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Of Sewers and Surf: Fear and Loathing on the Malibu Campaign Trail : Cityhood: Before the supervisors will let the 'glamour capital' go, they want to impose their sanitized vision on it. The result is raw politics.

April 29, 1990|Philip Dunne | Writer-director Philip Dunne has lived in Malibu for 45 years

But not much of it is in evidence today. As for the June election, my hunch is that cityhood will win, despite the combined political muscles of developers, land speculators and Pepperdine University, whose plans for massive expansion depend on the supervisors' regional sewers. I base my guess not on the unpopularity of the sewer system itself and its huge assessments but the problem presented by Pacific Coast Highway.

PCH, as we Malibuites call it, is possibly the worst thoroughfare in all America. It is at once a principal route north, the commuter road not only for thousands of Malibuites but for commuters from inland developments who want to avoid Ventura Freeway gridlock. It is used by local shoppers and Los Angeles beach-goers, by tourists, by hundreds of bicyclists, by California Highway Patrol cars and ambulances screaming toward the all-too-frequent accidents, and by joggers and casual strollers in swimsuits, often accompanied by dogs, on and off the leash. If the traffic can move at all, to observe the 45 m.p.h. speed limit is to be tailgated, rear-ended, shouted at and even shot at.

There is absolutely no way that PCH can accommodate a huge buildup of traffic, and that will be on the minds of many voters. Even the developers must wonder how they can hope to sell choice properties if the buyers can't get in or out.

But this is Malibu, where anything can happen. In 1962, Richard M. Nixon ran for governor of California, and looked like a shoo-in until the extreme right challenged him in the Republican primary with Joe Shell, a former USC football player. Malibu was ablaze with Shell bumper stickers and billboards, with Shell posters on every power pole. There were Shell meetings, barbecues and parades. Malibu Republicans, in effect, were so Shell-shocked that they seemed quite ready to jettison their quondam national standard-bearer. One day my wife was driving our children home from school when our 10-year-old spotted a car with a Nixon sticker. "Look, Mommie!" she cried--"Liberals!"

I have often wondered if Nixon lost the final election to Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Sr. because enough rightists with 10-year-old mentalities mistook him for a liberal. In Malibu, it is unwise to bet the ranch on anything.

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