Council Opts for Temporary Chain Store Regulations, Permanent Design Standards

Malibu City Council

In the face of a looming ballot initiative by local activists looking to protect local shop-owners and preserve Malibu’s uniqueness, the City Council on Monday voted 4-1 to pursue passing a temporary ordinance to regulate the chain store population in Malibu’s Civic Center shopping areas.

The council also voted unanimously (5-0) to begin drafting design guidelines and a land use/specific plan for the Civic Center, a process expected to last at least a year. Officials hope implementing the standards down the line will eliminate the need for chain store regulations in town.

“The purpose of this is to have something in place [temporarily] … so that when design standards are put in place, this [ordinance] will no longer be necessary,” said Councilwoman Laura Rosenthal.

“What’s become clearer and clearer … is the least important part is the formula retail ordinance. The most important part is the design standards and the specific plan,” said Councilman John Sibert.

But before the final vote on the temporary ordinance, several details of the proposal were once again modified, further altering many points of prior contention between shopping center owners and proponents of the restrictions on chain store businesses wishing to open in the Civic Center.

Modifications included:

Elimination of a conditional use permit (CUP) process for formula retail businesses wishing to open in the Civic Center.

Nixing a 3,500-square-footage limit requirement on new formula retail stores.

-Defining a formula retail shop as having 10 or more stores in the United States (not international chains).

-Placing a 45 percent cap on the amount of formula retail uses within a shopping center (grocery, real estate, movie theaters and several other types of businesses are exempted from the ordinance).

-Including a 12-month sunset clause in the ordinance, meaning the law would expire 12 months after being passed. The 12-month timeline came about in the hopes of passing shopping center design guidelines within one year, making the temporary formula retail regulations obsolete.

Because of the number of changes the council made to the current draft ordinance, the proposal has to be brought back once again at a later meeting for final passage. City Attorney Christi Hogin said the ordinance might even have to be sent back to the Planning Commission if the proposed modifications are outside the scope of what the Planning Commission discussed in July when it recommended against a formula retail ordinance.

Mayor Pro Tem Skylar Peak cast the lone dissenting vote against the temporary idea, arguing it “needs more teeth in it.” After the meeting, Peak vowed to support a more stringent ballot initiative being drafted by the Preserve Malibu Coalition.

Check back Wednesday for more details on Monday night’s City Council meeting, analysis of what a specific plan and design standards intend to accomplish, and reaction from shopping center owners, Preserve Malibu members and city officials.