City to Form Homelessness Task Force After Summer Break

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 Volunteers and members of the Malibu homeless community congregate before a CART lunch.

“In my opinion, we are failing,” Malibu City Council Member Mikke Pierson told his colleagues during the Monday, July 12, Malibu City Council meeting. “As a city council, at this time, we are failing to take enough proper actions to deal with our homelessness issues, which has resulted in increased and unacceptable public safety concerns throughout Malibu.”

Pierson’s statements kicked off the long-awaited discussion of a homelessness task force to tackle growing concerns over homelessness in and around Malibu.

In May of this year, council discussed creating a committee to “address issues related to homelessness,” eventually adding a new staff position of public safety liaison to the municipal payroll to assist the committee. That position has not yet been filled.

The proposed task force will include 10 members—two appointed by each of the five city council members. 

Council members expressed frustration over the homelessness situation. Though council members are divided over solutions, all agreed the situation was untenable. As of February 2021, an estimated 157 unhoused people were living within city limits.

“We need to get moving on this. We’re not going to wish it away. We don’t want a solution imposed on us,” Council Member Karen Farrer said.

Council Member Steve Uhring agreed that time was of the essence: “We’ve got homeless people up in the hills starting fires.”

Because city council does not usually hold a meeting in the second half of July, the next chance council will get to discuss the task force will be Aug. 9, although the agenda for that meeting has not yet been finalized.

California businesses, residents must cut organic waste and water use by 2025

Council on Monday approved plans to help the city cut food and water waste. The plan is mandated under a bill signed in 2016 by then-California Governor Jerry Brown that aims to see a 75 percent reduction in landfilled organic waste and a 20 percent increase in recovery of currently disposed edible food by 2025.

“The state is hoping to redirect perfectly edible food that is currently being disposed [of], to hopefully help feed those in need,” Christine Shen, Malibu environmental sustainability analyst, told council during her presentation at the July 12 meeting. Shen said the bill was designed to “significantly reduce emissions and reduce the impacts of climate change in our lifetime.” Organic waste in landfills is known to produce greenhouse gasses such as methane.

Businesses will receive new organic recycling carts by October 2021 and must train employees to sort soft materials into bins and enact edible food recovery programs. 

Residents will be asked to sort organic waste into existing recycling carts.

City Council Member Mikke Pierson praised staff for the “really big lift” it took to get the program on track to meet the state’s timeline. 

Environmental Sustainability Director Yolanda Bundy said implementation of the program would take “a lot of outreach to the community.”

“We are excited, but we understand this is going to take a lot of staff time,” Bundy added.

No timeline for resumption of in-person meetings

Malibu has until Sept. 30 to implement in-person council meetings once again. The city’s governing body has been meeting remotely via Zoom since March 2020 when the first COVID-19 lockdown was implemented by Governor Gavin Newsom. Remote meetings will be permissible only through the end of September, at which point the state has indicated all city councils must resume in-person meetings.

“I have not heard whether that date will be extended at this point—we haven’t heard any indications one way or the other,” Interim City Manager Steve McClary told council Monday. The rate of novel coronavirus infections has risen sharply across LA County following the state’s reopening on June 15, with the rapid spread of the disease’s latest mutation, the Delta variant. 

McClary recommended the conversation be revisited at the next meeting on Aug. 9.