Build Malibu Better: Time for a Reset of the Political Process?

Paul Grisanti

Things aren’t going as smoothly as one would hope at the moment.  

Friday night and Saturday morning, my phone blew up about Friday’s invasions of private properties and beaches and the lack of response from the Sheriff’s Department. Lifeguards called for law enforcement backup and didn’t get it. Homeowners called the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station repeatedly about fireworks and strangers partying on the homeowner’s decks and the promised patrol cars never appeared. Has our sheriff decided that we complain too much and we need a little “freeway therapy”?  Has the sheriff taken a page from the actions of the fire department during the Woolsey Fire and decided to protect life only?

“Freeway therapy” is a discipline used by the sheriff’s department. Troublesome members of law enforcement are reassigned to the farthest station from their residence to give them plenty of commute time to contemplate their fall from grace.

This weekend’s bright spot was the actions of our volunteers on patrol who managed to write more than 300 parking tickets in the matter of a few hours on a single day. If they had the time and endurance, they could have doubled that number. Our visitors have gotten the impression that the entire vehicle code no longer applies during the pandemic. 

Last Monday, May 11, the city council had scheduled an item to discuss a possible solution to one aspect of the homeless situation. Due to the precedent set by the Boise decision (Boise v. Martin), we municipalities cannot prevent camping or overnight parking if there is no alternative safe place for them to sleep. The agendized item was to explore a zoning text amendment that would allow a temporary use permit for the overnight parking in an area of the Zuma Beach parking lot. If council had voted in favor of drafting the ZTA, the resultant draft ZTA would have gone to a public planning commission hearing. The final document would then have been vetted again at a city council meeting.  There was nothing close to a done deal.

The safe parking program as contemplated would not have helped those who are truly homeless, the tent and/or huddle-against-a-building unfortunates. The space would have had a staff that checks the vehicles in and out and monitors the location the entire night. If we had a designated safe space for vehicular camping, the sheriff’s deputies could approach those parked illegally, inform them of the safe parking location, the rules for utilizing it and instruct them that it’s time to move on.  

The system in place in Laguna Beach requires that those parking agree to vacate each morning, sign up with the outreach counselors and work toward getting housing. These requirements eliminate the vehicular campers who just want to party. They typically reject the offer and move on to other communities with less surveillance.

Unfortunately, the discussion never happened because a group of ill-informed true believers spread the word that the city council was planning to put a homeless encampment at Zuma Beach with no notice to the public. The discussion and any possible solutions that should have been explored were not explored. The result is that we are no closer to solutions.

We can’t do much about the sheriff’s department at the moment, but we can all do some things to get our city a more informed electorate.  

When you read an alarming statement on Nextdoor, Patch, Facebook, “the Local” or any other internet cesspool, take a few moments to go to the city’s website and find the agenda item that they are referring to. Read the agenda item yourself. Does the headline on our many local versions of The Enquirer match the agenda item? Do not outsource your credibility to the lowest common denominator.