From Roosevelt Highway to the 1: A Brief History of Pacific Coast Highway | KCET
From Roosevelt Highway to the 1: A Brief History of Pacific Coast Highway
Admired for its scenery and dreaded for its traffic -- as well as the landslides that occasionally render it impassable -- Pacific Coast Highway is perhaps Southern California's most iconic ribbon of asphalt. Even if Beach Boys-era woodies are now a rare sight, the scenes of crashing waves, surfboards, and palm trees are enough to attract tourists to the road, which connects coastal towns from Ventura to San Juan Capistrano.
Pacific Coast Highway opened in the late 1920s as part of the Roosevelt Highway, a 1,400-mile road that traced the western margin of the United States. Nationally, Americans found the first highway linking the Mexican and Canadian borders an appropriate memorial for the country's late and famously internationalist president, Theodore Roosevelt. Locally, Southern Californians celebrated the reduced travel time between the various beach towns of the region; the Roosevelt Highway represented the first direct link between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach and between Ventura and Santa Monica.
PCH might not exist today if one intransigent landowner, May Rindge, had prevailed in her decades-long struggle against the county. Since at least the 1890s, a primitive road -- often submerged at high tide -- hugged the rocky coast between Santa Monica and Malibu, passing underneath a natural arch, only to reach a locked gate at the property line of Rindge's 17,000-acre ranch.
As owner of the former Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit, Rindge was determined to keep her landholdings safe and secure. She and her late husband had long fought to keep homesteaders off her ranch, and in 1906 she outfoxed the politically powerful Southern Pacific, forcing the railroad to divert its Santa Barbara line around Malibu and though the San Fernando Valley.
So when in 1907 the county proposed extending the coastal road through Malibu, Rindge posted armed guards at the entrances to her ranch and challenged the county's power of eminent domain in court. A stalemate ensued for years, but the road's prospects improved in the early 1920s when it was incorporated into the newly planned Roosevelt Highway. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the county's right to appropriate the land for the highway in 1923, and the dispute finally came to an end in 1925 when a superior court judge granted the county title to the right-of-way in return for $107,289.
Delayed by the litigation, the Malibu segment of the Roosevelt Highway was the last to open. California Governor C.C. Young, flanked by Miss Mexico and Miss Canada, cut the ceremonial ribbon on June 29, 1929, and a parade of 1,500 cars sped by to navigate the road's curves.
Passing directly through towns, the Roosevelt Highway -- renamed Pacific Coast Highway in much of Southern California in 1941 -- adequately met the region's transportation needs in 1929. But by the 1950s, regional transportation planners envisioned a new Pacific Coast Freeway that would bypass congested retail districts and parallel the superhighways further inland. Much of the 100-mile freeway would follow the original Roosevelt Highway route, but in some cases the new road would bisect coastal communities and restrict public access to beaches.
Some cities, like Laguna Beach and Costa Mesa, fought the plan. Others sought to modify it: Santa Monica officials proposed a seven-mile causeway stretching from Topanga Canyon to the Santa Monica Pier that would spare the city's business district, move its beach one mile offshore, and create an artificial yacht harbor.
Despite growing resistance from local communities, California's state highway agency began purchasing right-of-way land, including expensive beachside parcels in Malibu, in the 1960s. The proposed freeway remained on planners' maps until 1972, when it succumbed to bitter opposition among residents, civic leaders, and environmental activists. Today, only a short stub exists southeast of Oxnard.
The Program for Torture Victims helps survivors of torture find new life in America. PTV helped more than 300 clients in Southern California last year, and nearly all of them are also applying for asylum. As the asylum process becomes more difficult, so d
The world is experiencing the most significant refugee crisis since World War II. One in every 113 people on the planet is now a refugee. Around the world, someone is displaced every three seconds, forced from home by violence, war or persecution.
Images have just been released of a tent facility built in Tornillo, Texas which may be used to accommodate dozens of teenagers, some of whom have been separated from the parents.
Come Out and See ‘Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood’ at the Summer KCET Cinema Series on June 26th
A Q&A will immediately follow with the film’s subject Scotty Bowers and director Matt Tyrnauer.
- 1 of 60
- next ›