Rodenticide, Herbicide, Insecticide to Be Banned Citywide

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Come what may, Malibu will enact a ban on rodenticide.

That was the unanimous, 5-0, city council decision that came down on Monday night, capping off a years-long effort to put an end to the use of poisons along Malibu’s 21 coastal miles.

“If it ends up in some sort of lawsuit or whatever, let’s go there, because this is so immoral, it is so wrong in my opinion that we need to make a stand,” Mayor Pro Tem Mikke Pierson said, to applause from the dozens of advocates gathered at City Hall Monday for the hearing.

The proposed ban goes beyond prohibiting the use of anticoagulant rodenticides—the type of poison often found in black bait boxes meant to kill rats and mice. The ban’s language was broadened to encompass suggestions by Poison Free Malibu, the local nonprofit that has been guiding, prodding, cajoling and coaxing the city toward a full ban for over half a decade.

Council asked that city staff draw up a “citywide prohibition of pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides or any toxic chemical substance which has the potential to significantly degrade biological resources.”

The ban, which will become part of the city’s Local Coastal Program, now begins the arduous process of working its way through the Coastal Commission, which could take years—so, in addition, staff was asked to include a condition of approval for all coastal development permits that no pesticides—rodenticides, herbicides or insecticides—may be used on new developments (unless a basis cannot be formed for its inclusion).

The language of the ban borrows directly from Poison Free Malibu’s proposal: “The eradication of invasive plant species or habitat restoration shall consider first the use of non-chemical methods for prevention and management such as physical, mechanical, cultural, and biological controls. Herbicides may be selected only after all other non-chemical methods have been exhausted. Herbicides shall be restricted to the least toxic product and method, and to the maximum extent feasible, shall be biodegradable, derived from natural sources, and used for a limited time.”

The changes came about despite strong words of caution from City Attorney Christi Hogin, who counseled that the ban would face legal challenges due to a statewide preemption on pesticide bans. 

Though council members acknowledged her opinions—which were presented in an eight-page memorandum—they expressed willingness to risk potential legal challenges.

“I think it all emanates from a certain amount of risk management from the city attorney, which I appreciate, but I think we’ve learned along the way that the risk is minimal, even if there is any—but even if the risk is big, it’s a risk worth taking, and I think we should take it,” Council Member Rick Mullen said. “We are late on this and I think we should apologize to the people of Malibu for dragging our feet.”

Mayor Karen Farrer added that the city should not lose sight of its larger goal—a lifting of the statewide preemption against banning pesticides and a statewide ban on anticoagulant rodenticides.

“We have a larger battle going on at the state level,” Farrer said, referring to AB 1788, a bill that would ban the use of anticoagulants. “Anyone who’s contacted us—would you please extend that at the state level? Please,” Farrer said.

Council members also specifically thanked Poison Free Malibu founders Kian and Joel Schulman for their diligence in shepherding the change through.