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Car Dealer Can Put Paint Brushes Away : Thousand Oaks: The city decides to let most of the dealership remain white. It had sought an earth tone.


A Thousand Oaks auto dealer who refused to paint his Infiniti showroom an earth tone has won a battle with the city to keep most of his building white.

Most of car dealer Robert D. Nesen's building on Thousand Oaks Boulevard will remain white, the Thousand Oaks City Council decided on a 4-1 vote last month. Nesen, however, has three years to repaint a small amount of building trim a light shade of gray.

Council members agreed that the stark white design of the Infiniti showroom, though clearly in violation of city standards, is attractive.

"It makes economic nonsense to make someone redo a building that's in good taste," Councilman Alex Fiore said. Judy Lazar, the only council member who disagreed, said she wanted Nesen to repaint within a year.

Nesen, 73, a former U.S. ambassador to Australia and a former assistant secretary of the Navy, had sharply criticized the city for overzealousness in regulating its color schemes.

Nesen said a day after the vote that he was glad he "stuck to his guns" after the initial orders from city staff members and the Planning Commission to repaint. "The issue got all blown out of proportion," he said.

Nesen's refusal to repaint was supported by other business owners who said the city is inconsistent about colors. They cited other buildings in Thousand Oaks whose exteriors are painted bright pink as well as white, including those built by the city. "You've approved pink," Neal Scribner, representing the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce's land-use committee, told the council. "Why would you deny off-white?"

Nesen owns the Nesen Motor Car Co., one of the largest and oldest auto dealerships in Ventura County, with seven franchises in the Westlake area of Thousand Oaks. His other six showrooms are painted beige and dark brown.

The color debate began two years ago after Nesen won a franchise to sell luxury cars manufactured by Nissan's Infiniti division. Nesen said he agreed to build a showroom according to the company's strict specifications. The city approved a plan that called for a darker shade of white, called "oatmeal," and "pearl ash," a shade of gray.

When the time came for Nesen to paint, Infiniti officials ordered Nesen to use a standard white used by all of its dealerships across the country, the car dealer said. Nesen conceded that he never received the city's permission to change the color scheme.

"I didn't do it exactly the way they said, but I had to change a lot of things that they had already approved," he said. Nesen said he is satisfied that his feud with the city has been settled. But his painting days are over.

"I'm not planning to build any more buildings. This is it," he said. "I'm just happy it's over with."

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