Malibu's unusual Measure R: an initiative to create more initiatives

You may not be very familiar with Malibu, the home of Pepperdine, except for some occasional references about Johnny Carson or Barbie dolls. It's a sleepy, rural beach town that runs twenty-seven miles up the Pacific Coast, far from the din of Los Angeles and a good drive from the hub of Santa Monica.

There are a couple of factions in Malibu. One faction wants to preserve the local character of the sleepy, rural beach town--little development, few chain stores, small businesses. Another faction wants the town to look more like a developing community, with more commercial opportunities. (For a story on the recent debate in Malibu, see this Los Angeles Times story.)

Measure R is a ballot initiative that will be on the ballot in Malibu. (PDF) It contains what might be considered typical for land use restrictions: it restricts commercial development to 20,000 square feet; it limits chain stores to 30% of the real estate in new shopping centers; and so on.

But it's the remedy that I find fascinating as a part of Measure R:

A specific plan or plans shall be prepared for every development project subject to this measure. Following adoption of the specific plan or plans for these projects by the City Council, the plan or plans shall be placed on the ballot, as soon as possible, for approval by the voters. One specific plan may be prepared covering more than one development project subject to this measure or a separate specific plan may be prepared for each subject project.

That's right--the ballot initiative empowers voters, by future initiatives, to decide whether to approve or disapprove any such commercial development.

It's a deep commitment to direct democracy, or a deep distrust of the City Council, depending on your views. And if Measure R passes, it's not just the ballot initiative that's enacted, but a likelihood that future ballot measures will give the people of Malibu the power to decide whether to go ahead with development of other commercial development projects.