Getting Around Malibu: Las Flores Canyon

Home tucked into the trees in Las Flores Canyon, set above the level of Las Flores Canyon Road.Copyright
Home tucked into the trees in Las Flores Canyon, set above the level of Las Flores Canyon Road.

Las Flores Canyon Neighborhood

Las Flores Canyon was one of the first residential settlements in Malibu because a guarded Rindge Ranch fence west of the road prevented westward development beyond Las Flores Canyon Road. The Las Flores Inn (now Duke's) served travelers from Santa Monica who had to turn around at the Rindge gate.

Homes on the canyon slopes, along Las Flores Road.Copyright
Homes on the canyon slopes, along Las Flores Road.

The office of Malibu's first justice of the peace -- also a bartender at the Inn -- and some Rindge Ranch bunkhouses were on Las Flores. A few of the buildings near the mouth of Las Flores, easily identified by their architecture and wood siding, are nearly 100 years old. Though close to Pacific Coast Highway, the lower Las Flores Canyon area feels isolated and tranquil.

Las Flores Canyon has an eclectic mix of single family, multi-family rentals, commercial, horticultural, institutional and public facility zoning within the city limits. Cosentino's Malibu Florist sits at the intersection of Las Flores and PCH. About a block and a half north on the east side of the road is a place of business. On its south is a four-unit apartment building. The balance of land north of the business and on the east side of the road is all single family. County zoning permitted multi-family development to four-tenths of a mile up Las Flores.

Further up the Canyon, the Carden Malibu School is at 3504 Las Flores Canyon on the east side, a county maintenance yard on the west, at the north end of the road as it begins to ascend toward Upper Las Flores and Saddle Peak. The very few infill lots remaining are used for parking overflow (in particular and on a regular-basis by the office building for employee parking and the 20-unit apartment building). The majority of parcels are one-quarter acre. Houses average about 2,000 to 2,500 square feet. There has been no "mansionizing". Most structures have been built at the canyon floor; a few are on hillsides or hilltops. Wood is the predominant siding for single-family and multi-family buildings and reflects the "woodsy," rustic character of the neighborhood.

Multi-family rentals include four duplexes, two triplexes (one is uninhabitable . due to flood damage), three four-plexes, one six-plex and one 20-unit apartment building. Units range from one- to two-bedrooms. A triplex, fourplex, and sixplex are on the creek side (west of the road). There are no condominiums. Two small Rindge bunkhouses are rentals. There are granny unit rentals in single-family residence.

Upper Las Flores Canyon

Las Flores Cyn and Hume Road intersectionOutside the Malibu City Limit, Las Flores Canyon Road rises steeply into the Santa Monica Mountains, eventually intersecting Rambla Pacifico just below Saddle Peak. Homes in the upper canyon area cling to the mountain sides individually or form small communities in generally low density development. A few side roads branch from Las Flores along the way. Hume Road is a connector to Rambla Pacifico about half way up the canyon.

Environmental Factors in Las Flores Canyon

Las Flores Canyon is the only residential deep canyon in Malibu and has been designated by the County as a "Most Impoitaht" Significant Ecological Area. Las Flores Creek, which flattens as it runs through the city limits of the canyon, carries runoff from one of the largest watersheds in the Santa Monica Mountains and provides sand for Las Flores Beach. Within city limits, the creek is bounded on the east by housing and the nursery; on the west by Rambla Pacifica. Besides coastal shrub and wildflowers, Las Flores Canyon also has pine trees, sycamores, pepper trees, and cactus. Minimal formal landscaping (lawns, etc.) gives the area a "natural" appearance. Wildlife, including deer, quail and rattlesnakes, can be found in the canyon.

Open space is visual, not publicly owned. The visually open, aesthetically pleasing areas are the by-product of the steep canyon walls and "natural" vegetation. Man-made sounds echo in the canyon, but are normally unobtrusive. Because the road is now a main thoroughfare, traffic sounds can be a nuisance, particularly in the warmer months. Natural sounds of frogs, coyotes and birds abound.

Flood Danger in Las Flores Canyon

Las Flores Canyon is the flood plain of Las Flores Creek. Many of the buildings along the creek are built on pilings. Two properties, a triplex and a single-family residence which sit below the creek bed as a result of the Rambla Pacifico slide, were destroyed by flooding in February of 1992. The triplex was remodeled and re-rented, but again was destroyed by flooding a year later. The two Rindge bunkhouses (at creek bed level) received substantial water damage but are again rented. The balance of creek side properties sit four to fifteen feet above the creek bed. During rains, the creek either rises and widens or runs narrow and deep. Also, the bed level is negatively impacted by rocks tumbling and siltation streaming from the steep upper watershed outside the city limits of Malibu.

Slide Danger in Las Flores Canyon

Las Flores Canyon is sandwiched between two slides, Rambla Pacifico and Las Flores Mesa. The Rambla Pacifico slide was the subject of litigation and resulted in a settlement with homeowners. The 1995 rains caused several problems on Las Flores Canyon Road from Las Flores Mesa: runoff, surficial mud sliding, rocks and boulders, a fallen dormant, natural spring which ran down Las Flores Mesa Drive and onto Canyon Road for several weeks, underminING the asphalt.

Sources: Information on this page was adapted from the City of Malibu, General Plan, November 1995

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