Malibu has filed a motion to dismiss all claims in a federal lawsuit challenging a local measure that put limits on chain stores in the seaside city, according to court papers obtained today.
Measure R, which restricts the proportion of chain retailers in new Malibu developments to no more than 30 percent by square footage and requires that any commercial development of more than 20,000 square feet be submitted to voters for approval, was passed in November.
The lawsuit challenging the measure was lodged last month in Los Angeles federal court by Steve Soboroff, who wants to bring a Whole Foods store to the city, and Jerrold Perenchio’s Malibu Bay Company, which has plans for a retail and office center.
“The people of Malibu spoke clearly at the ballot box about their desires for future commercial development, and the city will defend the law vigorously against challenges,” Malibu Mayor John Sibert said. “The city was founded on the desire to gain more local control, and we have a fundamental right to determine the character of our community.”
The plaintiffs contend that the law’s chain store restriction discriminates against stores with out-of-state owners and thus violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Measure R’s proponents, who include filmmaker Rob Reiner and Barbra Streisand, argued that Malibu’s “small-town character” was threatened by a possible 1.5 million square feet of new development, including the 25,000- square-foot Whole Foods market.
“The property owners rushed into federal court before the City had a chance to implement Measure R,” City Attorney Christi Hogin said. “The lawsuit claims that there is no way that Measure R can be implemented without running afoul of the constitution, and we believe that is simply not true.”
In the city’s motion Wednesday, Hogin wrote of the underlying purpose of Measure R.
“Unabated, proliferation of chain stores could turn every town into AnyTown,” she wrote. “Measure R represents Malibu’s attempt to tackle a real, current and growing threat to its community character. The California Constitution empowers cities to control development for just this purpose.”