Malibu is a beach city in the Santa Monica Mountains region of Los Angeles County, California, situated about 30 miles (48 km) west of Downtown Los Angeles. It is known for its Mediterranean climate and its 21-mile strip of the Malibu coast, incorporated in 1991 into the City of Malibu. The exclusive Malibu Colony has been historically home to Hollywood celebrities. People in the entertainment industry and other affluent residents live throughout the city, yet many residents are middle class. Most Malibu residents live from a half-mile to within a few hundred yards of Pacific Coast Highway, which traverses the city, with some residents living up to a mile away from the beach up narrow canyons. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 12,645.
Nicknamed “the ‘Bu” by surfers and locals, beaches along the Malibu coast include: Topanga Beach, Big Rock Beach, Las Flores Beach, La Costa Beach, Surfrider Beach, Dan Blocker Beach, Malibu Beach, Zuma Beach, Broad Beach, Point Dume Beach, and County Line. State parks and beaches on the Malibu coast include Malibu Creek State Park, Leo Carrillo State Beach and Park, Point Mugu State Park, and Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, with individual beaches: El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador. The many parks within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area lie along the ridges above the city along with local parks that include Malibu Bluffs Park, Trancas Canyon Park, Las Flores Creek Park, and Legacy Park.
For many residents of the unincorporated canyon areas, Malibu has the closest commercial centers and they are included in the Malibu ZIP Codes. The city is bounded by Topanga on the east, the Santa Monica Mountains (Agoura Hills, Calabasas, and Woodland Hills) to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the south, and Solromar in Ventura County to the west.
Malibu is within the old Chumash territory which extended from the San Joaquin Valley to San Luis Obispo to Malibu, as well as several islands off the southern coast of California. The Chumash called the settlement Humaliwo or “the surf sounds loudly”. The city’s name derives from this, as the “Hu” syllable is not stressed.
Explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo is believed to have anchored 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 Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit a 13,000-acre land grant in 1802. That ranch passed intact to Frederick Hastings Rindge in 1891.
Few roads even entered the area before 1929, when the state won a court case against Rindge Family and built what is now known as the Pacific Coast Highway. By then the Rindge’s were forced to divide her property and begin selling and leasing lots. The Rindge house, known as the Adamson House 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 used to provide transportation to and from the ranch, including construction materials for the Rindge railroad, and to tie up the family’s yacht.
In 1991 most of the Malibu land grant was incorporated as a city to allow local control of the area (as cities under California law, they are not subject to the same level of county government oversight). Prior to achieving municipal status, the local residents had fought several county-proposed developments, including an offshore freeway, a nuclear power plant, and several plans to replace septic tanks with sewer lines to protect the ocean from seepage that pollutes the marine environment. The incorporation drive gained impetus in 1986, when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved plans for a regional sewer that would have been large enough to serve 400,000 people in the western Santa Monica Mountains. Residents were incensed that they would be assessed taxes and fees to pay for the sewer project, and feared that the Pacific Coast Highway would need to be widened into a freeway to accommodate growth that they did not want. The supervisors fought the incorporation drive and prevented the residents from voting, a decision that was overturned in the courts.