Council: Water runoff must be contained
by Margaret Day
Staff Writer

THOUSAND OAKS - The City Council reversed itself again on how mobile car washes can operate.

On a 4 to 1 vote Tuesday night with Councilwoman Judy Lazar dissenting, the council said mobile car washers must buy water containment systems to ease the burden on the city's storm drains.  The action retreated from an ordinance passed Nov. 9 giving more latitude to mobile car washers operating in the city.

The issue has been argued at various times as an environmental issue and one of competition in a changing marketplace.  While much of Tuesday night's discussion was centered around the impact of the mobile car wash runoff on the city's storm drains, the mobile car washers were characterized as "street vendors" who unfairly compete with established businesses.

Councilman Alex Fiore, who motioned that the council require the water catchment system, declared himself in favor of free enterprise, but insisted that the "playing field must be level."

Lance Winslow, owner of The Car Wash Guys, a mobile car wash company, did not call the decision a loss.  Under the amended ordinance, mobile washers will have to purchase a water catchment system, which runs around $2,000, and each truck must be equipped with one.

"They just put all of my competition out of business," said Winslow.  In addition to the containment systems, the mobile washers will have to pay a $522 annual fee to cover enforcement.  Winslow said with the containment system the mobile washers will have to drive cars onto the system.   "You have to have insurance to move someone's car," he said.

He also said moving the cars will slow down business, a business he said relies on volume in order to profit.

Councilwoman Jaime Zukowski had hoped that by amending the ordinance to add the catchment system requirement, the council could also require that the mobile washers not be allowed in retail centers, but council members decided to retain the provision to allow them to operate in the rear of the centers.

In casting the dissenting vote, Lazar said that she is not trying to avoid what she sees as an inevitability, but said the city should apply its rules evenly.  "I'm just opposed to imposing it now on one business," she said.  Lazar pointed out that carpet cleaning businesses also pose a burden to the city's water system and other businesses may also.

The council acted on a recommendation forged by Assistant City Attorney Robert Rogers and Director of Public Works Don Nelson.   Nelson said increasing demands on the city's storm drains led the city to pursue some kind of containment for the mobile washers, but felt a reduced fee was equitable.

Fixed car washers have said that the mobile car washers should have to pay the same kind of water fees that they have to pay to comply with county and state standards.

Reprinted form the News Chronicle, January 19, 1994.

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