City of Malibu Makes Friends with the Environment, Starting with their Streets

When you think of Malibu, California, you might hear Robin Leach’s voice in your head talking about the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” And while the tiny enclave located along the Pacific Ocean outside of Los Angeles may be one of the most notoriously affluent in the country, it is also occupied by a community with the environment in mind.

Arthur Aladjadjian, Public Works Superintendent for the City of Malibu, says, “The projects we do, we do try to specify energy saving equipment and usage.” In fact, because the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), which is a state highway, is a main road used to get to, through and around Malibu, the city has an agreement with the state of California to handle the sweeping operations along that stretch of the PCH
and invoice them for the job.

The PCH is a famous scenic route that meanders along the California coastline, starting in Orange County and running north of San Francisco. In Malibu, it is also sometimes known for its treacherous traffic conditions, narrowly stretching through the city for 27 miles. To get the job of sweeping the mile or so wide highway done, the city hired a new vendor, Venco Power Sweeping Inc. based out of Oxnard, CA. In addition to sweeping the PCH, Venco handles the sweeping applications for all of Malibu’s public streets, park facilities, and City Hall.

Another major fixture in Malibu is the Malibu Civic Center. According to Media Information Officer for the City of Malibu, Olivia Damavandi, “It is not only the heart of the city, but also the centerpiece of Malibu’s environmental movement.” The civic center is comprised of City Hall, the Malibu Courthouse, the Malibu Public Library, Legacy Park, the Labor Exchange and three major shopping centers, all of which are united by the city’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

The roads that connect Malibu Civic Center were recently repaved using rubberized asphalt and pervious pavers, which allow stormwater to percolate and infiltrate through areas that would traditionally be impervious to the soil below. “For the seven years that I’ve been here, any street that’s been paved has used rubber asphalt, “Aladjadjian says. “The components have to be just right, but we’ve been using it successfully for several years now.”

One side of Legacy Park is bordered by one of the city’s busiest intersections at Webb Way and Pacific Coast Highway. The City of Malibu worked with local nonprofit Malibu Green Machine to replace that intersection’s unattractive concrete median with a new one that combines concrete and landscaping.

A landscaped highway is safer. Median landscaping increases the visual separation of the roadway, decreasing the risk of drivers entering oncoming traffic. Transportation research shows landscaped medians can slow cars and even deflect vehicles that mount the median curb. Planting on medians can reduce glare of oncoming headlights for drivers. Also, by softening the streetscape, the city hopes to make PCH appear more like the residential road it really is and get drivers to slow down.

A landscaped highway is also more environmentally-friendly. Given PCH’s proximity to the ocean, the city feels it important to limit vehicle pollution. The city and Malibu Green Machine plan to devote a larger part of Malibu’s medians, which are mostly paved, to plants. Every time a car breaks, it releases zinc and lead, and paved medians cannot absorb discharge from vehicles, which sends pollutants to the city’s stormwater treatment plant, as well as streams, rivers and oceans. But with landscaping on medians, certain plants can break these polluting compounds into micro-nutrients. Landscaping also absorbs more rainwater, reducing harmful run-off.

From handling the street sweeping of their section of the PCH, to using rubber asphalt in their road paving, as well as landscaping their medians to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff, the City of Malibu is setting an example by doing all that they can to preserve the environment in which they live. Aladjadjian adds, “Even any equipment we use is environmentally specified with very low energy usage in mind.” That’s a concept any community can get behind.

Story by Megan McClure and Olivia Damavandi