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Oct. 12 2009 - 10:21 pm | 78 views | 0 recommendations | 16 comments

The Racist History of Malibu

Courtesy of the great Robert Garcia of the City Project we get this little gem on KCET’s blog:

Frederick Rindge bought the Topanga Malibu Sequit, a 13,316 acre rancho, for $300,000 in 1892. His widow May spent 25 years to keep the state from building what became the Pacific Coast Highway through the land. By the 1930s, May began selling beachfront lots to movie stars and others to pay her taxes. The parcels carried racial restrictions prohibiting people of color from using the beach, like this one:

“[S]aid land . . . shall not be used or occupied . . . by any person not of the white or Caucasian race, except such persons . . . as are engaged . . . in the . . . domestic employment of the owner . . . and said employee shall not be permitted upon the beach . . . for bathing, fishing or recreational purposes.”

Reflecting this history, today Malibu is 89% non-Hispanic white, 6% Hispanic, 3% Asian or Pacific Islander, 1% Black, and 0.2% Native American. Nearly 25% of households have an annual income over $200,000. Los Angeles County is only 31% non-Hispanic white. Only 4% of households have an annual income of $200,000 or more. Malibu has 237.85 acres of parks per thousand residents, compared to .25 acres in Maywood, .66 acres in East L.A., .67 in Lynwood, and .78 in Compton. Those are not typos; the disparities really are that dramatic.

Garcia’s history lesson coincides with the City of Malibu’s decision to sue the California Coastal Commission for approving a host of new public campsites on Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy land. Malibu doesn’t just want to stop the new campsites, they want to prohibit overnight camping on all public lands within the city’s limits. And the fight is bringing out all kinds of crazy:

God, why don’t the Freestaters — you know, the radical libertarians who showed up fully armed at a recent Obama event — ever get involved with these types of public discussions?

I can’t think of anything better than watching a bunch of Malibu millionaires square up against a posse of armed, angry, libertarian rednecks demanding 24-hour access to their taxpayer funded public land. Wonder if Malibu residents would have the balls to shout down that opposition?


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  1. collapse expand

    Robert Garcia is an insulting race-baiting tool in the mold of Jessie Jackson. He lives in a huge house in Westwood. The vast majority of Malibu residents by the numbers are not millionaires unless you count the acceleration of property values by folks who bought humble ranch houses in the 1970s. Many are retired from aerospace, teaching, lifeguards, firefighters, self-employed in the entertainment industry in below the line jobs. Saying Malibu is racist because of property deed restrictions of 80 years ago is laughable. Those deed restrictions were universal at the time right up into the 1950s. And good riddance. Millions of LA residents come to our beaches every year to enjoy unrestricted access to the sun and sand. The only access restrictions they encounter are the same ones that restrict local residents. Yes Malibu property owners are majority Caucasian. So what? Anyone with the jack can buy here. This typical race-baiting crap highlights why I oppose tax dollars going to Public Radio and TV, where I worked in the 1970s (KPBS-TV Ch. 15 San Diego.)

    • collapse expand

      I certainly concede your point that not everyone in Malibu is racist. I also agree that not everyone in Malibu is loaded. Although I’m sure, like you say, the equity in the homes of anyone living remotely close to the beach puts them in the millionaire category. That said, they aren’t “your” beaches. They’re “our” beaches. In the same way that Griffith Park isn’t “my” park, just because I happen to live near it. And the new proposed campsites aren’t your land. My state and county tax dollars go to keeping your neighborhood rustic and beautiful. Maybe the rationale behind keeping folks out of Malibu isn’t racially based — I can’t say for sure — but it is exclusionary, in keeping with the city’s past.

