Small business owner challenging city of Pasadena's parking ordinance: 'This is my dream right here'

Thursday, December 9, 2021
Small business owner sues Pasadena over parking ordinance
The Institute for Justice claims the city of Pasadena's latest parking ordinance hurts small businesses and violates the Texas Constitution.

PASADENA, Texas (KTRK) -- The Institute for Justice, which is representing the owner of Oz Mechanics, claims the city of Pasadena's latest parking ordinance hurts small businesses and violates the Texas Constitution.

Azael Sepulveda, known as Oz, owns Oz Mechanics in Pasadena and said it was his dream to open his own shop in the town he grew up. He purchased a building on Shaver Street and was preparing to convert it into a mechanic shop, but Sepulveda has been in a monthslong battle with the city over parking.

"I just don't know how long we're going to last," Sepulveda said.

In August 2021, ABC13 learned the parking ordinance, which was approved by the city of Pasadena in January 2021, requires auto repair shops to have 10 parking spots per 1,000 square feet. The previous ordinance required half the amount of parking for auto repair shops, which is five parking spots per 1,000 square feet, according to the city's Planning Department.

SEE ALSO: Small business owner fights city's parking ordinance that could possibly shut his shop down

Under the new ordinance, in order for the mechanic shop to meet industry standards, the building would need a total of 28 parking spots - which would require Sepulveda to install 23 additional parking spots, costing roughly $40,000. The cost for this additional parking is about half the amount he paid for the entire building, according to Sepulveda's attorneys.

"The previous owner only needed these five parking spots," said Diana Simpson, an attorney with the Institute of Justice. "It makes even less sense that the city is demanding that Azael needs more, because the previous owner didn't have challenges or problems with the amount of parking and so the city has enacted this new ordinance that just doesn't make any sense. Azael should have been grandfathered in. He should be able to get an exception to these requirements, but the city won't have it and they are just demanding that he have parking that he doesn't need and can't afford."

This new ordinance only applies to new businesses, not established businesses. At least two other local business owners contacted ABC13 stating they were having the same issue and requested a variance through the city to see if there could be an exception for their cases. Sepulveda said he too requested a variance and it was denied.

"(The city) denied it after two days," Sepulveda said, referring to his request for a variance. "And they couldn't give me an explanation why."

Sepulveda would also be changing the use of the building, which is common in cities that don't have zoning laws like Houston. However, due to this parking requirement debacle, Sepulveda's new building remains closed.

"It's unclear why the city of Pasadena has enacted this new ordinance," Simpson said. "It seems that they are trying to push out hard-working businessmen and businesswomen from the city and that isn't rational."

The city of Pasadena's planning department responded with the following statement on Thursday:

"It appears Mr. Sepulveda has submitted some variance application materials, but the city has not received a completed variance application or any of the accompanying fees from him.

Our legal department does not have any comments.

No other business has submitted a variance request application regarding the city's current off-street parking requirements based on the number of required parking spaces.

It might be important to note that this is actually a 'change of use' situation. The property was originally permitted as a machine shop by the previous owner. Mr. Sepulveda has stated that he is using the property as an auto repair shop, which is a completely different use, requiring more parking and different permitting. Even if he was applying for a Certificate of Occupancy under the city's old parking ordinance, he would've been denied due to the lack of required off-street parking."

Simpson said the Institute of Justice has filed a petition on Sepulveda's behalf, claiming the new ordinance violates the Texas Constitution.

"Honest to God, I did not want it to get to this point," Sepulveda said. "I'm not a confrontational person, but this is my dream right here and I've always wanted to own my own shop."

Sepulveda said he had just one message for other local business owners facing similar challenges.

"Keep on fighting," Sepulveda said. "Never give up. If you have a dream, just pursue it and you'll get it."

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