The council agreed to send the proposed formula retail ordinance back to city staff for some revisions and to begin work on a specific plan and design standards for development in Malibu's Civic Center. The new direction is part of an effort to control growth in the area, which is known as the center of Malibu.
"[We] want whatever stores that come in to be unique to Malibu," Mayor Joan House said.
Change in Course
The council had been set to vote on whether to approve or deny a formula retail ordinance that would have required a conditional use permit (CUP) as part of an effort to limit chain stores in the Civic Center.
Instead, the council asked to reduce the maximum number of chain stores in a shopping center -- from 50 percent to 40 percent -- and not require a CUP if the center is within the 40 percent range. Councilmembers also agreed that the formula retail ordinance would likely be a temporary measure until a larger specific plan could be drafted.
Councilwoman Laura Zahn Rosenthal chastised the entire room for the divisive debate over the past several years. She said she sought out many opinions about what direction Malibu should head in, and that she changed her mind about design standards, saying "I was wrong."
“I’m trying to find a way to move this forward to make it fair,” Rosenthal said. “To have it as a first step for our city.”City staff were also tasked with putting together what it will take to put together a specific plan for the Civic Center and design guidelines. Rosenthal, who led the charge on the change in direction, said she hoped the process would not take too long.
During a nearly three-hour public hearing leading up the council discussion, J. Flora-Katz, a leader of the group Preserve Malibu, called for the city to take action and read a list of cities that have restricted or banned chain stores, taking up most of her six minutes of public comment.
“These are all across the country,” Flora-Katz said. “They are effective and they work.”
Members of Preserve Malibu have said they will work to bring a ballot initiative to the residents if the council did not pass the ordinance.
Michael Koss of the Malibu Country Mart said he has been working hard to support local businesses, including subsidizing rents to locally owned tenants. He said some small businesses went out of business because of a lack of Malibu support.
Koss asked for the council to abandon the formula retail ordinance.
“This process has been distracting and divisive,” Koss said. “This process should be abandoned.”
An attorney representing Glimcher Malibu, LLC, which owns the leasehold interest in the Malibu Lumber Yard said the lease for the shopping center would be in conflict with the formula retail ordinance.
“The lease is going to be in direct conflict with the ordinance,” the attorney said.
He also called for the city to do additional study on any environmental impacts.
Mark Persson of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce said the chamber did not support the ordinance.
“We believe the ordinance will have a negative effect on all of Malibu’s business,” Persson said.
Hamish Patterson, a Malibu surfer who ran for city council in 2012, directed his comments at a line of attorneys sitting in the front row.
“I want to talk to the suits here,” Patterson said. “We’re not against business. Hey, will you guys get yourselves under control … What I don’t understand is why you are trying to shove a bunch of stuff down our throats that we don’t really want.”
Nick Magnani of Malibu said local businesses are put into a tough situation in the Civic Center and cannot afford the rent.
“You speak out of two sides of your mouth,” Mgnani told the council. “One side is we support the locals. The other side there is nothing we can do.”
Following the hearing, Mayor Pro Tem Skylar Peak said he supported the formula retail ordinance, but that it should be expanded citywide.
“I feel the overwhelming majority of people living here are in support of this,” Peak said.
'Cart Before the Horse'
Both Councilmen Lou La Monte and John Sibert said they were in favor of putting the formula retail ordinance into a broader context with a specific plan for the Civic Center.
“I’m really uncomfortable passing an ordinance,” La Monte said. “It’s the cart before the horse.”
Sibert reiterated that a bigger picture plan is needed.
"Let’s face it. Starbucks is busy,” Sibert said. “Chipotle -- there are people in there from Malibu eating every noon at lunch. I know enough of the people that are eating there. Those serve a role and frankly because of Chipotle there are people who go over to enjoy gelato at Grom or over to the European Shoe Repair.”
A revised draft of the formula retail ordinance and a roadmap for a Civic Center Specific Plan, including design standards, will likely be brought back to the council by the Oct. 14 meeting at City Hall.
Do you think the city council should have passed the formula retail ordinance or rejected it? How do you propose controlling growth in Malibu's Civic Center? Do you support a temporary chain store ordinance? Tell us in the comments.