Could Reiner Proposal Jeopardize Malibu Urgent Care?

Malibu Urgent Care

Alarm bells sounded last week in Malibu, as the future of the much-loved Malibu Urgent Care Center (MUCC) seemed thrown into question, according to rumors around town and warnings published in last week’s Malibu Times print edition. 

Stakeholders are concerned that the formula retail ordinance scheduled to appear on the November ballot may derail planned construction of a new Urgent Care Center. 

Landowner and developer Steve Soboroff, who has plans to build a Whole Foods in the Civic Center, took out a one-page advertisement in the July 24 edition of The Malibu Times in which he stated, amongst other concerns, that “our Urgent Care Center is another potential victim caught in the wide net of unintended consequences of the Reiner Initiative. The Reiner Plan delays if not outright kills a new state-of-the-art facility for Malibu — just ask the Friends of Urgent Care.” 

So, in response, The Malibu Times tried to ask Friends about their concerns over the future of the medical center, which has been serving the Malibu community for 20 years. 

The Friends board responded, “no comment.” 

But the board was much more vocal in a letter to the editor submitted last week, coinciding with Soboroff ’s ad. 

“The proposed Reiner Initiative would be detrimental to everything we have worked so hard to achieve,” states the letter, as “the location where our new urgent care is to be located would be in jeopardy of never being built.” 

The initiative, set to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot, 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 major shopping center development and commercial or mixed use construction over 20,000 square feet. 

The location in question is most likely a proposed Malibu Bay Company commercial development in the Civic Center, located at the corner of Stuart Ranch Road and Civic Center Way. 

According to documents provided by city planners, the Bay Company submitted applications for the project in May of 2012, requesting, amongst other things, an increased floor area ratio (FAR) in the building. The FAR can be increased if the building includes a public benefit, in this case specified as an urgent care facility, as well as other amenities. 

The increased floor area ratio would mean that the development could be built up to 76,000 square feet, instead of 60,000 square feet. 

“They were proposing the urgent care facility to increase their floor area ratio,” said city planning director Joyce Parker- Bozylinski. 

Although there may be a question as to whether the privately owned Urgent Care Center qualifies as a public benefit, arguments against the benefit of having Urgent Care in Malibu do not seem to hold water. 

“The technical owners of the business are Dr. Furguson and myself,” said MUCC co-director David Frankle, MD, adding, “but the Friends make it work. Without the Friends it would not be possible.” 

The Friends of Malibu Urgent Care is a nonprofit organization that makes it possible for the MUCC to operate evenings and weekends, as well as providing medical equipment to the clinic. 

However, Parker-Bozylinski suggested that the Reiner Initiative could throw a wrench in the gears of future development of the MUCC, while the city-enacted formula retail regulations do not. 

“If you look at our exemption, it’s ‘medical uses;’ I believe theirs is ‘medical offices,’” said Parker-Bozylinski, adding, “We [the City] wanted to be clear that it wasn’t just offices, because it would depend on what your definition of an ‘office’ is. 

“To me, they could have intended to include clinics,” said Parker-Bozylinski, “that would be something we have to clarify if that initiative passes.” 

Whether or not this is the issue that the Friends of Malibu Urgent Care and Soboroff were citing is unclear. However, spokespeople for the Reiner Initiative are adamant that they do not intend to stand in the way of Malibu Urgent Care. 

“The end of the measure is that the voters of Malibu get to decide what is built in Malibu, and there’s no question that the voters would support the facility,” said Felix Schein, spokesperson for the Reiners. 

Although Schein and Parker- Bozylinski seem to agree that intent could make the difference in whether the MUCC qualifies as an exemption under the Reiner-proposed initiative, Soboroff countered that unintended consequences could still be detrimental. 

“They [the Friends] have reached a deal to move into a larger center and receive an endowment that would help eliminate their deficits,” Soboroff said in an email to The Malibu Times. 

“This initiative makes it less likely that center will ever be built,” Soboroff continued, “You might call that an unintended consequence of the initiative.”