• Malibu Neighborliness •
Someone like myself who has lived most of her life unable to see a neighbor’s house without getting in a vehicle and driving to the location, and is still lucky enough to enjoy the same lifestyle in rural Malibu, may not be the best person to shed light on disputes between neighbors. Perhaps because there’s so much open space around them, people who live in rural areas tend not to engage in the wrangling prevalent on mainland Malibu.
Not only are squabbles rare, but there’s tremendous support when it’s needed: when a dog strays, it’s returned home; when a meandering mountain lion is in the area, the word spreads quickly; when a llama figures out how to open a corral gate and heads for the beach, someone rounds him up; and more seriously, when there’s a medical emergency or natural calamity, such as fire or flood, a network springs into action.
The rural lifestyle binds neighbors in a way the urban and suburban lifestyles usually do not. As most of Malibu trends toward the latter, people no longer seem to rely on each other as much. The petty annoyances inherent in daily living can become insurmountable, if there are no bonds. And the big-ticket differences of opinion create confrontations fraught with anger and recrimination.
Many, if not most, of the hot-button community concerns in Malibu today are neighbor-related issues: view protection, parking and traffic flow, sports field lighting, park amenities, shopping centers, wildlife intrusions, and yes, even the portable toilet dispute now sniffing its way around the world.
Whatever the reason neighbors are at odds, it is necessary to codify ground rules for the resolution of their differences, aka laws. Sometimes, laws facilitate compromise. Other times, they set up rigid rules that apply in all circumstances. These neighborly clashes may seem amusing to those on the outside, but they are serious, sometimes too serious, for the parties involved.
It doesn’t matter whose latrine it is, portable toilets shouldn’t be acceptable as permanent sanitation installations in any city’s municipal code. Meant for construction sites, major crowd events, or public areas where plumbing is not feasible, their use should be temporary. The outhouse should be relegated to its place in pre-indoor plumbing history.
If property owners are unwilling to let employees into a main house, or a guest house, for the biology breaks that all humans require and are assured by law, a simple lavatory—commode and wash basin—can be put in a structure such as a guardhouse. This has been done in other guardhouses on Point Dume. Whatever the housing, in addition to providing basic wastewater plumbing, there should be a way for people to heed the well-used adage about washing their hands.
Outdoor portable privies serving as permanent plumbing need to be regulated as a land use issue as well as a possible public health problem. Of course, there are concerns about aesthetics, such as visual blight and odor, but basic hygiene and personal dignity shouldn’t be overlooked.