Council Orders Reports on Reiner Initiative

June will be a long month for proponents of the “Your Malibu, Your Decision” ballot initiative. 

Councilmembers on Monday ordered city staff to prepare impact reports on the proposal, which would put restrictions on so-called “formula retail establishments.” They also postponed a discussion on whether to allow the initiative onto this year’s November ballot or delay it until the April 2016 election. 

“My feeling is that this is something that’s going to affect every single citizen in Malibu, and I think everyone deserves to know as much as humanly possible about it,” said Councilmember Lou La Monte. 

“I think that’s fair and I think that the proponents probably want the same thing,” added La Monte. 

The council will reconvene on July 14 to discuss putting the measure on the November special election ballot. But before the initiative is cleared to reach the ballot, they first want to review legal, economic, environmental, planning department and social impact reports. They’re especially concerned about economic impacts, since the initiative calls for city-wide voting on any new retail spaces over a certain size. Such votes are funded by the city and would likely have to occur every year, officials said. 

The initiative appeared on Monday’s council agenda along with a similar formula retail proposition the city has been considering implementing, but it was tabled without comment to make room for discussion of the “Your Malibu, Your Decision” petition. 

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The petition, which was originally drawn up by local activists Rob and Michele Reiner, gathered an estimated 2,300 votes, although the official count will not be released until next week. 

Proposed restrictions on formula retail businesses would place a 30 percent limit on the number of chain stores permitted to operate in Malibu shopping centers. It would also require a citywide vote on all major shopping center development and commercial or mixed use construction over 20,000 square feet. 

City Attorney Christi Hogin explained that the petition proposal, prepared by Malibu citizens, was comparable to the city’s, and suggested that the two should be looked at side-by-side. 

“They overlap in certain ways and they differ in other ways,” said Hogin. “And I thought that in terms of managing your own time, it might behoove you to consider whether or not you want to look at those two ordinances together, or have them prepared, or not.” 

With the council’s decision, the two potential ordinances will be viewed side-by-side at the July meeting. 

Council willing to place initiative on November ballot 

Although the option to see the initiative on this fall’s November ballot remains open at the moment, Hogin suggested that the council may choose to hold the voting until April 2016, based on a wording technicality in which the petition did not include the words “special election.” 

Hogin pointed out that those who signed the petition may not have been aware they were calling for a special election, a measure that would cost tax dollars. 

“I think it’s more than just a harmless goof,” said Hogin, “I think it has real impact in terms of the initiative petition.” 

In a letter written by petitioners Dru Ann Jacobson, Carol Moss and Michele Reiner and published in The Malibu Times last week, proponents of the proposal argued that the intent of the petition is clear, even without the words “special election” included. 

“California election law is clear – as long as a petition substantially complies with the law, it must be enforced, even if there is a technical error,” reads the letter. 

But Mayor Pro Tem John Sibert seemed to side with proponents, saying it would be best to hold the election in November, when county and state items are on the ballot, rather than in a smaller election with a low voter turnout. 

“I think it ought to go to the voters in an election that has a large turnout, which is probably November,” said Sibert. 

“Because the larger turnout we have, the more likely we are to get a fair analysis from the voters. We need to get them the material,” he added. Councilwoman Laura Rosenthal was the only other council member who voiced agreement with Sibert. Mayor Skylar Peak and Councilwoman Joan House did not address the issue. 

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