Controversy continues on mobile car washers
by Michele Daly
Acorn Staff Writer
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The Westlake Village mobile car wash controversy expanded last week with new questions arising on both sides of the issue.

The leading objection, and most resounding challenge, was whether it is within the purview of government to legislate an even playing field for private enterprise.

"I think so," said Nader Moradian, owner of the Westlake Village Car Wash.  Ordinances, codes and zoning laws required him to spend thousands of dollars for building and landscape architects, permits, improvements and inspections to insure an attractive facility that is shielded by landscaping and walls from public view.

Environmental regulations mandated enormous expenses for special sewers; pumping facilities for recycling gray water; fixed holding tanks and filters for contaminants - all before one car was washed, Moradian said.

How about the ongoing costs of shipping and disposing of hazardous waste materials, asked Moradian, who also cited rent, electricity, workmen's compensation and insurance.  "I cannot compete with mobile water tanks," he said.

"I realize (Moradian) is under a lot of rules and regulations mobiles are not under," said Councilman Ken Rufener.   "And it may not be a fair playing field in his opinion."

Councilwoman Kris Carraway agreed.  She knows, first hand, the tremendous expense of owning and operating a car wash facility and the high cost of environmental regulations.  That family business was sold in 1988.

Rufener wants the mobile car wash decision left to property managers.  "(They) are willing to do that," he said.  But he added, "There doesn't seem to be any pressure from tenants to ban car washes."

According to Rufener, both fixed and mobile car washers provide needed services - but in different ways.  Mobile car washers clean "surface stuff" while stationary car washes clean thoroughly, including the car's undercarriage.

Another controversy arises over the concern that regulating or banning a specific business may be discriminatory.  But the pollution argument may not hold water.  Lance Winslow from The Car Wash Guys presented a certificate that his company received from L.A. County's Water Quality Board at a previous hearing in Westlake Village.

And the city of Westlake Village is not excluding car washing in residential areas where runoff enters the same storm drain system.  Other mobile trades, such as window blind cleaners, mobile dog groomers, window washers and catering trucks will not be restricted.

Winslow questioned the Thousand Oaks law requiring a $150 permit and waste water collection tanks on his vehicles while that city's graffiti abatement equipment was not subject to the same rules.

That city's graffiti removal crews used chemicals and about 30 gallons of water under pressure recently to eliminate paint (possibly containing lead) from a wall near K-Mart on Hampshire Road, said Winslow, and the runoff was flowing directly into a nearby storm drain.

According to Thousand Oaks Councilman Frank Schillo the issue is under investigation and will be returned this week for council consideration.

Both Schillo and Rufener said the issue involved regulating free enterprise which is distasteful.  According to Schillo, citizens were not present to testify against mobile car washers during the hearings.

"I hate to take away from anybody the right to do business," Rufener said.

Both Carraway and Rufener said they were not "locked in" on a final decision yet and both were willing to listen to arguments regarding this issue.  Carraway said she plans to take a citizens' poll before making a decision.

Reprinted from The Acorn, March 16, 1994.

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