Today,, the topic is traffic, a fact of life on the constant minds of people who drive anywhere in Southern California, and that is most people.
And traffic also above all is the tail that wags the development dog, the bottom line in those endless neighborhood battles, be it in a city or suburb.
Forget design and architecture, it is what how much traffic will be generated by whatever project is proposed, not how it is going to look and how it might serve the users and their community settings.
That is certainly the case in my misanthropic Malibu, whose major artery, its main street, is the Pacific Coast Highway.
Known locally as the PCH, it is basically a single road leading into and out of, and through, the 21 mile, one mile wide city, edged by the ocean to the west, and the Santa Monica mountains to the east.
Think of the traffic as too much tooth paste in a constricted tube labeled Malibu.
That wouldn’t be too bad if the PCH served just the city’s 13,000 residents, but an estimated 80,000 vehicles pass through it daily, most to and from a burgeoning City of Santa Monica to the south, and the sprawling L.A. basin beyond.
And on sunny summer weekends the area’s storied coast attracts some 300,000 more-when the sandy beaches beckon – the traffic and the parking be damned.
The result is gridlock, aggravated by at least a major accident a day, more on holidays., including an inordinate number of fatalities.
Most Malibu residents generally stay at home on weekends, avoiding the PCH like a plague.
The PCH is the bane of Malibu; unquestionably the number one complaint of residents, and visitors, too, a dark cloud in an otherwise bright real estate heaven.
The accidents, the gridlock and the general miserable driving conditions spurred increasingly shrill complaints of residents,, which in turn prompted the city aided by state and federal funding, to order a major study to see what could be done to make the PCH safer, and smooth the flow of traffic.
After several years of site specific engineering, the study is now complete. It is an exacting nearly 900 page document that fine tunes almost every foot of the PCH.
Recommended are some 150 improvements with a total cost of 20 million dollar plus, and includes. synchronized traffic signals, realigning several intersections, actually narrowing some sections of the road, while widening others, a median, an underpass , bolder stripping and host of fixes to aid pedestrians.
These were designed with the community in mind, so states the logo of the prime consultant team of Stantec.
But unfortunately the report is not easily accessible or digestible for the public. These projects usually are not revealed until the warning signs go up overnight. So much for government transparency.
Indeed, the combined public works and safety commissions met the other night in a nearly empty City Hall to blink at the study before sending it on to the City Council, which will have to act on it pronto to get under a July First funding deadline.
PCH undoubtedly will be safer, and traffic facilitated, That is good. But don’t expect it will offer much relief.
Improving roadways almost always generates more traffic; traffic being like water, flowing downhill, to find its way into the most conducive channel. And in Malibu the PCH is the one and only channel
If Malibu is a piece of heaven on earth, as its residents contend, then the PCH has to be its hell. No place is perfect.
Im Sam Hall Kaplan, and this is the City Observed, on 97.5 KBU FM, radio Malibu.net