Soboroff Leads Charge Against Measure R

File photo November 2007 

The proponent behind a project to build a Whole Foods in Malibu launched an aggressive campaign this week opposing Measure R, deeming it flawed. 

“Rob Reiner is a great guy who simply is trying to do the right thing the wrong way,” said Steve Soboroff, whose Whole Foods in the Park project is on tap to be built in the next few years in Malibu’s Civic Center. 

When asked what the “right thing” would be, Soboroff said residents should entrust city officials to enforce already-existing zoning and building codes.

“The right thing is what the city does. This is not a high-gross city, it’s got very stringent planning, it’s got stringent zoning. It’s a strict process,” Soboroff said. 

Reiner and his wife Michele helped spearhead the effort to get Measure R on the November ballot by gathering more than 2,000 local petition signatures. Measure R is aimed at curbing chain store infiltration throughout Malibu by placing a 30 percent cap on the number of chain stores permitted to operate in town. “Essential” services such as groceries, banks and medical offices are excluded, among others. The proposal would also allow voters to head to the polls on commercial developments that measure over 20,000 square feet. 

In response, a campaign manager for Measure R said Soboroff and the Chamber of Commerce are set on confusing and scaring voters.

“I think they’re engaging in a campaign that’s sort of rumor-mongering and fear,” Felix Schein said. 

“The measure isn’t about yes or no to the Whole Foods or yes or no to the [Malibu] Urgent Care,” he added. “What it impacts are the types of developments that are built.”

Soboroff announced he was teaming up with the Malibu Chamber of Commerce, which also opposes the chain store measure, and has formed a campaign committee called the Voter Education Committee. According to finance forms from the Malibu city clerk’s office, Soboroff has donated $25,000 to get the “No on R” committee started. 

They have outlined what they believe to be many legal loopholes for the number of chain stores to actually increase. They also argue the proposal, if passed, would jeopardize Whole Foods from coming to Malibu, the construction of a new Malibu Urgent Care facility and also prevent Malibu Twin Cinema from relocating once its lease ends at the Malibu Village.

Although medical offices are exempt from the proposal, Soboroff and the Chamber said a new Urgent Care facility could face an uncertain future if Measure R is passed and the commercial development it’s attached to, owned by the Malibu Bay Company, gets voted down by locals.

David Reznick, who is president of the Malibu Bay Company and sits on the Chamber’s board of directors, said a vote of the people could put his project and the new urgent care facility at risk.

“I fear that certainly if Measure R passes it will delay the project and could easily prevent it from being built,” Reznick said.

Currently, the Malibu Bay Company has an agreement to build a new 5,000-square-foot urgent care as part of its commercial project on the corner of Civic Center Way and Stuart Ranch Road where the Kiwanis Chili Cookoff is held annually. 

Proponents of Measure R stressed the proposal is not meant to end development, but to give voters a chance to cast their say when it comes to new development.

“In communities that adopted similar measures, it hasn’t automatically spelled the end of development,” Schein said, alluding to towns such as Del Mar, Calif., where a similar proposal passed in the 1980s. 


Still no debate scheduled

The city earlier this month approved financing to host a debate regarding Measure R, but plans have yet to be hashed out.

On Monday, Planning Commissioner and former City Councilman Jeff Jennings offered to represent the opposing side in a debate, saying he sees many “issues” in Measure R.

Jennings referred to a TV interview given by Rob Reiner in which he told CBS2 he supported having a public debate about the measure.

“I hope that Mr. Reiner agrees with me that Malibu’s voters deserve to have all these issues fleshed out prior to the election,” Jennings told the City Council.

Councilmembers Lou La Monte and Joan House supported Jennings’ offer. 

Schein said on Tuesday that he had yet to hear from opponents about the potential debate.

“[The city] told us they are interested in hosting the debate, we have responded that we would entertain it,” Schein said. “I think someone certainly from our committee would participate, whether it’s one of the petitioners or Rob, we’d have to figure that out. We haven’t received an invitation to debate from our opponents.”

A 50+1 percent vote is needed for Measure R to pass. Election Day is Nov. 4.