Cities Force Businesses to Oversupply Parking Spaces. A Lawsuit Says That’s Unconstitutional.
Zoning laws have gotten a lot of (well-deserved) bad press lately for driving up housing costs, driving out residents, and generally forbidding people from putting their properties to their highest and best uses. Even in those few precious municipalities that lack a comprehensive zoning code, city officials still have plenty of tools to make life difficult for budding entrepreneurs.
That includes unzoned Pasadena, Texas. The city won’t allow local business owner Azael Sepulveda to open an auto body shop on his own property unless he adds an additional 23 parking spaces. Sepulveda says that much parking won’t fit on his property, and even if it did, the cost of creating it would be ruinous.
“I’ve put everything on the line to grow my business and provide for my family,” he 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.”
In December, Sepulveda sued Pasadena in the District Court for Harris County. His complaint argues that the city’s parking regulations violate the Texas Constitution’s guarantees of economic liberty and equal protection.
Earlier this week, a Harris County judge granted Sepulveda a temporary injunction against the city, allowing him to open up at his new location while the lawsuit plays out. That’s a good sign for the lawsuit and a welcome break for his business, says Tori Clark, an attorney with the Institute for Justice—the public interest law firm representing Sepulveda.
“It gives him a reprieve of paying both the mortgage on his property and the lease on the property that he’s currently operating,” Clark tells Reason. “It is true that this is just a temporary injunction. There is a risk that our client will open his new shop and then ultimately have to shut down.”
Sepulveda started his first auto body shop, Oz Mechanics, back in 2013 at a rented storefront in Pasadena. In July 2021, he poured all his savings into purchasing a garage of his own.
The previous owner also had
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