From the Publisher: Civility Out the Window

Not terribly surprisingly, the conflict and anger that is only slightly beneath the surface among the five members of the city council sort of broke out into open warfare at Monday’s council meeting. It’s become apparent that the two (Silverstein and Uhring) and the three (Pierson, Farrer and Grisanti) can barely sit at the same table. The two want an investigation of the corruption charges in the Wagner affidavit and the city council has agreed to hire outside counsel to do the investigation. The three want outside counsel to investigate the charges of harassment and hostile workplace charges made in the letter from City Manager Reva Feldman’s lawyer and the two objected to that strenuously.

The council has been through several executive sessions about the city manager’s performance (which is appropriate since this is a personnel matter), but to date there is no decision and no reportable action, which means they are probably as divided in private as they are in public. The council members have all been very tight lipped about what’s been discussed in executive session, as I am sure their city attorney and their insurance company’s lawyers have insisted. If litigation comes, everyone is going to be a witness, including the council members, city staff, the city attorney’s firm and some of its lawyers past and present. There will also be volumes of emails, public record demand letters, recorded phone records and additional volumes of postings on social media. You can be assured that it’s going to be a long and very expensive and time consuming litigation.

The two (Silverstein and Uhring), plus Jefferson Wagner, are going to have to prove there is actually some corruption now or in the past, and that Reva Feldman is connected to it. On the other side, they are going to have to show there wasn’t a coordinated campaign to try and harass Feldman out of her job by constantly attacking her personally and perhaps maliciously to make her quit. If they had three votes they could fire her, or not renew her contract, which has another year or so to go, for no more reason than they didn’t like her. But this isn’t the 1950s, as any employment lawyer would tell you, and harassment cases, if proved, can be very dangerous and expensive. Harassment doesn’t just mean sexual harassment but includes all sorts of additional harassment. We are in the 21st century and there are laws and cases about harassment and creating hostile workplaces for which employers can and are frequently sued. What’s said before the election is probably protected under the first amendment, with some exceptions, but after the election, even before the new council members are sworn in, there are additional rules governing employment, governing the relationship between the employer and employee and the council is the board of directors for the employer the City of Malibu and Feldman is an employee even if she is the city manager. I expect this is getting very expensive very quickly and is going to dominate the city agenda for a long time unless it’s settled.

 

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Fred Segal, who was a fashion icon and innovator, died at age 87 of complications from a stroke. Fred was an incredibly creative and energetic guy pretty much to the end of his life. He also left his imprint on Malibu. We are all familiar with the Koss Center in the middle of Malibu, which houses many high-end retail stores, John’s Garden and Tradinoi Restaurant, and the children’s sand-filled playground. Back in the 1970s, the area was nothing but a rundown motel and Fred Segal saw the possibilities for a special kind of retail center and built it. He created the format for Malibu as he did for many other cutting edge fashion changes. Fred was always one step ahead of the next fashion wave or format and always seemed to get there before just about anyone else. He was truly a fashion pioneer and one of a kind.

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There is another Malibu project being built on Cross Creek Road, just adjacent to Steve Soboroff’s center where the Whole Foods Market is located. The new project, which is currently being graded, just recently received a $130 million loan to make the construction a go. The project is a 13-acre mixed use development which has been in the works for well over a decade. Formerly it was called the La Paz project but the name has now been changed to Cross Creek Ranch and will be 112,000 square feet, which is the largest project approved since we became a city in 1991. It will include 42,000 square feet of class A office space and 70,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space with parking both outside and underground. Of course, in Malibu, no new anything is without controversy and social media was filled with the expected “there goes the neighborhood” predictions of doom, which are very similar to the predictions being made when the Soboroff Whole Foods center was being built. Interestingly enough, in today’s world, developers have come to understand that if their projects are to be successful, they have to create a recreational space so that shopping becomes not just a place but a more carefully choreographed experience. I personally have found many of the developments created by developers, their architects and landscape designers to be much more interesting then spaces created by governmental entities, which tend to be much more institutional and sterile. Developers have learned, in many cases the hard way, if all you want to do is maximize every square foot for rental your development will probably fail, so you better come up with something better. 

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