California 1 is signed on its route north of Cambria en route to Big Sur. The Pacific Ocean and rolling green hills dominate the pastoral scene along this iconic highway. California 1 serves both the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, with a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge with U.S. 101 to connect with Marin County. At the north end of its scenic tour, California 1 merges with U.S. 101/Redwood Highway at Leggett. Along its coastal route, California 1 passes amazing ocean scenery, especially on the drive between Cambria and Monterey via Big Sur. This hugely popular route for summer vacations takes travelers past a variety of attractions both natural and manmade. Photo taken 04/05/09.
California 1 follows the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California and the Cabrillo Highway in Northern California. Here, California 1/Pacific Coast Highway travels northwest toward Point Mugu in Ventura County just east of Oxnard. The road cut makes this a noteable spot on the scenic highway. Between its southern terminus in San Juan Capistrano/Dana Point* and the junction with U.S. 101 in Oxnard, California 1 replaced Alternate U.S. 101 in 1964. Alternate U.S. 101 itself was formed in 1937, replacing former California 3, which was later relocated to Northern California in Siskiyou County. (*Note that the interchange between Interstate 5 and California 1 is split between the cities of Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano, but the former intersection between U.S. 101 and Alternate U.S. 101 was located in what is now the city of Dana Point.) Photo taken 11/22/07.
California 1 is the Pacific Coast Highway and Cabrillo Highway, following the coastline from Interstate 5/San Diego Freeway in San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point in Orange County in Southern California north to U.S. 101/Redwood Highway in Leggett in Mendocino County in Northern California. One of the longest state routes in California (after Interstate 5 and U.S. 101), California 1 sees some of the most beautiful terrain the state, making many "Best Drives in the U.S.A." lists. In addition to following the coast and passing through the beautiful Big Sur, it is also the route to the Hearst Castle, passes over the Golden Gate Bridge, is a freeway bypass route around Monterey, and enters the Point Reyes National Seashore.
The segment of California 1/Pacific Coast Highway (often abbreviated to "PCH") between Interstate 5 in Dana Point/San Juan Capistrano and U.S. 101 in Oxnard had multiple other designations over the years. It fully opened to traffic by the end of the Roaring Twenties (1920s) and was known as the Theodore Roosevelt Highway early in its history, with its name changed to Pacific Coast Highway in 1941.1 When California assigned state route designations, it was legislatively designated as Route 60 and was signed as California 3 very briefly (from around 1934 to 1937), when it was redesignated as Alternate U.S. 101. This designation lasted until 1964, when California decommissioned multiple U.S. Highways throughout the state. Alternate U.S. 101 was renumbered as an extension of California 1, bringing that designation southeast along with U.S. 101 into Ventura County and then into Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Since 1964, California 1 has largely remained unchanged with the exception of several urban segments of road that have been gradually transferred from state to municipal maintenance. Local cities that maintain segments of California 1 are usually required by state law to retain signage for California 1 even if the highway is no longer considered to be a state highway. As of 2014, segments of California 1 within the cities of Dana Point, Newport Beach, Santa Monica, and Oxnard have been decommissioned, yet signage for the route remains in place.2
In the 1950s, plans called for a series of freeways to criss-cross greater Los Angeles and Orange Counties. These freeway proposals included an infamous proposal to construct what is generally known as the Pacific Coast Freeway between Dana Point and Oxnard. It was also known as the "Ocean Freeway" and "Orange Coast Freeway" in various areas along the route. This freeway would have passed through the business districts of several coastal communities, and this raised opposition along the route. Various iterations of the proposal were considered until August 1972, when state legislation ended the pursuit of a full freeway that would follow California 1/Pacific Coast Highway.3, 4 Even prior to this ultimate freeway rejection, various portions of the freeway met their end through various legislative and local actions taken during the 1960s, especially a causeway proposed off the shore of Santa Monica.5 This causeway, which would have created a new beach and massive harbor, would have been not only expensive but also required substantial quantities of materials to construct and cause environmental damage to the area. It was considered through the first half of the 1960s, with the "Causeway Freeway Commission" disbanding in 1966 and the proposed offshore freeway not considered seriously again since then. Further south, several of the local communities that were proposed to receive a segment of California 1 freeway through their local business districts (including portions of what is now the cities of Dana Point and Laguna Beach among several other affected cities along the route) had significant opposition to the freeway route during this time.6 Gousha maps from the 1960s showed a proposed yet never constructed alignment of the California freeway within the city of Long Beach, but this freeway was canceled in the early 1970s since the adjoining segments were no longer proposed for construction. A good resource of Los Angeles freeway development maps is Daniel Faigin's California Highways. The freeway's continued setbacks and local opposition ensured that the majority of the freeway route was never built, with the exceptions of the very short segment near Interstate 5 and the segment between Point Mugu and Oxnard in Ventura County.
