubious deployment of fire fighting assets, the mismanagement of the evacuation, the bungled blockades, and the lack of communications.. 

However embarrassing, our first responders have kept excuses to a minimum, and when pressed as they were notably by KBUU have faced up to the criticism. Reviews have been promised, with the anticipation lessons will be learned and changes made, including the disciplining of those culpable.

But not our City Hall, where a seemingly overwhelmed city manager and a supercilious mayor have not been very responsive or transparent. One also could say dense. 

How else to explain that in the wake of the fire and the immediate need to address the pressing problems of the burnouts and the rebuilding process, they weighted the last  City Council agenda with an interminable tribute to departing councilpersons, Laura Rosenthal and Lou LaMonte.

But finally the parade of petty politicians making saccharine remarks and the self congratulations ended, and the two recently elected councilpersons, Karen Farrer and Mikke Pierson, took their seats.

Both in their brief remarks and those of newly anointed Mayor Jefferson Wagner professed their love of the city and pledged themselves to its rebirth. The words echoed what has been heard in the many recent post disaster forums, Malibu strong.

 But theirvoices were fresh and welcome, and sincere, certainly in contrast to those onthe past council. No doubt how strong, and most importantly, how smart, will betested in the coming meetings.  For our sake, we wish them the best. 

12.15.18

CULTURAL LIFE CONTINUES

SCRIPT.  AIRED in public radio news.  12.1 18

 Getting back to my enjoyable normal routine of attending cultural attractions these days, frankly, has been hard, since the wildfires of last month that devastated my Malibu, the disruption of the mandatory evacuations, and then coming back to a home that was miraculously spared, but in need repairs and cleaning.

Meanwhile, as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the cultural life of Los Angeles continued to thrive, with a rich and diverting schedule of stage productions, art exhibitions, and dance and music concerts.  I look forward to doing double duty and being able to see some, the holidays and L.A.’s ever worsening traffic not withstanding.

High on the schedule is the musical “Come From Away” at the  Ahmanson, and the ever challenging venues at the Redcat and UCLA’s center for the performing art, and a diversity of engaging exhibits at the Hammer, Getty, Skirball and LACMA.

Keep tuned for those commentaries.

So oddly for my first foray back into the cultural scene in L.A. was not a particular exhibit or production, but a luncheon atop of the Petersen Automotive Museum, that bright red stainless steel ribbon wrapped mass in the mid Wilshire District.

The luncheon for the underpaid cultural media, who forever welcomes a free meal, was hosted by the Academy of Motion Pictures; the occasion, the unveiling of plans for its long awaited premier museum,  that not incidentally will be located across the street from the Petersen and next door to LACMA, in the renovated and expanded May Company building, , at the northeast corner of Wilshire and Fairfax.

The opening will not be until late next year, but the Academy in the tradition of  playing coming attractions in movie theatre, reviewed with pride and enthusiasm at the luncheon the plans for its permanent and initial temporary exhibits, two film and performance theatres, an art education studio and spaces for public and special events.

 As a venerable movie lover, I prefer not to give away the plots, content to wait until the museum opens and can be experienced as a curious visitor and user advocate that I am.

But let me leave you with the tease, that the museum will be drawing on a vast, rich collection of films, and all aspects of their production, including technology, set and costume design, makeup and promotional materials. It promises to be a blockbuster attraction that I’m listing as a must see.

With a hooray for Hollywood.

POST FIRE: MALIBU TWO CITIES

Very much on display at the recent City Council meeting was what I would describe as the two cities of Malibu, one angrily testifying with justification what they witnessed in the wildfire of last month, the other vainly absolving itself.

As I comment on radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, my two city theory is at the core of the mismanaged fire, and more generally at the disappointment and discontent with the city administration and the strident calls for the dismal of the city manager, Reva Feldman, and her top staff.

It is the city manager that in effect acts as a de facto mayor, at the helm of a bureaucratic construct that is the dominant city, its rank and file experiencing their domain in the glare of computer screens, their responsibilities spelt out in bureaucratic babble.

