Highway Patrol patrolling Pacific Coast Highway again


Unknown to many, the California Highway Patrol quietly began patrolling and issuing tickets again on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu last year. That is according to Mayor Pro Tem Lou La Monte, who made the change a cornerstone of his campaign for election to City Council in 2010.

Prior to Malibu’s incorporation into a city in 1991, jurisdiction for patrolling the highway fell to the CHP, according to La Monte. But that stopped when the city incorporated and contracted with the county sheriff’s department for police services. While CHP retained the responsibility to patrol and enforce canyon roads in Malibu such as Kanan Dume, Encinal, and Malibu Canyon, its officers used PCH as a connecting route on their patrols, and did not issue tickets or stop speeders when they saw infractions.

La Monte says the system was inefficient.

“They were just driving through, they weren’t ticketing,” he said.

So he and other city officials met with the CHP and struck a deal.

“We made an agreement with them that when they were passing through, they would also enforce the law and ticket people that were speeding or breaking the law. And for the last at least year and a half or so, they have been doing that.”

La Monte said the agreement makes sense for everyone.

“When I see a car being stopped by the CHP, I know that’s one place where the sheriffs don’t have to be. That gives us twice or three times as many patrol cars out there,” he said.

Traffic along PCH, always a hot-button issue, has resurfaced again this summer amid a heavy tourism season.

City officials traveled to Sacramento last week for a meeting with state transportation officials.

Mayor Laura Rosenthal, City Manager Jim Thorsen and La Monte met on Thursday of last week with Brian Kelly, the state secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing. Kelly manages 12 state departments, including Caltrans.

The city representatives, along with Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and State Assembly Member Betsy Butler, discussed ways to fund traffic improvement in Malibu at key points of interest such as Paradise Cove. As a result, Kelly assigned one of his staff members to specifically work with the City of Malibu on its transportation projects.

Thorsen said he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting and hopes it sets the wheels in motion for obtaining funding in order to improve traffic and road safety in Malibu.

“It certainly opens up the door for us and I know the secretary was very receptive to hearing our plight and understanding,” Thorsen said.

Ideal beach weather this summer has spelled major gridlock on weekends in Malibu. Last weekend a vehicle collided with a motorcycle on PCH at Paradise Cove Road, leaving the motorcyclist with a broken leg.

The constant left-turn lane backup at Paradise Cove has also been a major point of concern for residents at the last few City Council meetings. In response, the City asked for an increase in sheriff’s deputies on weekends to handle traffic control. There hasn’t been an improvement in traffic, but Thorsen said having trained professionals was a better alternative to the private employees at Paradise Cove.

Rosenthal began working on Paradise Cove improvements last fall, she said, but she’s only seen minor victories: crosswalks were repainted earlier this year and some brush was cleared in the area.

While discussing Paradise Cove improvements at the Sacramento meeting, the city suggested making the left-turn lane longer, installing an automated barrier g ate to prevent U-turns, asking Caltrans to reduce the right-of-way for motorists on PCH so that visitors have more room to walk or bike and reducing parking on the ocean side of the road because of the road’s sharp slope.

La Monte, who takes over as the mayor of Malibu at the next City Council meeting on Monday, is a longtime advocate for safer driving conditions on PCH and in Malibu.

“There’s a lot of grant funding available for those projects and we want to get what we think is right for Malibu,” La Monte said at last week’s City Council meeting.