The battle with the fixed site car wash operators goes on.  The Car Wash Guys are still going strong in Thousand Oaks, but seven years ago, we had to fight city hall in order to stay.

Joseph A. Garcia/Staff photographer

Mobile car washers now banned from city streets
by Penny Arevalo
Staff Writer

THOUSAND OAKS - Mobile car wash businesses are now banned from city streets and a committee will from to see if there needs to be more regulation of the new, growing and largely unchecked industry, the City Council decided Tuesday.

Judging by the number of people who showed up at City Hall or faxed letters to the council, the issue is a hot one among residents and car washers alike.  The cambers were filled with people on both sides of the issue, while a 2-inch stack of letters from local residents and workers supported the mobile car washers.

Owners of permanent car washes said mobile car washes compete unfairly by not complying with all of the environmental and city-imposed regulations.  Mobile car wash owners responded that they have simply built "a better mouse trap."

But Councilman Alex Fiore said the two types of car washes are catering to different markets and there's room enough for both.

Photo by Joseph A. Garcia - Finishing touch: Steve Meukow, who works for the Car Wash Guys, dries a clien'ts car.  The Thousand City Council decided Tuesday to ban mobile car washes from city streets.

"It seems like there should be some way for the two types of businesses to coexist," he said, adding that while he doesn't like to interfere with free enterprise, he wants to make sure there is a level playing field.

The owners of the permanent car washes complained about many unfair advantages their mobile counterparts enjoy.  David Haines presented a several-minute-long video tape of various mobile car wash businesses in action, many of them liberally using soap and water.

"You would have to suspect that something is in there to clean the cars and once it comes off the car, it goes on the ground," he said.

"If I operated like the mobile car washes, I would be shut down," said Scott Armstrong, general manager at the Janss Mall Car Wash, referring to solvents and other chemicals that are used to clean the cars, then washed into the storm drains.

The council approved its motion, 4-1 with Frank Schillo dissenting.  Included in its motion, the City Council authorized the city staff to conduct a test to find out what pollutants, if any, are created by mobile car washes.  A 1991 letter to the city from the state Regional Water Quality Control Board states there is not discharge of pollutants as long as just potable water is used.

For that reason, Schillo was the sole dissenting vote.

"It's not our responsibility (to pay for and to conduct water quality tests).  We shouldn't be doing it," he said after the meeting.

Lance Winslow, owner of the Car Wash guys, which was among the first mobile car wash company in the city, said he uses a citrus-based cleaner that biodegrades.

He also urged the council not to apply the ban on washing on city streets in the residential neighborhoods because he often washes recreational vehicles there.

"If I didn't wash in front of their house, they'd wash in front of their house," he said.

Ronald Klug, owner of Sunshine Polishing, explained that his business is licensed.

After the decision, Klug and Winslow said they were disappointed - Klug because he has some clients who prefer to have their cars washed while parked on an empty cul-de-sac or at the end of a dead-end street and Winslow because he is unhappy with the composition of the committee that will look into the issue.

The committee, which will include representatives from the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, the city and the two types of car washes, is to report back to the council by mid-April.

Reprinted from News Chronicle, January 27,1993.

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