The other city I would describe as a resident conceit, be they a homeowner or renter, for the most part pleased to be living in arguably one of the world’s most agreeable climates, 21 miles of scenic beauty, not withstanding the escalated real estate prices the bane of the PCH, and frustration with n government.

For most of the last quarter of the century since Malibu was incorporated, the conflict between the two cities has been considered minimal; with residents periodically protesting development with limited success. And if even aware of alleged problems of cronyism and mismanagement, most residents deferred to the city manager form of government. 

As exposed in the fire, there are real problems in the limits of local government, as there are problems in governments everywhere at every level , as civic skeptics in defense of their disinterest in any political accountability.

 So much for the concept of home rule and Jeffersonian Democracy. There is a lot of talk in Malibu these days for reforms, but few people appear ready to spend the time and study necessary to make government work.

However, this might have changed. Listening to residents in the wake of the fires, I believe, the inherent conflict of the two cities has been brought to the front burner, and to a boil, that fateful Friday of November 9th .

It is then when the unchecked fire roared into Malibu,  destroying  in its capricious hundreds of homes thought in the past to be safe.

So, while saddened residents are sifting through the ashes of their homes, I contend it’s time for the incoming council to sift through the city’s service contracts with administrators and consultants, as part of a needed review of the debacle.

And hopefully it will do so with the aid of a little Hoover Commission and independent interest groups, such as the L.A. Emergency Preparedness Foundation.

Let’s find out who was responsible, and who was irresponsible, who pretended to serve our city but in harsh reality just served themselves, before we lynch anyone. I hate lynch mobs.

FIRE AFTERMATH; DAY 20

My Malibu continues to reel and roil, in the wake of its worst fire ever, with an estimated 600 plus homes destroyed, its landscape scarred and ashen. And I expect it will be for sometime, as I comment this week on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites. 

Emotions are raw: in the public social media, they range from rants to reasonable, and incidentally in need of filtering; at meetings, from personal to self promoting, and in private conversations, confiding, sad. Disasters do seem to spawn demigods.

The outpouring, I feel, is a collective healing process, with people speaking from their hearts, sharing individual experiences and grief. It resounds, like a wind driven surf rolling onto Malibu’s beckoning beaches.

You listen, and nod your head in sympathy. For an octogenarian who has had a ringside seat as a journalist at too many natural and man-made disasters and debacles, the pain witnessed however is forever raw, each new tragedy, hurting and haunting.

 It is also understandable that there be a rush to judgment; that the government infrastructure failed them; standing defeated on a front lawn, hose in hand but no water, and the hoped for fire engine with its brave first responders, not there, homeowners were naturally depressed, as they watched their houses and all its possession and memories go up in flames, felt the heat, tasted the ash.

No wonder they want to know what the hell happened, from the early hints that the fire far to the north west was uncontained, and with the Santa Anas blowing hot and heavy, just might make it to the 101 freeway, and possibly jump, creating a real threat to Malibu.

This should have triggered the city’s CERT volunteers, cleared communication channels, to coordinate with first responders, and stand ready for emergencies. And when it was determined that the unprecedented mandatory evacuations should be ordered, determine whether they be phased, with the more threatened neighborhoods evacuated first; that additional lanes heading out of Malibu be dedicated and policed, that adjoining cities be alerted and made accommodating. And what was our novice City Hall doing besides clucking?

This and so many other questions are being asked, including problems getting supplies to those who stayed, and joined others, to form fire fighting brigades in several neighborhoods, valiantly saving homes . And all this while reportedly being discouraged not to do so, and disparaged, if quotes repeated in passion are to be believed. 

It is therefore understandable that anger be expressed and retribution pursued. Indeed, as one witness, an experienced officer of the court, declared, “let there be blood,” which another civic activist added, bluntly, the city hall be burnt and all in it fired.  “They were useless.”


Emotions aside, the questions raised need to be addressed, and not by the current city administrators, adept as it is at excuses, or their favored cozy consultants, or by others accused or party to the charges of malfeasance.

 Needed is an independent hard nosed panel, a tribunal of sorts, a little Hoover Commission, to review events, seek answer to the many questions, and most importantly, explore what lessons can be learned, and what recommend actions should be taken.

