Thousand Oaks News Chronicle

T.O. planners approve mobile car wash rules
by Margaret Daly

A public hearing must be held before City Council can approve, amend or deny the ordinance.

THOUSAND OAKS - After a grueling, five-hour debate, the Planning Commission approved a series of regulations on how mobile car washes can operate in the city.

The City council still must hold a public hearing on the Planning Commission's recommendation before it votes to approve, amend or deny the ordinance.

The three-year controversy has pitted mobile car washers and detailers against fixed car wash businesses.  Questions have focused on the length of time the mobile car washers are allowed on private property, washing cars on city streets, how many cars can be washed at any one time, what type of permission must be obtained and if the mobile car washes pose a pollution problem.

Mobile car wash owner Lance Winslow, of The Car Wash Guys, called the Planning Commission's resolution to allow mobile car washers to clean oversized vehicles on city streets and to wash as many cars as possible in a 30-minute period a "victory."

"I think we got everything we wanted," said Winslow, who's wife was recently arrested in Westlake Village for operating a mobile car wash in violation of that city's rules.

Conejo Car Wash owner Ed Drogmund, who supported restrictions being placed on mobile car washers, said he could not comment on the final recommendation until he sees it in written form, but he said the commission should have given more serious consideration to the water pollution issue.

The commission voted 4 to 1, Commissioner Linda Parks the sole dissenter, to approve the resolution after making numerous changes including a provision to expand the types of businesses affected by it to "miscellaneous" mobile businesses such as fire extinguisher-rechargers and mobile window-blind-washers.

Though the Planning Commission originally recommended that mobile car wash operators obtain written approval prior to applying for a special permit, the commission approved a measure allowing businesses to obtain their permit, but then must be able to produce written permission from property owners allowing them on their property within 90 days of receiving their permit.

The commission added that property owners must also place a sign on their property stating whether or not mobile businesses are welcome.   The commission, with the approval of Don LaVoie, code enforcement manager, believed the signs would aid enforcement.

Mobile car wash owners found the requirement onerous, but the commissioners said that the burden belonged on the businesses rather than on the property owners.

Mobile car wash operators will be allowed to wash cars on city streets as long as it does not constitute a traffic or safety hazard, overturning a previous recommendation that they not be allowed on city streets.

They will continue to be allowed to clean cars in parking lots but can only wash cars for up to 30 minutes to cut down on mass car washes.

City planning officials said if each business could wash an unlimited number of cars it would overload storm drains.  LaVoie said he believes that about 30 mobile car washes operate in the city and of those no more than four descend on a particular lot on any one day.

Parks said she felt the ordinance was unnecessary altogether because water-quality seemed a non-issue.  "I think we're all fooling ourselves if we think this is a water quality issue," she said.  She cited claims by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board stating that the car washes posed no more of a threat than individuals who wash their cars at home.

Reprinted from The Thousand Oaks News Chronicle, September 14, 1993.

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