A manual coin-operated car wash on South Main Street is getting a fully automatic revamp after more than 50 years in business.
In March, the Milpitas Planning Commission denied a project application from Extra Shine Car Wash to demolish the existing building and construct a new 3,180 square foot car wash in its place. Commissioners cited concerns that the project was “inconsistent” with the city’s General Plan — a blueprint to guide future development — and didn’t fall in line with the neighborhood character detailed in the more hyperlocal Midtown Specific Plan.
At Tuesday’s Milpitas City Council meeting, the council overruled that decision in a split 3-2 vote that was fraught with contention. Councilmembers Anthony Phan and Karina Dominguez cast the dissenting votes.
Supporters of the project — Mayor Rich Tran, Vice Mayor Carmen Montano, and Councilmember Evelyn Chua — said the redeveloped car wash would help rejuvenate the city’s main thoroughfare and preserve a piece of longstanding Milpitas history.
“This project will act as a catalyst so that when [customers] move out of the car wash they can go to the nearby restaurants,” Montano said. “It’s also an impetus for new businesses to say, ‘Oh this whole place is being revitalized, let’s invest in our Main Street.’”
During the meeting, Phan pressed the project’s consultant, Dean Hanson, on the car wash’s planned vending machines, which would sell products to help customers clean their cars’ interiors. The councilmember wanted to know how the car wash would meet the “long-term goal of promoting a pedestrian-friendly environment.”
“I don’t interpret pedestrian-friendly to mean access to vending items whether it be food or other [items],” Hanson said. “Our interpretation of pedestrian-friendly is something that is attractive. One of the items that we have is a pedestrian pathway from the front to the rear of the car wash.”
As Phan went on to ask a follow-up question on how Hanson justified a car wash in an area meant to discourage the use of cars, the mayor emphatically interjected, shouting, “Point of order. Point of order.”
“If you’re going to ask about the project, ask about it okay?” Tran added. “You don’t have to speculate on vending machines and the purpose; it’s a car wash. I need you to focus.”
Tran’s remarks came at a point of the meeting dedicated to questions, and not comments, from the council. However, the mayor himself had offered up his own opinions on the project, including that he’d be supporting it, during that portion of the meeting.
Phan said he brought up the vending machine because he wanted to make sure the project contributed to the Midtown Specific Plan’s goals.
“Part of the goals is to bring business, bring revenue, and if the only revenue that is generated is by a vending machine, then I’d like to inquire more about that,” he added. “It almost feels like for me at least I’m approving an application for a vending machine.”
Following the vote, Dominguez stated that she was logging off the meeting early because she was “feeling unsafe with [Tran]” after he interrupted her council colleague.
“I hope that at the next meeting you realize that your temper and the way you yelled at him was inappropriate, and it clearly violates some of the code of conduct that we have all approved for all of us to follow, for all of us to feel safe and for all of us to have good meetings,” she said. “I’m literally shaking, and it’s not okay for you to treat people the way you treat them. It’s harassment.”
Tran interjected once again, shouting, “Point of order. Point of order. Brown Act. Brown Act. Point of order. It’s not agendized.”
The Brown Act, which the state legislature passed in 1953, sets rules for public meetings. City Attorney Chris Diaz could not be reached for comment on whether Dominguez violated the Brown Act.
Tran told The Beat that he interrupted Dominguez because it’s his job as mayor to preside over the meeting and rely on “parliamentary procedure and Robert’s Rules,” which are standard guides for holding public hearings.
“In this case where councilmembers have concerns, I always refer back to the procedures we have in place,” he said.
As for Phan, he said it was “disappointing, sad, and upsetting to see [him] belittle, demean, and disrespect one of our guests and visitors of Milpitas — especially Mr. Hanson being a senior citizen.
“I feel like every day I go on social media and read the news and it’s a senior citizen being victimized,” he said. “As long as I’m leading the City Council, I will not stand for senior citizens being victimized during a meeting.”
Phan told The Beat that “any rational person would recognize my comments were objective in nature and relevant to my land use decision making process.”
“Then again, no rational person would yell, ‘Point of order’ while at the same time proceeding to throw a temper tantrum,” Phan added. “I regret that Mayor Tran’s feelings were hurt and that he is sad.”
The Milpitas City Council will formally approve the project at their next meeting.