SAN BRUNO, Calif. — According to, Bobak Bakhtiari, who bought the Shell gas station at 1199 El Camino Real three years ago and currently owns it, spent 20 months fighting to add some fun to his carwash with a decorative whale head, only to have the city council deny his final appeal on Jan. 9th.

The San Bruno Planning Department had previously ruled that the model whale mouth, which carwash users would have driven through when using the wash, didn’t fit the character of the neighborhood, the article continued.

The planners’ assessment stated:

“Staff finds that the addition of a […] whale mouth feature would be inconsistent with the San Bruno General Plan and the Navy Site and Environs Specific Plan. […] Due to its size and location, the whale mouth would be highly visible by vehicles and pedestrians using the main thoroughfares of Sneath Lane and El Camino Real in all directions.

“For example, those traveling north and south on El Camino Real would see the whale mouth while waiting for the stoplight at the intersection, as would pedestrians walking along El Camino Real to the shopping centers. Those travel east and west on Sneath Lane would see cars exiting the whale mouth.”

In addition, the planners found that “the quality of materials proposed for the whale mouth is inconsistent with the high-quality, integrated pedestrian realm created at nearby developments.”

According to the article, the specs for the proposed whale mouth were:

“The whale mouth facade would add 249 square feet to the site. […] The carwash exit would be lengthened by 19 feet. Materials used include EPS foam with three coats of paint, including a finish of gray/blue for the whale’s skin. […] The foam exterior will be reinforced by an interior, three-inch thick metal frame.”

Bakhtari called the parameters in the decision “vague” and “subjective,” claiming that the whale fits the general nautical theme of the Navy Site, the article noted.

“This is a whale mouth on private property, tucked way in the back,” Bakhtiari said. “I felt like, it’s a gas station, who cares? I figured the Planning Commission would see it as private art, but it’s being treated like public art.”

City Manager Connie Jackson said that the council felt it had to abide by the various city plans, adding, “They were interested in trying to find a way that the project might be allowed … but there was not much in the way we could offer in making modifications. It would perhaps be appropriate in another location, but that wasn’t the issue in front of them.”

The council voted 4-1 to uphold the Planning Department’s ruling to deny Bakhtari the whale mouth, the article stated.

Michael Salazar, who was the dissenting vote, said, “I think the city was interpreting the guidelines a little too rigidly. There was some opportunity here to do something different and still keep with the neighborhood character. But my colleagues didn’t see it that way.”

Bakhtari said he would modify his designs and try again, the article concluded.

Read the original story here.