Malibu is an incorporated city in western Los Angeles County, California.
The city of Malibu is a 21-mile strip of Pacific coastline; a beachfront community famous for its warm, sandy beaches, and for being the home of countless movie stars and others associated with the Southern California entertainment industries. 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; the city is also bounded by Topanga Canyon to the east, the Santa Monica Mountains to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the south, and Ventura County to the west. Its beaches include Surfrider Beach, Zuma Beach, Malibu State Beach and Topanga State Beach; its local parks include Malibu Bluffs Park and the planned Legacy Park, with neighboring parks Malibu Creek State Park, Leo Carillo 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.
A popular Malibu license plate frame reads, “Malibu: A Way of Life”. Signs around the city proclaim “27 miles of scenic beauty”. The “27 miles” refers to old Malibu’s length (27 miles) before becoming citified (21 miles).
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 isn’t 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 a 13,000 acre 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 Historic Site and California 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, the 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 Ridge 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 along Malibu Road, westward of the Pacific Coast Highway, on the opposite shore of the Malibu Lagoon State Beach and adjacent to the Malibu Bluffs Park (former 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 the most accurate code in the world for radar cross-section calculations.
Malibu historical anecdotes abound: Cat Stevens had his famous near-death experience there in 1976, when he nearly drowned while he was swimming. The accident led him to embrace Islam in 1977 and change his name to Yusuf Islam. Actor Martin Sheen was named honorary mayor in 1989. Sheen’s tenure is best known for his announcement on nationwide TV that the homeless were welcome in Malibu. Irate locals and neighbors disagreed, and Jerry Perenchko, one of Malibu’s weathliest landowners, allegedly chartered a bus to ferry invited homeless to Sheen’s residence. Sheen did not open his gates to welcome the homeless.
Citification: in 1991 Malibu, long an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, achieved cityhood in order to allow for exercise of local control. Prior to incorporation the local residents had fought proposed developments including an offshore freeway, a nuclear power plant, and several sewerline plans.
Malibu Bluffs Park ownership changed hands in 2006 after the California Department of Parks and Recreation transferred the park’s 93 acres control to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which in turn sold a 10 acre parcel to the city. That 10 acres consists of baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and the Michael Landon Community Center. Formerly known as Malibu Bluffs State Park, Bluffs Park is the 50+ year home of Malibu Little League (MLL), once the largest youth team sports organization in Malibu. (That honor was wrested in the 1990s by Malibu AYSO, a youth soccer organization that shares park space.) For over 20 years, the State Parks had tried to kick out Malibu Little League’s baseball diamonds and tall baseball fences, with the intention of returning the land to its native wetlands and vegetation. A rider to a California state law was written specifically in the 1950s to allow baseball, with its attendant field accoutrements, to continue being played in the state park. Several generations of Malibuites worked to keep Malibu Bluffs Park for baseball and soccer.
Malibu Legacy Park Project
Adjacent to the Malibu Country Mart is a currently vacant, 20-acre plot of land formerly owned by billionaire media tycoon and Colony resident Jerry Perenchio and sold to the City of Malibu in 2005 with strict deed restrictions prohibiting any commercial use. Current plans for the site involve the development of the Malibu Legacy Park Project. Employing state-of-the-art technology, it is a park that will work like an environmental cleaning machine, reducing pollution impacts in Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon, and the world-famous Surfrider Beach. The Malibu Legacy Park Project responds to critical issues: (1) bacteria reduction by stormwater treatment, (2) nutrient reduction in wastewater management, (3) restoration and development of riparian habitats, and (4) the development of an open space area for passive recreation and environmental education. In addition, the Project will be linked by a “linear park” to neighboring Surfrider Beach, Malibu Pier, Malibu Lagoon, and Malibu Bluffs Park.
Between Cross Creek Road and Webb Way east to west, and between Civic Center Way and PCH north to south, it has been the site of the annual Labor Day Weekend Chile Cook-Off festival since 1982. Further back, it was agricultural land, planted in geraniums, other flowers and vegetables by the Takahashi family since 1924.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District serves Malibu with three elementary schools: John L. Webster Elementary School (grades K-5, located in central Malibu), Juan Cabrillo Elementary School (grades K-5, located in northwestern Malibu’s Malibu Park district), and Point Dume Elementary School (grades K-5, located in northwestern Malibu’s Pt. Dume district).
