The City of Malibu has seen a gain in the lawsuit filed against it by Measure R opponents, but the legal battle is far from over.
The suit will likely now be brought to State court.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt rendered a decision to not hear claims filed against the City by developers The Park at Cross Creek, LLC (owned by vocal Measure R opponent Steve Soboroff) and Malibu Bay Company, instead dismissing four of the claims brought by the plaintiffs so they can be brought to a State judge.
Kronstadt stayed four of the nine claims filed against the City, meaning the Federal Court will wait to hear them if and when legal proceedings at the State level finish.
According to a statement released by spokespeople for the developers, the suit will make its way to State court soon.
“We will be filing our State claims in California State court soon so that we can overturn this unfair, unconstitutional measure,” the statement, released Friday, reads.
Measure R enacted a 30% cap on the number of chain stores in shopping centers Citywide and created a voter-approval requirement for new commercial centers to be built in Malibu if they measure over 20,000 square feet.
The lawsuit was filed the first week of January, just one month after the new law hit the books.
Soboroff and his co-plaintiffs allege the ordinance is unlawful on several grounds, including violating the U.S. Commerce Clause, and that it takes power away from elected officials.
In response to the suit, the City of Malibu filed a motion to dismiss the case and a motion to have the Federal court abstain, in order that a state court hear it.
“The Motion to Abstain is GRANTED. Plaintiffs’ fifth through ninth causes of action are DISMISSED so that they can be refiled in the Los Angeles Superior Court. Plaintiffs’ remaining federal claims are STAYED, as are the corresponding Motions to Dismiss,” reads Kronstadt’s decision.
According to the developers’ statement, the plaintiffs do not feel the judge’s decision is a setback in their quest to overturn Measure R.
“The Court’s ruling today was procedural. We firmly believe Measure R is discriminatory, unfair, illegal and unconstitutional,” reads the statement. “Today’s ruling merely puts our federal claims on hold and shifts the venue for the legal challenge to state court.”
Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin disagreed.
“It’s more than procedural because the court has agreed with the City that there are questions that … are appropriate only for the state court to decide under state law and have nothing to do with Federal claims,” Hogin said.
Hogin added that no matter the arena, the City’s case for defending Measure R is strong. The reason the City requested to have U.S. District Court abstain from the hearing is so that the case be heard in the proper court.
“In the end, I think the City has a very strong position in this case, no matter where it’s adjudicated,” Hogin said, “but the State courts, not the Federal courts, are the places that are best suited to look at the application of land use policy.”
The ruling, however, is not being considered a triumph for the City. “I don’t think it’s a triumph,” Hogin said, “I wish we were all working together to implement the statute … To me, that would be the triumph.”