Council pulls the plug on local mobile car washes
On a rare 3-2 vote split last week, the Westlake Village City Council turned down an ordinance that would have legalized mobile car wash and auto detail service within the city.
With councilmembers Doug Yarrow and Ken Rufener supporting the ordinance, mayor James Emmons joined councilmembers Berniece Bennett and Bonnie Klove in shooting down the long-debated issue.
Last week's hearing followed had been debated in depth, with the mobile car washers and detailers out in force. Whether or not the other mobile operators were anticipating a shoo-in or defeat, there was only one mobile industry representative on hand, Lance Winslow, owner of the Car Wash Guys.
Fixed car wash operators' spokesman Robert McCord, an attorney representing the Conejo Car Wash Association's three members, said the issue was water quality control. McCord had made the same point at a previous public hearing on the issue. He told councilmembers that runoff from mobile washes constituted an industrial discharge. As such, it did not go through the same clarification process as is the case with a fixed operator. All local storm drain runoff went right into Westlake Lake, he said.
Naseer Moradian, owner of Westlake Village Ultra Car Wash, a permanent facility, sad he had been operating for seven years and had obeyed all the city's laws. He said that he and two other operators comprising the Conejo Car Wash Association, had contributed $21,000 this year to charities and school organizations. "I'm proud to be part of this village."
He asked that the council defeat the ordinance. A complain letter from Moradian to the city about mobile wash operations had set off the entire debate.
Jim Johnson, a Westlake resident who oversaw the original development of the city as an employee of the master developer, said he finally found something he had missed in writing the city's original CC and Rs (Codes, Covenants and Restrictions), "Mobile businesses. If you approve this, what will come next?"
"Mobile car washes are not in keeping with the very special ambiance we have here in Westlake Village," said Jim Henderson.
"It's me against these guys," Winslow said. "We wash a lot of cars in this community and people love it. As far as contaminates - it's B.S." He said the ordinance would answer all the complaints that may come out. The mobile car wash business was a value to the community, he said.
Councilmember comments were impassioned on both sides of the issue. Rufener, who had conducted his own experiment on car wash water runoff. "None of it went into the lake." People want the (mobile) service, he said.
"What has started out as a request for a level playing field (Moradian's complaint) has become an economic battle of trying to force someone out of service," Yarrow said.
Bennett rhetorically asked how would the city control getting the mobile car wash operators into city hall to secure permits required by the ordinance. "Who's going to pay for this?"
Klove said that Moradian had a major investment in the city and paid taxes and provided jobs. the only money that came to the city from the mobile operators was the cost of the permit, she said. "I don't know what they give back to the community."
If the motion to approve failed, Yarrow asked, "Won't w have the same enforcement problem?" He called the enforcement issue a red herring. "If enforcement is the issue, then we should throw out our sign ordinance. I don't know any realtors that follow it now."
Emmons cast the deciding "No" vote without comment.
Reprinted from The Acorn, 1993.