Malibu is an affluent, beachfront city in northwestern Los Angeles County that extends into Ventura County at the western end. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 12,645, up from 12,575 at the 2000 census. Malibu consists of a 21-mile strip of prime Pacific coastline. The community is famous for its warm, sandy beaches, and for being the home of many Hollywood movie stars and others associated with the entertainment industry. Signs around the city proclaim “27 miles of scenic beauty”, referring to Malibu’s original length of 27 miles (43 km) before the city was incorporated in 1991.
Most Malibu residents live within a few hundred yards of Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1), which traverses the city, with some residents living up to a mile away from the beach up narrow canyons, and many more residents of the unincorporated canyon areas identifying Malibu as their hometown. The city is also bounded (more or less) by Topanga Canyon to the East, the Santa Monica Mountains consisting of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, and Woodland Hills to the North, the Pacific Ocean to the South, and Oxnard to the West.
Malibu’s beaches include Surfrider Beach, Zuma Beach, Malibu State Beach, Topanga State Beach, Point Dume State Beach and Dan Blocker Beach; its local parks include Malibu Bluffs Park (formerly Malibu Bluffs State Park), Trancas Canyon Park, Las Flores Creek Park, and Legacy Park, with neighboring parks Malibu Creek State Park, Leo Carrillo State Beach and Park, Point Mugu State Park, and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and neighboring state beach Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, that was once part of Old Malibu (before Malibu became a city), and better known as pristine beaches, El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador.
Malibu was originally settled by the Chumash, Native Americans whose territory extended loosely from the San Joaquin Valley to San Luis Obispo to Malibu, as well as several islands off the southern coast of California. They named it “Humaliwo” or “the surf sounds loudly.” The city’s name derives from this, as the “Hu” syllable is not stressed.
Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo is believed to have moored at Malibu Lagoon, at the mouth of Malibu Creek, to obtain fresh water in 1542. The Spanish presence returned with the California mission system, and the area was part of Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit — a 13,000-acre (53 km2) land grant — in 1802. That ranch passed intact to Frederick Hastings Rindge in 1891. He and his widow, Rhoda May Rindge, guarded their privacy zealously by hiring guards to evict all trespassers and fighting a lengthy court battle to prevent the building of a Southern Pacific railroad line. Few roads even entered the area before 1929, when the state won another court case and built what is now known as the Pacific Coast Highway. By then May Rindge was forced to subdivide her property and begin selling and leasing lots. The Rindge house, known as the Adamson House (a National Register of Historic Places site and California Historical Landmark), is now part of Malibu Creek State Park and is situated between Malibu Lagoon State Beach and Surfrider Beach, beside the Malibu Pier that was originally built for the family yacht.
In 1926, in an effort to avoid selling land to stave off insolvency, Rhoda May Rindge created a small ceramic tile factory. At its height, Malibu Potteries employed over 100 workers, and produced decorative tiles which furnish many Los Angeles-area public buildings and Beverly Hills residences. The factory, located one-half mile east of the pier, was ravaged by a fire in 1931. Although the factory partially reopened in 1932, it could not recover from the effects of the Great Depression and a steep downturn in Southern California construction projects. A distinct hybrid of Moorish and Arts and crafts designs, Malibu tile is considered highly collectible. Fine examples of the tiles may be seen at the Adamson House and Serra Retreat, a fifty-room mansion that was started in the 1920s as the main Rindge home on a hill overlooking the lagoon. The unfinished building was sold to the Franciscan Order in 1942 and is operated as a retreat facility, Serra Retreat. It burned in the 1970 fire and was rebuilt using many of the original tiles.
Malibu Colony was one of the first areas inhabited after Malibu was opened to the public in 1929 and it is one of Malibu’s most famous districts. It is located south of Malibu Road and the Pacific Coast Highway, west of Malibu Lagoon State Beach, and east of Malibu Bluffs Park (formerly a state park). Initially May Rindge kept control of Malibu Beach, allowing a few wealthy Hollywood stars to build vacation homes. Nearly a decade later, money woes forced Rindge to sell the land, and the Colony was born. Long known as a popular private enclave for wealthy celebrities, the Malibu Colony today is a gated community, with multi-million dollar homes on small lots. The Colony commands breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, affording a spectacular coastline view stretching from Santa Monica to Rancho Palos Verdes to the south (known locally as the Queen’s Necklace) and the bluffs of Point Dume to the north.
High technology in Malibu: the first working model of a laser was demonstrated by Dr. Theodore Maiman in 1960 in Malibu at then Hughes Research Laboratory (now known as HRL Laboratories LLC). In the 1990s HRL Laboratories developed the FastScat computer code, for frequency domain algorithms and implementation, recognized as perhaps the most accurate code in the world for radar cross-section calculations. TRW built a laboratory in Solstice Canyon without any structural steel to test magnetic detectors for satellites and medical devices.
