The Pacific Coast Highway Task Force held its quarterly meeting Wednesday on Zoom, with State Senators Ben Allen and Henry Stern and Assemblyman Richard Bloom in attendance.
“It is important to cut across jurisdictional issues on PCH regarding accidents, evacuation [during wildfires] and tourists visiting the area,” said Stern, who acknowledged that safety is paramount.
“This is an important artery for first responders and evacuations,” said Allen, who noted that the Woolsey Fire in Malibu showed the importance of having all public agencies work together.
Bloom said, “I’m in agreement with our mission because PCH is a famous highway and it deserves to be safe. How can we enhance safety along PCH?”
The highway is under the jurisdictional authority of three cities: Santa Monica, Los Angeles and Malibu. It also is under those separate police departments, as well as L.A. County and the California Highway Patrol.
The task force was created about 15 years ago to help coordinate action on issues that involve these various jurisdictions. The issue might involve just one geographic area along PCH, but the action taken could affect traffic from the McClure Tunnel to the Ventura County Line.
Of local interest, L.A. Bureau of Engineering and Potrero Project Manager Pedro Garcia told the 33 people on the call that the grading phase for Potrero Canyon Park was completed in August.
Garcia said that a proposed pedestrian overpass from Potrero to the Will Rogers Beach parking lot is on hold because there’s no current funding. However, a pedestrian trail from Potrero to Temescal that will enable people to cross safely at the stoplight across PCH is in the works.
Caltrans has said there’s one parcel it wants to keep along PCH. “We had a field meeting in September,” said Caltrans spokesman Abdi Saghafi. “The ultimate goal is to provide a pedestrian path.”
Assemblyman Bloom asked for clarification about the timeline for completing the park [a construction project that began in 1989] and if a landscaping contract has been awarded.
“No,” Garcia said, noting that the contract will be advertised next month and awarded in February or March. “We have ordered the plants and construction [planting] could start immediately after awarding.” He said it would take about 10 months for the planting.
When Bloom said that funding was needed for an overpass, Garcia responded, “We’ve requested funding from the City,” but so far it has been denied.
“Trying to find a solution for the crossing is of paramount importance,” Bloom said. “Routing people a quarter a mile away [to Temescal] will lead them to try and cross in an unsafe fashion. We need to find a way to build an overcrossing.”
David Card, president of the Pacific Palisades Community Council, told listeners that people would actually have to walk about two-thirds of a mile to cross safely at Temescal.
The mouth of Potrero Canyon Park is directly across PCH from L.A. County Lifeguard headquarters.
“People will try to run across PCH,” Card warned, noting that homeless routinely try to cross the six lanes of traffic and that there are pictures of families trying to run across the highway.
Bloom, Allen and Councilman Mike Bonin are all in favor of a pedestrian overcrossing.
Bloom asked Garcia that if funding could be found, what would be the timeline. Garcia said production could start immediately–“It would be a go.”
(Editorial note: This question should be posed to the City Attorney’s Office: “How many traffic-related lawsuits at this stretch of PCH would equal the cost of the bridge?”)
ILLEGAL RV PARKING:
Task Force members also discussed the problems raised by people who park and live in their RV’s along the highway, which can block views of the ocean and cause sanitation issues.
Lost Hills Sheriff James Braden said, “We need changes in Malibu. We need a safe parking area and we need a shelter.” Braden argued that although law enforcement can cite for registration and other driving issues, the general public can be at a disadvantage in certain locations. “There’s so much RV parking in Corral Beach, where there are no parking signs, that there’s no parking for beachgoers.”
CHP Public Information Officer Weston Haver said that because of Covid-19 and far fewer people driving along PCH, there has been a dangerous increase in street racing.
“In August we had six different operations,” he said. “We made 124 stops and issued 97 citations. There were five arrests and we towed seven vehicles.
“In September we had 11 operations,” Haver continued. “We made 163 stops; there were 132 citations, eight arrests (four DUIs in one night) and four vehicles were towed.”
One of the participants in the meeting, who lives in Malibu said “We want to thank the officers so much for trying to stop the street racers.”