This should involve a critical eye on those whose sworn jobs are, first and foremost, in the words of enabling laws, “the health, safety and welfare, of the public”, and, yes, that includes some hard questions for city manager Reva Feldman, and others in the city hall chain of command.

From a long range perspective, the tribunal could prompt a redefining and possibly no less than a restructuring of the municipal Malibu, sensitive to the city’s frail landscape, the rising challenges of climate change,, and the healthy, growing civic consciousness of its residents, born of the fire.

Though let me add a cautionary note: that it is imperative the tribunal, or whatever entity is organized, involve seasoned, reflective persons, committed to transparency and rational, reasoned solutions.  It’ll be a shame if the good will and civic concern generated by the disaster be dissipated in a rush to judgment and aggrandizement.

THE FIRE: BACK HOME

BACK HOME AT LAST, AND OBSERVING WITH SORROWFUL EYES AND AN ACHING HEART MY RAVAGED MALIBU, IN THE WAKE OF A DISASTROUS WILDFIRE THAT RAGED THROUGH ITS SCATTERED, SYLVAN NEIGHBORHOODS, DRIVEN BY MERCILESS SANTA ANA WINDS, TO TURN AT PRESENT AN ESTIMATED NEARLY 500 HOMES AND STILL COUNTING INTO CRUMBLED AND TWISTED BLACKENED HEAPS AND TOXIC ASH.

MY CLIFFSIDE HOME OF NEARLY A QUARTER OF A CENTURY WAS MIRACULOUSLY SPARED, SAVE A HEAVY DUSTING OF THAT ASH AND A FEW MISPLACED EMBERS, AS WAS MY NEARBY NEIGHBORS ON POINT DUNE, THANKS IN PART TO CAPRICIOUS WINDS AND LOCAL RAG TAG TEAMS OF SMOLDER STOMPERS.

 DEFYING THE MANDATORY EVACUATIONS TO STAY BEHIND TO FIGHT THE FIRES ON THE POINT AND ELSEWHERE WITH GARDEN HOSES AND WATER BUCKETS TO SAVE WHAT HOUSES THEY COULD, ARE THE TRUE HEROES OF WHAT WAS MALIBU’S WORST FIRE EVER.  THE NEIGHBORHOOD RELIEF CENTER WAS WELCOMING RESPITE.

WHILE THE TIP OF THE POINT WAS SPARED, NOT SO LUCKY WERE HOMES A FEW BLOCKS AWAY, DESPITE THE PENINSULA BEING CONSIDERED RELATIVELY SAFE, WITH A RESIDENT FIRE HOUSE AND A CONCEIT THAT THE PAMPERED PROPERTIES THERE WERE JUST TOO PRICEY NOT TO BE PROTECTED.  SO MUCH FOR MALIBU MYTHS AND REALTOR REASSURANCES.

WORSE WAS THE DEVASTATION OF WESTERN MALIBU AND SEVERAL OF THE CANYON COMMUNITIES, THAT INCLUDE TRANCAS, DECKER, KANAN AND LATIGO, WHICH I TOURED CHECKING ON THE HOMES OF FRIENDS, UNABLE TO RETURN TO THEIR PROPERTIES IN THE HELLISH FIRST WEEK OF MANDATORY EVACUATIONS, AND UNABLE TO FILTER THE FRAGMENTS OF INFORMATION AND RUMORS TRICKLING FROM A HOST OF QUESTIONABLE SOURCES, PRINCIPALLY TV AND THE INTERNET.

HOWEVER, CACOPHONIC AND UNFILTERED AS THE SOCIAL MEDIA WAS, NEXT DOOR, AND VARIOUS FACEBOOK SITES, SUCH AS FRIENDS OF MALIBU, WERE WELCOME IF UNVETTED SOURCES THAT YOU HAD TO READ CAREFULLY AND CONSIDER WHO WAS DOING THE WRITING.  WELL INTENTION AS SOME WERE, MOST WERE UNFORTUNATELY UNSUBSTANTIATED AND UNRELIABLE.

TO BE SURE, HAVING SOMEONE WHO IS AN IT AND AN EDITOR IN THE HOUSEHOLD WAS HELPFUL, AND ROOSTING IN LOCALES THAT HAD WIFI. 