- From Roosevelt Highway to the 1: A Brief History of Pacific Coast Highway by Nathan Masters dated May 2, 2012. Relevant quotes: "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. ... 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."
- State of California Streets and Highways Code, Sections 300-635 - California 1 is defined under Streets and Highways Code Section 301, and amendments between 2000 and 2015 have resulted in several segments shifting from state to city control, especially in Southern California. This language changes constantly as legislative action amends the Code and continues to shift responsibility for segments of various routes from state to local control. Regarding California 1, as of November 2015, Section 301(g) states, "(g) The relinquished former portions of Route 1 within the Cities of Dana Point, Newport Beach, Santa Monica, and Oxnard are not state highways and are not eligible for adoption under Section 81. For those relinquished former portions of Route 1, the Cities of Dana Point, Newport Beach, Santa Monica, and Oxnard shall maintain within their respective jurisdictions signs directing motorists to the continuation of Route 1. The City of Newport Beach shall ensure the continuity of traffic flow on the relinquished portions of Route 1 within its jurisdiction, including, but not limited to, any traffic signal progression." Additionally, Section 301.1(a) further identifies another transfer of responsibility for California 1 within the city of Torrance as follows: "The commission may relinquish to the City of Torrance the portion of Route 1 that is located within the city limits of the city, upon terms and conditions the commission finds to be in the best interests of the state." To keep posted on these changes, we highly recommend Daniel Faigin's California Highways, which monitors legislation that changes highway routings and modifies maintenance responsibility for state highways in California.
- From Roosevelt Highway to the 1: A Brief History of Pacific Coast Highway by Nathan Masters dated May 2, 2012. Relevant quote: "The proposed freeway remained on planners' maps until 1972, when it succumbed to bitter opposition among residents, civic leaders, and environmental activists."
- It's History: Pacific Coast Freeway? by Carlos N. Olvera Dana Point Times on September 19, 2014. Relevant quote: "As delays continued, financial difficulties, including the lack of federal funds, were raised, delaying construction at least into the 1980s. The state legislature was canceling several portions of the major planned freeways, including nearly 100 miles of the Pacific Coast Freeway. By August 1972, the governor signed three bills deleting the proposed Pacific Coast Freeway."
- California Highways: Routes 1 to 8 by Daniel Faigin and The Look Out News: Part I -- Dreaming Big by Mark McGuigan. Relevant quote: "Along with the company Seaway Enterprises Incorporated of Beverly Hills, [local businessman John] Drescher crafted an ambitious scheme. On July 19, 1961, Seaway Enterprises presented the City Council with a thirty-page document, complete with artist renderings, proposing the construction of an island causeway off the coast. Located 4,000 feet from shore, the 30,000-foot long causeway would run parallel to the coastline from Santa Monica beach all the way north to Malibu. In the middle of this artificial archipelago would stretch a 200-foot wide freeway called 'Sunset Seaway.' It was a remarkable concept. Not only would the brand new highway alleviate the pressure on the coastal road but it would also provide an additional 2.5 million square feet of public beach facing the ocean. The new beaches would accommodate “up to 50,000 persons on peak days,” according to the Seaway Enterprises document. In addition to the new land, the area of water between the natural shoreline and the artificial causeway would become a series of marinas accommodating 1,700 small craft."
- It's History: Pacific Coast Freeway? by Carlos N. Olvera Dana Point Times on September 19, 2014. Relevant quote: "But in 1960, Orange County Supervisors wanted to probe that alignment so an agreeable route could be recommended to the state, as by this time the state hadn't provided an actual road map. But soon word of bisecting Laguna Beach came, which only caused Laguna Beach to mobilize groups opposing the plan. As a result, the state became firm in its plans but chose not to air them resulting in a protest against any plan and not just the location. By October 1964, the county finally said it had to go around Laguna Beach and stay away from the coast. However, in Dana Point, it would cross Del Obispo."
Page Updated November 14, 2015.