Before this pristine, 21-mile stretch of shoreline became the ‘Land of Ferraris’, it was home to the Chumash tribe, which called the area "Hu-maliwo’ (which transformed into Malibu). Then, Spanish explorer, Juan Cabrillo, discovered the area, and the land was forever changed. The Spanish returned to build the famous Californian mission system, up and down the coast. In the meantime, the Rindge family settled in the central area of Malibu, where current day Topanga Canyon connects with Malibu.
The Rindge family was a reclusive clan that wanted to keep the public out. Southern Pacific challenged the family in court to allow railroad access, in an early example of eminent domain. Next, the Pacific Coast Highway demanded access rights and the family was forced to divide and sell the land. (Though their homestead, now known as the Adamson House, can be found in the Malibu Creek State Park).
The area has become a playground to the stars, and ‘The Colony’ (along Malibu Road) is a ‘Who’s Who’ of Hollywood Royalty. (Don’t even think about visiting. It is completely gated.) These multi-million dollar homes are wedged tightly together for a coastline view known as ‘the Queen’s Necklace’ -- or Santa Monica to Rancho Palos Verde.
But, you can still visit Malibu and its abundance of great beaches: Topanga State Beach, Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Malibu Surfrider, Dan Blocker Beach, Big Dume State Beach, Point Dume State Beach, Westward Beach, Zuma Beach, La Piedra Beach, Nicholas Canyon Beach, El Pescador and El Matador Beaches.
Note: There has been an on-going battle of private Malibu owners versus public beach-goers for decades. Translation: Kazillionaires don’t want your grimy flip flops anywhere near their home. But, after many lawsuits, the California Coastal Commission intervened: "the state of California owns... the land seaward... of what is called the mean high tide line." Basically, as long as your toes -- or grimy flip flops -- are wet, the private owners can do nothing to you. But watch out, the private owners have now built giant garages, side-by-side, in an attempt to keep the hoi polloi out! The lawsuits continue.
Don’t want to fight over beach access?
The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Oil baron, J. Paul Getty opened an art gallery next to his home (located at the back of the property), which he filled to capacity in no time, so he built a second, and larger, gallery on the same property. He bequeathed the future museum to the city in 1974, and its focus was on the "ancient" arts. There is also a lovely garden area, and views of the Pacific. Best of all, the Getty Villa is free (advance ticket reservation required). However parking is $15.
**This is not to be confused with the Getty Museum, which is located at 1200 Getty Drive in L.A. This second museum is also free and parking is cheaper.**
The Future of L.A.: Water and Fire
Who knew that the city best known for its famous faces and trend setting, had such a history. But what does the future hold for L.A.? How will the city handle the problems of water and fire, as it continues to expand. (Current population over 9.8 million in the county).
When Frederick Eaton was elected mayor in 1898, he created the LA Department of Water and Power, which was headed by his friend, William Mulholland. The population at that time was just over 100,000, but water was becoming scarce. (Los Angeles is similar to the Southern Mediterranean with 320 days of sunshine, and only 32 days of precipitation. Rain rarely falls between February and November. And, when it does rain, it tops out at roughly three inches of water.) LA was drying up, wilting in its endless sun.
The solution was simple. Mulholland would just go up to Owen County. This was an agricultural area, still very remote. In fact the Desert Land Act of 1877 actually offered land to people (up to 640 acres) simply to move there. L.A. would just take the run-off from the Sierra Nevada mountains, and water from Owens Lake. A large gravity-fed aqueduct was proposed.
By 1913, the aqueduct (estimated to sustain a population of three million) was complete, all 233 miles of it. So the "Switzerland of California" was turned into a desert - Owens Lake was completely empty by 1924. That was when a second aquaduct was built. By 1941 L.A. was draining Mono Lake (chock full of very rare shrimp and a key refueling point for many migrating birds). Thankfully, by 1977 a report on the effects of drainage was published by a biologist, and a committee to protect the lake was formed two years later. The Committee (and partner, the National Audubon Society) sued the LADWP, and a decade of haggling ensued. Eventually, in 1994, the city had to release enough water into the lake to raise it 20 feet (though still under the 1941 levels).
Today, Los Angeles, gets its water from groundwater (and we’ve already discussed how much that is), the Colorado River, and "other major water sources" (whatever that means.) And removing this groundwater has lowered the water table even more, effectively turning L.A. into a desert. End result: more and more fires.
Highlight (sort of)
At the corner of Los Feliz Blvd. and Riverside Drive (at the entrance of Griffith Park) lies the "Kool Aid" Fountain. On August 1st, 1940, the city dedicated a fountain to William Mulholland (five years after his death). Atop a 90 foot diameter reflecting pool, rests a pedestal which shoots up water at varying distances and intervals. Changing lights add to the spectacle, and helped it earns its nickname. (Meanwhile, Owens lake, once 50 foot deep, and twelve miles long, is a salt flat with the occasional briny soup after long rains).