Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 23
Car wash conundrum calls Santa Maria's downtown plan into question
BY CAMILLIA LANHAM
Nobody left Santa Maria City Council’s Aug. 5 meeting with a satisfied smile on their face: At least, not if they were involved in the hearing about a downtown car wash with renovation plans.
The Jordans, who own a car wash established on East Chapel in the 1960s, aren’t allowed to change the building or property in any way because of the way city zoning ordinances are written. The City Council passed an amendment to the downtown specific plan on Aug. 5 that allows “car wash uses” in the Bungalow District where the Jordans’ business is located.
Tom Martinez, the Jordans’ architect who spoke to the City Council during the hearing, said he wasn’t sure that the amendment was the best way to do things, adding that it could potentially make renovating the car wash cost prohibitive.
In order to renovate under the amendment, the Jordans would need to file a conditional use permit application with the city. Martinez said that application process could mean every city department places a new condition on the project—treating it much like a new business rather than an established one. For instance, the city could ask the Jordans to conduct a sound study that could potentially result in requiring a 6- to 8-foot-high wall to be built around the property.
“I just don’t want to box myself in to where we have to drop the project because it gets too expensive,” car wash owner Greg Jordan said during the meeting.
However, without the amendment, nothing is technically allowed to change on the property because of the way the downtown specific plan is written. The Bungalow District only allows houses, houses converted into offices, and multi-family residential units. Car washes are considered to be a non-conforming use, and therefore can’t be changed.
“We’ve come up with what we think is a fair fix,” the city’s director of Community Development, Larry Appel, said during the meeting. “It’s the location that’s causing the heartburn.”
He added that the amendment was a sort of last-ditch effort that City Attorney Gilbert Trujillo came up with to make things work for the Jordans. In June, the City Council asked city staff to come up with a way to enable the car wash renovation, but council member Jack Boysen and Mayor Alice Patino questioned why the city had no other options.
“I guess I have a real problem with this,” Patino said, audibly frustrated with things. “There’s something wrong with our rules, with our ordinances when we do this. This is an existing business, and we’re treating it as a new business.”
Boysen said he understood that city staff was just trying make car wash renovations possible without doing a complete overhaul of the downtown plan—adding, of course, that he felt it was time for an overhaul—but was concerned about the burdensome conditions being placed on the project.
In response, Appel said the city’s departments would do what they could to make sure things worked for the Jordans.
“I would suggest we move forward with the business-friendly Santa Maria in mind,” Boysen said. “Let’s do this as quickly as possible.”