Build Malibu Better: The Meaning of Community

I’ve spent the last few days thinking about the passing of John Bell from COVID-19 and the hole that he leaves in my community.

I moved to Malibu in January 1978 and my “community” consisted of one family. Over the next four years I held about 240 open houses a year and spoke to two to five new people per open house. Some became clients and/or friends and the community I perceived grew.  

Somewhere around 1982, I heard that a Kiwanis Club was being organized by the manager of the local Santa Monica Bank branch. I joined, immediately swelling my circle of community by another 100-plus men and their families. Their weekly meetings and charitable projects, including the world-famous Malibu Kiwanis Chili Cook-off, were a great way to get to know the other members in many different circumstances. 

John Bell was one of the guys who was always willing to volunteer for a work detail or participate in a project. On the board of directors, he was kind and always solution-oriented, never peacocking around full of himself, and always eager to recognize the contributions of others. He was always a solid trustworthy individual. After the ’93 fire, John repaired our damaged kitchen and replaced the guest house in about 75 days, including the permit process.  As the years passed, we all looked a little older, but he was still smiling John with stories about what Jimmy, Billy and his dear wife Sandy were doing. Malibu will always need more people like John. I’m glad to have known him. Let’s all honor him by observing the social distancing and mask rules.

Last week, the City of Malibu, in partnership with Sean Penn’s CORE Foundation and Malibu Medical Group, were able to administer close to 1,200 COVID-19 tests over a six-day period.  

On the other side of the PCH, Malibu Urgent Care administered another 300 tests over a two-day period.  


The demand was great enough that the City Hall will be reopening the drive through testing from Wednesday, April 15 through Friday, April 17. You can register online at It’s free if you have insurance and, if you don’t, it’s on a donation basis. Please contact them if you would like to sponsor some testing for others. Malibu Urgent Care could use your donations, too.

The first online-only planning commission meeting took place on April 6 and the commission voted, 3-2, in favor of a permit for the new Graulich Family house in Malibu Park. I have never seen a planning hearing where over 20 neighbors sent support letters in favor of the variances. It’s hard to argue “community standards” as a reason for opposing a permit when the entire community is on record supporting, but John Mazza gave it a typically tone-deaf try. 

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