Paradise Lost? Malibu Picks Up the Pieces

Malibu Mystique

Diane Sobel's husband is obsessed with surfing. So six years ago they put down stakes in Malibu.

"My husband loves to surf and because it is a gated community, only residents could have access to this beach. So we had to move here!" Sobel said.

"We have an ocean view and we can walk to the beach."

Sobel and her family didn't need a high-end real estate concern to get them into their new home. They were able to get into a doublewide trailer atop a popular bluff with an ocean view for less than $400,000. One caveat: They don't own the land.

The 51-year-old mother of two teenage boys says celebrities and "regular people" mix easily in Malibu.

British actress Minnie Driver lives in a trailer on one side of her, she says, and actor Matthew McConaughey is renting next door while he films a surfing movie.

The Sobels' home was spared and they did not have to evacuate for this wildfire, but Sobel says her cousin lost everything this week when his home in San Diego County burned to the ground. Fires there have caused at least $1 billion in damage so far.

Given her cousin's fate, Sobel has no doubts about her decision to live where fires, floods and mudslides are part of the landscape.

"It never crosses our minds, " she said.

"What is the difference if you live with that or floods in Louisiana or tornadoes in the Midwest? It is all the same thing."

Malibu's Calm After the Firestorm

Architect Richard Sol and his family were touched by the Malibu fire this time. Literally.

On ABC's "Good Morning America" earlier this week, Sol and his wife, Margaret, described how each of their cars had caught on fire as they were driving away from their condominium, under an evacuation order.

Sol grew up in Malibu and has lived most of the last 54 years there, unscathed by the area's natural disasters, until now.

"I thought I knew it all. It never occurred to me that I could be burnt on a roadway, traveling," he told

Sol was quick to point out that not all of Malibu is impacted by each fire: "It's not bad all the time," he said.

And as to the special appeal of this seaside town?

"We don't have the landscape of Carmel or Monterey — our landscape is sage brush and chaparral. It's gray with flecks of yellow. And we don't have the warm oceans of Hawaii or the Caribbean," said Sol.

"But if you are going to live and work in Los Angeles and you are successful, it is the best part of the county. And you get addicted to the sea."

As the week draws to a close, Malibu seems slower and quieter; the streets, emptier.

School was canceled. The courthouse shut down. Residents attend town hall meetings in the evening offering help to the pastor and congregation of the Presbyterian church consumed by flames.

The city was lucky this time; no one was killed or seriously injured in this fire. They are grateful.

"Malibu will never be more beautiful than the days after the Santa Ana winds stop," Sol said.

"The ocean becomes a lake. You don't seem to have wave action after the Santa Anas. The beaches are clean. The pollution has been driven to the horizon by the winds and they reflect and refract the light so that you get these incredible sunsets. The weather is 78 to 84 degrees. The air is still. It's quiet and it's beautiful."

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