Developers score a win in battle against Malibu’s Measure R

Malibu coastline, Steve Soboroff (Getty Images)
Malibu coastline, Steve Soboroff (Getty Images)

Malibu is notorious for taking a hardline approach towards new development, but a court decision on Wednesday gave developers and even Whole Foods a victory.

A state appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling to overturn Measure R, which limits chain stores and forces major projects to be put to a public vote.

The measure, passed by Malibu residents in November 2014, prevented shopping centers from leasing more than 30 percent of its space to chain stores. It also required commercial projects with more than 20,000 square feet of retail, commercial or mixed-use space to be placed before voters, the Los Angeles Business Journal reported.

Malibu property owners, including developer Steve Soboroff, filed a lawsuit in April 2015 challenging the voter-backed law.

Soboroff, vice president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, is developing an estimated 38,000 square foot retail center in Malibu’s Civic Center area that would be anchored by a more than 24,000 square foot Whole Foods Market. While the project has its entitlements, it doesn’t have voter approval as required under Measure R.

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Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant declared Measure R to be invalid in a December 2015 ruling.

He said it was illegal for the chain store cap to be based on the type of tenant as opposed to the use of the space. He also said the public vote required on commercial projects over 20,000 square feet illegal usurped the city’s proper administrative land use role, according to the Business Journal.

A three-judge panel at the Second District Court of appeal concurred with Chalfant’s ruling.

“We conclude that Measure R exceeds the initiative power and is illegal,” the ruling stated.

The panel also called the chain store limits unconstitutional, saying conditional use permits cannot be required solely based on the nature of the store.

Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin said the city is now reviewing the ruling to see if there’s grounds for appeal to the state Supreme Court, noting that city council said it would do everything it can do defend Measure R. [LABJ]Subrina Hudson