Incorporation: in 1991 most of the old Malibu land grant was incorporated as a city to allow local control of the area. The main reason for incorporation was to prevent the installation of a central sewer system which many thought would lead to a boom in development. Prior to achieving municipal status, the local residents had fought several county-proposed developments, including an offshore freeway, a nuclear power plant, and the famous plans to replace septic tanks with sewer lines. The incorporation drive gained impetus in 1986, when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved plans for a regional sewer that would have been large enough to serve 400,000 people in the western Santa Monica Mountains. Residents were incensed that they would be assessed taxes and fees to pay for the oversized sewer project, and feared that the already-capacity Pacific Coast Highway would need to be widened into a freeway to accommodate growth that they did not want. The Supervisors fought the incorporation drive and prevented the residents from voting, a decision that was overturned in courts.
The city councils that were elected in the 1990s were unable to write a Local Coastal Plan (LCP) that preserved enough public access to satisfy the California Coastal Commission, as required by the California Coastal Act. The state Legislature eventually passed a Malibu-specific law that allowed the Coastal Commission to write an LCP for Malibu, thus neutering the city’s ability to control many aspects of land use. Because of the failure to adequately address sewage disposal problems in the heart of the city, the local water board ordered Malibu in November 2009 to build a sewage plant for the Civic Center area. The city council has objected to that solution but now there is an implementation plan in place which specifies the stages and time frames the system will be built according to.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.8 square miles (51.4 km²), over 99% of it land.
Carbon Beach, Paradise Cove, Escondido Beach, Surfrider Beach, Broad Beach, Pirate’s Cove, Westward Beach, Zuma Beach, and Trancas are places along the coast in Malibu. Point Dume forms the northern end of the Santa Monica Bay, and Point Dume Headlands Park affords a vista of stretching to the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Santa Catalina Island. Directly below the park, on the western side of the point, is Pirates Cove, named for rum-runners during Prohibition who liked the secluded beach for offloading their cargo. Because of its relative seclusion, Pirate’s Cove was previously used as a nude beach, but because nudity is now illegal on all Los Angeles County beaches, nude sunbathers are subject to fines and/or arrest. On the eastern side of the point is “Little Dume”, a surf spot which is accessible only by an unmarked trail below Wildlife Drive which has a locked gate only accessible to residents. Surfers often paddle out from Paradise Cove to the area when the waves are breaking.
Like all California beaches, Malibu beaches are technically public land below the mean high tide line. Many large public beaches (Zuma Beach, Surfrider Beach) are easy to access, but such access is sometimes limited in some of the smaller and more remote beaches. Some Malibu beaches are private, such as Paradise Cove, which charges an entrance fee to keep the crowds at bay. Although access to most all Malibu beaches can be obtained after a bit of a walk, the issue of expanded public access is continuously addressed and debated by the City. Many Malibu homeowners favor limited public access expansions to some beaches, claiming that many visitors are less likely than residents to respect the beaches or private property.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Malibu had a population of 12,645. The population density was 637.7 people per square mile (246.2/km²). The racial makeup of Malibu was 11,565 (91.5%) White, 148 (1.2%) African American, 20 (0.2%) Native American, 328 (2.6%) Asian, 15 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 182 (1.4%) from other races, and 387 (3.1%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 769 persons (6.1%).
The Census reported that 12,504 people (98.9% of the population) lived in households, 126 (1.0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 15 (0.1%) were institutionalized.
There were 5,267 households, out of which 1,379 (26.2%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 2,571 (48.8%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 403 (7.7%) had a female householder with no husband present, 222 (4.2%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 269 (5.1%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 49 (0.9%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 1,498 households (28.4%) were made up of individuals and 501 (9.5%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37. There were 3,196 families (60.7% of all households); the average family size was 2.87.
The population was spread out with 2,366 people (18.7%) under the age of 18, 1,060 people (8.4%) aged 18 to 24, 2,291 people (18.1%) aged 25 to 44, 4,606 people (36.4%) aged 45 to 64, and 2,322 people (18.4%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47.8 years. For every 100 females there were 100.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.0 males.
There were 6,864 housing units at an average density of 346.2 per square mile (133.7/km²), of which 3,716 (70.6%) were owner-occupied, and 1,551 (29.4%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.8%; the rental vacancy rate was 11.9%. 9,141 people (72.3% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 3,363 people (26.6%) lived in rental housing units.
