Malibu Moves to Eliminate Toxic Poisons

The city of Malibu just passed an ordinance that requires bins like these to be kept closed and locked to keep trash where it belongs and reduce rodent access. Could it be time for Topanga to have the same conversation? Photo by Bonnie Morgan

The Malibu City Council has approved two new policies to eliminate pesticides, discourage rodents and reduce the need to use rodenticides.

Kian and Joel Schulman, co-founders of the non-profit environmental advocacy organization Poison Free Malibu, helped craft both policies for the city. One is an updated program for city-owned property that eliminates toxic pesticides, and the second is a new waste management ordinance to clean up commercial trash disposal areas and decrease rodent access to trash bins.

The policies are part of Malibu’s new Earth-friendly management program that mandates the city “focus on long-term prevention or ongoing suppression of pest problems, including consideration of a ‘no action’ approach to preclude the need to use chemical pest control methods,” on city-owned, managed, or leased property.

That’s a substantial list: properties included in the management policy include Bluffs Park, Legacy Park, Malibu City Hall, and the Malibu Lumber Yard shopping center. 

“The city recognizes that pesticides are potentially hazardous to human health, wildlife, and the environment, and is committed to utilizing available, safe, and effective non-pesticide alternatives when considering options for pest management,” the policy states.

Several newly acquired properties now owned by the city were acquired after studies for the policy were completed, but the authors of the policy received assurances that the new properties will be managed using the same policy.

The second ordinance requires all trash bins located on commercial property to have tight, closable lids that must remain locked 24/7. The goal is to reduce rat-attracting garbage. Businesses have a year to implement the change. The new ordinance will be enforced with fines.

Kian Schulman explained that the trash ordinance, although it sounds like a small thing, has the potential to make a huge difference. She presented the council with photos of almost every commercial trash area in Malibu, including the city’s own bins, to demonstrate how widespread the city’s trash problem is, and how it creates an attractive nuisance for rodents. 

Cleaner trash areas will mean fewer rodents, less rodenticide in the ecosystem, and is also expected to help keep trash out of the ocean.

Both new policies are being hailed as important environmental victories, one that Schulman hopes will inspire other communities.

“I am ever so grateful to Malibu Mayor Jefferson Wagner, and the entire city council, for moving this forward,” she said after the meeting. “These two policies are an important step. Malibu is moving forward with a greener future. We can be an example for the state and the nation.”

Kian Schulman began campaigning for a ban on anticoagulant rodenticides more than a decade ago, following the death of mountain lion P-24 from rodenticide exposure in 2012. She and her husband Joel started Poison Free Malibu to focus attention on the impact of rodenticide on wildlife in their home community, but their ultimate goal is a poison-free California, and ultimately, a nationwide ban on the anticoagulant rodenticides that are increasingly shown to kill wildlife. 



Poison Free Malibu, together with other environmental advocacy organizations, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Solutions, and Raptors Are the Solution, are working with California Assemblymember Richard Bloom on AB 1788, the California Ecosystems Protection Act of 2019. The bill would ban the use of four of the most toxic second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) throughout the state, tightening restrictions on access to the chemicals, although it does include exemptions for agricultural use or by special permit during a public health emergency.   

AB 1788 cleared the assembly with bipartisan support and is headed for its final Senate committee vote on July 9, after the Messenger Mountain News goes to press. If the bill passes, it will be voted on in August by the full senate. 

“We are still rallying people to support the bill,” Schulman said. “It’s my big dream that it passes.”


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at

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