A proposed development on Kanan Dume Road in Malibu has added to the controversy over a safety lane that was constructed after a rash of fatal accidents along the canyon pass last year.
Business owners in the area are still incensed over the addition of the lane, known as an arrester bed, made of gravel, which was built in the middle of the road to allow trucks to stop if their brakes fail on the steep highway. The merchants, including one who filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County last month, claim that the arrester bed has hurt businesses on both sides of the road by cutting off access to their stores and offices.
Now, the developer of a proposed retail area on one side of the 800-foot-long arrester bed has initiated a plan to cut a swath in the safety lane to allow vehicles traveling north on Kanan Dume to make a left- or U-turn and vehicles moving south to turn into the property. In return, the developer would give the county part of her land to allow it to move the northbound lane. The project is scheduled for a hearing before the county Regional Planning Commission on April 14.
4 People Killed
During a three-month period in 1987, three crashes involving runaway trucks occurred at the intersection of Kanan Dume Road and Pacific Coast Highway. Four people were killed in the accidents. After the third crash, in September, supervisors voted to spend $450,000 to construct the arrester bed, and the county closed the road for two months while it was installed.
California Highway Patrol officials say that since the arrester bed was installed in December, no fatal accidents have occurred on Kanan Dume. But neither have any trucks used the bed since it was built, they add.
Merchants were upset, however, because the county never conferred with them on the best way to solve the problem. Peter Arnold, president of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce and owner of Cafe Malibu, which is located at the dangerous intersection, said his business dropped 30% in two months after the lane was installed.
Not Enough Room
Peter Ireland, field deputy for Supervisor Deane Dana, said that county public works engineers admit that the arrester bed has created problems, one of which is drivers making illegal U-turns to enter the complexes. But, he said, there is not enough room to move the arrester bed up the hill.
Rosalind Nelson, the owner of Real Estate Partners, which wants to build the new retail center, said she believes her offer to build a left-turn lane should solve many of the problems created by the arrester bed. Her project would consist of three terraced buildings on three acres, about 38,000-square-feet of retail space.
"There's still going to be problems, no matter what you do," she said. "But at least this allows cars to get across the road without having to travel several miles before (they) can turn around."
But Armand Grant, owner of TelTec Investigations Inc., who filed the lawsuit against the county last month, said he is opposed to the proposal because it would just add to the existing safety hazards such as speeding cars and runaway trucks. Grant is seeking an undetermined amount of damages in his lawsuit. The county has not yet responded to the suit.
"Making a left or U-turn there is a threat to life and limb," Grant said. "You still can't judge the speeds of oncoming cars. In the summertime, when Kanan Dume is packed with vehicles, you'd just be creating a tremendous hazard."
Jean Granucci, spokeswoman for the county Department of Public Works, said agency officials are still studying the project and have not decided whether they will recommend approval of the retail center and the lane alterations to the county Regional Planning Commission.