Malibu’s long-awaited ban on pesticides will be inked into law following a unanimous vote by city council on Monday, June 28, following years of workshops, lobbying and bureaucratic wrangling. The new resolution amends the city’s local coastal program (LCP) and land use plan (LUP) prohibiting “development that involves the use of pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides or any other similar toxic chemical substances ... in cases where the application of such substances would have the potential to significantly degrade Environmental Sensitive Habitat Areas or coastal water quality or harm wildlife.”
The amendment does make a provision that herbicide may be used to eradicate invasive plant species or toward habitat restoration, “but only if the use of non-chemical methods for prevention and management such as physical, mechanical, cultural and biological controls are infeasible. Herbicides shall be restricted to the least toxic product and method, and to the maximum extent feasible, shall be biodegradable, derived from natural sources and used for a limited time.”
The amendment comes after approval from the California Coastal Commission at its May 2021 meeting; at that time, the commission voted to allow the city to enact the ban in certain ecological areas, which city staff has interpreted to cover the entirety of Malibu.
While the LUP will stop new developments from using pesticides, an LCP local implementation plan “is more your ordinance document,” according to Planning Director Richard Mollica. “It’s the document a code enforcement officer is going to cite someone on.” In other words, according to the city’s staff report, the local implementation plan will “add provisions to implement and enforce a citywide prohibition of pesticides.” That ordinance is now being drawn up by city staff.
The fight to ban pesticides in the city began in 2014, urged on by nonprofit Poison Free Malibu, founded by husband and wife team Kian and Joel Schulman.
Both Kian and Joel spoke to urge the city to act quickly to enact the changes in the city code, saying more and more animals continue to be killed by poisons proliferating in the local environment.
“We need strong action now. Please make this process ... as quick as possible,” Joel said.
Council opposed to SB 9, increasing density in residential neighborhoods
Citing fire safety and local control issues, Mayor Paul Grisanti requested permission to send a letter in opposition to a proposed California Senate bill that would increase density in single-family zoned neighborhoods. The bill is designed to combat California’s growing housing crisis, but has faced fierce opposition from small cities, including the League of California Cities and every member of the Las Virgenes/Malibu Council of Governments.
Council Member Bruce Silverstein pointed out that the bill does not take into account “those living in a high-fire severity zone.”
“We’re water constrained, we’re space constrained, we’re running into each other everywhere we go,” Grisanti agreed.
The proposal to write the letter received unanimous, 5-0, support.
Face mask ordinance lifted
As Malibu entered its third week with no new confirmed cases of COVID-19, city council voted to lift the face mask mandate that had been in place in the city since November 2020.
In-person meetings still weeks away
The earliest Malibu could resume in-person meetings is likely to be August. Council directed interim City Manager Steve McClary to monitor public health regulations and keep council updated on considerations for how and when to resume in-person council meetings.
On Monday, Malibu City Hall reopened to the public for the first time since the pandemic began; however, city meetings will continue to be held remotely until council determines it is safe to hold them in person. Council Member Mikke Pierson again repeated his aversion to wearing a mask at meetings, most of which stretch from four to six hours or more.