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Proposed car wash hits rough waters in Newport

Proposed car wash hits rough waters in Newport
A rendering of the existing Shell gas station at Jamboree and San Joaquin Hills roads with the proposed car wash at left. (Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

Neighbors of a Newport Beach gas station that is seeking to build an accompanying single-bay car wash tried — with some success — to convince the city Planning Commission that the addition would ruin their property values and the tranquillity of their neighborhood.

The Shell station has been at the busy northeast corner of Jamboree and San Joaquin Hills roads since 1970. A Chevron station across the street has a car wash, and T.J. Fuentes, a consultant for the Shell station’s owner, Fred Kim, and his company R&M Pacific Rim, said Kim wants to compete.

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But several residents of the Big Canyon neighborhood want no part of the car wash.

Lynda Bentall said at Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting that the gas station already bothers neighbors and that the car wash — a “self-indulgent commercial issue that does not belong here” — is unnecessary.

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“Once you have such a foolish, unnecessary addition to a community that’s going to cause property values to go down, I think the city and Pacific Rim may soon be facing situations where they’re going to be asked to compensate for the cost of the reduction in property value,” she said.

The automated, tunnel-style car wash would take one vehicle at a time and not switch on until two rigid translucent plastic doors have closed. It also would have an exterior coin-operated vacuum cleaner.

Sound engineer Mike Holritz, who prepared a noise analysis based on a nearly identical car wash model at a gas station in San Diego, said the noise levels would meet city limits, including the tighter nighttime cutoff.

The closest house is 115 feet away, upslope. At three spots along Rue Fontainebleau, the nearest Big Canyon street, the car wash would emit noise at 43.8 to 49.4 decibels. The city’s noise limits for Big Canyon are 58.3 decibels during the day and 52.7 at night.

A refrigerator runs at about 50 decibels, and normal conversation ranges from 60 to 65, according to a chart Holritz included in his report.

However, some neighbors said the corner and the gas station are noisy enough. Mark Coleman was most offended by a comment that Deputy Community Development Director Jim Campbell made about the car wash giving the Shell station parity with the neighboring Chevron.

“I’d love for Newport Beach to take a look at my business and say, ‘We should help Mr. Coleman because that’s an underperforming business compared to his competitor down the street.’ I think that’s BS,” Coleman said. “This is an accumulation of noise. Is there going to next be a hot dog stand on some tiny little sliver of that site? At what point do you say enough is enough, we don’t need it?”

With commission Chairman Peter Zak recusing himself because of property ownership nearby, the commission reached a stalemate after two 3-3 votes — one on denying the car wash and one on allowing it with some restrictions. Commissioners Peter Koetting, Lauren Kleiman and Bill Dunlap voted against the car wash; Vice Chairman Erik Weigand and Commissioners Lee Lowrey and Kory Kramer supported it.

The commission agreed to continue the item until its Nov. 8 meeting and let Kim revise his proposal.

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