Handing a victory to developers, a judge this week overturned a measure enacted last year by Malibu voters to limit retail developments involving chain stores.

The ruling, should it stand, also allows a Whole Foods-anchored shopping center planned for the center of town to move forward, despite voters rejecting the project last month.

Measure R, which Malibu voters passed in November 2014, prohibits any shopping center in the city from leasing more than 30 percent of its space to chain stores and requires any commercial project of more than 20,000 square feet of retail, commercial or mixed-use space to be placed before voters.

A group of property owners, including Steve Soboroff, developer of the Whole Foods project, filed suit in April challenging the constitutionality of the law.

In a ruling issued Monday and made public late Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled Measure R to be invalid. He said it was illegal for the chain store cap to be based strictly on the type of tenant as opposed to the use of the space. And he said the requirement to place any commercial project of more than 20,000 square feet before voters illegally usurped the city’s proper administrative land use role.

“By subjecting non-legislative acts to public vote, Measure R unlawfully withdraws the city’s administrative and adjudicative functions and exceeds the scope of initiative power under California law,” Chalfant wrote in his ruling.

The first project to come along after Measure R’s passage was Soboroff’s 38,400-square foot shopping center anchored by a 20,000-square foot Whole Foods store. In November, voters rejected the project by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin. Judge Chalfant’s ruling makes that vote nonbinding, thus allowing the project to move forward.

A spokesman for the group of property owners that filed the lawsuit welcomed the judge’s ruling.

“We are pleased with the court’s ruling declaring Measure R to be illegal and unconstitutional,” said spokesman Brian Lewis. “The court’s lengthy, written opinion … confirms that Measure R was overbroad and violated property owners’ rights to due process.”

The Malibu City Council, meanwhile, will review the ruling when it reconvenes next month to determine whether to let it stand or file an appeal.

Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin said the city won a partial victory in that Chalfant upheld the right of the city to regulate chain stores. It’s just the way that Measure R sought to regulate chain stores that the judge ruled illegal.

“The Council could decide to fine-tune the regulations on chain stores that the city had on its books prior to Measure R,” she said.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.