Malibu’s epic Woolsey fire 4 years ago was a multi-billion-dollar disaster and its way of life is slowly recovering, says Malibu investor RMT Capital Holdings

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Investor RMT Capital Holdings describes that Malibu, an enclave for the entertainment industry and business moguls, was upended by the November 2018 Woolsey fire that destroyed everything in its path by the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica mountains. Recovery has been difficult with rebuilding obstacles amplified by the pandemic and current economic climate.

Former Disney Family Estate

Investor RMT Capital Holdings shared that four years after the Woolsey fire, Malibu's local population has considerably declined. Long-term disaster recovery has been an overwhelming task confronting property owners and local residents.

Imagine the magnitude of the magnificent homes that burned to the ground. Nearly 500 Malibu single-family homes and luxurious estates were destroyed, many owned by business leaders and celebrities. Malibu investor RMT Capital Holdings has noted that fifteen hundred structures, including wineries, public lands and scenic vistas, became an overnight Armageddon.

Disaster recovery after an epic wildfire of this magnitude seemed an insurmountable task confronting property owners, the City of Malibu and local residents. Due to Malibu’s inaccessibility, debris removal has been crippling as Malibu’s narrow canyon roads that connect the Pacific Ocean and the nearest freeway system are difficult to navigate.

The projected population of Malibu for 2021 according to the World Population Review (an independent organization without political affiliation) shows that Malibu’s current population is estimated to be 9,946—a decrease of 21.34 percent since 2010. Malibu’s population began declining in 2016 and plummeted after the Woolsey Fire in 2018.

Insurance recovery, legal claims and rebuilding challenges have dominated the lives of fire and other disaster victims, particularly during the pandemic.

Inflation has catapulted the cost of materials and labor to new levels. Acquiring permits to build along the California coast has always been a challenge. However, the large volume of permit applications has added several years to the application and approval process.

“Like so many of us in Malibu after the Woolsey fire, I was in a state of shock,” Mary Anne Keshen shared after losing her magnificent Malibu home, it has been an emotional experience. As a member of the Pepperdine University Board of Directors in Malibu, she was familiar with the Pepperdine Disaster Relief Clinic, which was an invaluable resource to displaced fire victims and local residents in the months after the fire.

Ms. Keshen owned the Disney family’s former elegant estate by Paradise Cove in Malibu. Built in the classic Mediterranean style popularized by esteemed architect Addison Mizner in the 1920s, near the famed Zuma Beach, the one-acre private oasis offered breathtaking sunset views of the Pacific Ocean, often used as a backdrop for film and photography shoots.

Ms. Keshen, an investor and art collector, plans to rebuild, returning the magnificent estate to its previous grandeur. Motivating Ms. Keshen is her lifelong appreciation for Mediterranean architecture. In her childhood, her family preserved an acclaimed Mizner-designed estate as their Florida residence, which received national recognition for its historic preservation.

Rebuilding the Disney estate in Malibu will require recreating its quality of design and construction, utilizing imported materials and expert craft-persons to recreate the estate’s museum quality and artisan features.

Geoffrey Dickhaut, a Malibu asset manager, explains, “property owners impacted by the Woolsey fire have faced continual challenges with delays caused by the pandemic, the ongoing legal claims, critical labor shortages and the skyrocketing costs of building materials.”

Ms. Keshen has maintained a positive view, “as the memories of the catastrophic Woolsey fire begin to wane, there have been many valuable lessons learned to assist other communities. Our hearts go out to the victims of Hurricane Ian and other natural disasters.”

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Kevin Samkian
Legal & Business Affairs
1 310-859-4633
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Constance Jameson
RMT Capital Holdings
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