Water, Weed Ordinances Updated

Malibu City Hall

This story has been updated. Please see editor’s note below.

City Council this week was tasked with many tough decisions, not the least of which were amendments to two highly controversial city ordinances: the water conservation ordinance that Mayor Pro Tem Laura Rosenthal dragged to the forefront last month after statewide water use regulations were announced and the medical marijuana ordinance that underwent a dramatic overhaul during a May Planning Commission meeting. 

Water Conservation Ordinance

After it was announced in late April that Malibu’s Water District 29, which encompasses Malibu and nearby Topanga Canyon, has one of the highest rates of residential water use in the state, Council planned some swift water use restrictions for Malibu residents.

“I think the tag we received that the City of Malibu is water wasters is unfortunate because the majority of people are really doing their part,” lamented Environmental Sustainability Director Vic Peterson.

Despite data that show 46 percent of Malibu residents are at or below the target restricted water use for the area, Council on Monday voted to adopt the urgency ordinance with a 5-0 vote. The ordinance will go into effect after the second reading during the June 22 regular City Council meeting.

The cutbacks include suggestions made during the original presentation of the ordinance amendments at the April 27 City Council meeting, such as a mandatory limit of outdoor watering to twice weekly, a prohibition of car washing except on landscaped areas (meaning no washing cars on paved driveways) and a condition that all mobile car washes operating within City limits must use recycled water.

On Monday, Council added a restriction that would prohibit any outdoor watering or irrigating within 48 hours of measurable rainfall. This “measurable rainfall” was also specified as one-tenth of an inch.

Tatiana Gaur, senior attorney with L.A. Waterkeeper, spoke in favor of the amendments.

“We applaud the City’s efforts to do more to deal with California’s unprecedented drought,” Gaur said.

Gaur went on to question enforcement, an issue echoed by many on Council, which County Waterworks staff was not able to answer.

“How are we going to be sure all these requirements are going to be put into practice and that people are going to actually comply with them?” Gaur asked.

Councilmember Skylar Peak asked a similar question.

“The challenge for us, not having access to water information, is how do we know someone’s watering more than three days a week?” Peak asked the engineer representing the waterworks district.

Waterworks primarily receives tips from neighbors and City employees who witness over-watering.

Rosenthal also asked about outreach to the community, an issue raised by public commenter Laureen Sills as well.

“Please be proactive — you need to be putting ads in the paper, you need to be sending people things,” Rosenthal said.

Waterworks representatives did not comment on the outreach requests. 

Marijuana Dispensary Ordinance 

One month after the Planning Commission dramatically reworked the City’s pot shop ordinance, City Council got a crack at the code text, putting its mark on the law, which has stood without changes since 2008.

Per City Council’s narrow 3-2 Monday vote, doctors who can prescribe medicinal marijuana to patients may have offices located “onsite” of a medical marijuana dispensary, though they cannot be within the dispensary tenant space. In other words, a pot shop can be in the same building as a doctor’s office, but they cannot be one and the same business.

“We’ve all walked down Venice Boulevard and seen the guy hawking the medical marijuana … this is a little different than getting your prescription for arthritis medicine,” Malibu Mayor John Sibert said. “But I don’t see we should necessarily restrict a doctor’s office from being in the same building.”

Council also further tightened restrictions on Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, making handicap accessibility mandatory at all pot shops in the City of Malibu.

They also maintained the original ordinance’s restriction of 1,000 feet between pot shops, which was cut dramatically down to a 250 foot distance by Planning Commissioners last month.

“I don’t think that it’s in the City’s best interest to have a clustering of these facilities,” Peak said.

Finally, in spite of many public commenters who came to urge Council to not allow liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries to share a lot, Council voted to allow the practice.

“I’m OK with it, because of CVS and places that mix [the sale of] prescription drugs and alcohol,” Rosenthal said.

With a sigh, Sibert agreed.

“Fundamentally, I’m a ‘small L’ libertarian, and people should be responsible for themselves,” Sibert said.

Editor’s note: A previous version stated that City Council added a restriction that would prohibit any outdoor watering or irrigation within 72 hours of measurable rainfall. The restriction City Council added is that outdoor watering or irrigation is prohibited within 48 hours of measurable rainfall.

For a list of water conservation rules, visit the City of Malibu’s website.