Malibu Parking Study Produces Controversial Suggestion

Malibu City Hall

 Parking in Malibu is a hot topic for residents, and the city now has an official document to reference when it comes to parking availability and safety along Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu’s main street and the major thoroughfare through the 21-mile city limits.

The ages-old conflict between providing beach accessibility to visitors and maintaining safety along the busy highway has been a puzzle for government leaders for decades, and a recent proposal to remove 675 parking spaces along PCH has drawn criticism from local agencies — though council defends the potential move as necessary for safety. 

The much-discussed PCH Parking Study final draft was received by Malibu City Council last Monday, and though details of the study haven’t changed since it was first presented in November of last year and again in March 2017, more statistics came to light on Monday, June 12.

“We did do a little bit of statistical analysis and came to the conclusion that, particularly in the westernly part of the city, parking in general was so light that if a person was to park a car on the highway in the west end of the city for a year or so, that car would be hit by a moving vehicle,” Rock Miller, speaking on behalf of Stantec Consulting (the company that created the study) told council. “In contrast, there are so many hundreds of cars parked in the central area and to the southeast, a person could park their own vehicle and probably could go many years without that vehicle being hit.”

According to the study, nearly 15 percent of traffic collisions along PCH involve a parked vehicle — a total of 310 collisions from 2011-15. 

The report is designed to provide data on parking availability and safety, “to build upon the [June 2015 PCH] Safety Study and address ongoing sign maintenance issues,” according to a city staff report. In the end, the massive report served to “review existing parking restrictions, develop an existing conditions inventory, analyze collision data, research parking policy and regulations, receive input from the public and California Coastal Commission (CCC), and develop recommendations to improve parking and promote safety and mobility.” Some of the suggested strategies included narrowing travel lanes to widen shoulders, improve parking restrictions and add new restrictions to parking — a controversial suggestion in a coastal city like Malibu.

Not surprisingly, the California Coastal Commission urged the city to resist cutting back on parking spaces along the highway, in a letter sent in March to the city. The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) also expressed “concern” over the loss of 675 parking spaces throughout the city.

Miller responded to those concerns at the June 12 meeting, beginning with the MRCA letter.

“I think the spirit of their letter is they’d like to see the highway somehow transform so you can allow more on-street parking,” Miller said. “I’m not sure in the long run more on-street parking is the way to go.”

As for the Coastal Commission: “They do have a history of working out solutions that involve public transportation to the beaches in lieu of public parking at the beaches,” he said. “I think if there was any bus services out to the last beach that would certainly be considered a mitigation measure.”

Council Member Laura Rosenthal asked how Malibu’s parking availability stacked up against that of other beach destinations in Southern California, and Miller replied Malibu was one of the only coastal cities in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties to offer such extensive free parking near its beaches.

“Going south of here, it’s tough to find free parking,” Miller said, adding there are “isolated pockets” of free parking in certain places in San Diego County, but in those areas, Pacific Coast Highway is not the busy highway it is in Malibu.     

Council members gave comments following the presentation, particularly as a response to the concerns of the MRCA and Coastal Commission, though no actions were taken.

“If anything, I think they are rushing to label us, that we’re anti-public parking, and I think that our overriding concern… is one of safety,” Rosenthal said.

“If the Coastal Commission and the MRCA [are] going to oppose us making the highway safer, I would like to see them come forth with a better plan. Because at this point I don’t see that happening at all,” Mayor Skylar Peak said at one point. “It’s not safe, and I think that they know it’s not safe.”