Malibu Residents Angry Over Weekly ‘Car-Pocalypse’

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An unpermitted gathering of car enthusiasts on a Sunday in September 2020

As just about any Malibu resident knows, Sunday is the worst day of the week for dangerous traffic. It’s the day thousands of muscle cars, supercars and exotics from all over the Los Angeles area show up on Pacific Coast Highway and local mountain roads. Long strings of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and other high performance cars go by. The parking lots at Malibu Village, Malibu Country Mart, Whole Foods, Zuma Beach and more fill up with the exotic cars and audiences of car enthusiasts.

While the vast majority of the car enthusiasts are law abiding, the rebels among them exhibit some bad driving behavior in town: speeding, burning rubber, revving their engines, spinning donuts, dangerous U-turns and showing up with loud, modified engines. At night, there are reports of drag races that launch at Las Flores and PCH, and cars that are so loud they wake canyon road residents up at 2 a.m.

A number of residents, fed up with the lawlessness of a few drivers, are venting loudly on local media that the city and the sheriff’s department aren’t doing anything to stop it, even when authorities have advance notice of certain planned group car events.

LASD Lt. Jim Braden said in a phone interview that, first of all, a driver has to violate a law in order to be ticketed: “We can’t just throw groups of cars off the open highway.”

He also noted that there are many different car groups driving together or meeting up in Malibu on weekends—not just the one or two that people see officially advertised. Many times, meet-ups are arranged strictly through social media with no advertisement. Just about every kind of car has an owner’s club, with over 200 car clubs listed on SoCal Car Culture’s website.

Braden explained that one of the best known car groups by name, Malibu Autobahn, is just one of many groups and clubs, and that they’re actually one of the smaller groups that come out. Despite local outcry about a recent event, Malibu Autobahn’s planned car event on March 7 never officially entered Malibu city limits—it was a mountain drive ending at Calamigos Ranch.

The co-founders of Malibu Autobahn, Jake Szarzynski and Liping Lin, both 2017 graduates of Pepperdine University, limited the number of participants on March 7 to 51 exotics and hypercars, which had to register and pay a fee.

Szarzynski said in a phone interview that they make a point of not condoning street racing, reckless driving or any other illegal driving activities, and vet participants to make sure they don’t include drivers with bad reputations in the car community.

“Don’t just go on social media and make general blanket statements without ever calling the police,” Braden advised residents. “If you see something, call us. Also, know that we come up with different game plans for different groups, and sometimes even escort groups through town.”

Malibu City Manager Reva Feldman has provided extra funding to the sheriff’s department for the last 12 weekends to beef up patrols.

“We write dozens of tickets every weekend day,” Braden said. City council also approved an additional sheriff’s patrol car to work later hours to try to mitigate some of the night-time racing issues.

Local car guru Fireball Tim Lawrence had been holding sanctioned “Malibu Cars and Coffee” events bi-monthly at Bluffs Park for the city, as well as “Wheels & Waves monthly car events at Malibu Village, which ended six months ago. His organized events were often followed by unsanctioned car get-togethers at the same location—Malibu Village parking lot—with spontaneous gatherings attracting super cars, high-end classics and exotics.

At one of these unsupervised events, Lawrence counted 800 cars and 1,200 people.

“The city thought it was still me running my shows, and sent a ‘cease and desist’ letter,” Lawrence said. “I told them it wasn’t me.”

“A lot of the problems are caused by younger people driving super high [end] expensive cars. My shows attract an older crowd, and are ‘art shows,’ attracting custom-built cars that take years to build,” Lawrence continued. “They’re works of art and restorations, like a 1948 Bugati—not the kind of car someone is going to drag race down PCH. My shows are not the hot rodders, muscle cars and super cars that are being driven by crazy people.”

Lawrence himself witnesses the nighttime drag racing and strings of cars driving out of Las Flores Canyon that aren’t street legal. He said he feels that if law enforcement made more arrests and started impounding some of these cars, word would get out to the offenders.

The City of Malibu published an official statement last week about car events. When asked what prompted this statement, a spokesperson provided another statement: “The city has been receiving numerous complaints for several years about the safety and mobility of PCH, our community’s main street, being threatened by the proliferation of cars speeding, reckless driving and racing, a trend that has only grown since the start of the pandemic. The disruptions appear to be caused by an ever-changing combination of planned … car shows and rallies, as well as spontaneous … social-media driven gatherings.”

The city spokesperson confirmed organized car events within city limits require a temporary use permit (TUP), which the city can enforce by issuing a citation or stopping the event. However, no TUPs are being issued during the pandemic.

“Cross Creek property owners had partnered with the sheriff, private security and the city to secure the parking lots and prevent the pop-up car shows,” the city spokesperson wrote. “They barricaded the parking lots until 11 a.m., hired security and reported people and vehicles refusing to leave to the sheriff, who gave out trespassing citations. The gatherings then moved to a different shopping center, which has its own parking enforcement.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify Fireball Tim Lawrence’s role in the car shows.