Local leaders, city manager, and Sheriff’s captain answer lingering questions after the viewing
After the loss of four Pepperdine students last October, anger, grief, and the urgency to make change sparked the Malibu community.
On Oct. 17, Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir, and Deslyn Williams were struck and killed by a driver who lost control of his vehicle and slammed into several parked cars, which then struck the girls. Since then, the city has held several meetings and press conferences and prioritized projects to improve safety and mobility on PCH.
Last week, Shane Gang Pictures, in partnership with the Malibu Arts Commission and SMC-Malibu, held a screening of the film “21 Miles in Malibu.” The film is a hybrid of personal stories of loss, the history of a loved place, and a cautionary tale of government indifference and citizen activism. Following the screening, there was a discussion with local leaders, City Manager Steve McClary, Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Capt. Jennifer Seetoo, and UCLA Health Behavioral and Health Associates Josh Cooper on PCH safety and how we can recover from loss.
“We all know how important the message of this film is because we live it every day, but I will tell you that it’s a work of passion; it took me several years to get it done,” Michel Shane, the film’s producer, said.
Shane experienced tragedy firsthand.
In 2010, Shane’s 13-year-old daughter Emily was walking home on the shoulder of PCH when an out-of-control driver purposely slammed into her. That driver is currently serving a prison term for her death. The filmmaker’s grief turned into action when Shane said he became more aware of all the accidents and problems on PCH. As a filmmaker, he decided to create change and bring awareness to those problems with his documentary.
“What this documentary has brought is figuring out that the story isn’t what’s in the film, the story is what the film can bring out,” Shane said.
Seetoo emphasized the three E’s she will be focusing on: Enforcement, education, and engineering.
“That’s really how we’re going to solve this problem,” Seetoo said. “So enforcement, that’s me, and so we’re out there — day in and day out. If you follow us on social media, you’ll see our radar guns saying 112 mph, 104 mph, and we continue to do the enforcement, but guess what, there’s still 50 to 100 people, doing the same thing.”
While the city began its contract with California Highway Patrol, Seetoo said the department are still struggling with deputies.
“We just don’t have enough officers, not CHP officers and not deputy sheriffs, to deal with this problem when it comes to enforcement,” Seetoo said. “This is a nationwide problem, no one wants to be a police officer right now, and it’s not just the LASD; it’s CHP, LAPD, it’s across the nation. When you demonize law enforcement, well, no one wants to be us anymore, and we’re really, really trying to recruit and hire.”
Seetoo said ways that residents can help make PCH safer is by driving the speed limit themselves and changing behavior.
“It’s a whole community approach,” Seetoo said. “All of us in this room can make a difference and help law enforcement.”
City Manager Steve McClary said the city was waiting for Sacramento to get back to them on their requested changes contract.
“It took some time to get an answer from Sacramento, we sent our response to them before the holidays and they didn’t get back to us until this week,” McClary said. “They’ve been really really great working with us, but there was a little bit of a delay from them.”
The Malibu City Council addressed the agreement with CHP; read the City Council article on A1.
“I think the fundamental character needs to change and we need Caltrans and the State of California to help us on that,” McClary said.
Fireball Tim Lawrence, executive producer of the film and chair of the Malibu Arts Commission, moderated the Q&A and said it was a great discussion.
“The biggest challenge is that all of these are good ideas; the problem is, what do you implement first,” Lawrence said. “I’m not on City Council, but you have to do your part and our part is to create this film and create awareness. The question to the community is that, what can you do that you’re passionate about, that can create that awareness, it could be slowing down, it could be putting together a campaign to resolve speeding in your area, be the tip of the sphere yourself for your area of Malibu and then things will change.”
“21 Miles” has been featured in a number of trade magazine articles, premiered on Feb. 16, 2023, at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and won Best Safety Film and Video at the Houston International Film Festival 2023. It can be watched by renting or purchasing it on Amazon’s Prime Video. Visit https://www.21milesinmalibu.com to learn more about the film.