Skylar Peak and Richard Bloom answer questions during the Q and A portion of the Malibu Evacuee Meeting.

Malibu evacuees received updates on progress towards the recovery of their city but the quantity and quality of the information left some unsatisfied.

At the Malibu Evacuee Meeting held at Samohi November 13, Malibu and state agency officials provided a steady drip of information to Malibu residents and while the standing room only crowd were eager for whatever they could learn, some said the meeting didn’t provide enough to help them get through the disaster.

The meeting opened with a somber tone as City Manager of Malibu Reva Feldman thanked City officials and first responders, bringing standing applause when mentioning those that have had to help with a mass shooting and now several fires.

She said because of them and Malibu neighbors working together, the city would eventually be fine.

“We need to remember we are Malibu and we will get through this,” she said. “There will be rough days ahead but will get through this. Today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today.”

Several council members spoke after Feldman, emotions running high as both Skylar Peak and Mayor Pro Temp Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner’s daughter, Ava provided tear-filled statements.

Once LA County Fire Chief Deputy David Richardson took to the podium, some residents grew restless with a perceived lack of information. One man yelled “We want information” while another jeered “No more cheerleading!”

The interruption brought applause from the crowd.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Chief John Benedict took the podium next, saying he’d provide information, adding that he understood frustrations.

“I know you’re pissed off and quite frankly, I get it.”

Benedict said some parts of Malibu have been reopened after mandatory evacuations, adding that residents from Carbon Canyon are allowed back home to a “soft closure”, meaning they’ll need identification to re-enter the area.

Everything north of that area is still very dangerous, he said. Reentry will be “incremental in nature,” in order to not have “everyone scrambling home at the same time.”

Looking towards the rebuilding of Malibu, officials said they plan to hire local, county, state and federal consultants to help residents process building permits and reassess property taxes and more in a one-stop shop.

California Assemblyman and former Coastal Commissioner Richard Bloom said to residents concerned about building permits that in his experience, the Coastal Commission relaxed its rules during natural disasters. Skylar Peak said he’d do everything in his power to streamline and expedite permitting.

As for a return to Malibu, a Department of Health official said local emergency operation centers are planned. The centers will assist in providing help such as FEMA assistance and replacing lost identification.

Officials also urged residents to file property damage claims even if the damage was minimal.

Education in Malibu is still delayed as well, with SMMUSD Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati saying Malibu schools will, at a minimum, be closed until after Thanksgiving.

Drati said displaced families can resume their child’s education by temporarily registering at nearby SMMUSD schools or another district near where they are staying.

Drati added that the district has received college application extensions through Dec. 15 along with fee waivers. A school counselor will be at Olympic High School Nov. 20 to further provide guidance with the college application process.

In a Nov. 14 press release, Drati noted that, unofficially, the district knows that Webster, Point Dume, and Cabrillo seem to be unaffected by flames. Buildings at Malibu High seem to be unaffected by flames as well, but fields and athletic areas may have some damage to which the district doesn’t know the extent. Additionally, a construction trailer appears to have been damaged.

When the Q and A session came, about half of the auditorium walked out while some remained for answers and others continued to jeer.

Some questions asked concerned looting (not happening in Malibu, according to an official, but occurring in Ventura County. A small security detail is in place in Malibu to prevent looting.) criticism of the City’s response and communication, and questions of the fire department’s priorities.

One resident who walked out early from the Q and A and asked not to be named for this article was upset with the meeting, calling it a waste of his time.

“This City doesn’t want to have a dialogue with us,” he said, critiquing the Q and A portion of the meeting. “That was all B.S.”

Shelby Meade, a resident of Malibu who runs a PR firm, felt the meeting was helpful.

“We already knew some of this info, but we’re happy with the additonal information provided,” she said. “A lot of the information is available if you’re resourceful. We love our city council, first responders and the police chief that’s been going that extra mile.”

Malibu resident Mike D of the Beastie Boys echoed Meade’s sentiment.

“I think it was important,” he said of the meeting. “They’re trying to get information out but it’s a vast, rapidly changing horizon, so it’s very difficult to give a concrete assessment on what’s happening.”

angel @smdp.com

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