Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November Winds

The November new moon sets in a sky turned crimson and gold by the Santa Ana winds. 

The wind that makes music in November corn is in a hurry.  The stalks hum, the loose husks whisk skyward in half-playing swirls, and the wind hurries on. A tree tries to argue, bare limbs waving, but there is no detaining the wind.

Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac

November in Malibu is a time of warm days, cold nights, wicked winds, fiery sunsets, and an ocean pressed so smooth by the Santa Anas that it looks like watered silk. By Thanksgiving, almost all of the winter birds have arrived, while the last of the fall pilgrims are sent on their way by gale-force Santa Ana winds. 

A lesser goldfinch, one of Malibu's winter residents, seeks shelter from the Santa Ana winds among the bright autumn leaves of a liquidambar tree. By the end of the windstorm, almost all the leaves were gone, but the finch is here to stay.

At Zuma, the beach once covered in brightly colored umbrellas and towels is now crowded with gulls. The blue lifeguard towers, like oversized sheep, are pastured well away from the reach of winter tides, and sand barricades are in place to protect lifeguard headquarters and the other county buildings along the beach from storms. 

Gulls gather on the wet sand at the beach to escape the scouring Santa Ana-driven sand.

There’s a distinctly autumn smell in the wind, compounded of dust and eucalyptus and sun-baked chaparral. It’s a time of waiting. Everyone holds their breath, waiting for the winds to die and the red flag fire warnings give way to winter rain.

Gale force winds whip the waves at Surfrider Beach. The Santa Anas have the power to subdue, or "blow out," the surf.

Dame Wendy Hiller, in the brilliant Pressburger and Powell film I Know Where I’m Going, is stranded by gale-force winds and prays for the wind to drop so she can cross to a small Scottish island where her fate awaits her. Anyone who has lived through a Malibu fire storm can appreciate the intensity of that prayer.

The poet Christina Rossetti famously posed the question "who has seen the wind?" The answer is NASA. The space agency released this image of the Santa Anas blowing clouds of dust far into the Pacific. You can just see Malibu, with Point Dume facing south, in the upper left corner of the image. 

The Santa Anas go by a lot of names. Some people meld the syllables together to make the name Santana, others call these fierce desert winds the red wind, the devil's breath, or the devil's wind, but the winds apparently get their name from Santa Ana Canyon, in Orange County, where the phenomenon was reportedly once thought to originate. 

It's unclear if the name was bestowed by Spanish settlers or later arrivals. However, the theories that the name derives from Satan or from an Indian word meaning evil wind seem to be entirely urban legends. It seems equally unlikely that the name comes directly from the saint, since her feast day is celebrated in July, a time of year when Santa Ana winds are least likely to occur. And the tempestuous Mexican military leader Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who is also sometimes credited for the name, also seems unlikely, since he never even visited California and had no part in its history.

Santa Ana, the namesake of Santa Ana Canyon, if not the actual Santa Ana winds, looks pensive and sad in this sculpture from the Cathedral Museum of  Church of  Santiago Campostella in Spain. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Chumash must have been very familiar with the winds, but their names for the phenomenon have not survived, although it's said that the name Simi derives from a Chumash term for the little white clouds that often accompany the wind. 

Robert Fovell, a professor at UCLA in the department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, has examined the Los Angeles Times archive in search of the etymology of the name, but found nothing more exotic than the place name. 

According to Fovell, the earliest reference to the Santa Anas in the Times dates to 1881, just one year after the newspaper began publication.

One of the items Fovell found in the Times archive is a letter to the editor complaining about the name and its connection to the community of Santa Ana: 

In 1893, the Times published a complaint from an Orange County resident concerning the "the misnaming of the winds which blow at times over almost all portions of Southern California, and which, unfortunately, in some sections of the southern portion of the State are erroneously called Santa Ana winds." The name, the writer insists, leads "nine out of every ten persons in the East" to conclude that the Santa Ana wind is "peculiar only to the immediate vicinity surrounding and contiguous to the city of Santa Ana." 

