Homelessness Task Force share mixed reviews on prioritizing camping ordinances and enforcement

Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Mixed opinions on what The Homelessness Task Force should prioritize were addressed during its Aug. 23 meeting. The task force also addressed City Council’s action regarding establishing an Alternative Sleeping Location (ASL) for the City of Malibu. The panel also motioned to continue any further movement of the Public Engagement and Outreach Plan until the next meeting.

Public Safety Liaison Luis Flores started off the meeting with staff updates and informed the task force members of three homeless deaths that occurred in the month of August. Flores said one cause was from natural causes, one was drug-related due to paraphernalia found near the encampment, and the cause for the third individual is still to be determined.

Flores also reminded the task force of the Homeless Connect Day on Sept. 22.

“Folks that are interested in volunteering, all the information is on the flyer, but we encourage folks to come out and show their support,” Flores said. 

Flores also said they are still waiting on the Homeless Count numbers and will hopefully receive them sometime in September.

As for the Public Engagement and Outreach Plan, the task force motioned to continue any further action to the next meeting.

Task force Bill Sampson provided a report on the City Parking Ordinances from the Legal Analysis Ad Hoc Committee on the city’s restricted parking ordinances.

Task force member Kelly Pessis said the parking ordinances need to be enforced more on the canyons. 

“Nobody else on this task force thinks we need to tighten up our parking ordinances, that we need to keep them from moving up into the canyons, that we shouldn’t fill the gaps of the other areas because if you enforce in the areas you’re allowed to enforce, you’re just going to move them to the other areas where there are no signs,” Pessis said. “I’m asking the attorneys: Is there no legal argument, no legal loophole that we can use, is there a legal way that we can close the gaps where we need to?”

Pessis also mentioned the camping ordinance that was passed last year.

On Aug. 23, 2021, City Council voted unanimously to declare a local emergency and establish a program for reducing the risk of fires associated with unhoused people engaged in unpermitted and unregulated camping within city limits.

The resolution also directs city staff to work with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to identify homeless encampments in Malibu; provide notification of the prohibition to the people residing in the encampments and provide connections to available resources; and ensure that Malibu remains free of homeless encampments while ensuring that these efforts do not criminalize people experiencing homelessness.

On Sept. 13, 2021, the City Council voted 5-0 to approve the ordinance that bans camping on property that is within any area that the city manager, public safety manager or City Council may determine to be an extreme fire danger. This includes anywhere within 200 feet of a residence and within 1,500 feet of a day-care center or public or private school or college within the city limits of Malibu. This also includes any city-owned public park, public beach, public street or public right-of-way, any undeveloped private property on which camping is prohibited, and on any land designated by the fire chief or the city manager as a fire risk area. 

The amendment would make the ordinance enforceable by the Sheriff’s Department within the constraints of the Martin vs. Boise court ruling, which has been an obstacle to enforcing Malibu’s ordinance. It would also provide a legal tool to remove individuals who are living in areas that pose an extreme fire danger, thereby reducing the chances of a fire start caused by a cooking or warming fire, or other means such as smoking.

“If we’re going to have parking laws, they need to be comprehensive and they need to be worked on,” Pessis said.

Task force and Public Safety Chair Chris Frost said it’s due to the Coastal Commission and restricted enforcement.

“The bulk of the issue has ordinances that can be effective if they’re enforced by the Sheriff’s Department,” Frost said.

Task force member Terry Davis disagreed with prioritizing enforcement on the task force and said to focus on issues relating to homelessness.

“According to the report, it is estimated that fewer than 15 percent of the vehicles parked overnight on PCH were occupied by people experiencing homelessness,” Davis said. “I find this a bit a waste of time for us right now with our tasks. Do I feel like enforcement needs to happen? Yes, but that’s not something that’s under us right now; should it be done, yes.”

Davis said parking should be enforced, but it’s not under their preview.

“That is not ours to enforce,” Davis said. “We have other things to focus on to come up with solutions and a public education in this issue.”

Flores provided an update on the City Council’s recent approval in securing beds in the Aug. 8 meeting.

“Council reviewed your recommendation and agreed upon to be able to procure up to three beds in an amount not to exceed $100,000, so we look to you all to discuss any ideas,” Flores said. “I know this is something that we as a city staff are going to explore based on the council’s direction.”

The task force discussed the budget, potential facility locations and the urgency, due to the upcoming fire season.

The last item addressed was the election of chair and vice chair. The task force nominated Ian Roven to serve as chair and Bill Winoker to serve as vice chair.

The next Homelessness Task Force meeting is scheduled for Sept 20.