Chain Store Initiative Faces City Council Hurdle

Your Malibu, Your Decision

An initiative bent on curbing chain stores in Malibu might hit a snag on its way to this year’s November ballot, according to City Attorney Christi Hogin, since petitions did not include text calling for a special election. 

But proponents of the initiative are calling Hogin’s report “absurd,” arguing that mailers sent out to Malibu residents and past news articles have stated their intention to get the “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act” on this fall’s ballot. 

The initiative proposes an ordinance to put serious restrictions on so-called “formula retail establishments.” These establishments are defined as “businesses with 10 or more locations worldwide offering standardized goods, services or menus and having other standard characteristics,” according to the report. 

Volunteers for the initiative, called the “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act,” collected signatures from over 2,300 voters, or over 20% of the city’s electorate, according to organizers, more than double the minimum needed to appear on the ballot. 

However, Hogin states that many of those who signed the petition did not know what they were signing up for, since the text of the petition does not include that the initiative could result in a special election. 

“This initiative petition does not appear to qualify for a special election because the initiative did not demand one,” reads Hogin’s report, part of the agenda for the upcoming regular City Council meeting. “A special election is a costly endeavor, which is why state law requires petition signers to understand that possibility as a result of qualifying for the ballot before deciding whether to sign the petition.” 

In an op/ed submitted to The Malibu Times, Dru Ann Jacobson, Carol Moss and Michele Reiner, three of the organizers with the Your Malibu, Your Decision campaign, argue that holding up the election on a technicality would be “absurd.” 

“That the Council seems intent on silencing those voices based on a legal technicality is deeply disturbing, especially because 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 op/ed. The full text is available here.  

The initiative in question would do two things: put all future commercial building decisions over 20,000 square feet in the hands of voters and freeze formula retail establishments, prohibiting new chains over 2500 square feet and requiring ones that desire to relocate, expand or increase service area to attain a permit for such changes. 

If the council decides that the initiative petition does not qualify for the November special election, and it does not decide to adopt the ordinance as is, the initiative will appear on the ballot of the next regular election in April 2016. 

This move would be unacceptable to Jacobson, Moss and Reiner. 

“Should the Council opt not to place the measure on the November ballot and thus ignore the will of the voters,” says the op/ed, “it is all but certain that voters (and those who petitioned for this initiative) will not wait until 2016 to be heard.” 

The Malibu City Council is scheduled to decide how to handle the petition at next week’s regular council meeting, June 9, at 6:30 p.m. in Malibu City Hall.