The ‘greening’ of Malibu

The Green Machine group cited Santa Monica State Beach (above) as an example to aspire to in efforts to "green" Malibu.

Malibu residents want to rid the city of unsightly medians and bare lots and fill them with trees, flowers and more “green.”

By Bridget Graham-Gungoren/Special to The Malibu Times

A group of Malibu residents who are unhappy with weed-filled medians, bare lots and a lack of trees and flowers in a city that is known for its coastline beauty and flaunts multimillion dollar manses wants to generate more civic pride by “greening” and cleaning up Malibu.

This group of 13 residents gathered last week for the first meeting of The Malibu Green Machine, in an effort to obtain their vision of “greening” the city, and voted for Zuma Beach’s parking lot to be the first target. However, their vision will not be so easy to obtain. There are a number of city and county ordinances they will have to contend with as well as getting permission from various agencies.

Resident Jo Geise, who originated the idea, noted that she was careful not to use the word beautification as the goal. “We want to do something so much more powerful,” she said

Pictures of the bare Zuma Beach lot compared to Santa Monica State Beach’s lot and median filled with trees and landscaping confirmed the paradox and motivated the residents to make this the immediate project.

“Malibu is a magnificent place, yet a paradox,” resident Denis Rodgerson said. “We have garbage on the medians … and we are all aware of it.”

The fact that Zuma, and Malibu in general, attracts so many visitors (over a three-day holiday, Zuma Beach hosts more than half a million visitors) is reason alone the city should be made more attractive, said the green proponents.

“Malibu, with a city of 13,000, hosts 14 to 15 million beach visitors a year,” Mayor Pro Tem Andy Stern said, comparing ratios with attractions such as Grand Canyon, which he said hosts four million per year, and Yellowstone hosts three million.

Attendee Bo Meyer said he wanted to be part of the group for the economics and investments in Malibu. “I want it to look as best it can.”

It was a sentiment that was unanimously echoed throughout the meeting.

What may seem simple for these residents is really a challenge with many obstacles, including regulations of city and county ordinances, irrigation availability and permission from Caltrans. Many of the attendees have had previous experience with trying to green Malibu, including during the 1984 Olympics that took place in Los Angeles, with water polo competitions in Malibu. Even with funds, planting was difficult due to regulations, and members of that committee ended up planting illegally. Citations were eventually dropped. Christine Rodgerson, who has been trying to participate in greening Malibu for many years, had success in landscaping the corner of Webb Way and Pacific Coast Highway, but said it wasn’t easy. With Zuma Beach as the first goal, plans were generated to discover all necessary regulations that need to be met for completion of the project.

Residents in attendance were enthusiastic, and want to qualify The Malibu Green Machine with the completion of the “do-able project” of Zuma Beach to prove themselves and all that they can accomplish.

“We want to build public momentum,” Geise said. “And to start planting ideas to make something happen.”

Long-term visions include greening of the pedestrian walkway, which will not be completed for many months, from Civic Center Way to Bluffs Park. Ideas were also generated for a cohesive theme to unite the city from one side to another, such as the use of tile. “There are so many resources within the city and tremendous landscapers,” resident Ann Payne said.

Other immediate goals include plans to form a nonprofit organization so donations will be tax deductible, fulfillment of officer positions and finding multiple fundraising opportunities. Geise, who led the greening of both Rose Avenue and Abbott Kinney in Venice in 1990 against initial opposition but met with success at the end, said the greening of Malibu was an obtainable goal. “People love trees, and will donate,” she said.

The group is also researching the use of plaques on the trees, as used in Venice, for additional incentive.

Other residents in attendance were Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, Danny Klein, Chris Hasselquist, Pam Brady, Steve Braband, Heikki Ketola, Robin Senter, and friend of a resident, Carol Brotman, from Northridge. The next meeting will take place Feb. 23. More information can be found at