Being misanthropic Malibu, it will not be
surprising if the city’s attempt to thwart tacky “McMansions” most likely will
end up just feeding its bungling bureaucracy and frustrating a planning
And given the city’s protracted politicized
process, I suspect it also will fatten the suspect facilitators of deep pocket
developers, and compromise whatever ordinance might be approved, as they have
in the city government’s pathetic past.
Yes, there is finally a report out from the
city’s Planning Department recommending an amendment to the zoning code that
may have the effect of possibly limiting square foot development of select
projects in select residential zones.
The attempt to somehow institute an ill defined
goal of neighborhood character is scheduled to be aired before the Planning
Commission July 1st and presumably
eventually by the City Council.
But after reviewing it, and despite being an
adherent of neighborhood character, as an experienced planner and long time
resident of Malibu, concerned for its preservation as a livable community, I
reluctantly oppose the proposed ordinance.
Primarily I do so because I fear however
limited it would only make the city’s rebuild effort more muddled, exasperate
many of the burned out Woolsey fire victims of modest means, and further
discourage their return, hollowing out the economic and demographic diversity
of the city.
And this while encouraging flipping, to no doubt the cheers
of prevailing, ever-avaricious realtors.
Even if the proposed amendment to the dense
zoning code somehow is clarified to address neighbor character, the problem
that has plagued planning in Malibu since its founding persists.
Bluntly that is a mostly inept and lazy
municipal government, conniving administrators and vain glorious, generally
neophyte city councils. And this sorrowfully includes some good people whom I
consider friends, but if truth be told who are not particularly politically or
No matter how noble the city’s mission
statement, and how well intentioned the city’s codes may be, I feel they can be
only as effective as are those who administer them.
As for the report, it does not in its own
voluble wording address the findings requested by the council for site plan
review and minor modification “that the projects does not adversely affect
neighborhood character.” It is a bad read.
Not incidentally, it was written by a former
city planning director and now a consultant; heaven forbid the city with its
overblown staff headed by an overpaid city manager attempt to do any heavy
lifting or heavy thinking. Our bean counters do love their consultants to the
tune of millions of tax payer dollars that instead could be going to improved
What we have gotten is a lot of lip service
from the City Hall crowd posing as friends of Malibu, all the while
surreptitiously raising the fear that limiting development and square footage
would limit price and profit. For this we must credit local rumormongers.
As I have stated previously, real estate value
is based on location and neighborhood character, and that out-of-scale
mansionization tends to diminish value. They also tend to be poorly detailed and
in bad taste, and generally bad neighbors, earning the approbation of
I first used the phrase back in the 1980s when as
the LA Times Design Critic described the practice in Santa Monica of building
the largest size house possible on a site, which led to a domino effect that
ultimately compromised the character of neighborhoods and accelerated gentrification.
In Malibu, I recall too well a case years ago
in which an over designed plan for a prime site on Cliffside Drive had been
objected to by neighbors, but nonetheless was approved by the city after an
emotional appeal by the owner. He and his tearful wife pleaded that
though possibly over designed the house nevertheless was the family’s dream,
where they intended to live into the sunset.
Within a year after completion, they flipped
the house for a huge profit, and flipped off Malibu. There have been too
numerous similar incidents, orchestrated by special interests scamming a
Yes, Malibu needs some tough codes to protect
what is left of its “neighborhood character,” but what it really first needs is
a committed and courageous City Hall.