City Proposes Two Changes for Chautauqua and PCH

The intersection problem at PCH and Chautauqua/West Channel dates back to the history of the road.

Former Palisadian-Post editor Bill Bruns spoke to a March 7 Optimist Club meeting on “Pacific Palisades: The Past, the Present and the Future.” Looking to the future and the next 50 years, Bruns made five predictions. He predicted the notorious intersection at Chautauqua and PCH would still be a frustrating challenge.

That may change.

At the Pacific Palisades Community Council Zoom meeting held March 23, Tim Fremaux, Sr. Transportation Engineer, said residents can expect changes in late April at that intersection. Two roads feed into and off PCH, which is a six-lane highway.

Fremaux said the City, which has control over Chautauqua and West Channel, has received a permit from Caltrans, which controls Pacific Coast Highway.

There are two lanes that go onto PCH from Chautauqua. The right lane allows people to turn west and east on PCH. The left lane only allows turns onto West Channel Road. The road is well-marked, but many people ignore the signs.

Traffic backs up on Chautauqua for people wanting to turn on PCH. Many drivers instead wait in the left lane and cut into the right lane at the last minute, maybe saving as much as five minutes.

That will be no more.

The City is proposing a buffer-barrier between the right and left lanes, so people will not be able to cut in. “We’re hoping compliance will be higher,” Fremaux said.

The second change will be on PCH.

For people traveling west on PCH from Santa Monica towards Pacific Palisades and Malibu, there are currently two lanes from which a driver can turn right onto Chautauqua or West Channel Road. In that second right-turn lane a driver is allowed to go straight or turn.

“There will now be only one right-hand lane to make a turn,” Fremaux said. “The other three will be for travel on PCH only.”

He assured the PPCC that the work done on Chautauqua and PCH will not take place during peak periods, and that only one lane will be taken away at a time.

Cars on Chautauqua turn onto Pacific Coast Highway onto West Channel Road.

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11 Responses to City Proposes Two Changes for Chautauqua and PCH

  1. Don Treiman says:

    In my humble opinion, this isn’t going to work: There is no room for a barrier between the lanes on Chautauqua. Already very narrow, and what about trucks and the SM Buses? And since a barrier won’t extend onto PCH, what will force the left lane drivers from just proceeding to south PCH as they do now.

  2. Gordon Gerson says:

    It appears that nothing will be done about the dangerous situation of a driver on West Channel turning sharp right onto Chautauqua in the face of fast drivers turning from west bound PCH onto Chautauqua. The visibility is very poor. The only safe way is to wait until PCH traffic is stopped by the signal and endure the horn blowing of drivers behind you. I’ve raised this issue before, apparently it was ignored.

  3. Greg P says:

    I agree with Mr. Treiman’s concerns – particularly his last comment. It’s possible, however, that another related problem that could be addressed with a barrier is the right turn from West Channel onto Chautauqua. It seems that inevitably, someone in the turn lane discovers at the last second that they really want to go north on PCH, so they block the turn lane waiting to sneak back into the left lane (resulting in the usual horn sounding and hand gestures from the cars behind.) It seems that a barrier several cars in length could force these drivers to complete the turn onto Chautauqua.

  4. Wharfplank says:

    The only real fix is to take the whip s-turn out of PCH by widening which would require a bridge extension over the creek on the beach side, seizing by eminent domain the structures at the foot on the north side of Chautaqua and adding a right turn only lane there. 2 lanes feed onto PCH with a 200 yard merge lane. Millions of dollars to solve a problem that only exists 4 hours a day…for that money we could buy every Palisades resident an alarm clock set to 15 minutes earlier.

  5. BT says:

    Wholeheartedly agree with both Don and Gordon!

    And may I add that a dedicated left turn arrow be added for southbound PCH drivers turning onto either Chautauqua or Entrada!

    This intersection is a nightmare!

  6. ANNINE MADOK says:

    A second question about the BBBus — I seem to recall it turns up West Channel from the far right lane of Chautauqua otherwise it can’t make the turn. And it can’t fit through the current barrier on PCH from Chautauqua to go to Santa Monica up the incline, and would have to change its route if it did. But I’m sure the powers that be have this all figured out …

  7. Terri says:

    both comments above are spot on. Chautauqua was originally just a little road going to the beach, not meant at all for large construction vehicles.

  8. Adam says:

    If a barrier fits and works for safety, that’s a welcome addition. But can something be done about what motivates people to make the unsafe lane change? As noted, “Traffic backs up on Chautauqua…. Many drivers instead wait in the left lane … maybe saving as much as five minutes.” Because of the light cycle timing, it can be closer to ten minutes of waiting at the worst times of day. Isn’t there some way sensors could be employed to allow more Palisadian travelers onto PCH during each green light at rush hours, so cars aren’t backed so far up Chautauqua?

    This would also enchance quality of life for local residents, and, more critically, improve egress out of our bottlenecked community, what with only four major thoroughfares going in and out (Sunset & PCH to the west, Temescal & PCH [both of which also back up terribly], Chautauqua & PCH, and Sunset to the east). I know it’s a tradeoff — improving flow onto PCH impedes flow on PCH — but perhaps there’s a better way to optimize everything?

  9. sue says:

    Before the current traffic pattern was made, cars used to be able to turn left onto PCH from both lanes from Chautauqua, turn left onto West Channel or turn right onto PCH from the right lane. AND there was hardly any backup. Yes I know we have more people and cars using Chautauqua. But if you notice in the historical photo, the traffic signal is
    ACROSS PCH placed on the outside right side instead of in the middle of PCH AND there is NO BARRIER! making it safer and easier for bigger trucks to access PCH which made it actually a faster transit. Why? Because the traffic on PCH going south was stopped BEFORE it reached Chautauqua to allow more cars to turn and do it safely. Then the super powers changed it and now we have a log jam all the way Chautauqua almost to Sunset. GO back and check it out. It worked. I drove it every day to work and never had a “log jam” like one has today. I predict it would even work today better than what we have now. A traffic bot could also probably adjust each light timer according to traffic usage as well. (if they can find someone smart enough to program it?!?!)

  10. Margot Metzner says:

    Hi CTN, Just wondering what ever happened regarding this plan to “fix” the Chautauqua/PCH intersection to prevent “entitled” people from cutting in and turning onto PCH rather than West Channel when coming down the hill in the left lane. The article says work would be done “late April” and it is now late May and nothing has changed.

  11. Sue says:


    At the last Community Council meeting, everyone was told it will happen shortly–take two nights to restripe. A sign is up along PCH, but that doesn’t address the issue of coming down Chautauqua and cutting into the lane of patiently-waiting drivers.


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