Neighborhood wins appeal, council rejects car wash


The Shoreline West neighborhood won its appeal against a car wash in the neighborhood Tuesday night when the City Council overturned the Zoning Administrator's approval of the project.

"What really disturbs me is how close the car wash is to residences," said council member Ronit Bryant. "It's incredibly close. That's simply inappropriate."

The City Council voted 5-0 to overturn the approval of a mechanized car wash and 24-hour convenience store to be built at the Shell gas station at Shoreline Boulevard and El Camino Real. Council members John Inks and Tom Means abstained.

The car wash would have been placed along the rear of the site, 23 feet from the nearest home. The placement "maximizes noise and disruption on the neighborhood," said Anne McLaughlin, who spoke for the appellants.

Some characterized the 2,600 square foot convenience store and similarly sized car wash as the equivalent of a "truck stop."

Mayor Mike Kasperzak noted the "sugar, salt and fat" content of the food that would be sold there. And several council members said there wasn't enough parking for the store, as the city counted gas pump island spaces to meet required number. The removal of four heritage trees was also a major concern.

"Truck stops work on I-5," said council member Laura Macias, referring to the interstate freeway. "This isn't I-5."

Some opponents referenced efforts to turn El Camino Real into a "Grand Boulevard," efforts that have led to comparisons with a famous street in Paris, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, with its wide sidewalks and large trees.

"Last time I was on the Champs-Élysées I did not see a mini-mart," said Mountain View Avenue resident John Clark, "I don't see how tearing down one gas station and building the equivalent to a truck stop is adding to that in any way."

He added that "If you want to add more jobs I suggest a hand car wash, not a mechanized car wash."

To address car wash noise, the owner promised to meet a 55 decibel limit the city enforces for stationary equipment, and would not have been allowed to open the car wash until it did. But neighbors said they saw no analysis that proved the car wash and its loudest components would meet that requirement. As neighbors watched, council members spent considerable time questioning the noise engineer and the noise study he conducted, paid for by the gas station owner and reviewed by a city consultant.

Bob Marshak, a mechanical engineer who said he lives right against the site of the proposed car wash, said there were "holes" in the study, such as how even at the same decibel level, "the human ear perceives noise differently at different frequencies. There's none of that in the study."

"Maybe there's a reason there's no other car washes like this located (in Mountain View), because it's not a good idea to put it right against a house," Marshak said.

Council member Bryant noted the owner's claim that car washes and convenience stores are increasingly part of the business model to keep gas stations profitable. "Selling the gas, that's not how money is made," she said.

"We're going to have an old station there that may or may not survive," Means said.

Council members declined to consider modifications to the project that the owner offered to propose just before the vote, though some said they would consider a reconfiguration of the project in the future.

Architect Ahmad Mohazab said he wished the neighbors had given their input earlier in the process at an outreach meeting six months ago at 2 p.m. on Jan 11, a Wednesday.

"I was ready to do anything I needed to do and no one came," he said. "They did get notice. We were all there waiting."

Resident Bruce England said there are already 10 car washes in the city and 26 drive-throughs, including pharmacies and restaurants. Citing health and environmental concerns, in February a majority of City Council members said they wanted to ban the construction of new drive-throughs on El Camino Real, killing a proposed Chik-Fil-A restaurant which may soon be built in Sunnyvale instead.


Like this comment
Posted by PumpItUp
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 27, 2012 at 12:48 pm

This is a good decision and I bet the home owner 23 feet away is pretty darned pleased as well. This station is funny, I always wondered why my gas tank consistently accepted more fuel there than other stations.
I recall pumping over 15 gallons into my 15 gallon tank when my indicator light wasn't even on. I stopped going there but wonder if others have noticed this as well.

Like this comment
Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm

You should be more careful with your comments. Not because you don't have free speech, but because you are rather blatantly implying theft on the part of the gas station. Gas stations are regulated to the n'th degree. It would be almost impossible for one to get away with such a thing without being quickly shut down or heavily fined. Your comment just damages his business with other readers with no proof.

Like this comment
Posted by Alex M.
a resident of Willowgate
on Jun 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Stating a suspicion that a gas pump is inaccurate isn't libel, it's just an observation. Inaccurate gas pumps (google for it) are a widespread problem. There are requirements for the accuracy tolerance of the fluid flow meters (there is a permissible level of error), but the meters can go off spec and they often aren't re-calibrated. I remember reading a Wall Street Journal article a few years back saying that gas station owners are cheated just as much as gasoline consumers.

