The City of Malibu Reflects on Last Years Events

Public Safety Commission reviewed public safety activity for the past year

2021 was a year of resilience and achievements for the Malibu community. Last Wednesday, Jan. 5, the Malibu Public Safety Commission reviewed public safety activity for the past year, provided updates on the progress with wildfires, evacuation, and proposals on how they can better inform the community during emergency situations.

The commission emphasized the importance of home defensibility, generators for traffic lights, raising parking fines, and continuing to educate the public on the importance of fire safety.

Malibu’s fire safety liaison, Chris Brossard, gave a brief report on the fire activity. With the few wildfires that occurred, Brossard said only five acres burned in the city limits last year.

As for the hazard tree removal grant, Brossard said they have visited 18 properties, removed 38 trees, and have used $88,000 of the $300,000 budget. 

The Public Safety Expo date has not been determined.

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Committee member Brent Woodworth recommended suggestions on what the city can do better to be prepared for evacuations and emergencies.

“As far as the fires are concerned, with the rain that we’ve had, [we’re] obviously going to see a lot more growth and that growth is going to continue and as such our luck,” Woodworth said. “I hope it holds through in 2022. The more we can do to prepare for the eventuality of additional fires, the better.”

Woodworth said he hopes homeowners will be more assertive in preparing their homes, maintaining their properties as well as receiving support from Los Angeles County Fire and commission groups in addressing the risks. 

“I would encourage the LA County Fire Department to be as aggressive as possible in citing properties as they come into that time of the year that have not done the proper level of clearance,” Woodworth said. “And whatever can be done in supporting LA County and encouraging agricultural departments within the county to follow through on enforcement.”

Woodworth said they’ve experienced challenges with trying to provide information to some of the folks who are in the frontier and hopes to provide better communication to the community on emergencies during power shut-offs.

“I’m trying to see if we can get better information from AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon—any of the communication providers, as to the impact of power outages on their capabilities, and what they’re doing to ensure their side of the equation is up and running,” Woodworth said. “And they provide the best information for us in advance when potential events occur.”

Woodworth hopes to work with companies such as oil service companies who have operations for better evacuation routes and ensure they have generators and the ability to remain open and operational during an evacuation.

“Their services are critical for not only refueling, but bathroom facilities and food services facilities,” Woodworth said. “I think we should push a little harder on that this year.”

As for the water district and the water companies, Woodworth said he hopes to get better information on billing issues. 

“People are wondering, ‘I’m using a lot less water than I did the previous year, I did all of the ranges the water company said, I should be at for minimal usage, and I’m still getting charged a penalty fee,’” Woodworth said. “I think there’s some confusion and an opportunity to get some explanation from the water district as to why that is happening or at least a better understanding on those charges.”

To end his report, Woodworth asked if there were ways they could better prepare for potential mudslides, such as the Leo Carrillo flood evacuation that occurred the week prior to the meeting.

“Is there more information that we could have gotten from NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) or from another agency that could have given us a better heads up on that, or did we get as much of an early warning as we possibly could?” Woodworth asked. “It’s just an unforeseen event as to how that occurred, and there are things we should do to prepare for potential mudslides like that in the future.” 

“I just hope this is a year of an aggressive approach to resiliency in Malibu, and I’m sure willing to do anything I possibly can to contribute to that,” Woodworth added. 

Commissioner Daphne Anneet said she hopes the city will continue with educating Malibu residents of home defensibility in terms of protecting their own properties. 

“If we can continue the education and the commitment and the enforcement of property owners maintaining the defensibility of their own properties, that would be a big plus if we have a major fire event,” Anneet said.

Public Safety Commission Vice-Chair Doug Stewart recognized Commissioner Chris Frost for receiving the first Public Service Award at the Malibu Association of Realtors event in December.

For communication, Stewart recommends a better cell service system, radio, and communications, whether that’s someone communicating with someone on the ground in the city or outside the city.

“In the case of Thanksgiving the city lost power, lost communication and it was almost a trial run for a soft big emergency, whether it be an earthquake or a fire or whatever it might be a major storm,” Stewart said. “First off, more generators for the traffic lights, more generators, and more people to help put them in place whether it be CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) or whoever, but the idea of getting those generators up to have the traffic lights work is critical.”

Stewart said there needs to be a more efficient way to inform residents when road closures occur.

“We also need to realize that we need to talk to the public; we can’t forget that at all,” Stewart said. “Whether it’s about trying to avoid the road problem at PCH because if the communication system isn’t working, they don’t know what’s there. They drive up to it, and they have to turn around and cause even more problems.”

Stewart suggests implementing a better FM Alert System as soon as possible. 

​​Public Safety Manager Susan Dueñas said all the topics they discussed are on the radar for the City Council Meeting that occurred on Monday.

The last item on the agenda is parking citations, and while Dueñas suggested raising the price of parking citations, City of Malibu Finance Manager Renee Neermann said they have been receiving calls—mostly tourists, in regards to the price of the ticket. 

“I caution against higher fines and would encourage us to focus on better signage and making those signs less confusing, etc,” Neermann said. “The other concern is, by law we do have to offer a payment plan for low-income people, and we do get a request for those at least two a week that we do have to put people in a payment plan if the fines get higher and more people can’t afford to pay those, you’re really losing that fine anyway because of the amount of processing and tracking it takes to monitor,—you’re really losing the fine anyways.”

Commissioner Joshua Spiegel disagreed with Neermann’s proposition in not raising fines, saying raising parking fines should be implemented. 

“If someone wants to come and park on my sidewalk and park on my highway and create unsafe situations, they’re going to need to pay for that,” Spiegel said. “We’re not Las Virgenes, we’re not Santa Monica, we’re Malibu California, and if people want to come out here and be crazy, they’re going to need to pay for it.”

To watch the Public Safety Commission Regular Meeting visit CityofMalibu.org/virtualmeetings.

Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo is an inspiring photojournalist based in Los Angeles California. She began her journalism career at Pierce College Media Arts Department. Twitter @samanthavbravo

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