Average-income residents struggle


All of Janet Baker’s possessions are in her car.

Though she has been a resident of Malibu for at least the past 20 years, raising her two children who attended local schools, while teaching children of Malibu herself, Baker can no longer live here.

At an income of $2,000 per month (which sometimes varies), she can no longer afford to stay in Malibu, where the average annual income is $249,000 and the average priced home is $1 million.

Baker currently teaches at Saint Aidan’s Pre-school, and for 10 years taught at Malibu United Methodist. She supplements her income by baby-sitting.

“I’ll take anything,” Baker said of her desire to make extra income to survive.

She had lived in a one-bedroom unit on Pacific Coast Highway across from Broad Beach for $600 per month for most of the time she’s been in Malibu. Grayfox Street was the location of her last residence until she was asked to leave, due to the recent crackdown on code enforcement laws that make it illegal to rent out guest houses or second units on most single-family residences.

Now, she has nowhere to live. She said she cannot find anything under a $1,000, or if there is anything at that price, it’s gone in a flash.

“They’re [rentals] either too high or gone too fast,” said Baker of her search.

Unfortunately, for the 20 percent of residents in Malibu who earn less than $40,000, with the rising property values in Malibu has come the rise in rental prices.

“Any time property values go that high it becomes exclusive,” said Mayor Tom Hasse in a phone interview of the problems renters face. “It does trickle down to the renters.

“People need to understand that when the property value is so high, it is difficult to do something [about rental prices],” said Hasse.

While Baker has been finishing the school year at St. Aidan’s, she has been staying with friends here and there, sleeping on couches to get by. Currently, she has a trailer to stay in, but still keeps all her things in her car, including all her books–she’s a story teller–which she has read to many children over the years.

In the past two weeks, Baker has gone to graduation after graduation to congratulate those children, former students of hers, and to say goodbye.

For Baker is leaving Malibu. Not that she wants to. She has no choice.

Baker is leaving this summer to go and live with her daughter in another state.

“It’s sad to leave this town,” said Baker. “Many parents have told me it’s the end of an era.”

She’s not the only one leaving either.

Single mom Lori Kerkar, owner of Hands on Therapy, a local business that provides therapuetic massage, has had her business here for nine years.

Her current rent is $1,500, but her landlords want to raise it by $300. Though her income is higher than Baker’s, with health insurance costs, self-employment taxes, and childcare for her 4-year-old, plus many other daily living expenses, she cannot afford the rent increase. As a result, Kerkar is moving to the South bay.

There are others who are finding it difficult to stay in this city where the rich and famous blend in with the local waiter, bartender, teacher, small business owner or student.

One single mother of two, ages 16 and 11, who prefers to remain anonymous, said she is “struggling to find housing” for her family.

She said she “races” to call about one bedrooms for rent only to find that they’re already taken, or that no one wants three people living in one bedroom. She and her children are presently living at a friend’s home, until they find a place.

She’s lived here for 15 years and said, “It’s the first time I’ve had such a hard time.”

City Manager Harry Peacock, who will retire this month, said of the housing problem in Malibu that it is a “statewide” problem and not unique to Malibu. He said there are people who work for the city who do not live here due to the high prices.

“Malibu is an expensive place to live,” Peacock said. “Not everyone can live in Malibu.”

“People who can afford [to live here] are people who worked very hard to be able to live here.” he said.

Of the code enforcement laws, Peacock said it is illegal to rent out guest houses or second units, including travel trailers. He stressed the point that the city has not evicted people.

Hasse said the city is awaiting a report from the Code Enforcement Task Force on the issue of renting second units or guest houses, as well as “home office” rules and the “grandfathering” issue.

While Hasse stressed that he does not want to predict or influence what the task force will do, he did say that to change the code is “a viable option.”

As to what choices the less-well-off residents of Malibu have in the meantime, Peacock’s words were, “[They] will have to move to other communities.”