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Popular Car Wash Faces Eviction

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday August 07, 2007

Come fall—or maybe winter, as far as the Kandy Mann can guess—there may be one less African American-owned business in Berkeley, four fewer full-time jobs and one less place to get a car hand-washed any day of the week.  

That’s because Kandy Alford could lose the site at the corner of Ashby Avenue and Sacramento Street where he’s operated a car-washing business since 2000.  

Business at Kandy Mann’s Detail car wash is steady, but won’t make the owner or his employees rich. Alford can afford the $2,000 monthly rent—though he got temporarily behind during a recent hospitalization—but he cannot pay the $4,000 a month he says the competition for the site offered Craig Hertz, owner of the former gas station, a red-painted brick building with a pagoda-style tile roof.  

Biofuel Oasis is a women-owned cooperative that operates a biodiesel filling station on Fourth Street at Dwight Way and sells fuel made from recycled vegetable oil. Hertz has apparently agreed to rent the site to them. To convert the use from a car wash to a fueling station, Biofuel still needs to obtain a use permit from the city and is slated to go before the Zoning Adjustments Board in October. 

Biofuel has also asked the city to defer payment for $5,410.25 in permit fees due to financial hardship.  

May 10, Jennifer Radtke, a member of the collective, wrote to Dan Marks, director of planning: “In order to make the project feasible, we need the fees deferred, so we can use the money instead on all the improvements to the property to make it into a viable station. We believe the project offers many benefits to the city of Berkeley that justify a fee deferral.” 

Among those benefits, the letter cites an “easy, local source of biodiesel,” and notes the operation will be powered by solar energy “with lush green plants.” Further, they promised to “provide lots of positive publicity for the city.”  

A worker who answered the phone at Biofuel Oasis on Friday said she could not comment on the move because there may be something new in the works. She said she was unable to share that with the media until the issue could be discussed with a member of the collective who was out of town. 

Alford does not know exactly what’s happening with the property. At first, he said he was told it was being sold to Biofuel Oasis and later told it was to be rented. Then, he was informed the deal would take place “immediately,” but has since learned it is to be in several months. 

Property owner Craig Hertz, president of Lafayette, Calif.-based AEI Consultants, did not respond to the Daily Planet’s requests for an interview by deadline Monday. 

Alford said he just found out that Biofuel won’t have a use-permit hearing at the zoning board until October. 

“I’m here month to month. I’m in limbo,” Alford said, adding, “I don’t need all this stress.” 

Pamela Isaacs has been letting the business owners in the neighborhood know about what may be happening to the car wash and says they support him. And she’s been helping Alford learn about his options and his rights.  

“This man is a 1935 Super Station,” she said of Alford. “To us, he’s a historic landmark.” 

Dave Fogarty, the city’s economic development project coordinator, told the Planet Friday that if Alford comes to them, they would try to help him to find another place of business. However, there are few options in Berkeley.  

Former gas stations like the one Alford occupies currently are being redeveloped, Fogarty said. 

Kandy’s has been able to benefit from the fact that the site is difficult to build on. According to Fogarty, it has a toxic plume beneath it, not from the former gas station, but from a dry cleaning business that was once across the street. That means that projects which require excavation might also require expensive environmental remediation of the soil. 

Given that the development planned at the former Tune-Up Masters at 1640 University Ave. has fallen through, that site might be a temporary option for Kandy’s, Fogarty said. 


Photograph by Judith Scherr 

Kandy Mann’s Detail Center at Ashby and Sacramento may have to move.