The Face of Malibu by Johanna Spinks

Joan House, 78, moved to Malibu in 1975 to live at the beach. She has played an integral role in Malibu in the 42 years she’s lived here. House worked hard to bring Malibu to cityhood, including going door-to-door and passing out cards. She has served as mayor a record four times. She also played a key role in forming the city’s mission and vision statement.

House has a bachelor’s degree in history and social studies from San Diego State University. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi, has volunteered on the Navaho reservation and was awarded the National Defense Education Act grant.

An avid skier, House has skied for more than 51 years. She remembers skiing in Mammoth when there was only one chair. Today, there are 23. Married for 51 years, House has two children, David and Nicole.

The Malibu Times got a chance to sit down with the woman who would rather snow ski than eat. 

You were mayor of Malibu more times than anyone else. What set you apart that made everyone want to vote for you?

It’s a rotated position. I was elected to the council four times. One person once said to me that he didn’t like all my votes, but he trusted me so he voted for me. I meant what I said and I said what I meant. So, he trusted that I was who I said I was. I thanked him very much.  


What did you accomplish as mayor that you are most proud of? 

We held 46 meetings on our general plan, which spelled out the mission and vision statement for the City of Malibu. It protects Malibu’s growth. It sets down what can and cannot play out in Malibu. It is written so no more drive-thru of fast food restaurants can open. Jack in the Box wanted to open up at one point and it stopped it. 

What would you like to tell the current council?

Meet the park and recreation needs of the adults and children. Let the five acres of the 82 acres at Bluffs Park have fields and sports areas.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in Malibu in the 42 years you’ve been living here?

We all experience more traffic. It’s just the way people use PCH. We have a lot of high-end shops. I miss the mom-and-pop shops we had.  

Where do you see the country headed with Trump as president? 

The nation is polarized and people have to make sure they have the facts and not act on emotion.  

If you were to recommend one good book for everyone to read, which one would it be and why?

“Undaunted Courage” by Stephen E. Ambrose. It’s an amazing book about Lewis and Clark. It involves a president with a vision. So many books are so powerful.  

You have been married for more than 50 years. What’s the secret to a successful and happy marriage? 

Respect, trust and a good sense of humor. My husband makes me laugh every single day. 

Do you have any regrets in life? 

I wish I would have studied harder and more as a kid — although, I did get good grades.  

What is your favorite thing about Malibu? If you could change one thing about Malibu what would it be and why? 

The people and the environment. We live in a beautiful place. We should kiss the ground we walk on every day. I wish people would be civil to all. 

How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks?

Delightful. She’s a very engaging and warm individual.

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