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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chamber Comes Out Swinging to Oppose Consideration of Retail Formula Measure

•  Planning Staff to Use Handhelds to Record Attendee Opinion

BY BILL KOENEKER

Privately, some folks are already crying foul about this week’s city-sponsored community meeting on retail formula scheduled for Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at City Hall.
Those suspicions were prompted by planning officials saying they are going to have a limited number of polling recording devices for those who attend. How will those polling devices be distributed? If a only a select few will have them, who will gain access and how would any representative vote of all the people attending be tabulated?
Planning Director Joyce Parker Bozylinski brushed aside those concerns, saying they have about 100 devices and did not think anyone would go without one.
Associate Planner Joseph Smith said the wireless devices, which are “very simple,” are provided by the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University at a cost to the city of $750.
“They were used before at a previous town hall meeting,,” added Smith, who said the city staff will conduct the meeting and the Davenport representatives will operate the equipment.
“They have option keys from one to six. The questions are on the screen. those tallies will be turned into a report.”Those private complaints were coupled with the letter that was sent out by the Malibu Chamber of Commerce urging its members to oppose any retail formula regulation. “Are they going to try to stack the meeting? Will they gain an upper hand in securing the polling devices?” Those were other concerns expressed about the chamber’s outright opposition.
The letter states, “It is imperative that decision-makers hear from business owners like you. We ask you to join us at this meeting in telling the city that a formula retail ordinance would do more harm than good. We are on record opposing any further regulation that we deem unnecessary, potentially harmful and fraught with unintended consequences.”
The letter was signed, “Malibu Chamber of Commerce.
Parker Bozylinski also addressed that during an interview Monday night. She said the council voted on the direction it wants to take and simply opposing what the council has already voted on will not be helpful for planners.
Last month, the Malibu City Council voted 3-2 to move forward with drafting a formula retail ordinance that would require any new “formula business” in the Civic Center to obtain a Conditional Use Permit in order to open a new business in shopping centers of 10,000 square feet.
Chamber members in the letter were told chamber head Don Schmitz communicated concerns about such regulation to the council the night of the vote and expressed support for “a more free market approach because both the city’s and independent studies show that Malibu maintains a healthy diversity of both national and local retailers.”
The chamber letter stresses that one of the core problems is in how “community-serving businesses” is defined.
“How does one define such a thing? Chipotle and Radio Shack are two prime examples of why additional regulation makes no sense. These stores would fall under the general definition of a formula business, yet they are also the very epitome of a business serving our community. So how is an ordinance addressing a perceived problem. The answer is, it is not.”
The planning director said what will be helpful for planners is comments from the public about, yes, a definition for community business or if the process should require maybe a site plan review or something similar rather than a CUP.
“Just opposing it, will not be helpful for us,” Parker Bozylinski added.
The chamber letter goes on to state there is a “narrow majority” pursuing a path, that will ultimately, albeit inadvertently, hurt the business community.
Some council members agreed that not enough of e public has been heard from. “I’m getting calls all the time from people who express a different view,” said Councilmember Joan House.
The chamber letter went on to say, “We believe that promoting and supporting locals starts and ends with the community, both the residential and business communities, working hand in hand, not the government making decisions for residents where to shop.
“The Malibu Chamber has a history of finding creative ways to promote local businesses. We believe that in a free market society, consumers speak with their wallets.”

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