Letter to City Council: Fixing the ordinance 

Letter to the Editor: The Malibu Times

Dear Editor, 

The following is a letter to the Honorable Mayor Uhring and City Council:

I expected to see the two access requirements within the proposed resolution after your serious direction to planning staff from the last council meeting on this. I was extremely disappointed and surprised at the staff’s recommendation to not add this important provision into the ordinance for all our safety.

The staff mentions a random letter from State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to Rancho Palos Verdes that they would need to provide evidence that this restriction would be required to protect public safety. Rancho Palos Verdes has not had as many deadly and devastating wildfires as Malibu and the whole city is NOT designated a VHFHSZ as we are. Also according to this map with data from the California Public Utilities Commission we are a higher risk fire hazard/prone area:


The cities of Los Angeles, Oakland, Angels Camp, and Corte Madera all restrict ADUs similarly in high fire hazard zones and have so far suffered no ramifications. HCD has also granted the city of Portola Valley permission to continue restricting ADUs in fire hazard zones. Portola Valley provided expert analysis and robust scientific evidence to support the need for the restrictions. From the HCD evaluation: “Fire Prohibitions — The Ordinance states that ‘ADUs are prohibited on parcels smaller than one acre whose direct vehicular access is from a road or cul-de-sac which (1) has a single point of ingress/egress and (2) has a width of less than eighteen feet.’ The Ordinance’s findings go into detail explaining the nature of the fire risk and the Town’s approach to risk management, outlining a fuel hazard study specific for the purpose and mapping where evacuation could be constrained in an emergency. The use of these locally chartered studies and the fifty pages of documents included in the May 25, 2023 email speaks to the great care and consideration the Town has put into risk management. HCD appreciates the thoughtful analysis.”  So please use some of our existing Flame Mappers study findings on this, etc. and include this in the ordinance keeping this restriction.

Given that LA County Planning gives two access restrictions in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones, I don’t understand why staff completely ignored this in their report and are putting our community at risk. During Woolsey, traffic was backed up Big Rock Drive and other canyon roads for hours not to mention the PCH for a minimum of 5 hours putting evacuees‘ lives in jeopardy. This kind of traffic trapped and fatally burned many victims of the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise and could easily happen here. Adding more dwellings and intensity of use in these areas without two egresses will make evacuation in a disaster even worse. When these roads become clogged, no cars can escape, and no emergency vehicles can get through to fight the fire or assist people to escape. In addition, the proliferation of ADU’s in these areas will increase the amount of combustible fuel, leading to a higher number of ignition sources and the likelihood of rapid spread of wildfire.

Also several of the red stars on the Malibu maps at the end of the staff report that are indicating the streets that do not have two egresses actually do have two accesses to the PCH, such as Morningview Drive, so there can be more ADUs than actually projected. These maps in the staff report have some errors. And the stars that are correct would hinder evacuation down these small, windy roads to the PCH so they should NOT be discounted just because there are so many limited access roads in our city. This is WHY we are such a fire prone area.

To accommodate the very few people who need ADUs in our neighborhoods without the two egresses you can do as Oakland does and provide: “Approved application for Reasonable Accommodation Request due to a disability of an ADU occupant or a need to accommodate a live-in caregiver for a person with disability i.e. for aging in-laws. The Reasonable Accommodation Request must include a reason for the exception.”

Thank you for fixing the ordinance, adding the required studies to keep all of Malibu safe.

Jo Drummond, Malibu