Malibu’s myopic City Hall and unsympathetic city council majority commemorating the third anniversary of the Woolsey Fire with their usual public relation’s pap have inadvertently touched off another firestorm of sorts: anguished comments by burnout victims of rank municipal mismanagement.
Most of the comments scorching the social media and confirming past privileged conversations were directed at the city’s vaunted rebuild program, which was depicted as a boon for bureaucrats, Realtors, plan facilitators, contractors and those with questioned connections to certain councilpersons.
“Mortifying,” “infuriating,” “criminal,” “a nightmare,” “a joke,” “stressful,” “sickening.” These and other apt descriptions of the plan check and permit hell some residents feel they are being put through are a cutting rejoinder to the pledges made by the city to aid the thousands of displaced burnout victims.
Meanwhile, sadly, there is a palpable fear expressed by some residents pursuing whatever municipal approval they are seeking, such as a building permit or action on a complaint, that if they are identified publicly criticizing City Hall about its poor response, ineptness or misdeeds, they would be arbitrarily put in a bureaucratic imposed purgatory, emails and phone calls ignored or being buried in blather.
And so, as Malibu enters its fourth year after the Woolsey Fire, as accurately reported in last week’s Times, most of the victims are still slogging through the faulty rebuild process, that is if they haven’t yet given into entreaties to sell their charred land and rebuild plans, as have some to the local real estate vultures.
The stalwarts persevere, hoping, if not groveling, for that blessed moment they can force a smile for the city’s photographer, shake the hand of a vain councilperson, and be handed their permit.
Sam Hall Kaplan