Paradise Cove parking puts city in bind

The intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Paradise Cove Road. 

City planning officials have identified an active code violation by Paradise Cove Mobilehome Park owner Steve Dahlberg for an unauthorized parking lot, but say with the busy summer tourism season approaching they are not enforcing it due to worries about the resulting consequences for parking on Pacific Coast Highway. Dahlberg said his family had used the lot for overflow parking since 1964, and did not realize permits were required for the lot. They have since applied for proper permitting.

The city discovered the unauthorized parking lot, which is perched on a hillside on the east side of Paradise Cove Road, after receiving a flood of complaints last summer from residents.

“The overflow parking lot has been used off and on since the Kissel family bought Paradise Cove in 1964,” Dahlberg wrote in an email to The Malibu Times. “… we did not consider that there would be an issue with these activities. Notwithstanding that, in the spirit of cooperation, we have agreed to apply for the requested permits.”

The most frequent complaint from residents about Paradise Cove centered around the hectic scene at the entrance to the property from Pacific Coast Highway, with cars parking dangerously along the shoulders and long lines on the westbound left-hand turn lane to enter the beach attraction.

But Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski says that despite knowing about the violation for months, enforcing the city’s zoning code could actually have unintended consequences that could make parking worse and more dangerous ahead of the summer tourism crush. The parking lot has traditionally been used for overflow parking.

“The big unknown for us in shutting them down and saying ‘You cannot use that upper parking lot,’ is we don’t know what that would do for parking on PCH,” Parker-Bozylinski said.

Parking in the area has already dwindled, after Caltrans last week installed 10 “No Parking” signs along PCH at Paradise Cove after obtaining an emergency permit from the city to get the signs up before the influx of summer visitors. The signs line the narrow westbound and eastbound shoulders of PCH, where cars have frequently parked in the past.

To function as a parking lot, the LCP would have to be amended to make the area a commercial visitorserving zone. One option, Parker-Bozylinski said, would be for her to unilaterally issue a 90-day emergency permit for the parking lot. But given the controversial nature of the issue, she said she would refer the matter to the Planning Commission, which should hear the matter in July.

Should the emergency permit receive approval, the planning department and Dahlberg will eventually have to win approval from the California Coastal Commission to permanently amend the zoning in the LCP.

Parking fee increase at the Cove

Dahlberg said Paradise Cove will implement a parking and walk-in fee increase Thursday, in an attempt to attract fewer visitors willing to pay high parking fees.

“The basic new price structure is $40 to park for the beach (up from $30), $6 to park for the Café (up from $3) and $15 per person to walk in (up from $10),” he wrote. When asked if the parking increase would drive visitors to look for parking on PCH, Dahlberg said parking on PCH is effectively more expensive.

“It is more expensive to walk in than it is to park onsite because we prefer that people park in our lot rather than on the highway,” he wrote.

Despite the ownership’s attempts to curb the summer crowd, planning commissioner and 20-year Paradise Cove resident Mikke Pierson said the fee increase will bring in more money instead of keeping visitors away.

“My thought is that it’s the nicest beach in L.A. County, and if I lived away from the beach somewhere hot and inland and was gonna take my family or my friends to the beach, are you kidding? I’d pay that in a heartbeat.”