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'Your Malibu, Your Decision' initiative to be placed on November ballot

Ashleigh Fryer, Senior Editor
1:40 pm PDT July 15, 2014

At its Monday, July 14, meeting, the Malibu City Council received and filed the City staff reports concerning the “Your Malibu, Your Decision” initiative, which seeks to limit commercial development within city limits, and decided to place the initiative on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot. 

It was established at the June 23 City Council meeting that the initiative garnered enough valid signatures — 2,300 — to qualify for the ballot after several weeks of efforts by proponents and residents including, most notably, Rob Reiner. 

As explained by City Attorney Christi Hogin, the initiative aims to accomplish two things: “Require voter-approved specific plans for commercial residential properties over a certain size...And regulate forumla retail.”

In an attempt to fully understand the initiative before them, and per Hogin’s suggestion, the Malibu City Council sought detailed staff reports on the legal and financial impacts of the initiative, as well as a fact-checking report by City Manager Jim Thorsen and a report on consistency with the City’s General Plan and land use impacts. 

“The purpose is to provide the voters with the same level of information that [City Council members] would have if [City Council members] were to adopt it,” Hogin said of the reports. 

After elaborating on the legal language contained in the documents, Hogin explained to the Council and the audience that the developments the initiative concerned itself with included, “any commercial development in excess of 20,000 square feet on a commercially zoned property.” 

“This initiative does not attempt, in any way, to deviate from the basic premise of land use vision that was set forth in the General Plan,” Hogin said. “In fact, the initiative says that it wants to advance that and protect it.”

Although she agreed with the initiative’s consistency with the General Plan, Hogin went on to speak about a portion of the initiative that many residents had commented on in previous meetings; exemptions for existing shopping centers. 

“The thing about these regulations that’s puzzling, at least to me, is that there is little effect on the existing commercial centers,” Hogin said. “The existing shopping centers in the Civic Center are exempt from requirements...Also what’s exempt is any formula retail business that is going to go into a now-existing shopping center, in a now-existing  tenant space that is between 1,400 and 5,000 square feet.” 

In Thorsen’s report, he counted the existing tenant spaces that meet the requirements of exemption, which ended up totalling 70-91 percent of the spaces that could potentially become formula retail, Hogin said. 

“That seems to me to create a big hole if what you’re trying to do is prevent someone from driving through the Civic Center and saying, ‘My God, am I driving through Del Amo?’” Hogin said. “I emphasize this because the purpose of the initiative seems to be to avoid that sense of sameness.”

With more than two hours of public comment speaker slips submitted, dozens of residents and business owners approached the podium to address the topic, many of which, for or against the initiative, expressed a strong urge to take the item to ballot as soon as possible. 

“There are going to be people who love it and there are going to be people who hate it; but I love the fact that we can agree to disagree and we get to vote,” said Pamela Conley Ulich, former Malibu mayor and City Councilwoman. “It’s obvious, people want to vet this issue and vote on it now.”