Council Considers ‘Contingency Plan’ After Measure R Flop

Malibu City Hall

One way or another, chain stores will be limited in Malibu.

Amid the hubbub surrounding the November 2014 election — before Measure R was approved by 60 percent of Malibu voters, before the ordinance was signed into law and before opponents took that law to court — Malibu City Council quietly passed its own, less stringent formula retail ordinance. 

That ordinance became void when Measure R became law, but with a judge ruling parts of those formula retail restrictions illegal, council may be back to the drawing board to come up with an ordinance that bridges the gap between what’s wanted by Malibu voters and what’s allowed by law.

“My challenge … was to try to figure out an ordinance that was close to achieving all the goals of Measure R, but within the confines of the court’s ruling,” City Attorney Christi Hogin explained.

“We did vote in a chain store ordinance before Measure R,” Mayor Laura Rosenthal recalled. “Unfortunately, it was not as strong as I wanted it to be, but we did have something. I suspect that we would get more support this time for a stronger ordinance that goes … closer to Measure R, as has been brought up tonight.”

Council discussed the hypothetical ordinance, determining it should still contain some of the facets thought to have made Measure R most appealing to Malibu voters, including the ability for voters to approve specific plans.

“If Measure R survives the appeal, then you would have to have voter approval,” Hogin explained. “If it does not survive the appeal, you still can get voter approval, and I’m suggesting perhaps you give serious thought to doing that, because that would be a way of getting as close to Measure R as you can get.”

“I think it’s critical that this go to the vote of the population,” Council Member John Sibert said. “I think we need to do it that way, and I would like to see us go forward with it.”

The problem with voting on a specific plan under Measure R, Hogin explained, was that the court found it illegal to assign a conditional use permit to a tenant; in other words, it’s illegal to vote on a specific tenant versus a specific use, such as a grocery store or movie theater.

This is a distinction Hogin said would be written into the city’s new ordinance.

Planning Commissioner John Mazza, an outspoken advocate for Measure R, came to speak at the Monday, Feb. 8 council meeting, saying the appeal should be launched.

“Unless the appeal’s dropped, these actions you can’t take: You cannot put in a formula ordinance. You can do a specific plan, but it may be precluded if Measure R wins — when Measure R wins,” Mazza said. 

“We made a law that basically the public supported, and it’s in place now, it’s going to court, it will be appealed and we will find out if it’s legal,” Mazza continued. “In the meantime, as Christi explained, we have no other choice … It’s what the citizens want.”

Later, Council Member Skylar Peak addressed Mazza’s comment about what citizens want.

“John … For us as a council, I think we all want to say that we’re listening to our community and what they want, and that’s ultimately entirely our objective with this.”