Reviving the battle over commercial development in Malibu, a group headed by film director and activist Rob Reiner and his wife Michele submitted a draft ballot initiative to the city proposing stringent citywide regulations on chain stores. They are also seeking a law requiring voter approval of new shopping centers more than 20,000 square feet in size.

The Reiners and their group, Save Malibu, want the initiative put on the November ballot this year. Malibu residents Carol Moss and Dru Ann Jacobson also attached their name to the proposal.

“We filed the ‘Your Malibu, Your Decision Act’ because that [small-town] character stands to be destroyed by massive new commercial developments – developments that we think the voters of Malibu should have the power to approve or reject,” Michele Reiner said in a statement to The Malibu Times.

The “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act” contains two components. Under the first, all major shopping center development and commercial or mixed use construction over 20,000 square feet would require a citywide vote. The second component would place a 30 percent limit on the number of chain stores permitted to operate in Malibu shopping centers.  

Requests for comment to several Civic Center landholders and developments were not returned as The Malibu Times went to press on Tuesday evening.

A team of attorneys in Northern California and political campaign strategists in Los Angeles spent three months drafting the initiative for the Reiners, who are no strangers to political activism. For this latest effort, they enlisted strategist Felix Schein of the Griffin-Schein political firm.

Schein worked with the Reiners when they sponsored the gay couple who challenged Proposition 8 in court, which was overturned by the Supreme Court last year. The Reiners were also pivotal in saving and preserving Ahmanson Ranch by advocating for the passage of Prop 10 in 2003.

Chain store restrictions

The draft initiative defines a chain or “formula retail” store as having 10 or more global locations. In order to open a new chain in Malibu, the business would have to obtain a conditional use permit (CUP) from the Planning Commission and occupy no more than 2,500 square feet. Current chain stores would be grandfathered in if the initiative passes.

Already-existing chain stores would not be required to obtain a conditional use permit. However, if they wanted to expand, for example, or move to a new location, then the new rule would apply to them,” said James Harrison, an attorney who represents the Reiners.

Additionally, no more than 30 percent of overall square footage and leasable spaces of a shopping center could be occupied by a chain. Grocery stores, banks, real estate offices, gas stations, movie theaters, post offices, drug stores, medical offices and low-cost overnight hotels and motels would be exempt from the law.

The chain store restrictions bear a striking resemblance to an ordinance that was considered by the City Council last year that would have only applied to the Civic Center. Despite pressure from the grassroots group Preserve Malibu and many slow-growth proponents, the council eventually ruled against the ordinance and instead opted to begin drafting a Civic Center Specific Plan and Design Guidelines. Later this month, city officials will consider implementing a temporary 45% cap on chains in the Civic Center for one year until the specific plan and design guidelines are drafted by a consultant.

Fate of new shopping centers would be up to voters

The other “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act” initiative component—putting development decisions in the hands of voters—was not an idea considered at the council level last year. Any proposed commercial/shopping center measuring 20,000 square feet or more that does not yet have building permits would be put to a citywide vote. If the initiative is passed and enacted this year, the law could affect some projects already in the pipeline such as Whole Foods in the Park and the La Paz project, according to Harrison.

If they don’t have their building permits, then the new law would apply to them,” he said.

The City of Del Mar in San Diego County passed a similar voter-empowering law in the 1980s.

“Right now, decisions about the construction of massive new developments can be made without voter approval...We hope developers will embrace this idea,” Michele Reiner said.

City Clerk Lisa Pope said the Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin’s office is looking over the draft initiative and must prepare a ballot title and summary before Reiner’s camp can begin gathering signatures to have the initiative officially placed on the November ballot. Pope said that in order for a special election to be held in November, the petitioners would need to gather 15 percent of signatures from local voters. She said it was too early to know if the initiative would require 50-plus-1 percent approval or two-thirds voter approval.

(21) comments


THANK YOU Rob for this initiative. It is not too far off what neighbors in communities across the nation have been pushing for. San Francisco recently took TWO items to the voters, including the right to vote on any waterfront developments that wish to exceed height limits...

In both cases the neighbors and supporting organizations were SUED by the same type of greedy ignoramuses who claim that "it's going to hurt San Francisco's economy"...

