Council Waters down car wash ordinance

Council waters down car wash ordinance
by Margaret Daly
Staff Writer

THOUSAND OAKS - The City Council decimated a resolution three years in the making Tuesday, allowing the mobile car washing industry virtual free rein in Thousand Oaks.

During the 2 -hour public hearing, mobile car washers testified that the proposed law was discriminatory because it targeted their business, and fixed car wash operators argued that the mobile units posed an environmental threat.

As testimony ended, Councilman Frank Schillo proposed that the council do very little to regulate the industry.

"For the most part, I don't think a lot of this can be enforced anyway," he said.  "I really don't think we should be getting involved with a competitive atmosphere."

He proposed deleting several portions of the ordinance, including restrictions on where and how many cars mobile washers could clean, and he suggested exempting high-quality wax and polish detailers from the ordinance.

The council voted 3 to 1 to accept Schillo's changes; Councilwoman Jaime Zukowski dissented, and Councilman Alex Fiore was absent.

The Thousand Oaks Planning Commission had recommended a highly restrictive ordinance.  As passed by the council Tuesday, the law restricts mobile operators from retail plazas except where there is parking in the back and requires that they work at least 75 feet from the nearest storm drain.  They must obtain an administrative action permit for $150 and a solicitation license to go door-to-door.

But it allows them more latitude in other areas.

Mobile operators can wash as many cars as they can in a day - Lance Winslow, owner of The Car Wash Guys, said each of his eight crews can wash up to 60 cars a day - and they don't have to get permission from property owners.

Owners who don't want mobile businesses on their property must post a sign stating that; otherwise, consent will be implied.

While many of the 45 mobile car washers and detailers felt that the original ordinance unfairly targeted them, Zukowski said the amended law was unfair to fixed businesses that have complied with various regulations over the years.

"I have concerns about taking apart an ordinance that really did express some concerns," she said.

The quality of the wash water entering storm drains has been an off-and-on concern, but Winslow and several detailers said they use only about a gallon of clean water and little drops on the ground.

"It's hard to believe no additives are used," Zukowski commented.

Ed Drogmund, a fixed car wash owner who favors strong regulations, said the mobile car washers produce industrial waste and should not be allowed to let that waste drain into city catch basins.

But Schillo and Councilwoman Judy Lazar pointed out that the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality control Board had do objections.

City officials had been working on an ordinance regulating the fast-growing mobile industry for more than three years.  Their work included joint committees through the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Reprinted from News Chronicle, November 10, 1993.

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