These winds are "an exceedingly unpleasant feature, especially in the fall before the rains have laid the dust." The writer recognizes that the winds "take the name of Santa Ana by reason of their passage through the Santa Ana mountain canyon, which is shaped very much like a large funnel" but insists it is "not a Santa Ana wind any more than it is a Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside or San Diego wind."

You can read Fovell's interesting and entertaining article here but, sadly, you won't find proof of either saints or devils in it.

The wind sweeps away all traces of human activity along the shore and leaves in place of footprints calligraphic patterns in the sand.

We aren't the only ones to experience this type of wind phenomenon. In the Alps it's the Foehn; in Provence, the Mistral; in Canada, the Chinook; in Argentina, the Zonda; and in Japan, the Oroshi.  

One of the traditional Provençal santons—Nativity figures—is a shepherd holding his hat to keep it from blowing away in the Mistral, the French equivilent of California's Santa Ana winds. This was the only character I could find that is traditionally associated with this type of wind, although my dad remembered his grandmother telling him that the Foehn, the Swiss version of the Santa Ana winds, was the ghostly horsemen of the Huns, riding with the wild hunt across the rooftops at night, and Perchta, a pre-Christian goddess who still lingers on in folk tradition throughout parts of Northern Europe, is also associated with the wild hunt and with the wild winds sometimes called "snow-eaters." I find it hard to believe there isn't a Californian equivalent recorded in some long-forgotten ethnographer's notes. Our winds are so fierce and so unforgettable that it seems they must have figured in stories and legends. Photo:
 Marie Blanche Sorribas, Wikimedia Commons.
Most of the winds of this type begin as cold air in an area of high pressure. As the cold air travels around the high pressure system (clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere; counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere) it gains speed and is squeezed into the surrounding low pressure areas. The wind is heated through compression and gains speed as it pours through mountain canyons like water down a drain.

A tiny sanderling, its feathers blown every which way, ventures out to forage in the tide wrack, despite the wind. 

Winds like the Santa Anas have a special Greek name: Katabatic, which means to drain, or  flow downhill. While the Santa Ana can reach speeds in excess of 70 mph, the Alaskan Williwaw, also a katabatic wind, has been clocked at over 140 mph. 

For Santa Ana winds to occur, the air in the Great Basin east of the Sierras has to be colder than the air at the coast. This NASA graphic shows the distance the winds travel before arriving in Los Angeles.

In many parts of the world, this type of wind is thought to cause madness and illness. In Germany they even have a special word for it: Föhnkrankheit. In Southern California madness isn't nearly as much of a worry as fire. All of Malibu's major wildfires have occurred during Santa Ana windstorms.

Along with the fear of fire, the devil wind really does bring a host of lesser ills: migraines, allergies and nose bleeds, among them. Also static electricity that plagues the cats and transforms long hair into Medusa's snakes; downed trees, branches, and palm fronds; and clouds of dust that covers every surface. At the beach, wind-driven sand scours the shore. In the hills, the wind screams down the canyons, breaking branches, sucking the moisture out of the vegetation; and even tipping over the occasional cyclist or high profile vehicle.

Squid season has extended far into autumn this year. The ghostly lights used to attract market squid into the nets have been a constant presence off the coast of Malibu. The fishery only closes in the fall when it meets the 118,000 short ton limit. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as of November 26, 2014, total landings of market squid are 114,649.3 st. The squid fleet's continued presence off the coast at County Line was lucky for a group of kayakers swept out to sea by the Santa Anas. Two of the six were rescued by the fishers.

On Sunday in western Malibu, where the Santa Ana winds can rip down the canyons at more than 60 mph,  six kayakers were swept out to sea. News reports stated that the squid fishers, anchored off Leo Carrillo, were able to rescue two of the kayakers. Lifeguards and Ventura and Los Angeles County emergency crews used jet skis and air support to reach the other four. The Malibu Times reports that the rescue effort involved 28 emergency responders.