Nothing of the sort occurred except that now voters in SF feel more empowered and in charge of what their city feels and looks like, and have put the back-room politicians and dealers on notice that their way is not going to be tolerated any more!



Why did this ordinance give a free pass to the Jay Luchs inspired Lumber Yard and Malibu Village? These centers have been responsible for the proliferation of high end boutique stores that can afford to pay ridiculous rents,lose money but Brand Malibu as part of their global expansion plan. It is very curious how an ordinance that was drafted to stop these stores rewards Glimcher Trust(Lumberyard owner) and Jamestown(the newest owner of the Village).This is a gross oversight and makes a mockery of the formula shopping ordinance.

Marianne Riggins

Has anyone considered that instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an initiative that will surely end up in one or many lawsuits, that the money could be used to start a non profit to raise funds to purchase some of the vacant land in question?

Steve Woods

Tom , those of us who want Malibu to stay rural are happy to go over the hill to the valley , up pch to Camarillo or southeast to Santa Monica to shop for what we need . I believe in capitalism and majority rules ! Those who want wall to wall commercialism are free to move to Newport Beach !

Tom Bates






Steve Woods

The Malibu Bay Company's Chilli Cook Off site was destined to be developed into a mega commercial complex but the will of the residents pressured an acquisition that now serves as green space . Though costly, more can be done through grants and other creative means to keep the Civic Center from becoming a giant congested Rodeo Drive / Mall-i - bu shopping desti Nation .

Tom Bates

Dear Polo girl, Steve Wood and Malibu guy.

#1.The commercial usage was created by the people of Malibu after years and year of planning.
#2. The commercial usage was down zoned to 85% open space by the city of Malibu several years ago. This about some telling a owner how he has to use his property. This is a new low in taking of property rights and diminishment of value which is also a taking. Check out Furey v Sacramento.
#3.The United States Constitution over rules the mission statement of the City of Malibu.(Polo Girl)
#4. Carmel has been developed to max since the 1960's nothing was saved except when they outlawed Ice Cream because of the paper wrappers that were used on the cones. Ice Cream was outlawed!
#5.The issue here is HOW PEOPLE CAN OPERATE THEIR BUSINESS. The Reiners simply don't get it. This is America and we can do what we dam well want as long as it is not illegal and it compiles with local laws.

Steve Woods

The people of Carmel voted to save their town from commercial ruin !

So now we are going to discriminate on who can and cannot domicile in Malibu? What is next, is Rob going to tell us what color to paint our homes too?

Steve Woods

"This initiative is irrational, and so far-reaching it’s almost silly."
So Democracy , Will of the people , Majority Rules and protecting our environmentally minded rural community is far reaching ? Really ? Okay,, lets reach and reach far if we have to prevent Malibu from becoming another Newport .

Rick Smith

Thank you Rob Reiner. Thank you for fighting for gay rights! Thank you for fighting for early childhood development! Thank you for fighting against chain stores in Malibu??? This can’t be serious. Someone tell me this isn’t serious… Us poor Malibu folks have it so rough. Radio Shack and Urban Outfitters are in a shopping center; whatever shall we do? How are we ever going to survive with only 26 miles of scenic beauty? This initiative is irrational, and so far-reaching it’s almost silly. What’s next Mr. Reiner, a ban on cheeseburgers in Santa Monica?

Steve Woods

Yes !
Lets put it to a vote and let the citizens re-affirm the message that we do not want rampant commercial development in our community as communicated in the Citys General Plan . The owners DO have the right to keep their property but they do not have the right to build whatever they want . Some real estate investments pan out for a profit while others do not . Attention Commercial Developers, Malibu may not be or was not the best place to invest . Ideally ,these lands should be acquired at or below market value, retired and turned over for green spaces, and parkland .

Robert Dot

If the city and people care so much about that land they should buy it from Weintraub. End of story. This town needs to learn how to put its money where it's mouth is. This sillyness would never fly in East Hamptons. So Hollywood-all flash and no cash.

Robert, you forgot to add Developers to the Creepy List.......If you were not in attendance at the last council meeting, Weintraubs Performance was the definition of Creepy.

Robert Dot

Who cares what actors think. It's up to the free market who rents out to who. What do actors know about running a city/business. Malibu is booming simply need smart growth that the highways,roads, schools and hospitals can handle. Actors don't own Malibu land owners do. Actors are just as creepy as politicians. Get a job.

