‘Let’s get something done’: Council dedicates first half of meeting to Pacific Coast Highway safety

Members of the Malibu City Council hold up signs brought by Councilmember Paul Grisanti discouraging speeding on Pacific Coast Highway during the council meeting Monday, Jan. 22. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT

In other business, CHP contract and equipment for the Sheriff’s Department Beach Team approved

To start off the Malibu City Council meeting on Monday night, Jan. 22, City Clerk Kelsey Pettijohn was honored with a City Tile for seven years of service to the City of Malibu. 

Pettijohn joined the City of Malibu in January 2017 as their deputy city clerk and was promoted to city clerk in 2021. The Malibu native also attended Malibu Elementary, Middle and High schools. Pettijohn received her Bachelor’s degree from Cal Lutheran University, and recently received her designation as a certified municipal city clerk last year. As city clerk, Pettijohn oversees the city clerk department as a local officer who administers the Democratic process, such as elections, access to the city records, and also acts as a compliance officer for federal state and local statutes.

“Let me just sort of expand on that a little bit — she does a lot. When you run for City Council, Kelsey’s the person you talk to and she keeps us out of jail; she tells us what the rules are,” Mayor Steve Uhring said. “She plays an integral role not only helping run the city but helping keep the City Council apprised on what’s going on and what we have to do, so we thank you very much for that.”

The City Council, staff, and members of the public stood to give Pettijohn a round of applause.

“I’ve had the privilege of growing up in Malibu both as a person and as a professional, so I know it’s a really special community to serve, and we have a really special staff that I get to serve with,” Pettijohn said. “Thank you for the honor and the recognition.”

City Council dedicated the first half of the meeting to addressing the PCH safety review. Staff prepared an update on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) Safety Projects from 2015. The list focuses on discussions held during the last PCH Task Force Special Meeting held on Nov. 8, 2023. The city identified several key initiatives and projects that posed an opportunity for collaboration with Caltrans, and state and local officials to improve safety along the state highway. Those areas included a Safety Corridor Designation, considerations for a redesign of PCH, Permanent Increase to Enforcement, Initiation of Special Legislation, Investment in Speed and Traffic Data Collection Technology, and a Re-prioritization of the 2015 PCH Safety Plan. According to the report, the 2015 PCH Safety Plan identified 130 projects, 53 total projects planned, in design, under construction, or completed. The total estimated funding is $52,139,719, the funding available is $28,049,719, and the funding needed is $24,090,000. Caltrans has six initialed projects; six are in design, under consultation, or completed. The city has 59 projects that are not prioritized and are unfunded.

To read the full report, read the “PCH Taskforce members collaboratively seek solutions for challenging highway perils” article on A1.

Councilmember Bruce Silverstein asked staff about the speed cameras and asked what the difference is between speed cameras and red light cameras.

“Red light cameras are essentially censored, so if you run a red light, it’s a trigger that camera will take a snapshot of the vehicle; however, speeds are not captured,” Deputy City Manager Alexis Brown said. “Whereas a speed camera is captured by speed, it’s able to capture the speed as well with that data, and you’re able to issue a citation based on that infraction.”

Public Works Director Rob DeBoux answered questions regarding how effective they will be to make PCH safer.

“Some of these will have a temporary effect; how effective that’ll be in the long term is skeptical,” DeBoux said. “These are temporary or quick fixes for certain situations on speeding and safety than the corridor.” 

About a dozen speakers including residents and Pepperdine students, spoke during public comment and on Zoom addressing PCH. Silverstein thanked the few members of the public who attended and expressed their concerns.

“I’m a little disappointed by the relatively sparse turnout,” he said. “I appreciate everyone that’s here and everything you have to say, as well as people on Zoom. [I] don’t know what’s stopping more residents from at least calling in on Zoom and giving us their views, because this is a critical issue and everyone here is rightfully up in arms about this and look at the participation in government; it’s sad, we need to go forward. I’ve heard some really good ideas tonight, things I haven’t thought of, and I think the more voices we hear, the more we can do.”

