Malibu Beach Team keeps beaches safe, at $500K cost to city

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Malibu Beach Team

One city official, while praising the much-needed service of the team that patrols local beaches, says the county needs to share the cost.

By Meg Boberg / Special to The Malibu Times

With summer in full swing, the Malibu Beach Team keeps a lookout for the safety of beachgoers at Zuma and Corral beaches on foot, ATV and horseback, where hundreds of thousands beachgoers visit annually.

From July 4 to Sept. 11, the enhanced law enforcement service provided by the Los Angeles Cou nty Sheriff’s Department aims to keep the beach and highways safe. However, while the team provides a much-needed service, the cost to the city is more than $500,000, and given the state of the economy, and the fact that Zuma and Corral beaches are county-owned, some question the cost to Malibu.

Some of the laws the team enforces include prohibition of animals, alcohol, fire and nudity on the beach. In 2010, the team issued 500 alcohol citations and towed 60 vehicles.

“We enforce the municipal codes we have for the city of Malibu,” Lost Hills/ Malibu Sheriff’s Station liaison Sgt. Fray Lupian said. “We have spoken with lifeguards and, because of our presence, [beachgoers] behave. Any incidence we have concerning the beach, we try to take care of the problem so other people can have a good time and most people don’t even have to see us.”

Malibu City Councilmember Lou La Monte believes the county should share the cost of the beach team. Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman, who is also the city’s administrative services director, said the agreement is made with Los Angeles County and is set for this year. She refused to further comment about plans for the 2012 Beach Team budget concerning the county.

La Monte said the Beach Team does an incredible job and is worth the expense, but the City Council would prefer the county to help pick up the tab. In past years, expenses for the team were recouped from parking lot fees, where a percentage of the revenue went to the city. Now, the costs of the Beach Team have risen dramatically.

“The expense is not what’s in question, as far as the Beach Team goes, it does an incredible job and everyone is always very happy with the results and obviously important to have them,” La Monte said. “It’s about if we can get help to pay for it, and a little help would be appropriate. We’re a contract city and our situation is unusual because we’re a long, skinny community, and from the [Pacific Coast Highway] to the beach, more often than not, the land belongs to the county.”

Another potential way of funding the Beach Team is through Pepperdine University, which recently received approval for expansion from the county. The city council requested the university to contribute financially to provide another Sheriff’s deputy to address public safety concerns in exchange for the council’s support.

“The door is always open for some way to us to be reimbursed for our expenses,” La Monte said. “The whole thing is going to take several years to wind its way through everything that we shouldn’t be paying for. I’m sure Pepperdine will have an open mind to helping us.”

For the next six weeks, while the Beach Team is fully deployed, Sgt. Lupian said they would continue to patrol the beaches to ensure the safe return of missing children, car thefts and public intoxication.

“Our presence is enough to deter problems,” Lupian said, explaining how lifeguards appreciate their service so they can focus on their own jobs while the Beach Team patrols for things as small as broken class and cigarettes. “We make sure people can have a good time on their day off so the public can be sure it’s a safe atmosphere, so they can breathe.”