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Santa Ana Delays Vote on Industry Rules : Regulations: Protesters from towing, recycling and auto wrecking companies jam City Council meeting.


SANTA ANA — More than 150 angry workers from towing, recycling and auto wrecking companies jammed a City Council meeting Tuesday to protest a proposed ordinance regulating those industries.

The group had called for the council to postpone a vote on the regulations, which they said would force many businesses to close, costing thousands of workers their jobs.

Art Perez, owner of California Tow, said that if the ordinance is passed "we'd be out of business in three to four months. It would be so expensive that no one could comply."

The council did not take public testimony, but it unanimously voted to delay the vote for 30 days. The ordinance is intended to ensure that such businesses will not "cause a nuisance to surrounding neighbors" by producing noise and fumes or by creating an eyesore, a report to the council said.

The proposal would require new impound, salvage and vehicle storage yards that are not within an enclosed building to be landscaped and surrounded by decorative masonry walls. It would also require the businesses to be more than 500 feet from residential zones and to obtain conditional use permits to operate.

Councilman Richards L. Norton made the motion to delay the vote, saying he agrees with the concept behind the proposal but does not think that the ordinance is the best way of achieving the result sought. Instead, he suggested that city officials negotiate with the businesses to reach an agreement.

Councilwoman Patricia A. McGuigan seconded the motion.

"I think it's important that we give people an opportunity to expand their businesses," she said, "without having such a financial drain."

McGuigan also called the landscaping requirements in the ordinance excessive.

Lisa Estrin, the assistant city planner who wrote the proposal, said the rules would apply only to new businesses or established ones that want to expand. When an owner sells a business, the new owner would need to meet those standards.

Also, impound, salvage and vehicle storage yards in light industrial zones now need no conditional use permit, she said, but similar businesses in heavy industrial zones do need such a permit, even though such areas traditionally are allowed greater leeway.

Estrin also said there's "a little bit of strangeness in our code that we're trying to clear up. It doesn't make sense to require a (conditional use permit) in one but not the other. We feel the ordinance is pretty fair. We're just cleaning up the codes and creating standards so that people know what they have to meet when they come in."

She added that the rules set forth in the ordinance were approved as policy in September by the city Planning Commission. Since then, three impound yards have come in and met most or all of the standards and have been approved under it.

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