Silverstein made a request to give staff direction to come back with a list of things they can immediately do and asked for data on when and where fatal incidents have occurred.

“I wish we had this meeting two or three months ago —actually years ago, and that we were here tonight, approving things, as opposed to talking about what we can staff to put together a list of things we can do,” Silverstein said. “One of our speakers said, ‘little fires are not enough, it’s time to start a big fire,’ I say blow it up, let’s get rid of all the red tape out of the way, let’s get something done.”

Councilmember Paul Grisanti brought signs that read, “Lidar speed enforcement next 21 miles,” “Fines tripled in work zones,” “PCH Malibu Deadliest HWY obey speed limits,” “Reckless drivers, booked, impounded, 30 days min,” and “Strict speed enforcement ahead.” 

City Council Jan 22 SamBravo
Members of the Malibu City Council hold up signs brought by Councilmember Paul Grisanti discouraging speeding on Pacific Coast Highway during the council meeting Monday, Jan. 22. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT

Grisanti said although they’re not able to place unpermitted signs on PCH due to Caltrans, he said maybe homeowners could participate in placing signs on their property.

“One of the things that I think that we need to do is talk to private owners along the road and get them to let us put signs along their property, and they’re going to have to be large so they can be read,” Grisanti said. “It would get some comments and some thought process on what’s going on.”

Uhring thanked the speakers and students from Pepperdine for sharing their concerns.

“If we don’t keep this issue in front of the community, it’s going to disappear. We have got to keep talking about it, I’ll take all the help I can get, we heard a lot of things here tonight,” Uhring said. “I am not going to let this fade, can’t do that. Thirty years that I’ve been here, every year that the City Council runs, one of the campaign promises is we’re going to fix PCH — 30 years we haven’t done anything. This is the chance to do it. I want you folks to keep on our backs, to make sure we don’t change our minds, but I’m going to make sure I do everything I can to make sure that happens.”

Silverstein moved to direct the staff to get a list of things they can begin to implement. Uhring seconded the motion. Motion passed.

“We seem to be content to see words on the list, of things that can be done over time, their words on a page, they’re not happening — they’re not stopping deaths. We need to do what we can to stop deaths, and it’s not just talk. What is just talk is the list — we need to do something,” Silverstein said. “We’ve got a lot of money, and we have an emergency, and until we get this emergency under control we need to spend the money to deal with it.”

Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriffs Sgt. Chris Soderlund provided an update on the recent accidents, including an update on the speed chase that occurred last Thursday. To read the recent incident, check out the news briefs on A3. Soderlund provided a report on the citations from 2023 and said there were 7,580 citations issued in the City of Malibu, and ages ranging from 20 to 34 years old account for 50 percent of the citations. Soderlund said 10 percent of those residents are not Malibu residents, and 90 percent of the citations are from non-residents. Soderlund said he would provide the report to the city. The Malibu Times will follow up with the report and publish the information in the upcoming issue.

In other actions, the council approved equipment for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Beach Team. Soderlund emphasized the importance of the beach team and how important they are during the summer. The beach team focuses on alcohol, while the lifeguards concentrate on the individuals in the ocean.

Planning Director Richard Mollica presented the Wireless Local Coastal Program Amendment Coastal Commission item. The council motioned to receive and file the item. 

The last item addressed was the Agreement with California Highway Patrol. The Adopted Budget for FY 2023-24 included funds in Account No. 100-7021-5115-00 (L.A. Co. Sheriff Services) to provide additional patrol services as well as necessary support personnel to coincide with the opening of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) Malibu Substation. However, since the substation has not opened and LASD is not allowing for any growth in contracts at this time, there will be a cost savings of approximately $3.0 million, which is sufficient to cover the estimated $700,000 cost of the CHP contract through the end of the fiscal year. 

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12.