Encampments

When people experiencing homelessness take shelter on hillsides, it presents a very sensitive public safety issue. While these individuals should not be criminalized for conditions of poverty or mental illness that can lead to homelessness, illegal warming or cooking fires cannot be allowed as they endanger the individual and our community. With more than 21 miles of hillside to monitor in Malibu, everyone must play a part in reducing the threat.

ENCAMPMENT FIRES

If you see an encampment fire in the brush, always call 911 immediately. The Sheriff’s Department can cite individuals for starting illegal warming or cooking fires, and the Fire Department will extinguish the fire. If a homeless individual has been arrested or cited for any offense, Sheriff’s Deputies cannot prevent them from returning to Malibu once released from the court system.

PRIVATE PROPERTY 

Encampments on private property should be reported to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station at 310-456-6652 or 818-878-1808. If you report an encampment on your property, Sheriff’s Deputies can cite them for trespassing and remove the individual(s). If you are reporting an encampment on someone else’s property, the Sheriff’s Department can identify the property owner, check for a Letter of Agency on file, and/or contact the property owner to see if they want them removed. Sheriff's Deputies cannot remove a homeless individual camping on private property if the property owner is not interested in having them removed unless the individual is causing a disturbance or committing a crime.

Property owners may file a Letter of Agency, which permits the Sheriff's Department to remove trespassers from their private property. If your property is vacant or you do not live on your property full-time, the Letter of Agency empowers Deputies to remove trespassers when they are reported by someone else and Deputies are unable to contact you. For business owners, clearly posted “No Trespassing” signs also facilitate the timely removal of trespassing individuals.

Another way to remove encampments from private property is through the Malibu Municipal Code (MMC) Section 8.28 (Nuisance Abatement). The City of Malibu defines a nuisance as any condition of property that is injurious or potentially injurious to the public health, safety, or welfare of the community, as well as adjacent properties. Any accumulation or storage of trash, biohazards (including human waste), or articles of personal property on undeveloped or vacant land that creates, or creates the conditions for, a fire or safety hazard to nearby persons or properties, is a public health hazard and is therefore prohibited.

Property owners and other persons in lawful possession of any property, place, or area within the City boundaries shall, at his or her own expense, maintain the property, place, or area free from any nuisance.

Contact Luis Flores, Public Safety Liaison, with questions regarding encampments or how to file a Letter of Agency.

PUBLIC PROPERTY 

Encampments on public property can also be removed when they violate MMC 8.36.050 (Camping). The City of Malibu prohibits individuals from camping on city-owned public property if such property is: (1) within any area that the City Manager, Public Safety Director, or City Council determines to constitute an extreme fire danger (which may include any area designated as a VHFHSZ by Cal FIRE); (2) within two hundred (200) feet of a residence; or (3) within one thousand five hundred (1,500) feet of any public or private elementary, vocational, junior high, high school, or college. Additionally, individuals are prohibited from camping in a manner that obstructs the public right of way.

However, specific protocols must be followed by both the pertinent municipality and law enforcement. If there is an imminent threat, the process can go quickly but otherwise can take up to two months. Before clearing any encampment, people experiencing homelessness must be given access to outreach services, and clear warnings must be posted noting the scheduled clean-up day - usually 72 hours in advance. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) helps oversee this process when there are five or more encampments in an area. 

These procedures help ensure two things: 

  1. People experiencing homelessness can connect with services and housing rather than just relocate to a new campsite. 
  2. The City and law enforcement are protected from liability, decreasing costs to the community resulting from litigation. 

If you are concerned about an encampment, City staff can provide information about any ongoing encampment clean-up operations.