Malibu seeks to create a safer motor show

The parking lot at the Malibu Country Mart packed with car enthusiasts for the weekly Sunday Motor Show. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

With Summer around the corner, mornings in Malibu have begun seeing an increase in visitors on the weekend, especially on Sundays.

The parking lot at The Malibu Country Mart has been the primary location for car meet-ups before retail stores open their doors and even after.

During the City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 14, planning commissioner Kraig Hill said the parking lot car meets, street racing, and late-night car rallies have been increasing in Malibu. 

“We need better enforcement of existing speed limits and noise ordinance,” Hill said during the public comment. “Some things should be enforced by the sheriffs while others are more strictly in the jurisdiction of the CHP.”

Just this year, Malibu has seen an increase in fatalities in areas such as Big Rock. Hill said speed has likely been a factor in many of those deaths, which are in the matters of the CHP, but said it has been ineffective to have the traffic enforcement loaded up to the sheriffs.

Some city members have continued to stress the urgency of safety and say the car meet-ups on Sundays have created unsafe highways during the day and throughout the night.

“I live right near Kanan and PCH, and there’s racing at night all the time, obtaining a hundred cars at a time,” Commissioner John Mazza said. “So it’s pretty unsafe on the highway.”

Mazza said the city asked the shopping center to implement signs that allow the Sheriffs to enforce the event, but he said they don’t have the authority to enforce them. 

In an incident near Neptune’s Net restaurant and Ventura County Fire Station Number 56, the highway was closed while vehicles were racing down the highway; however, Mazza said the Sheriff’s are afraid to interfere.

“The Sheriff’s did nothing as far as I’m concerned; they’re afraid to intervene,” Mazza said. “Every once in a while, give a guy a ticket, but my problem is in most other cities, this would never happen; there’d be enforcement. The Sheriff’s claim they have no jurisdiction over a private property, and therefore they can’t do anything about it.”

The city has been organizing the Malibu Cars and Coffee at Malibu Bluffs every second and 4th Sunday every month from 7 to 9 a.m. One event that is organized every Sunday nearby is The Malibu Farmers Market. Located on the Malibu Library parking lot, the event opened the empty lot near Stuart Ranch Road, where the Chili Cook-Off is organized, strictly for Malibu Farmers Market visitors. 

Mazza said they’ve spent a third of their budget on patrolling— almost 10 million a year for the Sheriff’s and about a million dollars patrolling the county beach at Zuma in the summer. 

“We’ve had almost no police cars on the road at night, they’ve added a couple, but basically, it’s open season at night or early morning,” Mazza said. “That’s why you get these races in the canyon in the middle of the night. This is happening because we don’t enforce our ordinances, and there’s health and safety involved here.”

Mazza said the overcrowding in vehicles has become more of a rally than a car show.

“These aren’t car shows; these are rallies,” Mazza said. “These are where people meet to race and show off their cars. There’s absolutely no reason for Malibu to host cars [shows] with what’s going on on the highway, in my opinion, no reason at all.”

While the gatherings have been difficult to enforce, some members have tried to find ways to make the event safer for those who favor the event.

Malibu City Homelessness Task Force Chair, Ian Roven suggested organizing the event better, such as utilizing the Chili Cook-Off site that is usually vacant all year round as a location for the car show.

“The City could hire a couple security guards who would point the car and car enthusiasts to the designated site, and we can make something of a show about it,” Roven said. “Malibu logos have been disconnected since Woolsey and the pandemic. We need more events to bring us together safely.”

Roven said they could organize the event with food trucks or even point them to local businesses. 

“The cars are probably going to come here anyway because it’s a public road on the coast, so Malibu is in a unique position, [for] better or for worse,” Roven said. “We can have shuttles very easily. Many locals like checking out the cars, some locals hate it and would prefer to enjoy the once quiet Malibu town, some locals like [thier] sleepy, quiet Malibu town, but that’s just not the way it is right now.” 

Roven suggested organizing the event small, with no advertising, and finding ways to coordinate.

“So, either we can have a disorganized event happening without the city having the means to control it, or we lean in. We could charge a fee to the drivers so we can have proper security, proper display—I don’t think we should do any advertising because I think it should stay small. There is a way to coordinate the leaders of this group,” Roven said. “I’ve been communicating with several of the drivers in the past, trying to find a reasonable way about it. Perhaps all that is left is to sit down with the city to develop a solid, reasonable plan going forward.”