Like this comment
Posted by NeHi
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm

This location seems to be across an intersection from Harv's car-wash or did nobody notice??

Like this comment
Posted by J. Kline
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm

actually a simple software program can easily manipulate the pump and can be turned on/off with a single click. Not saying this happened here, but I recall seeing an investigative news story focusing on how easily and common this manipulation can be, and the regulators commented on how difficult enforcement was getting. Just sayin'

Like this comment
Posted by PumpItUp
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Oh Ron, thanks for the concern, but maybe you should warn every user of YELP that ever (actually) spoke negatively about a business.
I simply stated my observation and asked if others observed the same. The only implication of theft was in your mind and later in your post.
I appreciate your concern though. Cheers.

Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Just the BLOWERS alone would break the developers dB requirement. Living 23' away from a set of giant hair dryers running every few minutes would
take the cake. The developer would have to add insulation to keep the wash quiet when the pump and high pressure wash is operating to maintain a permitted dB level.

The only place I have seen this kind of " full service station " is in a heavy business district, where the resident neighborhood is several blocks away behind a strip mall. Others as mentioned before are along Interstates and are shared with truck stops for big rigs.

I have seen only one exception to this setup; an area where I-70 was run through Denver in an elevated causeway. There are some very inexpensive residential houses sandwiched between the fast food joints, truck stop and the " full service station "..Anybody wanna buy a single family residence on the CHEAP?

Like this comment
Posted by PH
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 27, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I know the owners, buy almost all my gas from them and make deliveries to many of their stations. They rebuild old ugly stations into well kept new ones and would very likely do whatever it takes to keep those around this station happy. Maybe people should give this a second thought as it might be a good idea after all. I'm sure they would work with the neighbors to come up with a good solution to the noise problem.

Like this comment
Posted by Oh Ya
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 27, 2012 at 6:35 pm

The Council errored in favor of a minority no-growthers and pandering politicians.

Like this comment
Posted by nikonbob
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 27, 2012 at 8:03 pm

@Oh Ya...your command of the language is impeccable. What in the world are you trying to say?

I guess my question is why does the zoning administration approve projects like this in the first place? They could have saved a lot of time and money on everyone's part by doing their homework.

It just seems that city staff is in love with development, regardless of what it is and how it impacts our great city.

Really, what's the hurry to build up Mountain View? It's pretty nice the way it is.

Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Comparing El Camino to Paris.. really?

But the best part is the council trying to be our parents, again.

"sugar, salt and fat" content of the food? How is that the concern of the City Council of Mountain View?

Worry about the noise, parking, so be it. But stop with all the nanny state nonsense.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm...
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 28, 2012 at 8:28 am

Hey "Nincompoop," As the owner stated earlier there was a community out reach meeting in January which no one came to voice there opinion. So six months later after the owner has spent more money on plans and preparation to go forward the naysayers show up to complain? The zoning administration did there home work! The questions and concerns were addressed and the owner came up with a viable solution to the noise. How is the zoning administration suppose to know the concers of the residents if they don't show up to the community outreach meetings? As to your last statement "what's the hurry to build up mountain view?" City services are getting expensive. If new revenues are not created through new business the expense fall on the residence through higher tax's and more fee's.

Like this comment
Posted by nikonbob
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Name calling? Really?
Just asking a question and stating my opinion.

So where does the "higher expenses requires more growth which leads to higher expenses with requires more growth" spiral end?

I'm not opposed to reasonable growth, but having lived in MV for 30 years, it seems that there is an urgency to approving new projects that hasn't been there before. It could be just that we're emerging out of a down cycle in the economy and this is part of the recovery.

I understand that developers want to do projects, but should staff approve everything that doesn't cause an uproar by the residents? It seems like that's the current approach.

Like this comment
Posted by QM
a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 28, 2012 at 8:24 pm

How do you tax someone who does not pay taxes?

Like this comment
Posted by QM
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 28, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Isn't There a car wash on Shoreline and Sterling that is for sale and already zoned as a car wash?

Like this comment
Posted by Crissa
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2012 at 5:47 pm

That's the dumbest complaint I've ever heard. Replacing a gas station with a gas station? Oh noes! It has a minimart!

Like this comment
Posted by GC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm

The City Council overturned the Zoning Administrator's approval of the project. Who is working the zoning? In the real world they ask the neighbors first, about changes additions not wait for a town meeting.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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