Trailers Permitted to Park Overnight Along PCH

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California Coastal Commission

Overnight parking along Pacific Coast Highway across from the Malibu Pier—including the virtually permanent storage of a 30-foot trailer belonging to the Malibu Surf Shack—will be allowed to continue indefinitely.

The decision by the California Coastal Commission, which voted unanimously, 11-0, to deny the City of Malibu’s ordinance restricting parking on the small strip of highway, essentially expands the business area of the Surf Shack onto the side of the highway in what may be one of the most in-demand parking areas in the state.

On Thursday, the commission met in Dana Point to discuss an appeal of an ordinance in Malibu that restricted overnight parking across from the Malibu Pier. “The proposed 30-minute parking restriction between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. would apply to approximately 767 feet of the ocean side of the public highway and 973 feet of the inland side,” according to a report prepared by Coastal Commission staff. That includes street parking from approximately the Malibu Beach Inn to the Malibu Pier.

Though the City of Malibu, when it imposed the restriction, did not name any businesses, it was clearly a move meant to encourage the Malibu Surf Shack, owned by Sean and Leslie Weber, from parking trailers on the highway overnight.

“The reason we call it public parking is that everyone from the public has a fair and reasonable chance to park there,” Lt. Jim Royal from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff Station told Malibu City Council in August. “It’s not a restriction; it’s a tool for law enforcement to regulate people who park 24/7, 365 in what should be a public parking area.”

But according to commissioners, it was a case of Malibu cutting access to Californians who don’t live near the coast.

“I feel this proposal by the City of Malibu is similar to taking a butcher knife or a cleaver when you need a scalpel, or maybe even a chainsaw when you need a scalpel,” Commissioner Mark Vargas of San Francisco, one of the two coastal commissioners who appealed the city’s restriction, said. “I have trouble following what the true motivation for this is.

“If we’re really trying to look at… I drive through Malibu, even at night, and I just don’t understand why there’s a need to effectively create an overnight parking ban in this area,” Vargas continued. “It makes me nervous—and I get nervous for the potential lack of access for Californians to that coastal area.”

Commissioner Sara Aminzadeh of San Francisco asked Sean Weber, who attended the meeting to give an impassioned plea to reinstate overnight parking for his business needs, how that business was serving low-income communities.

“In what way would this closure impact access for low-income or underserved youth or communities, in particular?” Aminzadeh asked.

“If I was to take my trailers off the highway, obviously that would impact families from being able to go across [the highway],” Weber said. “What happens is now there’s a lot of people that can’t take—physically can’t take—the gear down to the beach … I’ve actually gone to the mayor’s office actually in the city and actually requested I’d like to offer Malibu Surf Shack free to underserved youth.”

Weber also threatened legal action against the city and city employees and elected officials should the restriction continue, if a customer sustained an injury crossing the highway. The safety of his customers, Weber said, relied on being able to operate his business out of a trailer parked on the public highway.

“If any man, woman or especially, God forbid, a child, is killed while crossing PCH with a kayak trying to have fun at the beach because of this administration’s ordinance …  I will use all my resources to ensure not only the city but specifically city leaders that could have have prevented this are held legally responsible,” Weber said.