Jacky Tomlinson

Tom, It is not discrimination when it is in accordance with the Malibu mission statement posted right on the front page of the building codes for Malibu. Who would buy land and expect to build on it outside of a city's mission statement and codes anyway? Maybe you think counting lateral wall space as open space to meet building requirements is acceptable? My the way, are you complaining that we don't have the population base to support a Costco in Malibu? We don't live in Malibu to have a Costco. We live in Malibu to have convenient access to nature, hiking, beautiful vista and a peaceful way of life, at least that was what the survey taken 3 years ago revealed. In my possibly not so humble opinion, the laws and representation of Malibu were originally designed to reflect these values. In fact the first proposal brought before the original city council for a planned development in civic center was unanimously thrown out because of too dense a development footprint.

We just simply are not going to want more development and chain stores here. We have plenty to improve upon that already exist, like what Mr. Ellison did with those two now beautiful buildings along PCH, one housing Nobu and what he is doing with the motel. We have empty buildings! We have vacant space, why would we want to create more buildings rather than re rehabilitating, redefining, reusing what we have? Conservation is a great thing!


Finally. Giving the residents of Malibu the vote on the future of our home. Taking the power out of politicians hands and back to the people who care the most. The residents of Malibu.

Falsely claiming this legal initiative is a "taking" is a lie, one that will be perpetrated by the developers. So please, everyone, do your own research. Here is what the Courts of California have to say:

"As long as the ordinance leaves property owners with economically viable uses of their property, it will not be considered a taking. "A zoning ordinance does not constitute a taking simply because it narrows a property owner's options."

A city's ability to enact land use restrictions on specific types of retailers has been upheld in California courts."

"“Even when the regulation of economic competition reasonably can be viewed as a direct and intended effect of a zoning ordinance or action, so long as the primary purpose of the ordinance or action-that is, its  principal and ultimate objective-is not the impermissible private anticompetitive goal of protecting or disadvantaging a particular favored or disfavored business or individual, but instead is the advancement of a legitimate public purpose-such as the preservation of a municipality's downtown business district for the benefit of the municipality as a whole - the ordinance reasonably relates to the general welfare of the municipality and constitutes a legitimate exercise of the municipality's police power.”

Legal. Binding. And about time!

Tom Bates

The three other folks that are in favor of this petition just are out of touch with reality.

There are laws that guarantee usage of land if people buy land for certain as approved by the City and County and wish to use it for that. It is call having a vested right. Any diminishment of that right require "Just Compensation" from the City.

This petition won't work and the attorney's who drew it up are aware that this is a "taking" of private property without compensation. (See Article 5 of the Constitution)

This is normal development in the confines of the Civic Center. The controlling factor is now and always will be the population base of Malibu which is quite small.

This is the reason that we don't have enough population to support a Costco or even a See's Candy Store.

Some jerks say's over development and with out thinking you say that is bad and want to stop it without investigating or any other knowledge just emotional knee jerk reaction..


Andy Choka

It is really a shame that it has come to a place where the citizens have to act to protect Malibu from the overdevelopment planned by the developers and the present city council. Preserve Malibu and other citizens have been working for years to get the city council to act. Unfortunately, four of them are in the pockets of developers. Why on earth a city of 13,000 needs a million new square feet of shopping centers and traffic gridlock just so some out of town shoppers can buy overpriced goods is beyond me. Remember that the incumbents in the current city council race (LaMonte and Rosenthal) are the ones that torpedoed every effort to save our city. Remember when you are stuck in traffic who caused it. Ask them if they support the initiative and I am sure you will get a political answer that means they will fight the initiative.New blood is needed.

Thank You Rob, Michele, and Preserve Malibu, it's about time, can't wait to vote on it and shut the door on the Greed.

Jacky Tomlinson

[beam] I think this is a huge start and I think a community has the right and the obligation to create laws that protect their city, especially when you live in the middle of a big ESHA! (Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area) I think the city is further protected legally in doing this because it is in compliance with the city's Mission Statement published more than 20 years ago. It is in line with why this city was formed in the first place. Thank you so much to Rob and Michelle Reiner, Carol Moss and Dru Ann Jacobson for doing this!! [thumbup]

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