Mayor criticizes Malibu Lumber-city relationship


The mayor says the city’s relationship with Malibu Lumber is “out-of-hand” and “muddy.”

By Jonathan Friedman / The Malibu Times

The City Council on Monday delayed voting on proposed adjustments to Malibu Lumber Yard mall’s lease of the city-owned Legacy Park so that more staff analysis could be done. Council members had some legal questions, which City Attorney Christi Hogin said should be addressed to the city’s real estate attorney, who did not attend the meeting. Also, some council members and public speakers questioned details of the proposal and the general financial health of Malibu Lumber, along with possible negative effects its status could have on the city.

Malibu Lumber, which is owned by Richard Weintraub and Richard Sperber, recently asked Wells Fargo for a one-year extension on a $20 million loan that is due this summer. As a condition for the extension, the bank said the council must scrap its decision from last fall allowing Malibu Lumber to defer some of the excess payments required on top of the regular lease amount.

“This is becoming out-of-hand,” Mayor Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner said. “They came to us a year ago, we gave them what they asked for. As a council at that time, we said ‘Don’t come back, figure this out on your own.’”

Wagner said he realized this time Malibu Lumber was not asking for further benefits, but he said it was the idea of spending more staff and council time on this issue that bothered him.

Former council candidate Mike Sidley, who is an attorney, said he was concerned the document city officials need to sign for this item does not contain language indemnifying the city from potential litigation between Wells Fargo and Malibu Lumber.

Wagner said he was also concerned about the city’s liability. “This is becoming a very muddy future for us,” he said.

Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman said the lease contains language that indemnifies the city from litigation. Sidley said in an interview after the meeting that even if this were true, the indemnification language in the lease would not apply to this issue.

Weintraub told The Malibu Times last week that the request for a loan extension was not cause for alarm, and was made because of his and Sperber’s good relationship with Wells Fargo. He also said that he and Sperber are seeking a third partner because the mall cost more money than they expected.

The item will return to the council at the next meeting on Sept. 13.

Business license idea negative

A proposal for requiring businesses to obtain a license from the city received a poor reception from most council members and public speakers. Councilmember Laura Rosenthal had asked staff to explore this concept.

“I think there can be good reasons to do this, whether it’s knowing who’s here, being able to get information out about rebates, all those kinds of things,” Rosenthal said.

She said she does not necessarily support the concept, but wanted the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable to give their input. The council voted for the item to be submitted to those organizations for review.

Chamber Chair Scott Wagenseller said the organization’s board had not had time to meet about this issue prior to the council meeting, but he is personally opposed to it.

“This is just a bureaucracy of nonsense,” he said. “It’s white noise. It wouldn’t do any good for the city.”

Council member Lou La Monte said he had heard from several residents who considered this to be another tax. Mayor Pro Tem John Sibert said he had not heard a good argument for why it would be needed.

Members say nay to Amgen tour

Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich failed to enthuse her colleagues on the dais that it would be a good idea for Malibu to host a portion of a 700-mile bicycle race, even though she would look for sponsors to put up the estimated $40,000 to $250,000 it would cost to host the event.

“It just seems like the things they are asking for … this just doesn’t seem like what Malibu is about,” La Monte said. “This seems like Laguna Beach would do this. We don’t have these kinds of facilities. We don’t have all these hotel rooms.”

Conley Ulich said she hoped by Malibu hosting a portion of the Amgen Tour of California, the city could show off some of its recent projects and “help bring together the people on four and two wheels to have a tolerance and mutual respect for each other.”

Conley Ulich asked for a committee to be formed to explore how this could be done. No other council member would join the committee. Although the deadline to submit an application for the event is on Friday, tour operators have offered Malibu an extension.