Curb painting creates confusion

Rosie Rains sweeps Pacific Coast Highway in preparation for curb painting, after unsuccessful attempts to get Caltrans to paint it. 

After a year of going back and forth between state and local agencies in an effort to get red street curbs on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) repainted near her neighborhood, Sweetwater Canyon resident Rosie Rains says a Caltrans representative finally told her the best option might be to take care of it on her own. So she did. 

“I went out and swept and hired someone to paint it myself,” Rains said. “I paid for it out of my own pocket.” 

The cost: $350 for the labor of a local young person, and $50 for spray paint. But the experience, Rains said, left her unsatisfied. So she created a petition to draw attention to curbs on the PCH that have not been maintained and to urge other residents to fight for maintenance of the highway. 

The problem started roughly a year ago, when Rains first contacted Caltrans about the problem because the paint was too faded to clearly see, she said. Cars often parked in the red zones 

According to the agency’s website, Caltrans “is responsible for the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of the California State Highway System.” 

Instead of getting the curbs cleaned and repainted, though, Rains said she found herself going back and forth with Caltrans and the City of Malibu to determine responsibility. 

“You call the state and they pretend like they’re doing something and they’ll push you off to someone else, and they’ll say the state has an agreement with Malibu,” Rains said. “The City of Malibu…said that’s Caltrans because the highway belongs to the state. Everybody points their fingers at each other.” 

Finally, Rains said a Caltrans superintendent told her to repaint the curbs herself, which she ended up doing. 

Caltrans, however, denied that an employee would direct Rains to paint the curbs herself. 

“I don’t know what went on with her, but generally speaking, Caltrans is not going to direct homeowners to paint the curbs themselves,” said Kelly Markham, a public information officer with Caltrans District 7. 

There appears to be no set formula for how Caltrans and coastal cities determine responsibility for the PCH. Laguna Beach Director of Public Works/City Engineering Steve May said that Laguna Beach currently has no formal agreement. 

“We have painted some curbs on Caltrans roads without an agreement, and there have been other cases when we have asked them to paint some curbs or remove some painting and they have,” May said. 

He said other coastal cities like Dana Point and Newport Beach have completely taken over portions of the highway from Caltrans. 

Markham said Caltrans and Malibu are currently working on a maintenance agreement regarding care of the PCH. 

“Generally the way it works is Caltrans will paint the curbs when they’re installed and then after that the city, generally speaking, will usually have a maintenance agreement with them that they will take over the function,” Markham said. 

Markham said the first step in the maintenance agreement is to do a parking inventory, during which Caltrans will decide which curbs will have restricted parking. From there, the city can decide how to restrict parking. 

“In the meantime, if the City of Malibu asks if they can paint the curb in a specific area for a specific reason, we can generally authorize it,” she said. 

The maintenance agreement would give Malibu authority to take over maintenance of the curbs. 

Malibu media information officer Sandi Turner said she found no record of Rains calling as a petitioner, so she could not comment on Rains’ previous interactions with the city. She said she believes the PCH is still being maintained by Caltrans and could not confirm whether a maintenance agreement is in the works. 

Rains’ campaign has now expanded to include repainting all red and yellow curbs between Las Flores Canyon and Las Virgenes Roads. Markham said, however, that the stretch of PCH between Las Flores is a part of the parking inventory, so repainting might not be authorized until after the agreement goes into effect.