Four stand-up paddleboarders were swept away the same day, this time near Surfrider Beach, according to the same article. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries in either incident.

The Santa Ana Winds can make the sea look deceptively smooth and calm.

Frederick Hastings Rindge, who purchased the entire Malibu Rancho in 1892, expressed an oddly optimistic view of the devil winds in his poetic collection of essays Happy Days in Southern California:

"At this season begin to blow the Santa Annas [sic], the fierce autumn wind storms, — dreaded, to be sure, but zephyrs, compared with cyclones. Three days they blow, and often precede a rain. They are a blessing in disguise, for beside their sanitary, microbe-dispelling effects, they also drive the dormant seeds hither and thither, to distribute them equally on the surface of the land. This task accomplished, down pour the early rains and up come, as by magic, the living green grasses out from the browned hills and fields..."

A gaggle of cormorants are blown across the sky at sunset. These birds are powerful fliers, divers and swimmers, but they are no match for the wind.

Joan Didion, also a Malibu resident for a time, takes a more fatalistic view of the wind in Slouching to Bethlehem:

“The violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are."

Raymond Chandler paints yet another picture of the winds in his short story Red Wind: 

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

It isn’t all bad. When the winds drop we are left with the illusion of summer: bright sun and vivid blue sky and sea. Unexpected vistas are revealed: the Los Angeles skyline emerges from the haze and smog; the Channel Islands appear like the lost lands of legend out to sea. At night, the Point Fermin lighthouse flashes in the darkness, while Orion, his faithful hound at his heels, strides across a brilliant field of stars, once the red glow of sunset has faded. 

Santa Monica, with Los Angeles beyond, appears like a mirage beyond the sand berm at the Malibu Lagoon. The water impounded in the lagoon is relatively calm, but the ocean in the bay is being whipped into wild whitecaps by the gale-force winds.

The current round of Santa Anas is expected to die down just in time for Thanksgiving Day, leaving warm weather and calm skies. My mom remembers spending one of her first California Thanksgivings at the beach in Malibu on just such a day. For my parents, who both grew up in places with snow and ice from November until March, it seemed like a miracle. More than 50 years later, it still does.

The Channel Islands are revealed by the wind, emerging dreamlike from the fog that usually shrouds them from view.

November 22 marked the first anniversary of The Malibu Post. We've had nearly 13,000 visitors in the past 12 months. I am grateful and thankful to everyone who has taken the time to read these pages, but especially to my family, friends and neighbors. Thank you. 

Wherever you are, and wherever you are going this Thanksgiving, dear reader, may the road rise up to meet you, and the wind be always at your back.

Suzanne Guldimann
26 November 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Where the Wild Things Are

A trail camera in a Malibu garden captures an image of a night visitor. Coyotes are just one of many wild animal species that make their homes among us. All photos © 2014 Suzanne Guldimann

Let the wild rumpus begin!

—Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

In Malibu you don't have to go far to find where the wild things are. They are right here, living parallel lives that rarely intersect with their humans neighbors, despite the fact that we all occupy the same neighborhoods.

At the Malibu Post we've been monitoring some of our local wildlife for the past four months with the help of a trail camera. It's an illuminating experience. 

I was anticipating catching the local coyotes at work when I set the camera up. We see constant evidence of their presence: footprints, scat, and holes dug in pursuit of gophers, although this wily wild canine is rarely seen in person. But the very first photo we captured wasn't a coyote, it was this shy beauty:

Madam Bobcat is a silent secret presence in the night garden, where she hunts for rabbits, and rodents. Unlike the coyotes, she leaves no trace of her presence.

I was astonished. I had no idea there was a bobcat in the area, but I learned that a friend who lives nearby has seen her so often that she refers to her as "my bobcat."

