Mayor Jim Wood welcomes the Oceanside Soapy Joe’s in 2016.
  • Mayor Jim Wood welcomes the Oceanside Soapy Joe’s in 2016.
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"There have times when my customers can’t leave because the Soapy Joe's line of cars has taken over the entire parking lot. Their customers waiting in line often won't let anyone out of their parking space. They are completely screwing neighboring businesses and no one is doing anything about it. No one cares.”

While that business owner declined to be identified (“I don’t want to piss off anyone at the city”) the fact is employees or owners of five different businesses have signed a petition asking for some help from the City of Oceanside because of a hugely popular adjacent car wash that they say has overwhelmed their parking lot and hurt their business.

For $15 a month you can wash your car once a day for as many days as you want.

For $15 a month you can wash your car once a day for as many days as you want.

National City-based Soapy Joe’s is a homegrown success story, a family-owned countywide chain of 11 car washes launched by former car detailer Lorens Attisha. Three more Soapy Joe’s are planned for Poway, Vista and Temecula. The Oceanside Soapy Joe’s is in an Oceanside Boulevard strip mall called Greenbrier Square that includes two restaurants, a tattoo shop, a Jiffy Lube, and four other businesses.

At least four different car wash businesses occupied the Soapy Joe’s car wash building and lot from 1988 until Soapy Joe’s arrived in 2016. All previous car washes used workers to do the cleaning. With Soapy Joe’s you stay in the car during the automated wash and then dry and vacuum the car yourself at one of 16 outdoor bays. Key to Soapy Joe’s success is its price structure: For $15 a month you can wash your car once a day for as many days as you want.

Fifty-year Oceanside resident and former Camp Pendleton Marine Wally Stevens has spoken at city council and planning commission meetings about the “trainwreck” he says Soapy Joe’s has become. He says on sunny days the lines of cars waiting to get in to the car wash blocks customers from the other Greenbrier businesses, and the drying bays simply can’t keep up with the wet car demand. “Soapy Joe’s do-it-yourself model and its volume means it is unable to comply with the original permits granted 31 years ago,” says Stevens.“When the parking lot is filled up with their cars, firetrucks can’t get in.”

Edward Tan, manager of the Wienerschitzel, says the Greenbrier Square is no longer safe. “They speed off very fast,” says Tan about newly-cleaned Soapy Joe's cars. “They don’t have anybody guiding all their cars. This has become very dangerous.” And even though car wash people might also seem to be hot dog people, Tan says “If anything, it has hurt our business.”

“One of their managers, Michael Smith, told me two years ago that they were doing 500 to 600 cars a day, but that sometimes it would get as high as 1,000 a day,” says one neighborhood activist. “He said their goal was to regularly hit 1500 a day.”

Some 35 residents of the nearby Manzana Apartments and the five owners or managers of adjacent businesses (Wienerschnitzel, Frontline Tattoo, Fred Loya Insurance, Smog This and DV’s Cork & Tap) signed a petition saying that Soapy Joe’s has overwhelmed the Greenbrier Square footprint and that car wash customers are causing safety threats and/or are putting a dent in their business.

A different business owner who declines to be quoted says on sunny weekends his parking lot is a hellish menagerie of competing car speakers booming rap lyrics with “nigger” “fuck” and “whore.” “I really feel bad for the older people who used to come to shop at the thrift store but can’t find a spot to park or if they do, they are blocked by a non-stop parade of cars who won’t let them leave. And then they have to hear that awful rap.”

Stevens says he and a few other locals were amazed to see how the city of Oceanside has reacted to concerns over Soapy Joe’s. By using the freedom of information act, he and others uncovered inter-departmental emails sent between Oceanside officials that clearly show a concern city officials had with Soapy Joe’s.

Code enforcement officer Eileen Deptula said in April 2017 that Soapy Joe's just showed up with " plans. They just swooped in, added a gazillion outside vacuum stalls, eliminated a number of parking spaces…no wonder there are reports of customers parking in the fire lanes!” She wrote that the carwash installed upgrades that were never approved or permitted.

Parking enforcement officer Bryan Forward wrote in April 2018: “This business is an apples and oranges comparison to the numerous traditional car wash tenants who’ve occupied the space for almost 30 years. The sheer volume that their business model reflects appears untenable at this location given the mere space constraints. At high time there is simply not enough room for all of their customers without affecting adjacent business access and blocking the alleyway and ingress/egress to the adjacent apartments and the obvious impediment to emergency vehicles in the public alleyway.”

City traffic engineer David DiPierro suggested in April 2018, “If the weekends are as busy as the residents say they are, I would say they definitely have a legitimate beef and this business needs to improve on its overall circulation patterns or find another place to do its business in Oceanside.” He later wrote: “I drove by at 8 am Saturday and the place was packed.”

But three months later, Stevens says City officials took a major U-turn and in July of last year took on the role of Soapy Joe’s apologist. Instead of addressing the real problems, he says the city now wants to allow three more drying bays. And that to mitigate the concerns of the nearby apartment residents who say speeding cars are unsafe, He points out the city wants to erect a new eight-foot wood fence between Manzana Apartments and Greenbrier Square.

