Westlake drops suit against car washers
WESTLAKE VILLAGE - The city has decided to drop its case against two women arrested by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies in July for washing cars from a mobile truck in city limits.
City officials cited the cost of possible future litigation as the reason for withdrawing prosecution.
A councilman, meanwhile, says that unless a mobile washer is a nuisance, there will be no further arrests of mobiles in the City of Westlake Village anytime soon.
Arraignment of the women, Leslie Nims and Yojana Maria Nuno-Lopez, had been delayed three times as their attorney asked for the case to be thrown out of court and the city attempted to show evidence they had broken a city law.
Nims, 26, of Newbury Park, owner of Car Wash Gals, and Nuno-Lopez, 23, of Thousand Oaks, were due to appear again in Malibu Municipal Court on Monday.
But City Attorney Laurence Wiener said that the Westlake Village City Council decided in a closed session Wednesday night to dismiss the action against the women and that Monday's court hearing is being canceled.
"The cost of prosecution at this time is not in the city's interest," Wiener said. He noted that it remains the city's position that it would have prevailed in court.
Councilman Ken Rufener said the city's ordinance still stands and still disallows mobile car washers to operate, but that the city in fact is back to where it was before the women were arrested.
He said he expects mobile car washers will operate in Westlake Village as before and that there will be no further arrests, unless the mobile washers "do something really annoying to the city."
"Until such time that we can do something constructive, we probably will not pursue this," said Rufener.
"We'll probably be relooking at our ordinance to see how it can be improved, and possibly the subject may come up later," he said.
City officials have contended that the city's zoning ordinance permits only fixed car washes that are part of gas stations to operate in Westlake Village.
The law does not specifically say that mobile car wash businesses cannot operate, however, and attorneys for the women have said the city had no case and relied only on an ambiguous law.
Mitch Kahn, an attorney for the women, said Thursday that it's his belief the city backed out of the case because the city attorney recognized the city did not have a case.
Nims, who with her husband, Lance Winslow, owns Car Wash Gals and Car Wash Guys, was washing a car in a parking lot in the Westlake Village portion of Thousand Oaks on Thursday when she learned of the city's decision.
"I'm just glad they decided to do what I felt was right," she said. "I'm losing a lot of my income."
She said she was able to wash cars in a business parking lot in the Westlake Village part of Thousand Oaks because this city only prohibits mobiles from working on city streets.
The Thousand Oaks Planing Commission on Monday will be considering further regulation of the mobile carwashers.
Nims said she has been washing cars in the City of Westlake Village for more than three years without incident.
She blamed the city's decision to get rid of mobiles on pressure from fixed car wash operators who she said do not want competition from mobiles.
She and Nuno-Lopez were arrested and immediately released July 30 after they ignored a warning from Westlake Village City Manager Ray Taylor to stop washing cars.
A police report from July 30 indicated that Nims had continued to wash cars that day to press the point that the city does not have a valid law against mobile washers.
Taylor has said the city decided to go for strict enforcement of its ordinance after businesses complained that did not want them on their property and also from fixed car wash businesses.
The women had faced possible misdemeanor penalties of a fine to be determined by a judge and/or six months in jail. Nims said she initially was frightened by the thought of jail. "But my attorney was confident we'd win and took away my fears," she said.
Nuno-Lopez was unavailable for comment.
Reprinted from News Chronicle, September 10, 1993.