The bobcat is shy and secretive. We rarely get a photo of all of her, but we know now that she is a presence in the garden. Bobcats are generally solitary and require a large territory—at least a square mile for females and nearly twice that for males, according to the Urban Carnivore website

Bobcats are bigger than a house cat and look impressively wild, with spots and stripes and enormous paws, but they are not a threat to humans and prefer to avoid confrontations. they are also much smaller than most people realize, usually weighing no more than 15-18 pounds. 
Urban legend provides many colorful tall tales of wildcats attacking people and pets, but National Park Service biologists who have been studying the local bobcat population for over a decade, maintain that there is absolutely no credible evidence of a bobcat ever attacking a human or eating domestic cats or dogs. Bobcats are obligate carnivores, but they primarily hunt rabbits and rodents like ground squirrels, gophers and wood rats. Unfortunately, this puts them at high risk for secondary poisoning from anticoagulant rodenticides. Research indicates that the impact of poison on the bobcat's immune system can lead to death from manage and from a condition called chronic wasting disease.

Madam Bobcat performs a disappearing act, slipping through a gap in the fence in broad daylight. You can just see her nose and her ears, illuminated by the sun. A blueline stream nearby and a buffer zone of riparian habitat, including deep thickets—and plenty of poison oak that keeps human interlopers out—provides shelter and a wildlife corridor for animals like bobcats, who may include gardens in their nightly rounds but require secure places to den and to raise their young.

This is the wild thing I expected to photograph—Malibu's resident trickster spirit, the coyote. I haven't been disappointed. The remote camera, with its motion detector and infrared flash, has recorded the previously unseen adventures of a pair of coyotes.

After carefully checking to make sure the coast is clear, the coyote squeezes through the same small gap in the fence that the bobcat uses. This is a tiny space, barely nine inches high and less than two feet across. This coyote arrived at 3:02 a.m., and left, for a reason she didn't bother to share, two minutes later. 

Mischief managed, I guess. Or perhaps she received word from her mate informing her that the gophers were better on the other side of the fence. Coyotes sing to communicate with the other members of their family, not while hunting, which would defeat the point of being sneaky and stealthy. The local coyotes appear to live in a small family group consisting of a mated pair and their young. They sometimes hunt cooperatively, especially while the youngsters are learning to fend for themselves, but they absolutely do not hunt in giant packs, no matter what local urban legend claims. Coyotes are also smaller than most people realize, rarely weighing more than 35 pounds.

There are always coyotes and many other species of wildlife living among us, whether we are aware of them or not, but the drought has greatly increased contact with humans, sometimes with tragic results for households pets. Pet owners are strongly encouraged to keep cats indoors and make sure small dogs have a safely fenced enclosure and are always walked on a leash.

This coyote is not sure what to think of the infrared flash on the remote camera. Coyotes are intelligent and curious, qualities that help them to adapt and survive in urban environments. 

Coyotes look big, but a lot of their bulk is fur. They can fit through remarkably small gaps and are capable of jumping a six foot fence. Anyone who wants to keep coyotes out of their space should make sure that there aren't any gaps in their fences or gates. Coyote rollers—rotating pipes that prevent coyotes from climbing over fences are easy to install. There are DIY and manufactured options on the Internet. 

There are a lot of urban legends about coyotes and bobcats. The truth is, they are fragile, intelligent, flesh-and-blood animals not that different in behavior from the dogs and cats that share our lives as companion animals.

Unlike the bobcat, coyotes are omnivores. They dig for gophers and ground squirrels and are expert mousers, and yes, they will catch and eat cats and small dogs if they get the chance, but they also eat fruit and insects and anything remotely edible that humans leave outside, including bird seed and BBQ drippings. Coyotes leave scat in the open as a sort of canine calling card, so it's relatively easy to determine what they've been eating at a glance. Lately, ours have been feasting on pomegranates—they wait until the fruit splits open, then pull them off the lower branches, eat the good parts and leave the empty rind behind. They've also been eating large quantities of palm tree fruit, potato bugs and snails. The snails surprised me, but they are abundant, easy to catch and probably provide plenty of protein and moisture—necessities in short supply during drought conditions.

