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Test Runs Drive Auto Mall's Neighbors to Distraction

February 07, 1988|BETTINA BOXALL | Times Staff Writer

CERRITOS — Edward Butler has pelted them with rags and clumps of sod. He has squirted water at them, he has complained about them and he has circulated a petition demanding the city take action against them.

Car salesmen who take their customers on test drives through Butler's housing tract drive Butler to distraction. If they don't cease soon, Butler threatens to organize picket lines at the Cerritos Auto Mall, eight acres of car dealerships that lie just across the San Gabriel River channel from his neighborhood.

Butler complains that would-be buyers speed through the tract, endangering children and clogging the streets, especially on weekends. During the week, he says, mechanics drive through the subdivision as they attempt to unravel the secrets of a troubled engine.

Last week Butler returned to the City Council for a second time to declare his displeasure with the test drives, this time bringing with him a petition signed by 200 of his neighbors. "We have a problem there and we're not being recognized," he told the council members, who assured him they did care.

The council has asked City Atty. Kenneth Brown to research possible ordinances that would make residential neighborhoods off-limits to test drives, although Brown indicated in an interview that he was unsure whether such a regulation would be enforceable. The city staff also was instructed last week to look into ways of dealing with the problem. And Councilman Donald Knabe is arranging a meeting with the mall's 17 auto dealers, whose business annually generates $3 million in sales tax revenue for the city.

The general sales manager of Norm Reeves Honda expressed surprise at the complaints, saying in an interview that his salesmen have been told to stay on commercial thoroughfares. Housing tracts, he added, "are not a particularly good place for a demonstration drive" because of their stop-and-go traffic patterns.

One of Butler's squirting victims, Moon Nissan salesman Paul Munoz, said he was never instructed to restrict his demonstration drives to commercial streets. He was so angry at being doused on a test drive down San Gabriel Avenue several Sundays ago that he filed a complaint at the Lakewood Sheriff's Station, contending that Butler could have caused an accident.

Butler says he was chastised by sheriff's deputies, but vows that he will not put away his hose: "If I have to go to jail, I will."

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