What’s happening around town?

The city code enforcement troops who’ve been pushing to see that Debbi Campbell, a Malibu mom, and her three kids and dog are thrown out of the their little, unpermitted, one-bedroom, back-of-the-lot apartment on Point Dume have apparently relented for now. When the story first broke they seemed to be saying, ‘If we didn’t get that family out now, right now, their very lives were in danger.’ It turned out that their little place has been around for 20-plus years, and a slew of Malibuites have rented it in the past without any serious problems. Of course our code enforcement crowd suddenly saw the light after several articles in The Malibu Times, and also that other Times downtown, and the strong possibility that they were well on their way to becoming an item on Jay Leno’s opening monologue.

It always amazes me how bureaucrats never manage to be able to find any way, other then their chosen solution, until you put a gun to their heads, and then they suddenly get creative. Perhaps now this headlong gallop into the gentrification of Malibu, which is threatening to wipe out the homes of many who’ve been here for years and always seems to end up beating up those who can least defend themselves, will come to a screeching halt. Then we can take the time to figure out where those people are going to live and why is it that it’s OK to have large estates with scores of people living on them, like gardeners, trainers, security people, helpers, pool cleaners, and a bevy of hanger-ons, and yet, a mom with three kids and a dog is a critical health and safety issue. Maybe, instead of wasting their time on silliness, the code enforcement crowd should instead take a walk down the beach between Big Rock and Topanga and take a look at the underside of some of those homes, which are rotting away. I can remember a few years back when a balcony collapsed during a party and an entire group of people went plunging down onto the rocks below in a major disaster. Some of those homes have real health and real safety issues, but then, I guess, they might actually have to get their ankles wet.

There was another Malibu mom who ran into a scrap with officialdom, as you can see in our front-page story on Cindy Vandor. Vandor stopped in a handicapped spot at Blockbuster video while her 9-year-old hopped out of the van to drop the tapes into the return slot. She got nailed by the Community Services officer, which I assume is a euphemism for the traffic ticket people, and somehow, by the time the dust had settled, she ended up in handcuffs sitting in the back of the patrol car. Now I don’t know whether what we had here was a mom who lost it, or perhaps a traffic officer with a bad case of badgitis, but our Sheriff’s Capt. John O’Brien is a level-headed guy, and I know he’ll get to the bottom of this, because somehow, when little things like a traffic ticket blow up this way, something is just not working right.

Big Kudos and congratulations to the Code Enforcement Task Force who are beginning to show some real signs of life. They’ve been meeting every Monday for several months and trying to get their hands around this code enforcement problem, which, it turns out, is much bigger than just code enforcement. It’s a combination of the old Keller/Van Horn dead-hand from the past; that crowd that loved to regulate the hell out of everything, plus being a bunch of governmental code enforcement automatons and, lastly, a community-changing, gentrifying and no longer sympathetic entity to some of the odd balls that used to live in this town. They took a major step this Monday when they voted unanimously to recommend to the city that “no action be taken, which would have the effect of evicting tenants from a property for a period of 180 days,” providing, of course, that there is no health and safety problem, nor any ongoing serious code violations.” This translates to–lets try to not evict anyone for the next 180 days while we’re trying to figure out what to do. Then they did something you don’t often see. They decided to send two representatives to a City Council land-use subcommittee meeting to let councilmembers Jennings and House know what the group is recommending unanimously. In another week or two they’re coming in with a bunch of recommended changes to the Zoning Ordinance, to simplify it and make it less onerous. After that, their next moment of truth may come when it all goes to the council and they have to go lobby it. In the past, recommendations like this, which staff didn’t agree with, had a way of getting smothered. But things may be changing. We’ve got a new city manager, with new ideas, and perhaps change will no longer be anathema to the council. It’s amazing how hard it is to get them to undo anything; even things they agree are bad, like our zoning code.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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