carwashes under scrutiny
THOUSAND OAKS - The City Council is scheduled tonight to consider tougher regulation of mobile carwashes, a move the detailing firms say would dry up their business in the city.
City officials say the proposal was prompted by complaints from owners of fixed carwashes who say the mobile businesses compete unfairly and violate solicitation and zoning laws, according to a report by Donald LaVoie, the city's code enforcement manager.
"Our major concern is a violation of city zoning ordinances," said Jack Galley, owner of the Janss Mall Car Wash and Village Car Wash. "All we're asking for is either change the rules or make a level playing field."
Lance Winslow, president of The Car Wash Guys mobile wash, said the fixed carwash owners are seeking tougher regulations simply to force the mobile washes out of business.
"I think the direct move is to put us out of business," Winslow said. "That's what they want."
City officials are to review policy toward the nearly 50 mobile carwash and detailing companies in the city when the council meets at 6:30 p.m. at Interim City Hall, 2150 W. Hillcrest Dr.
The city established guidelines in 1991 requiring mobile washes to work on an appointment-only basis and prohibiting "mass" carwashes in the city.
"This issue was raised about a year ago, and the council agreed to let mobile carwashes operate under certain conditions," said Mayor Judy Lazar. "It appears, though, some problems have been arising."
Another concern cited by fixed carwash owners is that the mobile businesses have been banned from some commercial and office properties, so they are washing cars on city streets and creating a safety problem, Lazar said.
"In their defense, they've come up with a great idea, but there are some real problems attached and a question of equity," Lazar said.
Winslow said The Car Wash Guys travel to office buildings in the city and scrub vehicles on the site for about $5 to $20 a vehicle.
While the company does not have a soliciting permit, Winslow said, his workers have some rounds in which they visit offices on a regular basis.
Winslow also said he does not think washing several cars at one site constitutes a mass carwash.
"There are a few buildings we go to, and everyone wants their car washed," he said. "We don't do mass car washes."
Owners of fixed carwashes, however, say the mobile businesses violate soliciting/laws by going door to door to drum up business and zoning laws by washing cars in areas not zoned for that purpose.
In addition, the city is investigating complaints by fixed carwash owners that the mobile competitors might be violating state water codes by dislodging contaminants such as oils or metals that run into storm drains.
The Car Wash Guys told the Regional Water Quality Control Board in 1991 that they had stopped washing cars with soap and were using only potable water in their operations, and the agency said a permit was not needed.
The city, however, now wants to spend $1,000 to test wash water for possible pollutants and present the results to the water board, staff said.
Reprinted from The Conejo Valley Daily News, January 26,1993.