Mixed reaction to Zumirez alignment plan

A proposal to renovate Zumeriz Drive would move a portion of the road 100 feet to the east to realign it with its northern section in order to make the intersection safer.

Some residents praised the city’s plan to align the two halves of Zumirez Drive as a good first step toward making the Zumirez and PCH intersection safer, but others said without a traffic light, the proposed repairs would not remedy the situation.

By Susan Reines/Special to The Malibu Times

The city’s long-awaited plan to renovate the intersection of Zumirez Drive and Pacific Coast Highway received mixed feedback from residents last week, with some saying the proposed changes would make the intersection safer while others said nothing short of installing a traffic light would improve safety.

Despite the varied resident feedback, the Public Works and Public Safety commissions unanimously approved the plan to relocate the portion of Zumirez Drive south of Pacific Coast Highway about 100 feet to the east to align it with the northern section of the road. The plan also includes adding a deceleration lane on the PCH for drivers turning right off the highway onto the southern portion of Zumirez and relocating a bus stop to the east side of the southern Zumirez and PCH intersection, which city staff said would be a safer location for loading.

“It’s going to be much better than it is now, and I think that’s primarily my concern, to ‘safety-ize’ the intersection,” Public Safety Commission Chair Carol Randall said at last Thursday’s joint meeting of the Public Works and Public Safety commissions. “A [traffic] light may come down the road.”

Randall said her immediate priority was aligning the two halves of Zumirez. “They should never have been that way in the first place and they’ve been that way too long,” she said. “This is still the beginning of something.”

But some neighbors disagreed, saying the adjustments would have little impact without a traffic light.

“In the absence of a signal I don’t really think it’s safer,” former Planning Commissioner Charleen Kabrin said. “Visibility is just a huge problem.”

Resident Dixie Moore, who had been part of a transportation study group years ago, said the residents in the group had concluded aligning the two halves of Zumirez would be beneficial only if combined with adding a traffic light. “I agree with the alignment but I think you’re setting up for more problems,” she said. “I think you’re setting up for the city to be sued—it looks like it’s safe.”

The commissioners noted, though, that the city does not have the authority to decide whether to install a light. The California Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over the intersection and would have to grant approval.

“If we can get to a point where we can have a signal, that’s probably going to be something that we’ll all want,” Public Works Chair Paul Grisanti said. “I don’t know that we have a Caltrans approval for that.”

Grisanti said he supported the plan as it stood. “Although this isn’t perfect, it is an incremental solution that gets us closer to where we want to be.”

Some residents agreed.

“There are problems with everything,” neighbor Dusty Peak said. “I feel that what we as a city are doing with this is better than what’s there, way better.”

The City Council will have final say about whether to approve the plan as proposed, with no signal.

Even if the council wanted a traffic light, there would likely not be time to seek Caltrans approval to put a light into the current project, because the road alignment must be completed by next May or the city could lose jurisdiction over the property where the southern part of Zumirez is to be relocated.

The city received a Metropolitan Transportation Authority grant in 1999 to realign the intersection, but the project stalled when the property owner whose land would be affected by the realignment sued the city. A 2002 settlement stipulated that the city must complete the project by May 21, 2005, or the property could revert to its original owner.