Malibu High School (MHS), a nationally-ranked school, provides secondary public education for both middle school (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12). MHS is located in the northwestern region of Malibu.
Pepperdine University, a private college affiliated with the Church of Christ, is outside Malibu city limits and is located in central Malibu, north of the Malibu Colony at the intersection of the Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu Canyon Road. Malibu is also served by Santa Monica College, a community college in the neighboring city of Santa Monica to the south, as well as another community college, Moorpark College in the city of Moorpark to the northeast.
Malibu Public Library, a branch of the County of Los Angeles Public Library system, is located in central Malibu in the old civic center building, formerly the business nexus for County of Los Angeles services in Malibu.
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.
Montgomery Art House for Music and Architecture (MAHMA) offers classical music concerts held in a house designed by Eric Lloyd Wright, grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Smothers Theatre of Pepperdine University’s Theatrical Drama Department offers concerts, plays, musicals, opera, and dance.
The Malibu pier near the famous Surfrider Beach
Malibu’s beaches are the main attraction, with Zuma Beach drawing over 800,000 visitors over Labor Day Weekend. Surfrider Beach, adjacent to the Adamson’s House and Malibu Lagoon, with its long waves draws a steady beach and surfer crowd.
California State Parks provide horseback, hiking and mountain biking options in Malibu with ocean, mountain, and canyon views.
Pacific Coast Highway is popular with road cycling enthusiasts for its vistas.
A few 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.
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 soon-to-be build Malibu Lumberyard. The Malibu Civic Center is well known for being frequented by paparazzi and tourists looking to catch a glimpse of local celebrities.
Businesses and organizations
HRL Laboratories LLC, formerly known as Hughes Research 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.
Established in 1937 in south-central Los Angeles, Pepperdine University moved to its Malibu campus in 1972.
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 Verde 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.
Malibu has been used as a location or setting for films and television programs.
Surfrider Beach was home to Gidget, and surfing movies of the 1960s. Important scenes in the Planet of the Apes series were filmed at Point Dume. For an entire summer during the filming, the scale replica of the Statue of Liberty from the famous closing scene lay buried at the Southern end of Pirate’s Cove. The hero’s trailer in The Rockford Files was parked by the Paradise Cove Pier. Love American Style and The Mod Squad are among many TV series and commercials filmed in Paradise Cove. A 1978 film starring Suzanne Somers was entitled Zuma Beach. In the 1990s and 2000s it was the setting for MTV Beach House, Malibu’s Most Wanted, and Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101. In the Coen Brothers 1998 motion picture The Big Lebowski, the fictional chief of police describes it thus: “We’ve got a nice, quiet beach community here, and I aim to keep it nice and quiet.”
Malibu is setting for the television series Two and a Half Men. The television series So Little Time (2001) portrayed two Malibu teens (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) who attend the fictional school West Malibu High. Fictional teen star Hannah Montana / Miley Stewart (portrayed by Miley Cyrus) and her father Robbie Ray Stewart (portrayed by Billy Ray Cyrus) live in Malibu on the Disney Channel Original Series, Hannah Montana. In the Fox TV series, “The O.C.”, both the Cohen house and the Cooper homes were actually located in Malibu. Malibu Shores, a teen drama that aired on NBC, was set in Malibu. The small hit TV show Summerland was also filmed and set in Malibu.
Malibu was the setting of the 52nd installment of the Goosebumps series: How I Learned to Fly.
Recently the Beach was used at night by British Girl Group Girls Aloud for the filming of their new video Call The Shots.
In spring 1999 Britney Spears shot the video for the song Sometimes directed by Nigel Dick on the pier at the famous Paradise Cove.
In 2008 in the movie Iron Man, Tony Stark’s home is located in Malibu.
Malibu’s local news television station, TV-26 broadcasts from Pepperdine University to the surrounding area.
Malibu’s local radio station, KWVS 101.5 FM (kwvs.pepperdine.edu) also broadcasts on cable channel 6.
Malibu has three local newspapers, “The Malibu Times,” founded in 1946, the Malibu Surfside News, and Pepperdine University’s student newspaper, the “Graphic” .
There are also three magazines in Malibu (in alphabetical order): / Malibu Arts Journal, Malibu Magazine and Malibu Times Magazine.
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