Is this Highland Park’s Car Wash Corridor?


Shell gas and convenience store seeking to add a car wash | Nathan Solis


HIGHLAND PARK — Apparently you can never have too many car washes. The owners of the Shell gas station at Figueroa and Avenue 52 want to get into the car wash cleaning business across the street from two existing car washes. Neighbors and planning commissioners have rejected the proposed car wash but Councilman Gil Cedillo has stepped into the fray,  giving the Shell car wash a second chance.

Several car washes already operate along Figueroa Street, many of them near homes and apartments. In the case of the proposed Shell car wash, nearby residents were concerned about how the noise from the machinery would impact them. Resident Mercedes Vasquez, who appealed a preliminary city approval of the car wash, said she was concerned that noise from the car wash located only 10 feet from the couple’s living room window would disturb her already ill husband, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

Car wash applicant Benjamin Donel of Sunset Equity Partners, LLC came up with several strategies that would dampen the machinery’s sound, including mufflers and rolling doors. During an appeal hearing before the five-member East Los Angeles Area Planning Commission last November, Donel also alleged that Vasquez had ulterior motives and was making her appeal on behalf of the rival car wash owners.

But the planning commissioners sided with Vasquez and voted to uphold the appeal and deny the permits needed to build the car wash based on the noise concerns.

A few weeks later, however, Councilman Cedillo got involved. He asserted his power in the matter and had the City Council veto the area planning commission’s decision and sent the appeal back to the commissioners for review and reconsideration.

Cedillo spokesman Louis Reyes said that there are several factors that were not considered when the commissioners made their decision. “Before making an informed decision [the Councilman] wants the committee to have all the information,” said Reyes.

But when asked what factors were absent from the original proposal, Reyes said he could not recall the particulars that Cedillo considered important.

The East L.A. Area Planning Commission is now scheduled to take a second vote on the appeal on Wednesday at the Ramona Hall Community Center, 4580 N. Figueroa Street.

Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis’ stories, reviews and photos at Avenue Meander.


  1. Cedillo is an awful council person. Seriously? We do NOT NEED ANOTHER CAR WASH at that corner! Listen to the commission on this one, Cedillo!

    • The government should not be in the business of deciding what services are needed in a particular area. If someone is willing to invest their capital and the use is legally permitted, then it should be allowed. If the market doesn’t support 3 car washes, they won’t all be in business for long.

      • I so agree with this. I can understand things that might be a nuisance to the neighborhood (bars, liquor stores, marijuana dispenseries, loud nightlife, or something that caused serious pollution or noise, but a car wash? Why exactly should residents have a voice over how other people or businesses spend their money when it doesn’t affect them in the least?

        • I agree, but why use old technology and valuable water resources? Hellooooo? Magneto-biophysicist in Japan have mastered a process called reverse particle ionization using a positive charged internal conversion process which removes dirt off cars. This is simply achieved by using negatively charged demagnetizers which ejects the positive charged particles off a car in seconds! Only minor drawback is it seems to erase all the preset stations on your radio!

      • I so agree with this. I can understand things that might be a nuisance to the neighborhood (bars, liquor stores, marijuana dispenseries, loud nightlife, or something that caused serious pollution or noise, but a car wash? Why exactly should residents have a voice over how other people or businesses spend their money when it doesn’t affect them in the least?

        • I can understand *regulating things…not sure why this is double posting

        • because why dont we put a sewage treatment plant 10ft from your house. is that ok?

          • Because putting a sewage treatment plant next to a window is the same thing as a gas station adding a car wash? There may be some sort of property value argument here, but at least be honest. Those apartments are already next to a gas station. It’s not exactly prime real estate.

          • “Those apartments are already next to a gas station. It’s not exactly prime real estate.”

            Yup, let them eat cake.

          • False equivalence, John, but it sounds cool if you don’t think about it.

        • You don’t see how a car wash might be a nuisance to someone whose window is 10 feet from where it would be?

          • I can see how living next to a gas station would be a nuisance, but I don’t think that gives those individuals the right to stop a private company from deciding how to best expand their business. People on this message board seem to have such strong opinions on how other people’s money should be spent.

          • You’re right, private businesses can do whatever they want to “expand their businesses,” neighbors and communities be damned. That’s just not how our society works… unless, of course, your business can afford to buy off all the regulators & politicians.

      • Local government is absolutely in the business of telling people what they can and can’t do with their property. LA leaves very little to the free market… if an intersection has big box stores and gas stations, that’s not the free market at play. That’s our dated zoning codes doing what they do best; sucking wealth out of the community like a straw.

  2. “…But when asked what factors were absent from the original proposal, Reyes said he could not recall the particulars that Cedillo considered important….”