The median income for a household in the city was $102,031 in 2000, and the median income for a family was $123,293. Males had a median income of $100,000+ versus $46,919 for females. The per capita income for the city was $74,336. About 3.2% of families and 7.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.8% of those under age 18 and 1.1% of those age 65 or over.
Malibu is a general law city governed with a five-member City Council including the mayor and mayor pro tem. The City Council hires a city manager to carry out policies and serve as executive officer. Every even-numbered year either two or three members are elected by the people to serve a four-year term. Usually, the City Council meets in April and chooses one of its members as mayor and one as mayor-pro-tem. In 2006, this pattern was deviated from when the council decided to have a cycle of three mayors and mayor pro-tems in the coming two years.
Fire protection is served by the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) operates the Malibu/Lost Hills Station in Calabasas, serving Malibu under contract with the City.
Arts and Culture
Getty Villa, an art museum that is part of the J. Paul Getty Museum, is located just outside the city limits in the adjacent Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. It is owned and operated by the J. Paul Getty Trust, which also oversees the Getty Center in West Los Angeles. The Museum at the Getty Villa houses Getty’s collections of antiquities, sculptures, art pieces and cultural artifacts of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.
The Malibu Art Association, a non-profit organization to foster the arts in Malibu produces shows, demonstrations and workshops for its members, and offers art for public display throughout the community.
- The Malibu Arts Festival is held annually on the last weekend in July by the Malibu Chamber of Commerce.
- The Malibu Garden Club holds an annual garden tour of private, residential gardens.
- Malibu High School offers musicals every spring and instrumental and vocal musical concerts every winter and spring.
- Smothers Theatre of Pepperdine University’s Theatrical Drama Department offers concerts, plays, musicals, opera, and dance.
Beaches, Parks, and Other Attractions
The beaches of Malibu are well regarded locally, with Zuma Beach drawing over 800,000 visitors over Labor Day Weekend in 2007. The long waves of Surfrider Beach, adjacent to the Adamson’s House and Malibu Lagoon, draw a steady beach and surfer crowd.
California State Parkland carpets the hills behind Malibu, and provides extensive horseback-riding, hiking, running, and mountain-biking options, affording many different views of the Santa Monica Mountains, the curve of the Santa Monica Bay, Santa Catalina Island, and the San Fernando Valley. There are many points of access to the Backbone Trail System scattered throughout the local canyons, as well as a variety of smaller, local trail-heads.
Pacific Coast Highway is popular with road cycling enthusiasts for its vistas. The route also has a reputation for being quite dangerous for cyclists, a fact which inspired the creation of the Dolphin Run, an annual community event commemorating local victims of reckless driving. The Dolphin Run was held each Autumn from 1990 to 2004.
Adamson’s House, the unused homesite of the 19th century original owners of Malibu, the Rindge Family, draws some visitors.
In late June 2008, the Malibu Pier reopened after $10 million in renovations.
There are several shopping centers in the Malibu Civic Center area including the Malibu Country Mart and the newly-opened Malibu Lumberyard, so named for the community Lumberyard that used to occupy that space. The Malibu Civic Center is well known for being frequented by paparazzi and tourists looking to catch a glimpse of local celebrities.
Chartered buses filled with tourists pass through Malibu infrequently. Unlike Beverly Hills or Hollywood, Malibu’s celebrity homes are often in remote locations, inaccessible by bus.
Businesses and Organizations
HRL Laboratories, the research arm of the former Hughes Aircraft Company, was established in 1960 in Malibu. Among its research accomplishments was the first working laser. Despite aerospace industry downsizing in the 1990s, HRL is the largest employer in Malibu.
Jakks Pacific is based in Malibu.
Established in 1937 in south-central Los Angeles, Pepperdine University moved to its Malibu campus in 1972. However, when Malibu incorporated as a city the boundaries were drawn to exclude Pepperdine, at the college’s insistence.
The Surfrider Foundation was formed in 1984 by a group of surfers gathered to protect 31 miles (50 km) of coastal waters from Marina Del Rey through Malibu to Ventura County, and represent the surfing community.
Heal the Bay, a non-profit organization for environmental advocacy, was formed in 1985 to protect Santa Monica Bay, which extends from Malibu’s Point Dume along the entire coastline of Malibu past Santa Monica to the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
- The Malibu International Film Festival is held every year showcasing new films and filmmakers from around the world.
- The Malibu Chili Cookoff, held every Labor Day weekend, is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Malibu. Proceeds benefit children and youth organizations.
- The Malibu Nautica Triathlon is held every September. In 2007, it raised $718,000 to benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
- The Polar Plunge (Los Angeles) is held each year in February at Zuma Beach to help raise funds for the Special Olympics in Southern California.
- Malibu International Marathon is a half and full marathon race held every November.