Malibu Towing may be one of the only tow truck companies in the world that is actually loved by the local residents it serves. The family-owned business had been in Malibu since 1942, and was the only tow company in town when it was forced to operate out of Oxnard as of Sept. 1 last year, after losing its lease and not being able to find anything else affordable that was properly zoned for its uses.
Granted, a towing company in Malibu has to do a lot more than most tow companies—find its way over obscure mountain roads, retrieve vehicles that have gone down the sides of canyons, deal with the aftermath of wildfires and mudslides and sometimes even rescue horses.
Although Malibu Towing owner Adail Gayhart has been stationing tow trucks in Malibu every day since losing the lease, he lost some important contracts with AAA and the sheriff’s department by no longer having a local tow yard. He’ll now be able to return to Malibu and hopefully reclaim those lost contracts thanks to local resident Gary Wilcox. Gayhart has now signed a lease with Wilcox to operate on a piece of commercially zoned property near Kanan and PCH.
“He’s an impressive gentleman. Malibu Towing is here to take care of us, and we recently got together to sign a lease on some property that I hope he can use as an impound lot,” Wilcox said.
In the meantime, local citizens began a grassroots effort to try to get the City of Malibu to help bring Malibu Towing back. There seemed to be a perception among residents that the company losing its lease was the city’s fault—but the lease Malibu Towing had was with LA County, on county property behind the abandoned sheriff’s substation. When that substation was scheduled for demolition in order to build the new Santa Monica College—Malibu Campus, that’s when Gayhart had to leave the space.
Other residents thought the city should offer a lease to Gayhart on one of the several parcels Malibu purchased about a year ago that remain vacant, even if it would require rezoning.
The grassroots effort’s focus on wanting the city to do something resulted in a show of support for Malibu Towing at last week’s monthly meeting of Malibu’s Public Safety Commission. Nearly 40 people showed up, with many making public comments, and over 70 individuals emailed commissioner Andy Cohen with their support.
It did not appear that most of the supporters knew Gayhart had already signed a lease with Wilcox, but Malibu Towing will still have to go through a permitting process for a conditional use permit as well as local coastal program and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance review to use the property as a tow yard, some of which will require city approval.
Mary Linden, executive assistant to Malibu City Manager Reva Feldman, pointed out at the meeting that, “Malibu Towing is a private business and the city did not kick them out. They’ve been looking for another space, and now they’ve found one.”
Many of the public speakers focused on Gayhart’s character, and all of the things his company has done to go above and beyond the call of duty over the years.
One said, “There’s not another company in America that knows what these guys already know—they’re better than anyone in law enforcement or the fire department.”
Bonnie Decker testified, “Malibu Towing served my family for many years. They know these canyons and the fire roads, and they know us, and they’re not rude, and it doesn’t take them forever to figure out where we live.”
Sherman Baylin told several stories about Malibu Towing—how they helped her friend who kept locking her keys in her car, attended an event for special needs kids in Topanga and saved a horse’s life by taking it to a hospital in Somis at 3:45 a.m.
Several talked about the inconvenience of having to go all the way to Oxnard to reclaim an impounded vehicle.
Commissioner Cohen mentioned that AAA was now using Bob’s Towing instead of Malibu Towing, and that it’s taking them as long as one hour and 45 minutes to come to Malibu and render assistance to someone.
Commissioner Chris Frost was also not happy with the alternative towing services, saying they’ve failed to clean up broken glass and other items at the scenes of recent accidents.
In a phone interview with TMT, Gayhart said, “The community support [for Malibu Towing] is amazing.”