Get to know our city commissioners: Meet Brian Merrick

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Brian Merrick, a member of one of Malibu’s founding families and a real estate agent for over 25 years, has served on city commissions for several years. Contributed Photo

Brian Merrick says he “knows Malibu like the back of my hand,” as well he should — he was born and raised here, and is a member of one of Malibu’s founding families.

The history of the Merrick family is also part of the history of Malibu. The Merricks first came to Malibu in 1946, when Brian’s father John J. Merrick, an attorney and former comedy writer, bought a beachfront lot at Latigo Cove for $2,300. He was later elected judge of the Malibu Judicial District in 1964, spending four days a week in the landmark 1930s-era Malibu courthouse on Pacific Coast Highway. 

By the time the judicial district’s population exceeded the required 40,000 in 1973 and the elder Merrick became the first judge of the newly established municipal court in Malibu, he was handling more than 20,000 cases a year. He remained on the bench in Malibu until he retired in 1986 as a well-known local historian and civic leader.

Imagine Brian growing up in Malibu with a Dad handling these kinds of goings-on:

According to the Los Angeles Times, “During Merrick’s time on the bench, he signed the search warrant to gain access to the Spahn Ranch, the notorious home of the Manson family. And with 50 deputies guarding his courtroom, Merrick presided over the preliminary hearing of Manson family member Susan Atkins, who was charged in the murder of Topanga Canyon musician Gary Hinman.”

In another case, “When a Topanga Canyon nudist club called Elysium opened in the 1960s and a number of people were arrested on nudity charges under a 30-year-old county ordinance, Merrick declared the ordinance unconstitutional.” The judge made that decision despite the fact that he considered himself a very religious person. He received hate mail and was called a pervert over that ruling.

John Merrick presided over a number of celebrity weddings, including the high-profile 1985 wedding of pop singer Madonna and actor Sean Penn on Point Dume. “There were eight helicopters circling overhead with guys hanging out the doors filming; it was like ‘Apocalypse Now,’” the elder Merrick recalled at the time.

Brian has been a real estate agent in Malibu for over 25 years and is currently a luxury estate specialist at Coldwell Banker Malibu. Previously, he was a builder of custom homes in Malibu.

On Jan. 9, Brian was appointed to the Malibu Public Safety Commission by new City Councilmember Marianne Riggins after having served on the Public Works Commission for many years, appointed originally by City Councilmember Skylar Peak, and later by Councilmember Paul Grisanti.

“I’m definitely one of the senior people on the commissions,” he said in a phone interview. “I think maybe only Chris Frost has served longer. A lot of people get on a commission as a way to eventually move up to City Council, but I’m not interested in being on City Council — as a commissioner you can help the city without being in that toxic environment.”

Brian said he was interested in joining the Public Safety Commission for several reasons.

“I’d like to see the city be better prepared for the onslaught of people that come to our town to see things like the Point Dume headlands and Escondido Falls,” he said. “But we have to be aware that all of those attractions are controlled by agencies that are not the City of Malibu. Malibu is limited in what they can do, but it doesn’t mean we do nothing.”

Merrick is also interested in Public Safety for the opportunity to work on issues with the county Sheriff’s and Fire Departments. 

He would like to see more people participate in the local government. 

“People are too quick to go to social media to complain, but they should come to these meetings and participate so their problems can be heard,” he said. “I wish more people would get involved, and it doesn’t take that much time. The city needs our help.”

Besides being a commissioner on two different commissions, Brian participated in the 20/20 Vision project and the city’s View Restoration and Preservation Task Force. 

“I feel like if you live in the community, you should give back,” he said.