From the Publisher: A Staggering Revelation

Arnold G. York

The U.S. 2020 Census data is in and Malibu received some staggering news. Our city population, which always been thought to be at about the 13,000 mark, took a major dip downward and the new census number says we have 9,946 residents and are currently declining at the rate at a rate of 8.61 percent yearly. Overall, our population has declined 21.34 percent since the last census in 2010, meaning we’ve lost one-fifth of our population over the last decade.

Our average household income is up to $271,666. A median rental is $2,403 per month (which sounds very low) and the median house value is $2,000,000 (probably also low in today’s market).

The median age is 53 years old: 51.9 for males and 54.2 for females. Remember the median is the 50 percent mark—half the population is above the median and the other half is below the media

What’s also clear from the data is that the stagnation in our population began in 2014, the beginnings of loss in 2016 and the big population drop in 2019, 2020 and 2021. There is also lots of interesting data about who we are and what our families look like. It’s well worth looking at the census summary data at We’ve also got a story on page A1 this week.

So, what are to make of all this? And, probably more important, does it really matter to most of us? And then the follow-up question: Is this because of something we’ve done or not done?

My thanks to John Mazza, who raised the issue of the new census facts on Nextdoor and then gave his own interpretation of why it happened. I’ll start with his analysis, some of which I agree with and most of which I don’t. John believes the Woolsey Fire pushed many of the people living in Malibu out of their homes, followed immediately by COVID-19, which drove another portion of the Malibu population away. On both of these counts I agree with him. But he also blames it on other factors like Airbnb, rehabs, second homes and long-term rental houses, which I believe does have some impact but not as much as most might think, unless they happen to be next door to one. From my view, I see us rapidly on our way to becoming an aging, high-end childless bedroom community without the institutions that bind us together as city or town. It wasn’t always so. Karen and I got here in 1976 and bought a small house with a great view in the La Costa neighborhood for $117,000. You could then actually get a house inside the Malibu Colony for $250,000. The neighborhoods were filled with younger families and kids; Malibu was then considered far out so that homes were cheaper and teachers, fireman, young professionals starting out and people just beginning to make it in show business could still afford it. The community was more people than environment and was built around the schools, the PTSA, Little League and AYSO. I remember sitting in the bleachers at the Little League games, where the parents brought wine and paper cups and we cheered all the kids and didn’t much care who won. There’s no question the world is changed, and I’m remembering through rose colored glasses, but our city, to my mind, has never been proactive about making this a town that’s better to live in. Whenever our leaders are given an opportunity to do something to bind us together, like perhaps developing a community center and pool in Malibu Bluffs Park, they of course turn it down and pass on the opportunity. We don’t have a movie theater or a stage company. Lots of small cities do, and pay for it or at least give some subsidy to help it happen. We have no place for older folks to retire here in Malibu so many older folks just stay in their homes alone and no new families can move in. Frankly, Malibu is situated in a spectacular natural environment with the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other, but the city along the highway kind of looks like Pico Boulevard and is often a pig sty and barely ever cleaned. Please don’t tell me the highway is owned by Caltrans. Work it out, cut a deal, do something. Our city has never been terribly proactive toward its citizenry. A simple example: Calabasas, which became a city the same time as Malibu, has managed to build a wonderful community center on Lost Hills Road, which helps bind their community together.

I believe there has been an overall loss of that community feeling in Malibu in many places. People think of themselves as citizens of, say, Point Dume, rather than a citizen of all of Malibu. We, as a city, and the city council and government, have to work harder and think of us as the small town that we were and want to remain, and understand it’s related to the people and not just the building codes.