From the Publisher: What’s Popular

Arnold G. York

This week my wife’s computer and email directory got hacked. The hacking, of course, was followed with a plea for some money to help us out of some fictitious temporary crises, money to be sent to some untraceable locale. Invariably, these scams are done late Friday, and you spend the entire weekend reassuring people you’re OK. The upside is that it was Karen’s old business email directory and we heard from people she hasn’t talked to in years. And to all of you who said that they thought it was a scam but if we really needed help to please let them know, well, that was really heartwarming. So, thanks to you all for your concern and take care because the web is filled with these scams, especially to those of us of a “mature” age. 


If you ever wondered why it takes so long to get anything done in Malibu, like building or renovating or just adding a wall, I finally found the answer. This week, the city council was dealing with an application to change an existing office building into a hotel. The building, which is already built, is diagonally across the street from Nobu and the small Ryokan Hotel. Since any change in Malibu is always controversial, I thought I’d peruse the city council agenda and staff report to see what they said about the project. What absolutely floored me was that the staff report was 1,099 pages long—about the size of an old fashioned encyclopedia. You might conclude that this was some significantly large project, perhaps a 400-room Four Seasons Hotel, but it isn’t. It’s a project to convert an already existing office building into a 39-room hotel. That document represents untold hours of staff time, tens of thousands of dollars of development cost and a major jump in the room rate, assuming the project even gets passed. It’s clear that the demand for commercial office space has dropped and probably will stay that way for a long time. Lots of people will continue to be working from home and maybe go to the office a day or two per week. It’s the same with retail space. All over the country, many malls have lost major tenants and with them the small mall tenants are also moving out. Our economy is changing. The way we shop and do business is changing. What isn’t changing is our rules, like local coastal plans and local zoning, to meet the changes in our economy. They are mired in a world view of 50 years ago. A view that says single family residences are the American way and the American dream, that mixed uses leads to slums and the wrong kind of people, that we all need at least a two-car garage and setbacks and lots of green space on every parcel, that sewers are bad and each one of us instead should have our very expensive private septic system with all the latest electronics instead of a Malibu-wide sewer system that was going to cost us $10,000 per parcel, is a view of America from the age of Betty Crocker and it just doesn’t work very well anymore. 

I’ll talk about the actual hotel project in future columns and also septic systems vs. sewers. 


I just received in the mail yesterday the official sample ballot for the Gubernatorial Recall Election on Tuesday, Sept. 14. If 5 percent plus one vote “No,” that ends it all. But if, per chance, it goes the other way, then we have a cornucopia of candidates to choose from, mostly Republican, a few Democrats and a number of DTS—undecided or just hedging their bets. You might well wonder why in California, which is a very blue state, they would even bother to take a shot at a recall.  After all, California is registered 46.3 percent Democratic and only 24 percent Republican. Additionally, the registered electorate is 24 percent independent—and we know from polling they vote Democratic about half the time. Put it all together, the state typically votes Democratic by 2 to 1, so why bother? I suspect because they think in a mad scramble they have a better chance and they may just be right. The Republicans are tired of losing statewide elections and they are highly motivated to turn out and vote. The Democrats, on the other hand, are kind of casual about the whole thing and, try as he may, Gavin Newsom can’t seem to get a lot of enthusiasm going. This is not just me talking. A recent poll by UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies & the LA Times—a very respected poll—said 50 percent were against recall and 47 percent were for it, which drove the Democratic Party into panic mode. Now, clearly, I personally support Gavin Newsom. I thought he and the entire State of California handled the coronavirus well, in fact better than most every state, but the reality is that the citizenry is really unhappy, angry, not very charitable and looking to blame someone for their unhappy world. You don’t want to be an incumbent in that kind of climate because anything could happen. I think Newsom’s going to win, but let’s for a moment engage in a fantasy. Running through the list we might get a Governor Jenny Rae Le Roux or perhaps Governor Angelyne, who of course would paint the entire capitol pink, or my own personal favorite, Governor Chauncey “Slim” Killens, a retired Republican correctional officer. Sadly, I believe all that they are going to get someday is a line in their obituary that they once ran for governor of California.


Karen and I are off on a vacation, first a week in Aspen, Colo., visiting friends, then a week in New York visiting family whom we haven’t actually seen in a couple of years, with a little side trip to Vermont where some escaped New Yorkers are hiding out and only just discovered that small town Vermont is not a bad way to live.