Critics Charge Paradise Cove Traffic Safety Problems Continue to Create Major Hazard
BY BILL KOENEKER
A motorcycle accident near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Paradise Cove Road over the weekend gave ammunition to critics, who contend state and local authorities are not doing enough to abate the ongoing traffic congestion problem that has grown exponentially this summer
Although it was not on the agenda, the Malibu City Council had heard an informal report from City Manager Jim Thorsen several weeks ago about the traffic congestion, parking and other problems at Paradise Cove.
Council members got phone calls from irate citizens and were told by Thorsen the staff was aware of the problems and had talked to the property owner.
At the last city council meeting, Thorsen told council members the property owner had hired a sheriff's deputy to manage traffic on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in response to the city's request to mitigate the mess at the increasingly dangerous intersection.
The city manager said that helped somewhat, but the situation, for the most part, remained unchanged.
"We have issued a letter to the property owner about it," Thorsen said.
Overflow traffic, hundreds of walk-in visitors, who park on the narrow shoulder of Pacific Coast Highway and the closure of the road leading to the cove when the parking lot is full have created traffic jams and swarms of pedestrians at the intersection unlike those ever seen before, according to residents.
"I have received a lot of complaints about the parking," said Councilmember Joan House, who noted complaints have also surfaced about the parking along PCH at the trailhead to Escondido Canyon Falls.
"Near Paradise Cove on the ocean side the cars are parked near driveways and the residents cannot get out," House added.
In the case of "I told you so," public comments warned about what would happen it the dangerous situation was allowed to continue.
David Saul, a member of the Public Safety Commission, said people are upset about it since many beachgoers are walking along PCH. "It is very dangerous. It is an accident waiting to happen," he said.
Councilmember Skylar Peak said he was also getting phone calls about it. "Maybe we should close off the parking lot," he said.
Mayor Laura Rosenthal said she and Councilmember Lou La Monte were meeting with the Secretary of Transportation and encouraged folks to send in photos or videos to the mayor's office so that other officials could see first hand the problem. "Lou and I welcome movies," she said.
Thorsen had further explained the staff had met with the restaurant owner. "We went over a lot of issues," said the city manager, who indicated there will be a hearing before the planning commission in September on renewal of a septic system permit.
"We talked about the parking, the cabana rentals, alcohol on the beach, and the food service on the sand," he said.
Peak wanted to know how the septic system could handle so many visitors. "Where are we at with the water quality? How can they possibly have that many people? How are we managing that?" he asked.
Thorsen said there were two issues at Paradise Cove concerning water quality. The first is stormwater flow. "It is a slow trickle [in the summer]. There is a high bacteria count [from the creek]. It goes through treatment and it's clean. It is discharged [near the creek mouth] and within minutes it is dirty," he said.
Thorsen said the wastewater issue is complicated by what appears to be a background of bacteria from natural sources. "There has been no study to determine [the efficacy of] wastewater treatment.
High bacteria counts appear in high use, low use, summer and winter. They do use porta-pottys when there is high use. That is OK. It may be natural bacteria sources."