    Absolutely priceless!

    • I thought the same thing. “priceless” and so typical of Cedillo and his staff. Uninformed, disconnected and siding with his $$ outside interests instead of his community.

  3. how about bike lanes, Cedillo? we don’t need another car wash

  4. Louis Reyes should pursue a career in comedy or horror because everything he says is simultaneously hilarious and scary. Hey Louis, when you think of the important factors that were absent from the original proposal, please do let us know!

    • I suspect Mr. Cedillo suddenly found contributions to the CD1 officeholder account, campaign account or favorite non-profit. Therefore, it was time to go to City Council to whore for the developer. Campaign contributions and other under-the-table dealing is how our Councilmembers have been converted into something little different from fishnet stocking, mini-skirted prostitutes on the southern end of Figueroa Street. Hey big developer! Cross my palm with some bucks and I’ll do whatever you want……. Cedillo is so full of himself he actually thinks he’s the genius and everyone else is his naive pawn. When do the recall petitions start?

  5. Other factors involved in Cedillo’s decision:

    -The retaining of certain consultants by the Shell gas station owner
    -The amount said consultants numerous family members have donated to Cedillo’s officeholder and campaign accounts
    – The amount the Chamber of Commerce spent in independent expenditures during Cedillo’s last election

    Factors not involved in Cedillo’s decision:

    -The Avenue 56 Transit Oriented District Plan
    -The “Great Streets” initiative
    -The 2,000+ local residents signatures gathered over the months in opposition to a 3rd robot car wash on this corner
    -The obviously negative effects of siting another car wash at such a pedestrian- and bus-heavy intersection.

    This intersection needs to be healed, not have what is left of it ripped to shreds and thrown to the corporations.

    See you on Wednesday at Ramona Hall!

  6. Showing up at the Planning Commission is definitely a WIN! Speaking against the carwash is another WIN! Hopefully, the presence of concerned stakeholders will put Cedillo and his staffers on notice – “We do not need another carwash!” If you can’t attend, send written opposition!

  7. How about building businesses that bring in jobs rather than the benefit being only for investors greed! Express car wash means zero jobs. I thought Highland Park was build on community not on greed!

  8. ….meanwhile Jose Huizar is xeriscaping. Nice forward thinking, Cedillo

  9. Everyone going to the East Los Angeles Planning Commission meeting:

    If you want to stop this dumb ass third robot car wash, you are going to have to come with lighted torches and alot of anger. The East LA Planning Commission previously followed the will of the community and voted to deny the application as it is the right of the Commission to do. Cedillo, instead of saying to the gas station owner: ‘The people have spoken.” exercised a rarely invoked power of the City Council to “review” the Commission’s decision. This sent a strong POLITICAL MESSAGE to the members of the Commission when the City Council voted to overrule the Commission’s decision and send it back for more review. What do you think the message from City Council was? I think it was: “If you keep denying this permit, we are going to keep overruling you. ” Today there will be a huge political pressure, applied by Cedillo’s staff, to convince the Commission to bow before his power. It will take lots of people there complaining about Cedillo’s open corruption to help the Commission members have a backbone.

    Here is one piece of important ammunition for your hearing of the appeal:

    It is illegal for any commission member to have received information from outside sources, without openly disclosing who they received information from before deliberating. DEMAND that each of the Commissioners disclose on the record in the tape recorded hearing who they discussed this issue with outside of the hearing. If they refuse to disclose their outside contacts shout out your objections so they can be heard on the tape recording of the hearing. That will help make your record to sue the City over this outrageous project 10 feet from people’s homes.

    Demand that the Commissioners perform their ROLE IN CITY GOVERNMENT to provide a check and balance against Councilmembers who try to act like their own little KINGS in their Council District. Tell the Commission that they were right, they legitimately represented the community, and that they should call the bluff of Cedillo and deny the application again. THEN be prepared to MARCH in front of Cedillo’s office and call for his ouster if he DARES to try to bring the issue up again for review at Los Angeles City Council.

    That is what it is going to take to politically stop the stupidity of Council District 1.

  10. That would be 4 car washes in a mile stretch of Fig. completely unecessary.

  11. I couldn’t leave work early! Disappointed in the accessibility of the meeting for those with 9-5 work. I want to be present, too.

    Can someone tell me how it went?

  12. The consultant is Richard Alatorre hired by Gil Cedillo as a consultant to CD1. More than likely,whatever Alatorre could suggest would not be in the best interest of the community. But we are paying him because of Gil and bye we have to fight off rediculous projects because they are on staff.

    The cronyism is alive and well. I hope these are the last days of this group in politics. May they be voted completely out.

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