Nov. 19, 2020 - Update on City Response to Homeless Encampments in Malibu, Addressing Community Concerns About Fires, Encampment Cleared Out at Tuna Canyon
In recent weeks, several fires started in a known homeless encampment near Tuna Canyon and PCH in eastern Malibu. Although the fires were quickly extinguished at small size and did not threaten homes or structures, they did occur during Malibu’s peak wildfire season. The City’s top priority is protecting public safety, and the number one public safety threat to the community is wildfire, so this is extremely concerning.
The City has received numerous complaints about homeless encampments, and understandably, those concerns were greatly heightened when fires started in encampments. The City is equally concerned and is working aggressively in coordination with the LA County Sheriff’s Department to remove encampments around the City within the considerable constraints of the law.
While the City is committed to addressing homelessness in the community, supporting effective and compassionate outreach and services, the City also considers homeless encampments a hazard to public safety, public health and the environment.
Efforts the City is Currently Undertaking
Civic Center area: An individual who had a warming fire last month was removed and cited, but returned to the area shortly thereafter. This week, Deputies removed individuals from this area again. The Sheriff’s Department will continue to monitor this area.
Legacy Park: The City initiated a weekly clean up strategy at Legacy Park several weeks ago. Individuals continue to return to the area, but the overall situation is improving.
Corral State Beach/Dan Blocker Beach: The City has been working with the Department of Beaches and Harbors to support the removal of encampments on the beach.
Tuna Canyon: After securing a Letter of Agency from the property owner on November 10, a team of stakeholders, including the City’s Public Safety Manger, Sheriff’s, Fire Department, City Public Works, Councilmember Wagner, Public Safety Commissioners, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and our own outreach workers, hiked the area on Friday, November 13 to advise individuals that the area was set to be cleared out and to scope out the job. The City initiated an extensive clean up of this area on Thursday, November 19.
PHOTOS OF TUNA CANYON HOMELESS ENCAMPMENT CLEAN-UP
While the City’s goal is to work with the Sheriff’s Department to remove any homeless encampment as quickly as possible, there are some legal requirements and/or best practices that must be adhered to first. Encampments on private property require the permission of the property owner. In most cases this is secured through a Letter of Agency filed with the Sheriff’s Department. However, if an individual is breaking the law (outside of trespassing), Sheriff’s may address the illegal activity immediately.
If the encampment is on public property, homeless outreach workers need to engage the individuals first, offering services and alternative housing options. The City must then provide a minimum of 72 hours notice that an area is going to be cleared and post appropriate signage.
These steps are very important when addressing an encampment on public property. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Martin vs. Boise prohibits the City from enforcing ordinances prohibiting camping in public places if there are not adequate shelter beds in the area. Individuals need to be provided with alternative sleeping locations in order to enforce anti-camping laws. However, the City was able to adopt a narrowly crafted ordinance last year that allows it to quickly remove encampments from public property during Red Flag fire conditions.
It is important to remember that although the City is committed to minimizing the impact of encampments on the community, it does not solve the issue of homelessness. In addition, when individuals experiencing homelessness are involved in criminal activity, it often amounts to misdemeanor crimes such as littering, setting or maintaining illegal fires, and instances of theft.
These offenses often result in the issuance of citations and/or fines. In incidents involving violent crime and or significant damage to property, these individuals may be arrested and temporarily housed at Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. However, the fines and imprisonment time associated with misdemeanor crimes are low, and many times these individuals return to an area they feel comfortable in, or consider “home.”
For questions or concerns about homelessness, please contact Public Safety Manager Susan Dueñas at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the City of Malibu’s efforts to address homelessness, visit the City's web page.