This story has been updated. Please see editor's note below.
Malibu City Council voted unanimously, 5-0, to make Malibu public spaces poison-free and immediately ban the use of all pesticides, rodenticides and herbicides, during a marathon Monday night meeting.
“I think it’s our responsibility that we shouldn’t be using these in our parks, and stop this experiment on our kids,” said Council Member Skylar Peak, who wore a handmade “Poison Parks Kill” T-shirt to the June 27 council meeting. “The buck stops with us.”
More than 24 Malibu residents and stakeholders came to contribute public comments on the issue of pesticide use at Malibu’s public parks and on city property, during a meeting that ran into the early hours of Tuesday morning. Many of those who came represented Poison Free Malibu, a local group advocating for the elimination of pesticide chemical usage in Malibu.
Kian Schulman, founder of Poison Free Malibu, gave a presentation on the effects of pesticide chemicals and their connection to diseases such as cancer and neurological issues like ADHD and Alzheimer’s.
Schulman’s presentation included a picture of a city worker spraying pesticides on Legacy Park while wearing a full hazmat suit as a child rode their bicycle close by. Several Poison Free Malibu supporters attended the meeting and gave a presentation on the adverse effect of the chemicals and the failures of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the public.
Council members disclosed they had met with Poison Free Malibu prior to the meeting, receiving additional information that further covered the issue. All five members of the council showed support in their comments and provided potential additions to the suggested actions.
“The City of Portland has a 60-page document of all the things they’ve looked at and tried. We ought to be doing that,” said Council Member John Sibert. He also cited the Environmental Sustainability Committee that was created in Malibu a year ago to specifically look at environmental sustainability policy.
Mayor Pro Tem Lou La Monte advised that the oversight committee focus on appointments of experts.
“I want to make sure we’re talking about experts that know what they’re talking about. These shouldn’t be political appointments. This should be people who actually know what they’re doing,” said La Monte.
Peak suggested the council write a letter to Southern California Edison and urge them to stop using their “herbicide cocktail” around electrical poles.
Mayor Rosenthal echoed the comments of the council and committed to the issue.
“I think pesticides are evil,” said Rosenthal. “It’s not going to cost a million dollars, I think that’s outrageous. I think we can do it and that should be our goal and I wish we could start it tomorrow.”
Subscribers to Poison Free Malibu weren’t the only ones to show their support for the effort to get off pesticides. The Malibu Monarch Project, a group dedicated to bringing the monarch butterfly population back to Malibu, also showed support for the pesticide removal.
“Malibu should be the leader of environmental protection,” said Anya Jessum of the Malibu Monarch Project.
Other non-affiliated residents expressed a desire for Malibu to lead the charge on environmental issues.
“We say we’re environmentally conscious. Now we need to start acting like we’re environmentally conscious,” said local activist Jennifer deNicola, “Malibu needs to be this beacon of what cities can be.”
The current contractor for the Parks and Recreation Department estimated that alternative maintenance options other than pesticides would cost anywhere from $20,000 per year to $946,000 per year, depending on the extent of the maintenance. One Malibu citizen contested these figures during public comment with his formula for a pesticide alternative: A mixture of apple cider, dish soap and table salt.
City Manager Reva Feldman said she would return to council with estimates from other providers.
With the unanimous vote, Malibu joins a select number of cities to go poison-free, including Santa Barbara, Irvine, and Portland, Oregon.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story contained an incorrect spelling of a name. The story has been edited to contain correct spellings.