Getting Around Malibu: Malibu Park

Malibu Park from the air, March 2003 satellite image.  Zuma Beach is to the lower left with PCH running between Zuma and Malibu ParkCopyright
Malibu Park from the air, March 2003 satellite image. Zuma Beach is to the lower left with PCH running between Zuma and Malibu Park.

Malibu Park Neighborhood

Across from Zuma Beach and nine miles west of the Civic Center, this family neighborhood is close to horseback riding and hiking trails. Many of these properties have ocean views. Juan Cabrillo Elementary, Malibu Middle school, and Malibu High School are located here.

Malibu Park entrance, PCH at Morning View Drive. Zuma Beach is to the leftCopyright
Malibu Park entrance, PCH at Morning View Drive. Zuma Beach is to the left.

The boundaries of the Malibu Park neighborhood are defined by the four shared and inter-connected accesses to the Pacific Coast Highway (Bonsall Drive, Busch Drive, Morning View Drive and Guernsey Drive), including the property which fronts on PCH and lies between the Bonsall and Guernsey accesses. The Malibu Park community is bounded on the North by the Zuma-Trancas section of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) parkland, on the south by the PCH and Zuma Beach County Park, on the West by Trancas Creek and the Trancas wetlands, and less precisely, on the East by the slopes rising towards Kanan Dume Road.

Three types of topography are represented in Malibu Park. Approximately 75% of the area can be described as "coastal shelf', rising from the 50-foot high bluffs facing PCH to an elevation of about 350 feet in a horizontal distance of about 4,500 feet, an average slope of about 15:l. This gently sloping shelf undulates transverse to the coastline as the result of a series of small intermittent streams (several are "blueline streams") which ultimately flow directly into the ocean, crossing PCH through culverts. Prior to 1970 virtually every parcel in the shelf area had a blue-water view, including several Channel Islands, and over half had a white-water view. Less than 10% of these views remained in 1993 as a result of view blockage by trees, primarily Blue-gum Eucalyptus and Pine.

Approximately 20% of the land can be considered to be "canyon land", located along the Zuma Creek. Large, old Sycamore trees currently dominate this area, though formerly it was meadow land. The remaining 5% of the area is steep hillside rising from the shelf area to an elevation of about 800 feet in a horizontal distance of about 1,800 feet, an average slope of about 4:1. This area, originally developed as "Horizon Hills", features spectacular coastline views sweeping from Palos Verde to Leo Cabrillo beach and including five Channel Islands.

Malibu Park is crossed on its north side by an ancient fault, and several landslide or slump zones have been identified in the steeper areas. Most of the Zuma'Canyon area has a high water table, and has been identified as a potential flood zone. In the shelf area the water-table generally lies 25 to 50 feet below the surface, and periodically this underground water "surfaces" as it emerges from the coastal bluffs fronting PCH.

Portions of the Malibu Park area have been swept by wildfires, with significant loss of property. These fires are driven by Santa Ana winds channeled through Zuma and Trancas Canyons. Major fires occurred in 1956, 1967, 1970, 1977, 1978, 1980, and 1983.

The Malibu Park area is largely developed as single family residences on large lots, though about 10% of the shelf area has been developed as small lots (smaller than 1/3 acres). There is no multi-family development in Malibu Park, and the only commercial development is a small neighborhood-serving shopping center at the intersection of Busch Drive and PCH.

The shelf area was used to graze cattle and raise vegetables until the 1950s. Portions of Malibu Park were divided for residential development starting in the late 1940s. The land in the shelf area was subdivided into 2-5 acre parcels, and at the south end of Bonsall Canyon Drive and in the Horizon Hills area into one to two acre parcels. Some parcels remained in the seven to 40 acre size range, particularly at the north end of Bonsall Canyon Drive, and on the eastern slope of the Trancas watershed, on the western side of Malibu Park. Most of the Malibu Park original subdivision parcels carried deed restrictions which shaped the size of the homes, and which encouraged agricultural use of the land. As these restrictions expired, some of the parcels were divided further, and a few of those divided still again. Today Malibu Park contains intermixed parcels varying in size from 1/4 acre to 12 acres, with the majority in the one to four acres range.

