SANTA MARIA, Calif. — According to www.santamariatimes.com, the Santa Maria city council passed an ordinance that prohibits mobile carwashing on public streets and mandates washers possess certain permits and equipment to gather and transport wastewater.
Despite mobile carwashers protesting outside City Hall during the meeting and three other times since the first reading of the regulations on March 16th, the council voted 3-2 to pass the ordinance.
Although enforcement and the fees stipulated in the ordinance will not go into effect until late summer at the earliest, many mobile carwashers felt the ordinance would put them out of business and did not take into account the impacts on their families, especially during the pandemic.
“This has affected me greatly. I can’t sleep and I haven’t been able to eat,” said mobile carwash owner Manuel Delgado. “We are just getting out of the pandemic, and what the City Council wants to do is like a bomb for us.”
While officials counted around 80 licensed mobile wash businesses in the city, local business owners said that the total number of licensed and unlicensed mobile washes was probably closer to 180.
“Half of those use at least one helper for a total of 270 families involved in the service, and I know each and every one of them personally,” said Chris Barajas, owner of California Detail Center and a longtime member of the local mobile carwash community.
Barajas noted that many mobile carwashers already operate from a fixed location, but requiring them to operate only on private property will severely limit their reach.
“That right there is almost impossible. Not every car can be done on private property. If you go to an office and they’re parked on a street, you set up your cones for safety. If that building doesn’t allow for private parking, you’ve lost business,” he said.
City Attorney Thomas Watson said that this requirement, along with other elements of the ordinance, could be modified in the fall if they seem unreasonable.
Barajas also noted that many mobile washers believe the cost of required equipment could be prohibitive.
For instance, a 100-gallon tank system and mat needed to collect and transport dirty water can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $2,000, depending on how advanced the system is, Barajas noted.
Washers will also be required to keep records of vehicles washed at which locations, how much water is used and receipts for water discharge, which they will have to turn in to Code Enforcement officials on a monthly basis.
Gloria Soto, one of the dissenting votes against the ordinance, said that she understood the pressure from the state to keep local water clean and out of the storm drains, but she wished the city had engaged more with mobile carwashers prior to finalizing the ordinance.
“After having conversations with the mobile carwash owners and during the conversations we had here at the dais, I am concerned,” Soto said. “The [perception] in the community is that we didn’t take the time to sit with folks and to hear from them … about this ordinance before its coming to the council.”
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