Rising from the Ashes: The Lupo Family

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The Lupos, pictured: John (left), Evelien and their dogs.

The Malibu Times follows the recovery and rebuild process of locals who lost their homes due to the Woolsey Fire in the “Rising from the Ashes” series. This time, we followed up with Dr. John Lupo, who was initially interviewed with his wife, Evelien. That story can be found at bit.ly/2tbsRXb. 

We met Lupo—solo this time—at his business, Malibu Vet Clinic, on a sunny Thursday morning in May.

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When The Malibu Times last spoke to Lupo, he and his family were residing in a house on Broad Beach that one of his clients had been planning on selling. They were given till April 1 to find new living accommodations.

“Literally three days before we had to move out, we had no place to go,” Lupo explained. “So we were kind of scrambling and then, one of my clients last minute told me she had a one-bedroom guest house.”

For a family of seven, the house—located in Corral Canyon—did not seem suitable, but as Lupo said, they were desperate to find a place to live. As renters, they did not have the option of rebuilding and staying on the site of their burned-out home.

“When we were looking for places to rent, almost everything we looked at was not affordable to us,” he said, when asked about the rent prices on local properties he encountered. “Whether or not they were price gouging or that’s just the way it is around here, I can’t say for sure.”

So to supplement the living space, the Lupos bought an Airstream camping trailer, which the homeowner allowed them to park adjacent to the property.

While it is “kind of a fixer,” as the veterinarian described it, it afforded more room to the family. To allow for some sort of privacy, the family sectioned off part of the living room. The parents and the two youngest kids moved to the bedroom while the other kids stayed in the other.

“It’s a temporary, possibly semi-long-term solution,” Lupo described.

As for moving out of Malibu, he objected to leaving the community behind.

“It’s important for us to stay in Malibu just because of what I do … We feel like we want to be part of the community as much as possible,” he said, later adding: “To us, it was worth it to be cramped for a few months perhaps or maybe even a little bit longer.

“We could’ve gotten something in Thousand Oaks or Agoura for a decent price, [but] we chose to do this, to make that sacrifice.”

Moreover, Lupo chose not to focus on the negative aspects of the situation. And to his kids’ credit—Frankie, Coco, Madeus, Levi and Vienne—Lupo said though “they’re wanting their space,” the kids understand the difficulty of the situation.

His mantra? Taking things day by day.

“It’s just about enjoying the moment and living your life,” he said. “You can’t anticipate things that may or may not ever happen. If you start thinking about it too much, you’ll start getting depressed.”

Though he was concerned the business would not survive the impact of the Woolsey Fire, he said business is “getting back to where we were” as people start coming back to Malibu.

“I guess the biggest financial hit for us is the business,” Lupo said. “We rely on the income from the business to survive and so when that decreases by 30, 40 percent for a few months, you know, you got to dig into your savings or whatever.”

In some ways, the fire helped with the situation. For example, as he pointed out, rent has gotten cheaper, allowing the family to save some money.

Now, as the business continues to pick up, Lupo’s long-term goal is to find an affordable lot to build on sometime in the future.

And in the meantime: “We’re just taking it one day at a time.”


Given the six month anniversary of the Woolsey Fire, The Malibu Times followed up with the other three families in the “Rising from the Ashes” series. Here are their current updates: 

The Bates family

As luck would have it, as The Malibu Times went to print Tuesday, May 7, Carla Bates—a graphic designer for the newspaper—said the state-sponsored debris removal officials had finally reached her property on Cuthbert Road in western Malibu for debris clearance. Previously, she had watched as officials reached nearly every property except what seemed to be just hers.

“That’s why I’m much lighter today,” Bates said. “So it’s an exciting day because now we’re into a new stage. It’s just been the ‘hurry up and wait’ stage.”

“Now things can actually start happening,” she added.

In a cheery mood, she explained her family—husband Bruce, daughter Jade and son Declan—were celebrating at home, posting pictures online of the exciting development. 

The Blake family

When we spoke to Guy and Jana Blake in February, the couple’s property on Harvester Road had undergone debris removal. The two decided on private debris removal based on what Guy called “a mathematical process.”

“Now, we’ve kind of slowed down in the building process,” he said.

The property is undergoing what he referred to as “technical stuff,” such as the geological tests and landscape planning. 

“All I know is I wrote a whole lot of checks to a whole lot of consultants,” Guy said.

The two received enough additional living expense coverage from their insurance to last exactly two years from the date of the fire, and their architect believes the rebuild will be done just in time to hit that deadline.

The Blakes are especially appreciative of the city council’s move to waive part or all of the permitting fees—something Guy called “a big thing” considering it will save them thousands of dollars. 

The Weisberg family

The final family in the series—the Weisbergs—was the furthest ahead in their rebuild process when we first spoke to them in March. Their home, located in the hills off of Yerba Buena Road above the coastline, had only been completed in July 2018; less than five months later, it was burned to the ground. Given their up-to-date permitting as well as the property location across county line (leaving them to deal with Ventura County officials), it’s all good news.

“Currently, they’ve just finished the first coat of stucco on the outside of the house and they’ve just finished hanging the drywall on the inside of the house,” Michael Weisberg said.

Everything from windows and interior doors to plumbing is ready to go. 

“The way it’s going, [it will] probably be ready in July,” he explained, though August 1 is the official move-in date.

He and his wife, Linda, are already planning a housewarming party to celebrate.