Azael Sepulveda has always been a car guy. In 2013, he turned that passion into a career and opened Oz Mechanics, a small auto shop in Pasadena. He’s built a successful business over the past nine years and recently decided to buy a storefront instead of leasing. But now, the city of Pasadena is threatening his thriving business. The city has told Azael that he cannot open his new shop until he adds an additional 23 parking spots (for a total of 28 spots), which he doesn’t need and can’t afford. This unreasonable demand is why the Institute for Justice (IJ) is stepping in to protect Azael’s rights by suing the city.

“This minimum parking requirement is pointless and expensive, and it threatens to ruin Azael’s small business,” said IJ Law and Liberty Fellow Tori Clark. “All Texans, including Azael, should be able to start their own business without jumping through hoops that serve no purpose. This minimum parking ordinance isn’t just harmful to small business owners; it also violates the Texas Constitution.”

Azael has built a reputation over the years as a good mechanic. He has 72 reviews on Google, all of which are 5-stars. He has a popular YouTube channel with more than 72,000 subscribers, where he provides tips and easy fixes for car issues.

Earlier this year, Azael purchased his new shop on Shaver Street with the hope of expanding his business. In order to buy the new shop, he spent all of his savings and took out a loan with his house as collateral. But after he purchased the property, he learned the city required him to spend $40,000 to install a second parking lot, which will sit entirely empty and that he cannot afford. He expressed his concerns to the city, and officials told him to apply for a variance – an exception to the rule. But when he applied, officials refused to even consider his variance. Officials never explained their rationale and refused to meet with him or his attorneys.

Azael’s property already has five parking spots, which is more than enough for Azael’s needs. His shop is a one-man operation; he accepts customers by appointment only and he only services a few cars per day. He has no need for 23 additional parking spots.

“I’ve put everything on the line to grow my business and provide for my family,” Azael said. “I’ve operated with a handful of parking spaces for years and had no problem. Now the city is stopping me from achieving my dream and threatening to put me out of business.”

Pasadena’s parking requirements for auto mechanics are some of the strictest—if not the most strict–in the state. They are much higher than requirements for every other similarly sized city across the state, as well as larger cities such as Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Austin and Dallas. Cities throughout the country are moving away from parking minimums because they are extremely expensive for businesses to satisfy, often leaving prime real estate empty and depriving cities of green space.

“There is national momentum to reform or end minimum parking laws because of the harm they cause. Pasadena is moving in the wrong direction by saddling small business owners with costly and unneeded burdens,” said IJ Attorney Diana Simpson. “These laws are not a proper use of a city’s police and zoning authorities, and the Texas Supreme Court has recognized that similar regulations on economic activity are unconstitutional.”

IJ is the nation’s premier defender of property rights and economic liberty. At no cost to clients, IJ has defended small business owners against useless government regulations, such as the case of the Minnesota funeral home director who was told he needed to spend $30,000 on an embalming room he would never use, or the Texas hair braider who was told she’d need to install five sinks even though she was prohibited from offering services that required a sink. IJ has also litigated zoning issues, including a case in Sierra Vista, Arizona, where the city is attempting to kick people out of their homes in the middle of the pandemic under the guise of “zoning.”

Local counsel will be provided by attorneys Charles McFarland and Marie D. Harlan of McFarland PLLC.

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