The nature of the land, the mild weather, and the unusually clean air, encourages agricultural uses. Wholesale orchid ranches are located on Bonsall and Harvester Roads. Small commercial Avocado orchards are scattered throughout Malibu Park. Herbs and flowers are grown commercially on the undeveloped portions of a number of parcels. Several parcels are used as wholesale tree nurseries. A large number of homes keep riding horses; and goats, chickens, and geese are raised for home consumption.

Prior to the 1970s, about 250 ranch style homes, varying in size from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet, were built in Malibu Park. In the 1970s home sizes increased to the 2,000 to 5,000 square-feet range, with a few as large as 8,000 square feet. Most of these were single-story, though about 10% of these newer homes were two-storied.

This building pattern continued in the 1980s, with a tendency towards the larger end of the size spectrum, until the vote for incorporation of the City of Malibu. After the vote in favor of incorporation, Malibu Park became the site of a building frenzy of very large homes (up to 22,000 square feet), and large homes (typically 8,000 square feet, two-story) on smaller (less than one acre) lots. Many of these were built for speculation and having not sold in two years, were foreclosed. Some of the largest "mansions" have become "show places", frequently cited as examples of what should not happen in Malibu. This development brought forth the problem of excessive run-off water to Malibu Park, resulting in flooding of several homes in 1991 and 1992.

The rural character of the Malibu Park neighborhood is expressed by the low, ranch-style houses, the large lots, and the agricultural uses of the undeveloped land. It is also reflected in the virtual absence of sidewalks and curbs, and by the minimum use of street and home-security lighting.

A large parcel of land owned by the Santa Monica-Malibu (SM-M) School District is located in the center of the shelf area. The Juan Cabrillo Elementary School and the Malibu Park School (grades 7 through 12) are located on this land. The Malibu Methodist Church, which operates a nursery school, is located near the public schools.

Malibu Park contains three secondary trail heads to the SMMNRA at approximately the intersection of Guernsey and Morningview Drives (the.Chumash Indian Trail), and at the north end of Busch and Bonsall Drives (the Zuma Ridge and Zuma Canyon Trails, respectively). Los Angeles County has leased a portion of the SM-M School District land for an Equestrian Center. This center is linked by roads and trail easements to the Chumash Trail from Morningview and Harvester Drives, to the Zuma Ridge trail head at Busch Drive, and the Zuma Canyon trail head at Bonsall Drive.

Zuma Beach receives several million visitors each year. To avoid the parking fee charged by the County at Zuma Beach, large numbers of beach goers park along PCH, and on Morningview and Guernsey Drives. Since circa 1990 these "parkers" have created a significant problem to the neighborhood in the form of obstruction of the roadsides used by equestrians and pedestrians, trash and litter, and an increasing number of burglaries and thefts.

Opossum, raccoon, skunk, squirrels, rabbits, gophers, rattlesnakes, roadrunners, quail, redtail hawks, owls, parrots and numerous smaller animals and songbirds are found through Malibu Park. These, and domestic animals, provide good hunting for coyotes, owls, and hawks. Deer were abundant in Malibu Park through the 1970s, but are only seen occasionally today. Bobcats and mountain lions from the hills to the north occasionally drop in to hunt local animals.

Sea Star Development

In the new development of homes on Sea Star, a new home sold for $3 million. The Sea Star Estates, similar to the Sea View Lane homes of large Mediterranean flavor just up the hill, were marketed that price range. Typically, the homes on both gated streets are more than 5000 square feet in size, with five bedrooms, pool and view on about an acre.

The Sea View Drive project approval was sought February 2005. The road is off Phillip, (off Morningside off Guernsey) in the west end of Malibu Park, (near Trancas.) Sea Star Drive is just southwest of the last culdesac of Sea View Drive. Ocean Breeze Drive is in the same area.

Sources: Information on this page was adapted from the City of Malibu, General Plan, November 1995

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