The new Los Angeles County Sheriff liaison to Malibu was introduced at Last Wednesday’s Public Safety Commission meeting. Sgt. James Braden replaces Lt. Jennifer Seetoo. Sgt. James Braden, who comes to the position with years of experience at the station, was warmly welcomed by commissioners, who also commented he would have “big shoes” to fill in Seetoo’s absence.

Seetoo by all accounts, was a nice fit, with not only the commission, but with most Malibu residents who praised her short, but effective tenure on the job. She was abruptly reassigned, as was her predecessor, Lt. Jim Royal, in the latest shake up of management by the county’s elected Sheriff Alex Villanueva. The new sheriff has riled up constituents and members of the LA County Board of Supervisors by firing dozens of top management and for his rehire of at least two deputies previously fired for misconduct. Some have called the sheriff’s reassignments of Royal and Seetoo “freeway therapy” due to the long distances they would need to drive to get to their new work assignments.

The commission’s three-and-a-half-hour-long evening session started with a remembrance of vice-chair Andy Cohen, who passed away suddenly last month. Those who spoke, including chair Chris Frost, praised Cohen’s dedication to Malibu and the commission he served. Cohen was said to have put in countless behind-the-scenes hours working to make Malibu a safer community for all.

Parking issues

One issue tackled Wednesday night was the encroachment of RVs and oversize vehicles used as homeless encampments parked along Pacific Coast Highway. Since Los Angeles County is about to limit overnight parking south of Topanga, which has been the scene of a “seaside shanty town,” as some residents refer to it, the commission heard from the city’s Public Works Department about the possibility of doing the same in Malibu city limits. A detailed plan to erect limited overnight parking signs along PCH was presented to commissioners. Former Public Safety Commissioner Carol Randall, who lives in a residential area of PCH, commented on overnight restrictions, saying, “That could be a real problem for people trying to park right across the street from their home. You have to be careful, particularly in the eastern part of town. The three beaches that are multi-family are Las Tunas, Big Rock and Las Flores. You need to protect those residents.”

Some commissioners worried about the creep of the oversize vehicles and campers from the eastern portion of PCH into canyon neighborhoods or to the western portion that Sgt. Braden suggested could be looked at “as the new frontier.”

Public works suggested mounting signs that restrict parking on the land side from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. and on the ocean side from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.—the same restriction just approved for the stretch of unincorporated LA County between Topanga and Coastline. Two residents spoke in favor of the proposed signage, saying the long-term parking of campers takes away availability for visitors to park and blocks views in addition to the possibility of unsanitary conditions that can accompany unpermitted housing. The commissioners said that while they sympathize with the homeless, they hope another overnight safe parking lot can be established. Commissioner Keegan Gibbs called the signs a “Band-Aid” solution to the homeless problem and reluctantly agreed to have the plan presented to council Dec. 9.

Pt. Dume parking

After engineering firm Kimley-Horn discussed traffic calming measures implemented on Point Dume, Planning Commissioner John Mazza implored the public safety commission to do more, saying, “This data done on radar guns is way off.”

Mazza found fault with speeding data collected in the neighborhood, which now has nearly twice as many children attending Malibu Elementary than had been attending Point Dume Marine Science School.

“There wasn’t a single radar sign on Point Dume that had an average speed less than 50 percent over the speed limit. On Fernhill, they tracked cars at 75 miles per hour. On Dume Drive, they tracked them at 64,” he reported. With the elementary school size doubled this year, there are more than 500 trips in the area during pick-ups and drop-offs, Mazza explained.

“When they did the studies, politically, certain streets got speed bumps killed,” he reported. “Dume and Fernhill got killed—the main two offenders especially by the school. With fire rebuilds, we now have a speedway through construction zones going to school. The city needs to attack this. It’s a real problem with people going over 50 miles per hour on Dume Drive.

Evacuation plan

Finally, the commission went over details of a disaster evacuation plan. As described in the Nov. 7 print edition of The Malibu Times, Malibu would be divided into four zones. Generators will be brought in to run signals if power is out and the sheriff’s department, along with Volunteers on Patrol, will direct traffic out of canyon roads to flow onto PCH—plans designed in an effort to avoid the evacuation fiasco last November. 

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