The coyotes and Madam Bobcat aren't the only animals to use the gap in the fence. Rabbits also travel this way. These fierce and intrepid lagomorphs are busy in the garden day and night, and not only thrive but appear to enjoy every minute of their lives despite being at the bottom of the food chain and in constant danger.

There are other garden visitors that have so far eluded the camera: the raccoons that fish for tadpoles in the creek and for koi in a neighbor's pond; the ferocious, secretive long-tailed weasel, glimpsed only twice in all the years we've lived here; and the gray foxes we sometimes hear yipping at the moon on winter nights but rarely ever see.

The sight of a gray fox is so rare that I felt inspired to write a poem commemorating my first encounter with this elusive species in 2008. 

The Fox

I walked on the beach on a winter’s day,
In a moment snatched between rain showers,
When the sea and the sky were pewter gray,
Empty and lonely as the dawn hours.
I heard a curlew’s sweet sorrowing cry,
As bright and clear as the evening star.
I watched a little gray shadow slip by,
Secret as a ghost, across the sand bar,
Between the sea and the storm-swollen creek.
Along the shore I watched him lightly flit
Chasing the silly plover, not to seek
To catch one, but just for the joy of it.
He left his footprints for the tide to fill—
As proof for me that what I’d seen was true:
That foxes live here also, even still.
I’ve lived here all my life and never knew.

After encountering the fox, the bobcat shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was. And it makes me wonder what other unseen creatures may be quietly living among us. 

Henry David Thoreau famously wrote "in wildness is the preservation of the world." One doesn't need to travel to remote corners of the world to find that wildness, it's often just outside the door.  And while no one is thrilled when the skunks take up residence under the deck or the coyotes hold a wild rumpus under the bedroom window at 3 a.m., most Malibu residents appreciate what a gift it is to live in a place that still has room for wild things.

Suzanne Guldimann
16 November 2014

We rarely see coyotes by daylight, but this one appeared right in time for the birthday of the Malibu Surfside New's founder and former editor and publisher Anne Soble. Anne was (and is) an advocate for all wildlife but especially for coyotes. She often devoted her editorials to the issue of conservation and peaceful coexistence with this remarkable wild canine. So it seems entirely appropriate that a coyote should stop by to pay his respects on that particular day. He is one of the celestial beings in Chumash cosmology, after all. One of the Sky People, a creator, shapeshifter, hero, trickster and messenger. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Turning of the Tide

Do you hear that rushing sound? Malibu’s victorious Measure R supporters say it’s the tide beginning to turn.

Measure R, which enables Malibu residents to vote on any proposed new commercial development in excess of 20,000 square feet and limits chain stores, passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote on November 4. 

Here’s the official statement from Rob Reiner and the Yes on R campaign:

"Last night’s election result is a major victory for the residents of Malibu, all of whom now have a stronger voice over the future of our community. Measure R will help preserve the unique character of Malibu and combat increased traffic and the destruction of open spaces by giving voters a say on the 1.5 million square feet of commercial development currently planned in the heart of the city and on future development plans. 

I would like to extend an enthusiastic thank you to all those who signed petitions to place Measure R on the ballot, who volunteered on the phones and the streets and, most importantly, who voted for this historic new law for our city. 

We now call on the Malibu City Council and City Attorney to swiftly implement Measure R and vigorously defend it against promised attacks from developers who opposed the law. Passing a ballot measure is no small task and the success of Measure R serves as a wake-up call for all those who dismissed it and campaigned against it."

"This is quite significant," Reiner told the Los Angeles Times. "It's the first time that the people who live here — the residents of Malibu — really have a say over the future of our community. Before it was kind of controlled by a small group of people who had a stranglehold on development. This is a big deal for everybody."

