Last Friday, the California Coastal Commission was meeting at the beautiful King Gillette Ranch in Malibu Canyon and the first item on their agenda was a discussion about sea level rising (aka SLR). It’s been a while since I’ve attended a Coastal Commission hearing and it felt changed. It seems mellower than I remember. They have a new chair, Steve Padilla, who seems to have a lighter touch than some past chairs, many new members who appeared to be listening attentively and an Executive Director, Jack Ainsworth, who also appears to be a lot less controlling than Peter Douglas and everyone seems a lot more relaxed.
On the issue of sea level rising, which is becoming a major issue up and down the California coast, everyone speaking—whether coastal commission staff or people from various environmental groups—not unexpectedly, seemed to be of one mind. That the ocean water is rising quicker than anticipated and we are running out of time to move back from the ocean, something they call “managed retreat.” In fact, it sounded so dire that I began to regret that I hadn’t put my old galoshes in the trunk of my car (note: for those of you Southern California born and bred, galoshes are loose rubber boots you wear over your shoes to keep you dry, in rain, snow, slush and sea level rising).
What they said seemed consistent with what I’ve read in the media: icebergs melting, oceans rising, low lying areas being inundated. But for a reality check, I later went online and it turns out in California the Legislative Analyst’s Office (know as the LAO), which is a non-partisan, highly credible organization that analyzes bills for the legislature, does studies and issues opinions and reports, had also done a sea rising report and this is what they found: They anticipate that by the year 2030 the ocean will have risen in Los Angeles about roughly 0.5-0.7 of a foot. By the year 2050, they estimate that the ocean will rise another 1.0-1.8 feet. It’s after 2050 that the estimates seem to take off, to us being practically underwater by 2100. According to the report, the low end of the estimates has a 66 percent chance. The high end is a 1 in 200 chance. It doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, but I get the feeling that they are overselling the heck of this and there are going to be a lot of justifiably skeptical people who don’t see this as equivalent to the Titanic. Seems to me that they are predicting what’s coming 80 years from now. That would be like asking someone in 1940 to predict what was going to happen in 2020. As the man said, “It ain’t necessarily so."
Two other big things just happened serendipitously. The United States Supreme Court just decided not to take the Boise case, which was about the City of Boise giving tickets to the homeless for sleeping on the sidewalks or in public areas. The previous decision by the Ninth Circuit, which covers California and all of the western states including the city of Boise, Idaho, stands as good law and what that means, simply, you can just boot homeless off the sidewalk, out of the city, or into the next county, unless there is housing for them in your area. Needless to say, most every city hates that Ninth Circuit decision because they charge it takes away local control, which it does, and none of them wants to provide housing or set aside a safe space for the homeless.
A safe space in our town might include an area where they could set up tents, perhaps park cars or RVs, and provide some social and mental health services. It might include lockers, changing rooms, showers and toilets, and some security. In effect, that’s what the court said: solve the problem, don’t try to push it away and make believe it doesn’t exist.
However, in Malibu, we may have a solution. This past Friday, Joe Edmiston (known to us all by one name, Joe, kind of like Madonna), executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and its satellite the MRCA, took the California Coastal Commissioners for a “show and tell” at Malibu Bluffs Park and, since Joe has a real flair for the dramatic, he always makes a news announcement at these events. He announced that he decided to put campsites for 90 people on the west end of Bluffs Park. Earlier this year, the city of Malibu, in a 3 to 2 vote decided to give Bluffs Park back to Joe and the conservancy and take back Charmlee Park, which of course hardly anyone ever goes to visit. This was apparently the so-called environmental position that council members Skylar Peak, Jefferson Wagner and Mikke Pierson were in favor of. Though I criticized it at the time for be short sighted and frankly, simply stupid, I must admit now it may turn out to be a blessing after all. Joe Edmiston has said that first dibs on all these new campsites go to foster children and disabled children. When Joe grabs anything he always says it’s for the kiddies, but this time he may have solved a problem for us. When those campsites open, with facilities, and possible yurts (kind of a teepee), rest assured that Malibu’s homeless will flock to the new development, like the opening of a new suburb. Now, how Joe will find out which ones are foster care graduates so they can get priority I really don’t know, but Joe is always a problem solver and I’m sure he’ll find a way. On behalf of the city and our homeless, thank you Joe.