From the Publisher: Our Council, Our Friends

Arnold G. York

Recently we’ve been blessed with a couple of beautiful weekends, but it was also a harbinger of what to expect this summer. Now that Malibu is beginning to become a shopping destination, and there are beach and walking invitations all over the Internet, we are clearly going to be inundated with visitors, perhaps more than the 12 million we usually see each summer. Sooner or later, we’re going to have to address a growing parking problem in Malibu, and whether that means parking structures or some summertime open field parking with jitneys, I know we’re going to need a plan. Towing people and impounding cars that are illegally parked is not a sensible policy when there are not enough parking spots to handle everyone who is coming.

• • •

The City Council went ahead last week and unanimously decided to subpoena the records of the websites that advertise Malibu rentals. The thought being, I imagine, that these 69 websites can turn informant and come forward with their records, so the city can see who has been cheating. Not since the Stasi made every building superintendent turn in a report on all their tenants’ visitors has a government undertaken such a large, ill thought out and, frankly, very stupid means to a very dubious end. So we’re going to follow the council and box score of dollars amassed versus legal fees and staff times to see if they’re as bad at addition as they are at policy making. Perhaps this kind of decision is due to the fact that four out of the five will never have to run again, so they no longer have to worry about consequences.

Is this just an isolated incident or are we beginning to see a pattern? The reality is that we’re an aging population in Malibu, and as part of that aging demographic, I see things changing. For one thing, there are numbers of people with large and valuable homes and limited sources of income. Many want to rent their homes because this allows them to stay in Malibu. Some want to move into the granny shack in the back of the lot and have the kids and grandchildren move into the big house. If this breaks some of the rules, then the answer isn’t to hire more code enforcement people, it’s to have a public discussion about changing the rules.

At the same time our population is aging, we’re also seeing a bunch of young families with school-age children who want and need more from our schools. Currently, the City of Santa Monica gives the school district $16 million per year and Malibu gets roughly $3 million of that. Is the City Council thinking about how they’re going to replace that $3 million if we get our own school district? One of the factors that may impact whether or not we get our own school district is our willingness as a community to replace that money.

Let me give you another example of what looks to me to be some detachment from the citizenry: For several years now, the city has brought out motorcycle teams to enforce the speed laws on PCH, which, considering our accident rate, is a good idea. But I’ve watched them sitting with their radar gun, at the Ralph’s center driveway, nailing drivers as they come down the long incline from Malibu Canyon Road to Webb Way. There is, of course, no cross traffic on that strip, since it’s all hillside, and people naturally pick up some momentum going down the hill and then hit their brakes as they approach the light, slowing them down. If the reason for this enforcement at that location is traffic safety, a reminder sign at the top saying “watch your downhill speed” would slow traffic down. Or, alternatively, they could put a big speed monitor alongside the road so people could see their speed and realize how fast they’re going. Either way, if this is a traffic safety measure, it would slow down traffic.

On the other hand, if this is just a revenue measure to snare the unwary or the forgetful, then of course I guess the council might let it all stay just as it is. However, as I watch these motorcycles running their tag team performances and writing an enormous volume of tickets, I’m reminded of those southern towns on the east coast who paid for their police force with revenue they extracted from New Yorkers driving down to Florida as they went through some strangely placed stop signs.

I’m fearful that our City Council may be losing touch with their citizenry a bit, and I think it may be time for a little inner reflection on their part.