On Tuesday, the city of Pasadena approved an agreement with car mechanic Azael Sepulveda, paving the way for him to finally open his new shop. The agreement comes less than three months after Azael, represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), won a temporary injunction allowing him to open his shop while his lawsuit challenging the city’s mandatory parking requirement was pending. While the specific terms of the agreement are confidential, Azael is excited to finally open Oz Mechanics at his Shaver Street location.
“I’m incredibly happy with this settlement and I’m really looking forward to opening my new shop,” Azael said. “I’ve been working hard my whole life to get to a point where I can own my own shop. This is a dream come true.”
In December 2021, Azael teamed up with IJ to file a lawsuit challenging Pasadena’s mandatory parking requirement, which would have forced him to have 28 parking spaces—more than would physically fit on the property—before he could open his Shaver Street location. Even if 28 parking spots could have fit on the property, Azael did not need that many spots and could not afford to comply with the ordinance.
“We’re glad we could come to an agreement with the city that will allow Azael to open his shop and provide for his family,” said IJ Attorney Tori Clark. “Every American, including Azael, has the right to start a business without being shut down by impossible demands.”
For years, Azael ran his shop out of a leased location on Almendares Avenue, building a loyal base of customers who appreciate his friendly service and attention to detail. Over that time, he received 75 5-star reviews on Google and launched an incredibly popular YouTube channel where he provides tips for fixing various car issues.
Last year, with his first child on the way, Azael took a leap and purchased a new location on Shaver Street. The property had five existing parking spots, which Azael knew was more than enough for his business. He spent all of his savings, took out a loan and put his house up as collateral, all so he could provide for his growing family.
After he bought the property, Azael was informed by city officials that he would need to add an additional 23 parking spaces before he could open. But Azael runs a one-man shop and takes cars by appointment only. He simply does not need that many parking spaces—not to mention that they wouldn’t fit and he couldn’t afford to build them.
“Cities throughout the country have come to the realization that mandatory parking minimums like this one are harmful to small businesses and provide no legitimate benefit for the cities themselves,” said IJ Attorney Diana Simpson. “Not only are unreasonable parking minimums bad policy, they’re also unconstitutional.”
Mandatory parking minimums are one of many types of regulatory hurdles that cities place in entrepreneurs’ way. Starting a business is already an expensive and challenging endeavor. Cities make it even harder by piling on high fees, long wait times, and complex paperwork, which prevent many businesses from opening, as detailed in IJ’s recent Barriers to Business report.
Azael is now hard at work getting the property ready to open. He plans to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony when Oz Mechanics can finally open.
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 under the guise of “zoning.”