Topanga has dealt with a multitude of fire scares over the past few years, including several recent fires that originated in homeless encampments in Malibu. On August 9, the Malibu City Council unanimously approved amending Malibu’s Nuisance Code to strengthen the city’s ability to address hazards posed by homeless encampments.

“Homelessness is a nationwide humanitarian crisis that also has severe local impacts to our community’s public health and safety, environment and quality of life that we can’t ignore,” said Mayor Paul Grisanti. “Strengthening our Nuisance Code gives us more tools to protect our community from the real threat to lives and property posed by fires starting in homeless encampments in the mountains of Malibu.” 

Most of the nearly 20 encampment-related fires in Malibu started on undeveloped private property. The amendments to the Nuisance Code are intended to strengthen the city’s ability to hold private property owners responsible for unabated nuisances on their property, particularly homeless encampments that have been connected to a brush fire or that pose a high risk of starting a fire. 

The primary changes to the Nuisance Code are language specific to fire and public health hazards, giving specific examples to make it more clear to property owners what a nuisance is, including:

  • Any accumulation or storage of trash, 
  • biohazards (including human waste), 
  • articles of personal property on undeveloped or vacant land that creates, or creates the conditions for, a fire or safety hazard to nearby persons or properties, including, without limitation, the maintenance or storage of cooking or heating paraphernalia or equipment on undeveloped or vacant land, which facilitates activity that creates a risk of fire or otherwise creates a public health hazard.

The amendments would also give authority to the City Manager to take action quickly to address a nuisance. The amendments will be enforceable in 30 days. City Code Enforcement staff will be sending letters to property owners to advise them of the amendment before it goes into effect.