Have you been to your new Malibu City Hall yet? When/if you go, ask yourself this question: Does Malibu City Hall serve the people, or is it a place where staff are set apart and kept “protected” from the people?
About one year ago on March 28, 2011, the new Malibu City Hall officially opened. During the opening, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky commented, “The dedication is beautiful. There are not too many city halls that have this ocean view.”
What was he thinking? The new City Hall practically has no ocean views for the public, other than the grand foyer. The senior center and community meeting rooms were placed on the ground floor facing a retaining wall. Staff offices are located on the second floor with spectacular views.
Perhaps, the Supervisor was recalling a time months earlier, when while giving a speech at the State of the City, when the community room upstairs did have magnificent ocean views.
I don’t have too many regrets during my tenure on the Malibu City Council, but one is how the Malibu City Hall was “renovated”.
First, consider the placement of the community room and the senior center. They are on the ground floor and both rooms face a retaining wall. I don’t know about you, but the view of the wall does nothing to inspire me. Your Malibu City Council did not want to leave the meeting room upstairs (complete with a beautiful built-in kitchen) with great views for the public and for renting the room out for events. One argument used for keeping the public in the rooms downstairs was that the location offered wonderful outdoor seating areas. In addition, “security concerns” were raised. So the sink and kitchen area upstairs were simply ripped up and “the people” (community room and senior center) were both moved to the first floor. (4-1 vote)
The number of seats in the theatre was reduced from approximately 500 to about 230. Reduced seating equals reduced opportunities. It appears that the theatre was built for optimal City Council meetings, not performances as a whole, in my humble opinion. Have you seen the control panel which still is in the middle of the seats? It is a reminder of when the performing arts center was actually used for performances. (See http://www.malibutimes.com/articles/2010/05/13/news/news1.txt for more information)
Security and keeping a distance from the public appear to be priorities. The doors to the staff corridors at City Hall are always locked now. The gates to City Hall are now adorned with high-tech locks which keep everyone out, except those with the security key cards. New red ropes have also been installed in the City Council theatre so staff can keep safely away from the public during Council meetings. The one thing transparent to me is the feeling that the public should be kept at a distance.
In January 2012, the Malibu City Council also voted 4-1 to move the City Council members dais from the ground level “with the people”, to “above the people” on the raised stage.
I hope that the City Council members elected in April 2012 will remember to value the people who put them on the Malibu City Council to begin with. The people, after all, paid for City Hall and are the ones City Hall was built to serve. Does the public feel welcome, or locked out?
Malibu City Candidates, are you listening? The voters will decide on April 10, 2012.