Here is The Car Wash Guy's reply to the City of Thousand Oaks.

Law Offices of Cohen, Alexander & Clayton
One Boardwalk, Suite 102
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

January 4, 1991

Mr. Donald C. LaVoie
Code Enforcement Supervisor
Planning and Community Development
City of Thousand Oaks
2150 W. Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320

Re: Temporary Car Wash Operation

Dear Mr. LaVoie:

I have recently reviewed your December 27, 1990 letter to three gentlemen with regard to the alleged operation of temporary car wash businesses within the city.  I think it would be appropriate to substitute the word "mobile" for temporary because all washings of cars are temporary, particularly in the rainy season.  Don, I found your letter well thought out, carefully worded and considerate of the area within which you found yourself as the Code Enforcement Supervisor   You may agree that your ability to "enforce" within this area, particularly asking businesses to suspend operations, is somewhat questionable.

That last sentence draws a conclusion with which you may not agree but perhaps I can provide the background for that conclusion.  Our office staff has used this service for some time and the washings/detailings have been conducted entirely in our parking lot and off of City streets.  We hire others to wash our windows, to clean our fountain and to service onsite equipment.  I am therefore not sure why we cannot hire someone to wash our cars on our property.

Further, I have always understood the city allows the operation of mobile auto repair businesses that go to a person's house or place of work and repair vehicles.  Car washing is not dissimilar from those, except there is very little noise or waste and there is virtually no spillover of impact(s) from the property.

With regard to water quality/drainage, I have watched them wash my car next to a car that is not being washed and there is absolutely no overspray onto the car next to mine in a parking space that is designed to the city's code.   There is likewise no runoff into the public street or into the public storm drain system of the water used to wash the cars.  In my view, these businesses are merely providing a very convenient service that relieves us of the need to wash cars at home (with a greater wasting of water; the car wash operators tell us they use only 2 1/2 gallons of water per car) and removes cars from the public thoroughfares that may be driving to fixed location car washes.

Don, I know that your department may have received complaints from car wash operators that have invested considerably in their fixed locations and for that reason object to these young men and women washing cars with a very minimal amount of investment.  But please balance that objection against the following:

  1. The right of the individual mobile car wash operator to make a living through a very legitimate, needed and effective business venture;
  2. Remember that these operators have also invested in this enterprise and may have secured loans to finance same;
  3. Our rights as consumers to receive a service that saves us time and money; that saves energy in the form of gasoline and generally offers a very well-rounded convenience to the consumer and to the community;
  4. Our rights as property owners and tenants to hire a service to come to our property and fulfill this service requirements; and
  5. We are visited by other servicing businesses, i.e. servicing our computes and printers that could be serviced elsewhere at a fixed location; does your theory not prohibit us from having these technicians provide this service on-site?

Finally, in response to one or two of the points made in your letter, one of the operators I spoke to did contact the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board who indicated that no violation is occurring by virtue of this operation.   Secondly, I do not believe this use is a "component" of the approved use for which a development permit (i.e. the development of an office building) was issued.

The use is not regulated because it is purely incidental to the operation and therefore because you have windows you will have window washers and because you have cars you may have a car washer.  Perhaps it may require a peddlers and solicitors permit, however, we have a standing or on-call relationship with our service and, therefore, they are not soliciting. 

In closing Don, again I understand that as Code Enforcement Supervisor you need to look into and learn more about the facets of this business.  I would find myself in agreement with objections to this business if these enterprises were washing cars in the public street or draining volumes of water into the public storm drains that may include detergent residues.  But I think you must agree that if you were to take a 2 gallons of water and dump it into the middle of the parking lot that no amount of that water would find its way into the storm drain.  As far as detergents go I am not sure whether these enterprises use detergents in the course of washing their car.  When I wash my own car I never use detergent.

Don, than you for taking the time to review the comments of this letter and I hope you will consider same in further addressing this issue.

Very truly yours,

Cohen, Alexander & Clayton
A Professional Corporation

Michael D. Martello

MDM:wg

cc: Shawn Mason, City Attorney's Office
Steve Rubenstein, Chamber of Commerce
City Council
Michael Gentile

Return to Index of Articles