      You might disagree with Garcia’s injection of race into the issue. But he’s got the law on his side.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        This will likely surprise you but I believe no houses should exist on the ocean side of PCH. I also applaud efforts to open up beaches that are public. I still don’t see the relevance of what landowners in 1900 did. You have to agree that is quite a stretch. You want racism and land use linked? How about the treatment of Palestinians on their own land? I’ve had the pleasure of working in Israel and was/am horrified by the theocratic apartheid Israeli government. Oh, I forgot, GOD gave the land to a specific group thousands of years ago. Now THERE’s a racist land dispute worthy of your prime investigative skills.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          Bit of a nonsequitor, but I take your point. I admire your positions on public use and perhaps I misunderstood your previous comment. You just don’t want to be called racist for living in Malibu, which I can certainly understand. That said, I don’t think you can throw out the notion that race is in play in Malibu. I’m assuming the hysterical woman in the first video I linked to is referring to day laborers in her tirade — who, by and large, aren’t white. The reference to 1900 is meant to demonstrate Malibu’s exclusionary history. Back then it was about race. Now, who knows for sure. Class most likely. Residents don’t want to give the poors an excuse to hang around after dark. But who knows for sure. What is as true now as it was 100 years ago is that Malibu considers itself above the law.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            I have to agree that the blond woman in the video is a loon and there are plenty of those in every collection of humans. She has zero standing in Malibu and is not at all representative of the folks I hang with in Malibu. But of course it is more fun for you to pick the most extreme example of public testimony from an idiot and hold it up as representative of the whole local cadre. Where I depart from the race-pimping douche Robert Garcia is this: Malibu is subject to gawd-awful wildfires and my own home burned down in one in 1978. They are a fact of life for folks living in brushy canyon areas whether they are in fabled Malibu, Santa Clarita, Ventura or Pasadena. Concerned residents in these areas spend a lot of time, personal effort and money reducing the fire danger by brush clearance, joining Arson Watch, CERT – Community Emergency Response Team – and buying used fire fighting vehicles out of their own pockets because the fire danger here is so extreme.

            Mr. Douche runs essentially a race mob for hire along the lines of Jessie Jackson’s PUSH organization and he has dragged various black/brown/disabled/discriminated-against group de jour prop speakers like the Native American in the video you posted, to tell Malibu folks that race alone informs our speaking out against the establishment of additional overnight camping in our deadly narrow box canyons. These canyons generally have a single way in and out and in a Santa Ana firestorm are death traps. Imagine, if you can, the traffic jam as the horde of frightened campers – some special needs and others physically disabled – homeowners and horse trailers trying to escape a wildfire in, say, Ramirez Canyon, come face to face with a string of fire engines and crews coming the opposite way. The firefighters are taking up the entire width of the same road. This is a recipe for disaster and this scenario is exactly what Mr douche is trying to force on Malibu residents.

            The entire scenario is generated by Mr. Douche’s patron “Fat Boy” Joe Edmiston who heads the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy: an effective leader who cuts a comical public figure as he affects Smokey the Bear uniforms several sizes too small to contain his corpulent self. Apparently his sole reason for existence is to add to the fire danger here in Malibu. Regarding his overall plan to “improve” public access, most folks here think 98% of the elements are just fine. It is the establishment of overnight camping in these fire-prone areas that I and my friends consider irresponsible and dangerous. And, by the way, the County and State Fire officials have agreed in writing to the coastal Commission that to put additional campers in these canyons is a bad idea. A critical point in your education on this issue is that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy while doing admirable work in joining together disparate parklands for wildlife and humans to enjoy, historically they are chronically understaffed so supervision is sorely lacking and will be insufficient to effectively monitor campers’ behavior in these remote, fire-prone canyons. To wrap it for you, the opposition to additional camping is based on public safety not race. As I mentioned in my earliest response to your article, limitations on the public’s access to overnight camping in these fragile ares also restricts the access of Malibu locals to the same facilities. So, I am not impressed by some bullshit politically-correct racist nonsense from either Mr. Douche, Fat Boy Joe or yourself. Thank you.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    If you are even half way serious in your comments about libertarians, I don’t think you know enough about them to be using the term. In referring to anyone to the right of you, go back to what you probably used to do … call them all dittoheads. You’ll no doubt get that wrong, too, but at least they’ll get a good laugh out of it.

  3. collapse expand

    Correct, people do not follow the rules especially in the absence of supervision. This apparently comes as a surprise to you. Hence police, stern teachers, parents and the like. Ring a bell? Bye-bye forever.

  4. collapse expand

    he term flâneur comes from the French masculine noun flâneur—which has the basic meanings of “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”, “loafer”—which itself comes from the French verb flâner, which means “to stroll”. Charles Baudelaire developed a derived meaning of flâneur—that of “a person who walks the city in order to experience it”. Because of the term’s usage and theorization by Baudelaire and numerous thinkers in economic, cultural, literary and historical fields, the idea of the flâneur has accumulated significant meaning as a referent for understanding urban phenomena and modernity. In French Canada flâner is rarely used to describe strolling and often has a negative connotation as the term’s most common usage refers to loitering.