Wienerschnitzel’s Tan says he wishes Soapy Joe’s would just do what’s best for all adjoining businesses and move to a bigger site. “You have the former [California Highway Patrol] building a block away. It’s been vacant for a couple years, and now I hear it’s going to be a gas station. Why can’t they all work together and move it there?”

Attempts to speak with Soapy Joe’s Attisha and Oceanside planning official Jeff Hunt were not successful.

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themanthemyththelegend April 10, 2019 @ 1:51 p.m.

Okay Ken, just because some bigot used the n word doesn’t mean you got to spell it out. Second most “rap” songs (aka pop music old timer) use the less harsh variation which ends with a soft “a”. Sooooooooooooooo idk maybe edit this to reflect the fact that you aren’t yourself racist. Unless you is brah.


Ken Leighton April 10, 2019 @ 4:37 p.m.

Wait a second.....let me get this straight.....Its ok to force old ladies and kids to hear these words at random as they drive or walk down the street (or in a strip mall) as they boom out of cars at 100 dbs, but its not ok to quote someone who is offended by it? Sorry pal. It just doesn't fly. A lot of modern hip hop is obscene and degrading to women but that doesn't stop idiots from forcing anonymous people from hearing it. That's the world we live in. Yes those words normally don't appear in print like this but they are forced into our ears all the time. Sorry to have to be the one to break the news to you.


Ken Leighton April 10, 2019 @ 4:59 p.m.

The point of the quote was the person wants it to stop, he says its bad for business, and he wants soapy joes to do something about it.


RealNeighbor April 10, 2019 @ 11:06 p.m.

As longtime neighbors, our family has experienced, been patrons of and talked as neighbors with the owners, managers, and employees of the previous 4 carwash businesses at Greenbrier Square. All have been the business model where the customer gets out of their vehicle and relaxes while an employee vacuums the car/truck, then puts it through the automated car wash, and then is dried by at least 1 employee. When done, the customer gets in their vehicle and leaves, with the employee's eyes watching that the customer leaves in a way Safe to those on the lot, AND Safe to any neighbors who are driving in the communal driveway. It has been very good, overall. There has only been ONE source of music played by the carwash itself. It has been mostly played at a volume, without bass amps, that is easy and respectful of all the resident and business neighbors. Soapy Joe's is a do-it-yourself carwash with lots of N O I S E of ongoing blowers, HUGE vacuum engine-s, and ongoing customers with bass amps that come through our closed doors and windows, all the way in through closed interior doors!!! We used to be able to have our doors and windows open for fresh air at least 70% more of the time with the other employee-handled carwash model. 3 years is enough. Soapy Joe's is a water-sustainable business - Good! And it is best it is in its own lot, away from any residence or business. With its volume, its customers DESERVE their own drive lanes, well-marked, so they don't back into each other (has happened many, many times of almost-hits), and they are no longer STRESSED LOOKING FOR A DRYING SPACE. Many times, these customers are having to drive down the driveway-alley to park, blocking other residents as well as a main dumpster. They park a block away on Greenbrier DRIVE itself, on both sides of the street, to dry their cars and trucks. We have seen this ourselves! They line up from the curb-gutter on Oceanside Blvd's entry lane and extend all the way past the Jiffy Lube and around to the 2 entry places at Soapy Joe's ! This blocks the business owners, their customers and their employees from getting into, then out of their parking spaces. The DIY customers will make residents, business owners and customers sit in gridlock for up to 10-12 minutes to prevent anyone getting in line ahead of them. These subscribers need more space, less stress and Soapy Joe's can then be proud of their water-sustainability in a customer-honoring way**. There is one really great manager and some great employees at Oside's SJC -- they, too, will have Far Less Stress in a Stand-alone location. They DESERVE it, also. :)


RealNeighbor April 10, 2019 @ 11:16 p.m.

As to Ken Leighton's real-life description about the music - we neighbors are glad to see the real situation being brought forward. And very often, 2- to 6-year-old boys and girls will be holding a drying cloth and patting the side or back bumper of the family car while Mommy, Daddy or both are drying their vehicle. It is wonderful ! Exposing these little ones to loud, aggressive music that is preferred by older youth and adults is rough on the very young. They pick up on repeating's how they learn to speak and about the world. Working with children and grownups of many countries and cultures...which includes all colors, castes, economic levels...each and every one of them ... of us ... matters.


Visduh April 14, 2019 @ 8:09 p.m.

Uh, RealNeighbor, when you use all that condensed boldface type, it makes my eyes hurt. You can make your point in lower-case type, like I'm trying to do now. And maybe break up your rant into paragraphs. I'd like to read your reasoned, and also maybe emotional, arguments in a way that allows some thought, without the eyestrain. Think about it.


Visduh April 11, 2019 @ 8:12 a.m.

That former CHP station could use a new tenant for sure. I drove past it a couple days ago and it looks just awful. Is the state holding out for too high a price? Or is it just too hard to deal with the state?


AlexClarke April 13, 2019 @ 7:31 a.m.

The Soapy Joe's near me has some peak periods but when the traffic starts to back up onto the street the police move people on. A full service car wash is fine but most people do not have time to get the "full treatment" every time. As to the "music" I do not do business with any business that attracts that element of society.


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