‘Sanctuary City’ Sign Prank Stirs Up Controversy In Malibu

The City of Malibu has made the international spotlight again, but this time with an embarrassing twist – the city was pranked. Local television stations, national broadcasts and newspapers, including international press, all picked up the story of the official looking signs declaring Malibu a sanctuary city that included disparaging comments in smaller print. At least two signs were erected on Pacific Coast Highway Tuesday — one on the north end of town and one on the south end near Topanga. 

The signs that were bolted to existing Malibu city limit markers were very real looking. Painted blue and white and including official looking seals of the State of California and the City of Malibu, the signs fooled many drivers speeding past. The sign on the north end posted near Leo Carrillo State Beach read, “Official Sanctuary City — ‘Cheap Nannies and Gardeners Make Malibu Great!’ (Boyle Heights Not So Much).”

The other faux sign on the south side of town read, “Official Sanctuary City — ‘Cheap Nannies and Gardeners Make Malibu Great!’ — Because Our Beach Community Needs Cheap Labor, Dude.”

Both signs were surreptitiously hung sometime last Tuesday just days after April Fool’s Day and caught many people by surprise, but they were quickly taken down before any pranksters were caught. City Manager Reva Feldman called the stunt an “unfortunate prank” and said that investigators were “working on it.”

The phony signs were obviously meant to mock the City of Malibu’s recent decision to declare itself a sanctuary city for immigrants seeking asylum from deportation law enforcement. City Council Member Laura Rosenthal introduced the sanctuary status after it was originally championed by local actor Martin Sheen, who pleaded with the city council to offer protection to undocumented workers. The council voted 3 – 2 to declare sanctuary status last month.

Contacted by The Malibu Times, Rosenthal restated her commitment to children, families and workers who are undocumented but make Malibu their home or workplace, saying, “I feel as strongly as ever. 


“I’m just disappointed that somebody would choose to express their opinion about it in that way,” she added. “I thought it was childish and hurtful. My understanding is that the Sheriff’s Department is looking into it.”

Some websites are speculating the stunt was pulled off by a right-leaning political artist. The Hollywood Reporter said similar works have appeared around Los Angeles by an artist who uses the pseudonym “Sabo.” The artist did post a picture of the Malibu signage on his Twitter account, but did not take credit for the image. 

“Sabo” told the website that friends of his put up the fake signs. “They aren’t big on getting attention seeing they work in the Hollywood industry and as [we] all know there is a serious Black List in full effect, focused on those of us who aren’t on the Left, politically speaking,” he said. 

Other internet chatter called Malibu one of the most affluent cities in the area and claim it is an unviable location for many of those whom it claims to be protecting.

Of course, Malibu is not the first city to be pranked. Hollywood itself, in the middle of Los Angeles, has long been the target of those who like to tweak the city’s image. The icon of the city, the Hollywood sign, has been targeted many times by jokesters who have climbed its Mount Lee location in the dark of night to change its infamous 45-foot tall letters. Just this past New Year’s Day the sign was changed to read “Hollyweed” in celebration of the state’s legalization of marijuana. It read the same in 1976 after another stunt, and one time was even changed to read “Holywood” when Pope John Paul II visited Los Angeles in 1987.

Malibu Council Member Jefferson Wagner, who did not vote in favor of sanctuary status for the city, spoke to The Malibu Times about this past week’s prank in Malibu, calling the jokesters “creative.” 

“I would just hope that someone who had that much time and energy to pull off that kind of a prank might work to ends where we could all come together in the middle and make some decisive decisions that benefit our town rather than controversy,” Wagner said. “We’re done with controversy. We need to make problems go away — be problem solvers rather than just complaining and pointing fingers at the other party. It’s not going to get us anywhere. It’s going to polarize us further.”

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