    Otherwise it means “loser douche” with no appreciable career in journalism because the Internet killed off any way of actually getting paid for one’s miserable leftist scribblings. Ha-ha. You are bummed out, Matthew-boy, because you did not get to be a hippie in the late 1960’s like I did, joining SDS, living in authentic communes, backpacking through Europe before it was trendy and fighting the war in Vietnam. The only difference is I got to grow up, buy a home in Malibu and have a real career and you are living in some shithole apartment in – tell me, where is it ? – Hollywood or some turd-infested dump in Santa Monica. Hey, I’d be a bitter guy, too. Only I’m not.

    • collapse expand

      To flamewar, or not to flamewar…

      Glad the career and the house and the calling people “douche” on the Internet are working out for you. Always nice to hear Boomer tales of youthful idealism smothered by beige and bourgeoisie excess. A radical Marxist in your youth and a careerist Malibu homeowner as an adult!!! Congrats! You had your cake and ate it too. Just like everyone else in your generation of tourists. And no, you don’t sound bitter at all.

      Don’t get me wrong. I admire your vitriol. A little advice though, if you’re going to be an effective Internet troll you need to get with the times. “Turd-infested dump” in Santa Monica? Really? Come on. Everyone knows when you want to insult a young “creative” you call them hipster trash and make fun of them for living in Silver Lake or Echo Park. And turd-infested…what does that mean? Are you suggesting I sling my own feces around my apartment? Or perhaps random people break into my place and defecate on the floor while I’m away? Anyway, poverty is considered authentic in hipster culture, so that’s actually not an insult. If you were to imply I was poverty tourist on the other hand, that hits home. Tell me I’m white and educated and that the second I get sick of playing poor my parents will rent me a place on the beach in Venice. In 20 years time I’ll have a place in Malibu and be just as much of a NIMBY prick as everyone else. Not true, of course, but the mere suggestion is gloved slap to the face.

      My generation isn’t envious of the hippies. We’re disgusted by how badly you sold out. The way to piss us off is to tell us we’re as beige and materialistic as your generation turned out.

      Anyway, some fun reading material for you: http://www.tiny.cc/letmalibuburn

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  5. collapse expand

    “Illegal slave operation that we have out in front of city hall.” That doesn’t sound good. Of course you’d think they would find a more discrete place, but what do I know.

  6. collapse expand

    The year is 2010, the place is Malibu, Ca. I have had the displeasure of living in this racist reich for the past two years. I would say that 99.9 percent of this town is racist against anyone that is different. The Sheriffs are racist, the city employees are racist. And not only racist against those of a different race. They are racist towards everyone that is not exactly the same. If Jesus Christ lived in Malibu, hed have been persecuted all over again. I no longer live in that city, as it feels like 1960 Alabama , only with an ocean view. I have traveled all over the world, and I have never seen such horrible people comprising a city.

  7. collapse expand

    Yes, the sole reason for this plan is to add fire danger to Malibu. Even though the proposed plans ban campfires in Ramirez Canyon. Oh, but Malibu residents like yourself don’t think the dumb, apparently suicidal, proletariat hordes will follow the rules, therefore we better shut down all public lands. And about that…why is Malibu trying to ban camping on ALL public lands, not just those in fire prone areas like Ramirez Canyon? Ulterior motives perhaps?

    If public safety is that much of a concern, you must agree with Mike Davis that Malibu shouldn’t exist at all. Perhaps the state should seize the land from private concerns in Ramirez Canyon, and designate the site off-limits to everyone? After all, downed powerlines are one of, if not the primary, cause of wildfires in Southern California. If dumb campers can’t be there, neither should anyone else.

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    About Me

    'Nobody walks in Los Angeles' you may have heard or read or said to yourself absentmindedly. This is entirely untrue. Plenty of crackheads walk in Los Angeles. Any number of schizophrenics too. And so do I. I'm a journalist who came up through the alternative weekly world, first as a staff writer with the LA Weekly and then as a senior editor of the LA City Beat. I currently write for the Los Angeles Times Magazine among other publications. When I'm not writing I wander, usually by foot.

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