‘People Will Die’—Fear in Malibu Over California Edison Plan to Cut Power

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Fear in Malibu has reached a fever pitch, following announcement of a California Public Utilities Commission-approved plan to cut power to areas of Malibu during times of extreme fire danger.

“It is unacceptable to just turn off the power,” Council Member Laura Rosenthal told representatives from the power company following a presentation on the policy at Monday’s city council meeting. 

“The city has gone on record stating, very clearly, that we’re not in favor of any power shut-off in an emergency,” Mayor Rick Mullen later added.

Another resident put it a different way.

“It is dangerous, it is negligent, it is ill-conceived and people will die,” said Beth Lucas, a local resident and mother. Lucas was one of dozens of residents who voiced concerns over the policy, including anticipated issues with medical equipment, the hazards of using generators, lack of communication and inability to evacuate.

Southern California Edison representative Diane Forte said the power cuts should not be called “a mandatory blackout of the entire city of Malibu”—rather targeted outages for “high fire-risk areas.” 

“The decision to de-energize doesn’t happen until somebody from our field is out seeing and verifying the conditions on the ground,” Brian Chen, principal manager for Southern California Edison, said later in the meeting.

Hans Laetz, a local activist, spoke for more than eight minutes to raise concerns with the power company—and urge council to act.

“We need your help. There is a way the city can bail us out on this” Laetz told Malibu officials, explaining that since he filed an application with the public utilities commission he had standing to file a lawsuit. “Now, I do have standing, and that person right there [City Attorney Christi Hogin] can write great appellate briefs. I’ve seen them. She’s terrific. And we need your help.”

Rehab bill passes senate, heads to governor’s desk

A senate bill designed to regulate residential rehab facilities—SB-3162—passed the California Senate on Monday, Aug. 27, bringing it one step closer to becoming law.

The bill, which has been championed by Malibu City Council Member Lou La Monte, tightens regulations over “alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facilities,” seeking to avoid “hospitalization” of residential neighborhoods due to overconcentration of such facilities.

La Monte announced the passage of the bill during the Monday night city council meeting.

“The author argues that there is a need for legislative clarification that services under a residential license must be provided at the specific residence where the state license is issued and a need to increase fines to help prevent bad actors from exploiting loopholes that hinder the therapeutic benefits of a residential neighborhood and limit the ability of patients to integrate with the fabric of a community,” the bill comments state. “This bill would enable the future distribution of legally licensed residential alcohol and drug abuse recovery or treatment facilities to provide valuable rehabilitation and support services in a therapeutic residential neighborhood environment.”

By tightening license requirements, the bill could result in fewer residential rehab centers creating networks of facilities in neighborhoods, instead keeping the units to six-bed homes, as initially designed.

Council begins process to ban electric ride-share scooters

Electric ride-share scooters, popular in nearby Santa Monica and Los Angeles, may never make their appearance in Malibu—thanks to an ordinance proposed by Rosenthal on Monday.

The scooters, which follow a basic “ride-share” business model, have begun littering the streets, sidewalks and beaches of Los Angeles County after they were introduced at the beginning of the summer. For a fee, users can “unlock” and use the scooters with a smartphone app, and may leave them anywhere they wish (rather than at a specific dock) when their ride is complete. 

In nearby communities, some consider them a convenience, while others say they are a public nuisance.

“According to state law, they should be banned already,” La Monte said, in support of Rosenthal’s request to have city staff draw up an ordinance banning them.

“I do not think there’s any place [for them] in Malibu, with Pacific Coast Highway,” Council Member Skylar Peak added.

The ordinance will come up for a public hearing at a future council meeting.