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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Station Convenience Store’s Try for Beer and Wine Sales Rebuffed Again

• Issue of Prejudice and Applicant’s Ethnicity Is Raised

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council, on a 4-0 vote with Councilmember Joan House recusing herself, denied an appeal this week by the owner, MMK Enterprises, Inc., of the Circle K convenience store located at 21216 Pacific Coast Highway, over its efforts to obtain a permit to sell beer and wine.
The appellant, who is also the applicant, requested that the city council overturn the planning commission’s decision to not allow the store to engage in beer and wine sales.
Adding a new dimension to the series of hearings on the permit application, the city council was accused of discriminating against Persians, or Iranians, with Don Schmitz, who was hired by the family to expedite the matter intimating such allegations.
Schmitz cited the number of permits approved by the city allowing the sale of beer, wine or alcohol that have been issued since the planning commission’s original denial of Circle K.
The planning consultant, who is chair of the city’s trails committee and head of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce told council members, “I know you. I know you in your heart, but looking from the outside, it doesn’t look right. We should not be singled out.”
A supporter of the owner who spoke was more direct about possible ethnic discrimination and said, “It is because he, the owner, is Persian. All fingers point to yes.”
“I am personally insulted by this, to accuse us of this,” said Councilmember John Sibert, teleconferencing from his residence where he is recuperating from surgery.
Sibert said, “The argument seems to be, we probably have too many [alcohol outlets]. What about one more? My inclination is to deny the appeal,” he said.
“I am not basing my decision on ethnicity. That is rather insulting and insulting to the planning commission,” said Mayor Lou La Monte. There are way too many outlets in Malibu. I am one of your customers, but I can’t support this,” he said.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she had many concerns and issues about the matter
“I do have to come back to why they were told no and why other places got permits. There were a lot of people who complained about [Circle K]. The greatest concentration seems to be around Circle K. When do we start limiting? Do we start now?”
Rosenthal said she could not understand why, if the applicant kept saying the sale of beer and wine was so incidental to his operations, he is trying so hard to get a permit.
Councilmember Skylar Peak was adamant that “we need to start limiting now. If we don’t, we will continue to have more accidents on the highway.” He added, “ We hear the sirens all the time. But it does need to be fair.”
The council denied the appeal and also denied the Conditional Use Permit for “the sale of beer and wine for offsite consumption as an accessory use to the existing Circle K convenience store.”
The proposal was rejected by the planning commission on two separate occasions.
During the previous hearings, commissioners were apparently swayed by public opinion that there were already too many outlets where alcoholic beverages can be obtained along that stretch of Pacific Coast Highway.
Schmitz unsuccessfully argued that the basis for denial on the grounds that there are a concentration of too many businesses selling alcohol for off-site consumption is not legal and cannot be implemented by the municipality. Planning staff disagreed citing ABC’s determination the Los Flores vicinity is a high crime area with a concentration of too many outlets..
In May 2007, an application was received by the planning department for a CUP for store use, which included a proposal to sell beer and wine, as well as the interior remodel of the existing service station.
At that meeting, commissioners heard from homeowners, attorneys and others who protested the opening of another location for the sale of alcoholic beverages given the proximity of so many other outlets in the immediate area.
A second meeting was no different when some of that same group of critics came back to the commission to show opposition.
The staff carried out a reevaluation of the new CUP application and “determined that onsite conditions, which led the planning commission to the aforementioned conclusion, have not changed since 2007.”
During his presentation before the commission, the applicant’s consultant said they were willing to accept almost any conditions the commission or the public would want to impose for approval of the permit.
The applicant had also argued the sale of beer and wine “will be an incidental sale item to the nearly 5000 goods currently offered for sale at the market.”

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