Malibu Lumber seeks investor

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Owner Richard Weintraub says the situation is not a “negative” one.

By Jonathan Friedman / The Malibu Times

Malibu Lumber Yard mall owners Richard Weintraub and Richard Sperber are seeking an additional partner to support their investment in the mall.

“We invested so much more than we thought we were going to in the property and it took so much longer [to open the mall] because of the Regional Water Board [water treatment system approval process] that cost so much extra, that we’re looking to bring a partner in and share some of those costs,” Weintraub said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

When asked how much money he invested, Weintraub said he could not get into specifics, but it was “millions” more than he expected it would be. Weintraub said he and Sperber are not necessarily looking for an equal partner. He said they have not made a determination of how much the person should invest. He also said that lately Sperber has been concentrating on his world-famous landscaping business.

Weintraub said this is not a negative situation.

“We’re looking for a partner to come in with us and enjoy some of the future upside on the property,” he said.

Sperber and Weintraub have acquired the services of the real estate investment banking company Eastdill Secured to find the additional partner.

The mall is located on city-owned property. Last fall, the City Council unanimously voted to allow the mall owners to defer some of the excess payments required on top of the regular lease amount, which are determined based on an agreed calculation. Some called this a “bailout” and others said it was just a “rent deferral.”

Shortly after signing the initial lease with the city in 2008, Malibu Lumber obtained a $20 million loan from Wells Fargo, which was due in full this summer. But Malibu Lumber recently asked for a one-year extension. As a condition of extending the loan, Wells Fargo is requiring that the rent deferral plan be removed as long as the loan remains outstanding. The council will vote on this issue at Monday’s meeting.

Weintraub said he and Sperber could pay off the loan now, but they asked for the extension because “it’s a good loan.”

“We have a good relationship with [Wells Fargo], so we have a good rate,” he said.

City to consider businesses registration fee

Also on Monday, the council will consider whether to recommend staff proceed with establishing a business registration fee. The council asked staff to research the subject at the previous meeting.

Malibu does not currently issue licenses to businesses operating in the city, nor does it require that they register with the city. With some exceptions, county business licenses are required in Malibu for those subject to county health and safety requirements.

The staff report does not make a recommendation on whether the council should endorse a business registration fee, but it does give reasons why one could be useful. Among them are that registration ensures a business is operating in the correct zoning district and in accordance with city law. Also, it ensures contractors doing business in the city are state-licensed.

“The business registration process also helps the city to better understand the business community,” the staff report states. “The information obtained from business registrations will help make the city’s planning, fire, public safety and security assistance activities more responsive to the community’s needs.”

The report also states, “Implementation of the fee will require significant start-up staff time and once implemented, it will require consistent annual staff oversight. The fee established for the permit must reflect the cost associated with issuing the permit. The program will be revenue neutral.”

According to the report, the city of Agoura Hills requires all businesses to pay an annual $35 registration fee. Not paying this fee is a misdemeanor violation.

Also on Monday, at the request of Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, the council will decide whether it wants to apply to be a host city in the Amgen Tour of California, a 700-mile, eight-day bicycle race that takes competitors through various areas of the state. A staff report estimates this could cost Malibu $250,000, although there is no specification of how this number was determined.

The tour, which will take place in May, requires host cities to foot the bill for police services as well as all road and public works services, and most other features of putting on the event.

“The Tour provides a powerful opportunity to gain worldwide exposure, create economic impact and provide priceless experiences for local residents, supporters and dignitaries,” a tour document states.

Applications to be a host city must be submitted by Aug. 13. Selections will be announced in October.