What served as a Hollywood retreat and weekend resort for the rich and famous for so many years is now clearly a full-time family community. Malibu has attracted rather than promoted a residential population that has forced the school enrollment to jump up to 2,000 and then some compared with a school population of approximately 1,000 students in 1990.
Councilwoman and former Mayor Joan House witnessed much of that growth as a city official and as a parent. She said this is not the first time Malibu has seen those numbers climb. “It was almost like the swallows coming back [in the mid-’70s]. We did have tons of kids when my kids were young. Then, in 1980, they closed the school at Point Dume because of a declining school population, and now we’re bursting at the seams again. All of a sudden, it’s very family oriented. We’ve gone full circle.”
Aside from indications of a baby boom for latent parents in the ’90s that may be a factor in the rise of Malibu’s youth population, what is the big attraction here for family life? “The community has a lot to offer. It’s a very safe place with good schools, clean air and a good environment,” according to House, who says there is care and concern among neighbors here.
The surge in school population leans toward a heavy attendance at Malibu High School of at least 1,200 students, with the elementary population at Juan Cabrillo and Webster at approximately 400 students each and Point Dume Elementary School with about 200 students.
The shift in Malibu demographics means more families are apparently functioning on a day-to-day basis here during what appears to be a mini population boom. Obviously, this changes the face of a community that has never had to grow into a city before.
The needs the community must serve are also no longer seasonal or bound to the drama of the latest environmental event. More specifically, statistics indicate recreational needs are among the most obvious areas for the city of Malibu to serve, with a total of more than 2,000 school age children participating in a variety of sports activities.
Ironically, recreational space is among the first growing pains now facing the city. Kristin Reynolds, president of PARCS (People Achieving Recreation and Community Services), said of particular concern is land owned by the state at Malibu Bluffs Park. “The state of California owns the land where the baseball field is located,” Reynolds said. ” What’s threatened is that the state is posturing itself to take back the land that facilitates essential recreational activity and is encouraging us to relocate the community recreation aspect.” PARCS was formed as a community advocate to locate permanent recreational facilities and enhance existing programming.
House considers the pursuit of permanent recreational facilities in Malibu essential to the community’s growth as well. “This is a critical issue, and having adequate playing facilities is a must. In fact, the city is going to hire a lobbyist, and I would support having the acquisition of Bluffs Park as a top priority.”
“This community needs to understand that Bluffs Park is currently a temporary site for play,” Reynolds said, “and the state and coastal commissions are actively pursuing our relocation.”
House’s take on the issue, however, is less alarming. “We’re at a very interesting place. My understanding is that when they [the state] have property within a city, they usually work out an arrangement that the newly incorporated city can have that land. They’ve done it in the past.”