If Malibu ranch owner May Rindge had prevailed against public sentiment and the U.S. Supreme Court a century or so ago, Pacific Coast Highway might never have been built through the coastal enclave of Malibu.
She fought with a fury in the early 1900s to maintain Malibu's peaceful qualities and keep the state from seizing her ranchland for the road through eminent domain. But the top court eventually upheld the state's right to provide public access to the scenic landscape, said Matthew Roth, historian for the Automobile Club of Southern California.
"The road will afford a highway for persons desiring to travel along the shore, with a view of the ocean on one side and the mountain range on the other, constituting … a scenic highway of great beauty," the court said in its decision. "In these days of general public travel in motor cars for health and recreation, such a highway as this … must be regarded as a public use."
In 1929, California Gov. C.C. Young cut the ceremonial ribbon to open what was then called the Roosevelt Highway, freeing a parade of 1,500 drivers eager to zoom through the road's curves.
Motorists have been speeding precariously ever since along that storied road — renamed Pacific Coast Highway through much of Southern California in 1941. In 1964, green shields appeared, designating the road as California State Route 1.