Beleaguered local economy facing home-based business licensing fee

A Business Roundtable subcommittee has proposed a business license program for the city that would, for the first time, impose an annual licensing fee on most commercial operations in Malibu, including home-based businesses.

City Manager Harry Peacock, city staff liaison to the roundtable, said the proposed fees, at a maximum of $50 per year, would generate only enough revenue to cover the costs of operating the licensing program, but the program itself would facilitate an exchange of invaluable information between the city and the business community.

With information on the whereabouts of the city’s home-based businesses, Peacock said, officials could more easily enforce local zoning laws. In addition, under the proposal, contractors will be required to paste stickers to their cars proving they paid the licensing fees; officials could then more easily verify that contractors working in the city are complying with local laws. Also, with an exhaustive list of businesses in Malibu, city staff could compile demographic data on local commercial activities.

Local businesses would benefit from the proposed licensing program, Peacock said, because city officials could more easily notify them of any relevant changes in laws, or of any available government assistance, such as loans from the SBA. Contractors registered with the city would receive city bid lists.

The roundtable subcommittee, comprised of Edison Company Regional Manager Mark Olson, retired business owner Bob Hart and Peacock, studied the issue for months. The idea of a general business licensing requirement prompted some grumbling in the business community, but including home-based businesses in the proposed licensing requirement generated the most controversy. It is an issue that others outside of Malibu have been grappling with as well.

The city of Los Angeles, after angering business owners there, repealed a short-lived policy requiring home-based businesses to register with the city and pay a licensing fee. The California Assembly approved a bill last month that would exempt home-based creative professionals — writers, artists and musicians — from city business taxes. The measure stalled in committee in the Senate, but will likely be reintroduced in the next legislative session.

Even though at earlier roundtable meetings some members took issue with the idea of a business licensing requirement, at its monthly meeting last week most members seemed to have warmed to the proposal. Still, at last week’s meeting, one member, Craig Smith, said he was surprised that Malibu would move in the direction of adopting a business license requirement.

“When I moved out here in the ’60s, it was like a frontier,” Smith said. Peacock responded, “One day, Wyatt Earp came to town.”

Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce Director Mary Lou Blackwood requested that the chamber’s board of directors have an opportunity to review the proposal before the full roundtable votes on the matter. The roundtable is holding off on a vote on the proposed program until November. After the vote, the roundtable will present its report and recommendation to the City Council.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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