Public Works Workshop a Bust

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Proposed overhead warning signs

In conjunction with Los Angeles County, the City of Malibu held a Measure M informational workshop last week that aimed to inform and collect public opinion on how to spend funds generated by the countywide sales tax increase passed in 2016.

The March 14 meeting missed its mark; of the five attendees, two were city employees while the rest were members of the media (though most were Malibu residents). 

Elizabeth Shavelson, assistant to the city manager, presented Malibu-centric projects while LA County Public Works Civil Engineer Hank Hsing presented the county’s projects.

The City of Malibu has five projects under Measure M that have already been approved by city council. However, the projects are “conceptual in nature;” they will not be finalized until sent to the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). 

Metro created a sales tax ballot measure (Measure M), officially titled the “Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan.” Los Angeles County residents voted to pass the measure in the November 2016 elections. 

According to estimates provided by the city, the plan will generate $57.9 million for the Las Virgenes Malibu Council of Governments, which includes Westlake Village, Hidden Hills, Agoura, Calabasas and Malibu, over the next five years for transportation improvement. The City of Malibu will receive $8.7 million.

WESTWARD BEACH

Of the five projects, Shavelson said a Westward Beach project to increase parking in the area was the furthest along, with funds allocated and a consultant on board to begin designs.

The project limits are from Birdview Avenue to “approximately 1,100 feet west.” 

Currently, 15 angled parking spots are planned for the beach side; on the land side—including the shoulder—improvements are planned to feature a pedestrian walkway, a bike facility and possibly a bike lane, which would connect with the already-installed bike lane on PCH. 

A sand barrier—similar to a low retaining wall—would be installed to “maintain the roadway.” 

MALIBU CANYON ROAD

This project spans Malibu Knolls Drive to city limits on Malibu Canyon Road. The city looks to expand the shoulder and create more area for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists. 

In addition, it aims to create a median and improve turn lanes along the road. 

LA County is specifically looking at improving the intersections at Malibu Canyon Road and Piuma Road, and Las Virgenes Road and Las Virgenes Canyon Road by adding eastbound right-turn lanes. It also looks to make improvements the Malibu Canyon Road bridge.

Hsing mentioned the county was looking into improving traffic signal communication with the installation of a wireless radio to help control the signal. To combat the weak signal in the area, a repeater would be installed along the routes to better transmit the information. 

Since the land—located near the Malibu Hindu Temple—is on California State Parks territory, preliminary talks having included the possibility of a land swap. 

Meanwhile, the bridge project would require planning with a number of departments.

The bridge, built in 1953, is 212 feet long with two travel lanes and a three-foot pedestrian walkway. The goal is to widen and replace the deteriorating bridge; the new bridge will be 250 feet long with a six-foot walkway.

Though the timeline has not yet been determined, Hsing estimated construction will begin in April 2021.

He had no answer for locals’ glaring concern: guardrails along Malibu Canyon Road. 

“We can’t just go in and install guardrails up and down the street,” he said, reiterating that the plans were “just conceptual.”  

PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY

One of the projects identified in the PCH Safety Study involves improving and adding to existing overhead warning signs. The goal is to install two: one in the vicinity of Big Rock Drive and the other at 20356 PCH, close to Moonshadows. 

“There are going to be significant design costs with Caltrans… That’s just the unknown that inflates cost,” Shavelson said.

Another project is improving medians on the highway, something she added was a “high priority project” for the city. 

Three spots have been identified for improvement: Latigo to Kanan Dume Road, the intersection of Paradise Cove (both directions) and Busch Drive to Trancas Canyon Road. 

This entails either installing or improving raised medians.

PROPOSED PARKING LOT

Malibu is interested in establishing a parking lot for visitor use; its location is yet to be determined by City Council.

“The idea is to get parking off the highway and off the streets,” Shavelson explained, adding that the idea was to connect people to transit and promote “safety for all modes of travel.” 

The proposed parking lot may find a spot at the Civic Center or in a beach area. 

TOPANGA CANYON BEACH SHUTTLE

Currently, the beach shuttle—a 14-passenger bus—runs three times per day throughout the week (including holidays, as Hsing was eager to point out). The most common stops are the Orange Line, General Store, Lumber Yard and Expo Line. The county hopes to add more stops and earlier times to the bus route, which mostly serves Topanga residents.

To this, KBU General Manager Hans Laetz said: “You realize nobody from Malibu ever goes to Topanga?” 

Hsing responded that the goal was to get cars off the road and ease congestion. Even with the addition of another 14-passenger bus in April, the idea seemed implausible to attendees. 

Especially considering the fare; at this point, the county has not considered raising fares from its cost-friendly $1. 

Despite subsidization from Measure M, Hsing said more funding was needed to increase the frequency of the bus.

The Malibu projects are, of course, tentative; their outcomes will be based on City of Malibu budget approvals in July.

The residents in the room were mostly concerned with public transit accessibility here in Malibu. Agoura Hills resident Justine Kendall, an assistant planner for the city, said that based on Google Maps calculations, it would take her approximately eight hours to get to Santa Monica using public transit.

They left the room with little answer as to what was being done, other than that their “comments were appreciated.” 

Comments can be emailed to Elizabeth Shavelson at eshavelson@malibucity.org or Hank Hsing at hhsing@dpw.lacounty.gov.

Editor’s note: Regarding expanding intersection improvements at Malibu Canyon Road and Piuma Road, and Las Virgenes Road and Las Virgenes Canyon Road, Hsing sent this statement to The Malibu Times after time of print

“Please note that the Malibu Canyon Road Improvements project is in the concept phase, and the Department has not yet made any decisions regarding the final scope or funding of the project. The Department carefully considers the environmental impacts of its projects and endeavors to avoid removing trees.  When it is necessary to remove trees, the Department considers it vitally important to plant replacement trees and makes every effort to replace trees at numbers greater than those removed to ensure preservation of the County’s tree canopy.”