Malibu Sheriff’s Substation opening delayed due to antenna tower, paucity of officers 

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The sheriffs substation is located beside the Santa Monica-Malibu Campus. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

County, state senators urging Malibu to participate in speed camera pilots and lower the speed limit

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

​With dangerous perils for those driving on Pacific Coast Highway and those near the highway being top of mind given a tragic crash that left four Pepperdine students dead, the community is curious regarding why the approximately 5,700 square foot Los Angeles County Sheriff’s substation located on the campus of the new Santa Monica Community College is vacant. 

Some residents are perplexed about why Los Angeles County Sheriff Jennifer Seeto does not have keys to open the substation and commence operations, especially after the incident on Oct. 17 when Fraser Michael Bohm, a Malibu resident, lost control of his vehicle, careened into parked cars and killed four female Pepperdine students. 

​“We are trying to open the substation, but the cupboard is bare and Los Angeles County does not have any officers to allocate to the new substation,” Mayor Pro Tem Doug Stewart said. “We cannot pull officers staffed at Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station as it has jurisdiction all the way to Chatsworth and needs to serve citizens over the hill.”

“One of the first things the city did with regard to calendar year 2023 funding was to allocate monies to pay for a regional lieutenant and a sergeant as well as for vehicles for each officer and for a host unit vehicle for the homeless outreach team to use as well as for administrative and maintenance costs,” Stewart said. 

“The antenna remains a concern and the county has said we cannot open the substation until all outstanding issues are cleared up.” 

Stewart commended LA County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath for “taking the reins and trying to expedite permitting processing of a coastal development permit.” 

As with many things governmental, multiple municipal subdivisions have jurisdiction over the PCH. 

Councilmember Paul Grisanti noted the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) controls the speed limit. 

“There is legislation regarding using speed cameras in California on a limited basis and Capt. Seeto has written a letter asking for Malibu to be included in that effort,” he said. 

Commissioner Horvath is advocating that Malibu be included in the state’s pilot program using speed limits, according to Grisanti.

​Grisanti added, “Although there have been proposals to improve Pacific Coast Highway over the years, there is simply not enough space to make a lot of the modifications that have been suggested.”

Grisanti advocates deploying Arson Watch to help, noting that organization has a contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to use the department’s police radios.

“Arson Watch members could act as lookouts between Big Rock and La Costa and when they see cars racing, they could call the deputies on patrol informing them of the violations.” he suggested.

Residents advocate law reinstating California Highway Patrol on PCH

​Some residents of Malibu have other ideas: They think the state elected officials representing Malibu should take action.

“Senator Bill Allen and Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin are the two people who need to introduce a bill repealing California Vehicle Code Section 2400.6 to green-light the restoration of California Highway Patrol monitoring PCH in Malibu which would be funded by the state.” Ryan Embree, a former City Council candidate, community advocate, and former Malibu Public Safety Commissioner said. 

Embree referred to a law entitled “Enforcement of Laws Regulating Operation of Vehicles on State Highway 1 in City of Malibu,” enacted in 1993, which states that the California Transportation Commissioner “shall enforce all laws regulating the operation of vehicles on and the use of any portion of PCH in Malibu, if requested by the city, and if a contract is entered into between the state and the city. Any such contract shall require that an amount be paid to the commissioner that is equal to the costs incurred by the (California Department of Transportation) for services provided under the contract.”

​“The county and Sen. Ben Allen’s offices are working with City of Malibu staff to get the conditional use permit authorized,” Constance Farrell, director of communications for Horvath, said. “We are very focused on that.” 

Farrell added that Horvath is also working with the Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Senator Bill Allen to address safety issues on PCH, including her urging to have Malibu participate in speed camera pilots and lowering the speed limit.