PCH safety: 2015 report listed hundreds of recommendations, but has anything changed?

Whether through education or enforcement, everyone in Malibu agrees they can't do it alone.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Projects to make PCH safer for drivers underway but are they enough?
A report released eight years ago listed more than 100 recommendations to improve safety along PCH but many of them have not been implemented. Here's what's being done now.

MALIBU, Calif. (KABC) -- What has long been a postcard for Malibu is now a plea for the 15 million people who visit the coastal city every year.

It has been two weeks since four Pepperdine students were killed along Pacific Coast Highway, the same highway where 23 people died in a recent five-year span.

It's where 13-year-old Emily Shane's death in 2010 shocked neighbors into advocacy.

"In 2010, the community demanded change," said Capt. Jennifer Seetoo of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Lost Hills Station. "My question to the community is what has changed?"

Local, county and state officials have been down this road before.

A PCH Safety Study was released in 2015 with 130 recommendations, many of which include adding raised medians, crosswalks, or adjusting turn lanes. One of the recommendations was to look into building a complete sidewalk between Carbon Canyon and Rambla Pacifico, the very stretch of road where the four young women were killed.

The reason, according to the report, was "to increase pedestrian safety along PCH."

However, the study was never done and sidewalks were never built.

CalTrans, which manages PCH, tells ABC7 this was ruled out because there's no easement.

It has highlighted several other projects in the works, such as a left turn arrow on to Las Flores, and synchronized lights, set to go into effect next year.

Former Mayor Zuma Jay, whose surf shop is on PCH, explains how the new light system will reward people for driving the speed limit.

"If you continue at a certain pace along PCH, between 45-50 in most of the marked areas here in this dense part, then you'll have all green signals all the way through your travel," said Jefferson "Zuma Jay" Wagner.

The issue isn't just speed, it's excessive speed.

"Since the accident, I had a person driving 112 -- the car was impounded. A person driving 109, 18 years old, unlicensed driver. Another person driving 107," said Seetoo.

Her plea: get the kids to slow down. She supports initiatives to add speed cameras and would like to see a list of attainable goals - both short and long-term.

Whether through education or enforcement, everyone in Malibu agrees they can't do it alone.

"It has to come from up in Sacramento," said Zuma Jay. "Somebody's got to say, 'Do something about that highway. Get on it.'"

Michel Shane echoes the calls from the state.

"All you need is an elected official to have that experience and there will be change, because they're in power," said Shane. "Who am I? I'm a guy who has a vote."

Shane's documentary, "21 Miles in Malibu," has been his way of finding purpose in his daughter's death.

Along PCH, the flowers are drying up and will soon be gone, but that isn't where the four students' legacies live.

"The parents are grieving. They're struggling but they want to see change as well, and their voices are going to be heard," said Seetoo.

When asked whether there are any words to describe what they are going through, she said, "There are no words. I personally face to face met with them, and that was the hardest day of my career. Looking into these parents eyes. I can't do it again."