How not to create beach access

What a strange feeling to walk around on the foundations of the beach houses that burned on Malibu Rd. You see the remains of ovens, bathtubs, hot water heaters, and air conditioning units (on the beach?).

But what you notice most are the the bare-metal BBQ grills with gas tanks, the coiled black garden hose with spots of surviving green, the skeletons of patio chairs and potted cacti, the hot-tub depressions with ocean views, the red brick stairs that lead toward the water. You notice the makings of paradise.

It reminds me of the time I walked around the house foundations in Pasadena Glen, where mudslides in the mid-90s wiped away a string of houses in that stunning canyon in Altadena. There, the gardens have regenerated and grown wild: the palms and the tangerine trees thrive without the homeowners who planted them and invested them with meaning. Here, the gardens are still charred and spectral, and they speak only of tragic loss.

How strange to see the gaping hole in the wall of houses. I crossed one of the black lots, kicking up ash, and descended the stairs from the patio down to the sand. I was driven, I guess, by some mix of voyeurism, sympathy, and sadness--and a weird sense of misplaced guilt, as I couldn't help but think: This is not how to create public beach access.

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