City Council AmendS Malibu’s Nuisance Code to Address THE SAFETY HAZARDS OF Homeless Encampments and Appoints MEMBERS OF New Homelessness Task Force
The Malibu City Council unanimously approved amending the City’s Nuisance Code to strengthen the City’s ability to address hazards posed by homeless encampments in Malibu during the August 9 Council meeting.
“Homelessness is a nationwide humanitarian crisis that also has severe local impacts to our community’s public health and safety, environment and quality of life that we can’t ignore,” said Mayor Paul Grisanti. “Strengthening our Nuisance Code gives us more tools to protect our community from the real threat to lives and property posed by fires starting in homeless encampments in the mountains of Malibu.”
Fire officials expect 2021 to be another very dangerous year for wildfires. According to CAL FIRE, California has already seen 579,614 acres burned and 400 structures destroyed in 6,049 fire incidents so far this year.
Fires that start in homeless encampments have become a critical concern across the region, and this year alone, nearly 20 fires have started in homeless encampments in Malibu. Most of those were on undeveloped private property. The amendments to the Nuisance Code strengthen the City’s ability to hold private property owners responsible for unabated nuisances on their property, particularly homeless encampments that have been connected to a brush fire or that pose a high risk of starting a fire.
The primary changes to the Nuisance Code are language specific to fire and public health hazards, giving specific examples to make it more clear to property owners what a nuisance is, including:
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, including, without limitation, the maintenance or storage of cooking or heating paraphernalia or equipment on undeveloped or vacant land, which facilitates activity that creates a risk of fire or otherwise creates a public health hazard.
The amendments would also give authority to the City Manager to take action quickly to address a nuisance, allowing a much faster response to an emergency condition posing an immediate threat to the physical safety of the community. Most other cities delegate this authority to their city manager or a department head. The current code requires City Council approval to implement a “Summary Abatement.”
The amendments will be enforceable in 30 days. City Code Enforcement staff will be sending letters to property owners to advise them of the amendment before it goes into effect.
While the amendments to the nuisance code are aimed at addressing encampments that develop on private property, the City does have the ability to remove people who are trespassing on public property that is closed to the public under the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone ordinance. City staff are in the process of identifying areas that will be posted as closed under this ordinance and installing signage.
Homelessness Task Force Members Appointed
During the July 21 meeting, the City Council each appointed two members to the newly created Homelessness Task Force, which will be charged with: reviewing existing efforts, evaluating the need for an alternative sleeping location (ASL), developing strategies to mitigate the fire safety concerns of encampments located in open space and on undeveloped private property, addressing other issues related to homelessness, developing a robust public engagement and outreach plan to obtain community input on proposed strategies to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community from the dangers of homelessness and provide assistance to Malibu residents experiencing homelessness, and providing regular updates and recommendations to the City Council.
Although the City already had a Homelessness Working Group, the City Council aims to focus more effort, resources, and attention on addressing homelessness by creating a Brown Act-governed Homelessness Task Force. The Brown Act requires open meetings and public record keeping by government bodies in California to ensure transparency and accountability.
Homelessness Task Force Appointments
Mayor Paul Grisanti: Ian Roven, Terry Davis
Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Silverstein: Deborah Benton, Bill Sampson
Councilmember Mikke Pierson: Bill Winokur, Wayne Cohen
Councilmember Steve Uhring: Kelly Pessis, Scott Dittrich
Councilmember Karen Farrer: Paul Davis, Chris Frost
In response to a growing homeless population in Malibu, the City has been increasing its measures to address homelessness and its impacts on the community for the last several years, including the development of a strategic plan, increased participation in events to aid the homeless, and the formation of the Working Group to strengthen cooperation between the various agencies and organizations providing assistance within the community.
Since 2018, the City has been funding an Outreach Team through The People Concern who work full-time in Malibu and can connect homeless people in Malibu with The People Concern’s housing, mental healthcare and other services. The City also funds a Housing Navigator, who works with the Outreach Team and landlords to help people experiencing homelessness get off the streets and into housing.
In October 2017, the City received Measure H funding from the County of Los Angeles to develop its Homelessness Strategic Plan, which was developed by the Homelessness Working Group and adopted by the City Council on June 25, 2018.
The community can review documents about the City’s past and ongoing work to address homelessness, including the Homelessness Strategic Plan, community survey results, outreach efforts, and agendas and minutes from public meetings at https://www.malibucity.org/1066/Reference-Documents.