State Highway 27 is Los Angeles County’s Newest Scenic Highway – 45 years in the making.
It began with a long overdue idea—California State Route 27 aka Topanga Canyon Boulevard (TCB), cuts through Topanga Canyon from the ocean to the valley. It was always a resource that needed protection from overuse and institutional urbanization but the protection of the highway had to be formalized with an agreement forged between private, public and governmental partners.
Decades ago the idea of designating it as a scenic highway had been considered, but because of more pressing issues, (read Summit Valley’s history in “The Topanga Story”), disinterest or lack of follow-through—it had been set aside.
As an offshoot of efforts by the Topanga Canyon Boulevard Roadside Committee (TCBRC)––established in 2012 to stop Caltrans’ use of poisons along TCB for vegetation control––the possibility resurfaced as a program conceived, designed and managed by Caltrans.
Timing is everything, and now was the time but in just 10 years the institutional urbanization of the route increased by widening, asphalting natural shoulders and turnouts, adding guard rails with metal posts and white concrete K-rail barriers making Route 27 look more like another lane of the 405 freeway.
As often happens in Topanga, the community and its friends went to work. The application process included the compilation and presentation of 77 pages of documentation, letters of support from community organizations and Senator Fran Pavley; a resolution by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the City of Los Angeles; a Topangan-crafted seven-minute video narrated by then Supervisor Zev Yaroslavky and supported by Zev’s Senior Field Deputy, Topangan Susan Nissman, and Gina Natoli of County Regional Planning, extolled the virtues of TCB from PCH to Mulholland Drive.
At first, Caltrans determined that 77 percent of the road had “intrusions,”—a multitude of parking and traffic signs, housing, parked cars and a roadside lineup of trashcans. Utility poles and overhead wires were also considered “a major visual intrusion” deemed unworthy of Scenic Highway designation.
But Caltrans did allow a small ray of hope: “There is one short segment with outstanding views of the canyons and mountain peaks…north of Route 1 [PCH] at or near Mile Marker 1.0 and south of Mile Marker 3.5,” wrote Jerrell Kam, Caltrans Deputy District Director of Design.
Thank you, Mr. Kam! The door was open for Topanga’s much beloved “S-Curves.” The scenic value of this part of the highway could not be denied.
Anita Gutierrez, Los County Supervising Regional Planner, and Nicole Englund, Los Angeles County Planning and Transportation Deputy, revised and resubmitted the application based on Caltrans’ comments and received a commitment from Los Angeles City Councilman Bonin to prepare a resolution for the city’s portion of the scenic highway. Letters of support were requested from community and government representatives. Those letters were particularly effective in swaying Caltrans’ decision.
“Topanga Canyon Boulevard has been long cherished for its open space, majestic views and local culture,” wrote Senator Pavley.
“We feel this will enhance the community identity and pride and will encourage citizen commitment to preserve community values,” wrote Stacy Sledge of the Town Council (TCOC).
After five years of efforts by TCOC, TASC, the Topanga community and their partners in the county and state, Caltrans has chosen one of the tastiest slices of Topanga Canyon Boulevard through Topanga Canyon as the first California State Scenic Highway in Los Angeles County in 45 years.
SAVE THE DATE! JUNE 16
On June 16, Topanga and its family, friends and partners will gather at Theatricum Botanticum at 2 p.m., to celebrate California’s latest Scenic Highway. There will be food, drinks, contests, prizes and, most importantly, words of congratulations and expressions of gratitude. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!
Highway 27 has finally been recognized for the California and national resource that it is. Under the banner, “TCB — FOREVER SCENIC,” the event is designed to inspire, engage and excite the entire Topanga community to celebrate, protect, preserve, promote and maintain the scenic beauty and rural nature of Topanga’s Main Street—California Route 27.
Joseph Rosendo, Community Liaison Chair of the Topanga Chamber of Commerce (310-699-8668) and Roger Pugliese, Chair of the Topanga Association for a Scenic Community (TASC) (310-985-4645), are longtime community activists.
By Roger Pugliese and Joseph Rosendo