Mayor answers questions over commercial development


This week, Mayor Laura Rosenthal responds to a question from a Malibu resident about the guidelines regarding commercial development in Malibu. It is part of a weekly question and answer series intended “to communicate information about the issues of concern and interest to Malibu residents,” according to Rosenthal.


Does the City have any restrictions on commercial square footage?  There is a lot of talk about the lagoon and sewers and I am concerned that commercial development in the civic center will go unchecked. 

Submitted by Anonymous 

Mayor Laura Rosenthal:

Commercial development within Malibu receives a great deal of public scrutiny and internal technical review. The City has many codes to follow including limitations on the amount of square footage that can be built, the type of buildings, the proposed uses, and many other things that can occur on a commercial property. There are requirements on the actual development of buildings, common areas, parking, wastewater treatment, etc.  Commercial development must adhere to the City’s three guiding documents: the General Plan (GP), the Municipal Code (MMC), and the Local Coastal Program (LCP).  These documents establish the framework for a development and limit the amount of commercial square footage one can build. In Malibu, all commercially-zoned parcels have a maximum of 15% of a given parcel that can be occupied by buildings; the remaining 85% is divided up between required amounts of parking, open space and common area, and landscaping. The commercial owner can increase the building size up to 20% of the parcel if a “public benefit” is part of the project. A public benefit includes physical improvements dedicated and reserved for public use, such as open space, wetlands, trails, walkways, parks, athletic fields, and civic or public buildings (senior centers, youth facilities, city hall, etc.).

In addition, as required by State law, each development must meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA requires a comprehensive review of the project’s potential impact to a number of environmental resources including traffic, noise, air quality, water usage, emergency services, and aesthetics.   Many commercial projects require the highest degree of review per CEQA called an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  The EIR may require changes to the project to reduce any impacts (traffic, etc).  All projects are also reviewed by the City’s Environmental Health Administrator, Biologist, Geologist, and Public Works Department, as well as the Los Angeles County Fire Department and Los Angeles County Waterworks District No. 29.  Each of these reviewers has a set of their own rules to regulate commercial activity and development.  

As you can see, the process has several overlapping components and ensures that all commercial development in the City receives a thorough review.   All along the way, there are opportunities for the public to review and comment on a commercial project’s impact to the community. A new resource is the bi-weekly commercial projects report posted online by the Planning Department ( A courtesy notice is sent to those within a 500 ft radius of the project parcel. Notices are also published in the newspapers, City website, Facebook and Twitter. Story poles usually go up near the end of the review process and stay up during public hearings and appeals. And, of course, all projects include a public hearing before the City’s Planning Commission who ultimately is tasked with approving or denying a commercial project. 

You can rest assured that all commercial development is highly regulated by City staff, outside agencies, and all interested parties as part of the City’s development requirements.