FRANKLY THOUGH, ONE HAD TO TOUR THE NEIGHBORHOODS TO SEE THE DESTRUCTION, TALK TO THOSE WHO FELT THE HEAT OF THE FIRES, AND HEAR THEIR  WOES, FEVERISH FRUSTRATION AND PALATABLE ANGER AT WHAT THEY WITNESSED WAS THE CONFUSION AND FUMBLING OF THE POWERS-THAT-BE.

 THAT INCLUDED FIRST RESPONDERS  AND, IN PARTICULAR, THE CITY OF MALIBU.

RESIDENTS CHARGED WITH PALATABLE ANGER THAT THE FIRE SADLY EXPOSED AN OVERPAID AND UNDER ACHIEVING CITY ADMINISTRATION THAT WAS ALL BUT IRRELEVANT, FROM FAILING TO EXPEDITIOUSLY ACTIVATE ITS CERT VOLUNTEERS, TO NOT PROVIDING A TIMELY, EASILY ACCESSIBLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION. THEY ADDED THAT NOT HELPING WAS THE CITY’S TOUTED EMERGENCY WEBSITE THAT REGURGITATED SHERIFF AND COUNTY ITEMS HOURS AND DAYS LATE, WHILE ISSUING PRESS RELEASES OF CLICHÉD CONCERNS OF CITY OFFICIALS. 

PARTICULARLY DISMAYING WAS ALSO THE CITY’S MISMANAGEMENT OF ITS MANDATORY EVACUATION DIRECTIVE THAT APPARENTLY WAS NOT PHASED OR COORDINATED WITH FIRST RESPONDERS AND NEIGHBORING MUNICIPALITIES.

PCH FOR MANY LEAVING EARLY ON THAT FATEFUL FRIDAY IT WAS A FOUR AND FIVE HOUR FRUSTRATION GETTING TO SANTA MONICA, WHICH NOT INCIDENTALLY IN A GESTURE OF ILL WILL CLOSED THE STREET ENTRANCES INTO ITS DOWNTOWN. THE SITUATION DID GET BETTER FOR THOSE FLEEING MALIBU LATER IN THE AFTERNOON, WHEN IT WAS ANNOUNCE ALL LANES WERE OPEN EAST, BUT NOT REALLY, UNLESS YOU CHANCED THE CENTER LANES, AS WE DID LEADING A CARAVAN.

RETURNING THE NEXT DAY THANKS TO PRESS CREDENTIALS I HAVE HAD SINCE MY DAYS WITH THE NYTIMES 60 YEARS AGO, THE DEVASTATION WAS BLEAK AND DEPRESSING. TO BE SURE, THE FIRST RESPONDERS WERE OUT IN FORCE, HAVING STRAGGLED IN FROM FIGHTING FIRES ELSEWHERE AND STANDING GUARD AT PEPPERDINE, BUT FOR MANY HOMEOWNERS IT WAS TOO LATE.

THE RUINS THAT WILL BE WITH US A LONG TIME SHOULD BE A CONSTANT REMINDER OF THE TRAGEDY AND A SPUR TO AN INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF WHAT WENT WRONG, WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE, AND WHAT LESSONS HAVE WE LEARNED TO CONTEND WITH THE FIRE NEXT TIME, FOR AS ALONG AS WE REBUILD AS THE CLIMATE CHANGE INEXORABLY CONTINUES, THERE SURELY WILL BE A NEXT TIME.

FROM THE FIELD, 11.20.18

FACEBOOK, NOV. 20 MALIBU REMEMBERED

Smoke might have lifted, but descending on my Malibu is a dark cloud of sorrow. Ferrying friends to their burnt ruins, giving and gettting hugs everywhere, talking and texting, is a mix of emotions: a resolve to return and rebuild, disgust with the city mismanagement (read David Saul) and many questions, and a clutter of answers, rumors and a silence which is deafening. More to come when the power comes on and im back at my computer. I miss her, my neighbors, the dog park denizens, the bark of sealions, screech of the wild parrots and the crash of calming waves.