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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Publisher’s Notebook

•Playing Malibu Politics •


When the Malibu City Council meets next Monday to vote on the proposal—or should that be the done deal—to swap Charmlee Wilderness Park for Bluffs Park, we may see yet another example of one of my favorite maxims that much of the time the only thing all Malibuites have in common is their zip code.
The diversity of the 90265 incorporated area is obviously geographic, but it may be the demographic diversity that most drives the complex heterogeneity that often manifests itself in inflammatory politics.
Malibuites adhere to a full spectrum of political, economic and social views about their community. Some hang onto it as a vestige of the rustic West. Others see it as the next major urban hot spot that happens to come with an ocean view.
In-between the extremes, however phrased, are every imaginable variation on what the community should be. In this context, the Charmlee-Bluffs swap is indicative of the trend toward urbanization that has been Malibu’s hallmark since incorporation. 
Some of the residents who fought to secede from Los Angeles County viewed incorporation as self-protection against external change, but they didn’t appreciate the extent to which the very act of incorporation stood for change in the form of increased urbanization.
Not only do current external economic and social forces tilt toward urbanization, the process of cityhood also carries this bias. Cities are not run by elected local residents, but by professional personnel who tend to reflect the urban mindset of the marketplace.
In some ways, a case can be made that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is a better steward for Charmlee and the City of Malibu should be allowed to maximize use of Bluffs Park for everything from skateboarding to fundraisers, outdoor concerts and even sports fields if ESHA issues can be addressed.
City interest groups will be able to focus their attention on Bluffs Park and try to shape it to meet their needs. Depending on the members of future city councils—yes, in time, there will be different council members—Bluffs Park can become the focal point for many local groups and their activities.
In addition, Bluffs Park is a better location to handle larger and more random crowds that call for more rigorous regulation and monitoring. Nearby fire and sheriff accessibility is a plus in those circumstances.
Ironically, a number of 90265-ers with larger parcels who lamented being left just outside the city boundaries because of concerns about firefighting costs now may have more environmental protection than property owners within the city who are watching their neighborhoods be transformed by municipal politics.
Politics is not a spectator sport. Everyone is a player whether they want to be or not. If Malibuites have a political concern, they have to roll up their sleeves and get in the fray. If they aren’t willing to do so, or expect someone else to do it for them, it’s their loss.

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