Malibu Township Council honors Lucile Keller for over 50 years of exceptional community service

Lucile Keller was awarded a 12-inch crystal tower from the Malibu Township Council (MTC) for her service. Keller joined the MTC in the mid-1960s, and the Board of Directors in 1972. Contributed Photo

Keller known for her environmental advocacy and pushback on unnecessary development

Staff Report

“Tenacity and a relentless sense of purpose are crucial if residents want to retain Malibu’s rural lifestyle,” Lucile Keller said after being honored for a half-century of civic service.

At a Malibu Township Council (MTC) Valentine’s Day luncheon at Tramonto Restaurant, Keller received MTC’s top honor, a 12-inch crystal tower with a personal inscription.

“From working to safeguard the environment, to establishing the City of Malibu, and to prevent incompatible development, Lucile has made a remarkable difference in Malibu’s character,” MTC President Jo Drummond said during the presentation. “Along with her late husband, Walt, Lucile was crucial in coordinating local efforts for Malibu to become a city and in establishing and fighting for sound land-use policies that retain open space. She is a guiding light for us all.”

Keller became an MTC member in the mid-1960s and joined the Board of Directors in 1972. Over the years, her role changed from activist to archivist, as she not only became the MTC secretary, but also acquired a large library of organizational forms and records that will be useful to future historians.

Keller was among leaders of Malibu’s fourth fight for cityhood. She joined the 1980s effort that ended successfully when the state’s Local Area Formation Commission approved its Articles of Incorporation on March 28, 1991.

“I spent hundreds of hours a month at my kitchen table making difficult calls to people and asking them to donate money or time to help Malibu become a city, or asking them to do things for us,” she recalled. “But there were fun times, too. We printed T-shirts that we wore to L.A. County Board of Supervisors’ meetings. 

“On the front they said, ‘What is the difference between America and Malibu?’ The answer was on the back: ‘In America, you get to vote.’”

One of Keller’s most memorable challenges was working to keep the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company from building a hotel on El Matador Beach, she said. The company owned the entire stretch of dry beach and bluff at El Matador. Opposing such a formidable company was a challenge in terms of marshaling local help from resident experts as well as raising enough money to pay attorneys.

But, she said, she and a group of opponents “showed up at every hearing, and every meeting.” She said she learned that tenaciousness and persistence were important because it was impossible to tell where unexpected support might develop.

The turning point came when Metropolitan Life appeared at a meeting of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, where Malibu’s surfers turned out in large numbers. 

“It turned out that the chair of the RWQ Control Board had been a surfer in previous years,” she said. “He was worried that the El Matador surfers would hit their heads on a beach-side concrete building that would contain a sizeable sewage treatment plant required for the hotel.”

Once he opposed the plan, the hotel could not be built, and the land was given to the county.

During the MTC luncheon, board member Dru-Ann Jacobsen told stories of her own childhood in which her mother would send her “over to Lucile’s house,” where she said Keller gave her lessons by example.

“She taught me how to fight for what you believe in,” said Jacobsen. “She was very inspirational.”

Malibu Township Council, Inc. is a nonpartisan, nonprofit California corporation established in 1947. Its purpose is to promote, stimulate, and further community spirit, and to sponsor any project that may benefit any area within the City of Malibu, or the area designated as Malibu within LA County. MTC’s goal is to foster and promote the cultural development of Malibu and, in general, to build and uphold its character as a residential area.

Lucile Keller
Lucile Keller. Contributed photo.

EDITOR’S NOTE: While the Committee working to establish a City of Malibu was originally part of Malibu Township Council, the responsibilities of its members grew tremendously. So, it was decided that the MTC Committee would break away from MTC and establish a separate organization called the Malibu Committee for Incorporation.