Rob Reiner rallies an auditorium full of Measure R volunteers on the Sunday before the vote. Malibu residents spent hundreds of hours gathering signatures, making phone calls and talking to people in front of Malibu's markets. These weren't paid campaigners, as the No on R campaign alleged, they were friends and neighbors who donated their time to a cause they believe in.
The developer who just about single-handedly funded the "No on R" campaign is Steve Soboroff. He is the developer of the new city of Playa Vista that is being built in the Ballona Wetlands. He used to own the Malibu Village shopping center, and is currently seeking to build a new shopping center in Malibu.  

Soboroff not only opposed Measure R but has threatened to sue the city if the measure was approved. His position is easy to understand, if not to condone. He has a major investment in developing his six-acre property in Malibu.

Soboroff’s quotes in a post-election article in Bloomberg are further verification—not that any is needed—that the developer opposed the measure for the sake of his project. The article states:

“It’s a disaster,” [Soboroff] said of the initiative in a telephone interview before the vote. “It’s hurtful to Malibu and its future from an environmental perspective, from a planning perspective and from a public-services perspective.”
The article points out that: 

“Soboroff, through his development entity Whole Foods and the Park LLC, donated $85,000 as of Oct. 18 to oppose the measure, according to filings. His partnership spent more than $12 million on the site and signed a lease with Whole Foods Markets Inc. (WFM) worth $50 million, he said.
“Limiting commercial development will worsen congestion on Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu’s main artery, because it will force residents and visitors to continue to drive as far as 20 miles to shopping centers outside the 13,000-resident city,” said developer Steve Soboroff.
Really? Malibu, officially a community of 13,000 people, but with only 5000 or so year-round residents, already has four grocery stores, including PC Greens—a locally owned and operated full service health food store. We also have a farmer’s market every Sunday. Not building yet another grocery store may cause a crisis for the developer, but is unlikely to impact the community. 

The media took great delight in making fun of the local move to limit chain stores and commercialization, but communities throughout the country from California to Maine have been watching the Malibu struggle. Measure R passed with 60 percent of the vote because a majority of 
Malibu residents are increasingly concerned that the community is being forced to become a shopping destination instead of a surfing destination. It's a drama increasingly playing out throughout the country and other communities are also seeking viable ways to push back.

The Malibu Village shopping center, which changed hands recently, was reportedly sold to an out of state commercial real estate company for $150 million. It's a reminder of how much money is at stake in the Malibu version of the Monopoly game. 
However, under Measure R, the developer is welcome to put the project to the vote, once it has passed planning commission review and if it meets city zoning critera. If the people of Malibu think the project offers something needed it will pass. If not, well, maybe it’s time to scale the plan back.

My mom, a dedicated Measure R supporter who gathered signatures to put the measure on the ballot and made phone calls, says she would have no problem supporting a Whole Foods in Malibu, provided the project has adequate parking and traffic mitigation and fits into the environment.

Soboroff seems not to have been aware that Malibu is essentially a small town, and that the people who live here know each other and tend to closely follow what's happening in the community. 

Proponents and opponents of Measure R mingle in the foyer at Malibu City Hall before the debate between developer Steve Soboroff and political activist Rob Reiner. At Soboroff's request, five sheriff's deputies and at least three Men in Black were there to keep the peace. You can see what a dangerous crowd it is. This might have funny if it wasn't happening in our city hall. At least we didn't have to have our bags searched or take off our shoes before entering. 

The No on R campaign claims that R was the work of outside interests was curious, because the people who gathered signatures, and volunteered to make calls, and stood outside of the markets every day for weeks, and who campaigned for the elements that comprise Measure R for more than four years, are neighbors, not faceless strangers. 

This disconnect extended to almost every aspect of the No campaign. At the debate between Soboroff and Reiner an exactly equal number of supporters and opponents of the measure had to present their tickets and then enter through separate doors and sit on opposite sides of the auditorium. 

An exactly equal number of Measure R supporters and opponents were seated on opposite sides of the auditorium at the Measure R debate between Steve Soboroff and Rob Reiner the week before the election. I felt like I was at a very old fashioned church wedding instead of a political debate. One news story quipped that the security was tighter than at a presidential debate.
Image: Saint George's Chapel, 1861, from Harpers Weekly Newspaper.

All four of the city’s five council members in attendance sat on the No on R side, with the development interests and their staff and consultants. The press was over there, too, in a roped-off corner where they were supposed to stay, but of course they didn’t. Journalists don’t like to be treated like sheep. Who does?

There were five sheriff’s deputies and at least three private security guards at that debate. It felt like the USSR instead of Sunday afternoon at Malibu City Hall. Were they afraid we would throw shoes or tomatoes? 

Measure R supporters had green tickets and had to enter through the right door and sit on the right side, opponents entered through the blue door and sat on the left side. 

It's true Soboroff earned a few boos and hisses, but his accusation that the Measure R supporters, many in neon yellow Measure R tees, were being intimidated into supporting the measure, was a bit much. And then he followed that statement up by saying he hoped that the people who have spent years campaigning for local control to limit commercial overdevelopment would have the courage to vote no on the measure they worked so hard to get on the ballot.

I was sitting next to Dolores Walsh, a.k.a. the Malibu Godmother, and behind our resident fire eater Andy Lyon, and the person who could intimidate either of those remarkable Malibu residents has never been born. 

No one was allowed to take photos of the debate except for a few select journalists, and both sides agreed not to use photos of the event (a promise the No on R campaign promptly broke), so here's a photo from Alice in Wonderland that expresses how completely bizarre the whole debate experience was for the audience. 

Soboroff may have worried that Measure R supporters would run amok, but it's difficult to understand why our elected officials agreed to this segregation. And it’s troubling when city officials, even those with the best intentions, allow the advice of consultants to drown out the concerns of their constituents. Measure R, as Reiner stated, should be a wake up call to everyone.

In the end, the No on R campaign’s increasingly outre claims, including a certain developer’s statement that only the tooth fairy (yes, really, the tooth fairy) could save Malibu if Measure R should pass, failed to convince the majority of Malibu voters that development is the way to save the community.

“Rob, your Measure has no tooth fairy provision,” Soboroff said, repeatedly. 

I’ve never heard anyone invoke the tooth fairy before. I think, on reflection, that Soboroff probably meant not the mythological creature that leaves pocket change in exchange for baby teeth, but the type of good fairy that grants wishes, like Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy, or the fairy godmother in Cinderella. 

Measure R was built with dedication and hard work, not pixie dust. The tooth fairy has no place in the discussion, and the new law is not going to turn into a pumpkin and disappear at midnight, no matter how much some may wish that it would. Commercial developers will have to learn to adapt or take their marbles and go home. It's true that R is an experiment, much like Malibu's cityhood initiative was an experiment, but this is is a system that is working in other communities like Del Mar. And like the Malibu incorporation initiative, Measure R is intended in good faith to protect this fragile, environmentally sensitive coastal community from overdevelopment, not just for residents but for everyone and, most importantly, for the future. Image: illustration for Cinderella by Edmund Dulac, 1910

 Malibu doesn’t need a godmother. We already have one. And the minority of Malibu residents who opposed the measure? There have been other battles where many of us have fought together for the common good of all, like the fight for cityhood. Now that the battle over R has ended, what we need to do is come together again and work together with respect and good will to craft a future for Malibu that builds on our city’s mission and vision statement, not over it. 

Malibu is a unique land and marine environment and residential community whose citizens have historically evidenced a commitment to sacrifice urban and suburban conveniences in order to protect that environment and lifestyle, and to preserve unaltered natural resources and rural characteristics. The people of Malibu are a responsible custodian of the area’s natural resources for present and future generations.

—The Malibu Mission Statement

Suzanne Guldimann
6 November 2014

Malibu is a remarkable place, one that offers unspoiled vistas of natural beauty, and beaches and mountains that are open to everyone, including the 10 million beachgoers who have visited this year. It's something that's worth fighting for. Photo © 2014 S. Guldimann