More than three years after he triumphed over efforts to close his central Fresno auto repair shop, Jim Medina is asking the City Council to let him expand its hours of operation and rezone a portion of his property.
Medina, owner of Van Ness Auto Repair, says he needs the extra income because his battles with neighbors and city officials have put him in a financial hole.
"I just want to get in a couple more hours of work at the end of the day," he said. "In recent years, I've paid through the nose in fines and just want to help customers who can't get here before I close."
Medina wants to stay open until 10 p.m. on weekdays instead of 6 p.m., and allow tow truck drivers to drop off vehicles 24 hours a day, instead of during operating hours as they do now.
In addition, he wants to rezone one of his buildings so he can lease it to another business, which would operate on Saturdays and Sundays as well as weekdays. The auto repair business is open until noon on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays.
Medina said several businesses, including an ice cream shop and beauty salon, have expressed interest in leasing one of his buildings.
Lloyd Evans is one of the neighbors opposed to expanding hours of operation at the body shop. Evans, who lives at the opposite corner of Van Ness Boulevard and Princeton Avenue across from the shop, says that longer hours would be bothersome and obtrusive. "Neither I nor my neighbors that object to this expansion want to put this man out of business. We would like this operation to remain status quo."
The service station was opened in 1926 as a Standard Oil gas station and operated primarily as a filling station until 1998. Medina purchased the property in 1999 and started providing more auto repair services.
"Back in the day, selling gas and offering oil changes was enough to make it, but I have a right to earn a living," he said. "Over the years, I've tried to appease and pacify, but I can only do so much.
"I do respect my neighbors and they should have some input, but they have handicapped my business for years."
Van Ness Auto Repair has been the target of neighborhood challenges and criticism for more than a decade over limited parking at the business, landscaping and aesthetics, and the types of services provided.
In 2004, the city notified Medina that he had to rezone and obtain a conditional-use permit to stay in business. Medina won the right to continue operating after a long and sometimes heated debate, but a number of conditions were imposed on the business.
Fresno city officials revoked Medina's conditional-use permit in 2009 after the city alleged he had violated the permit's terms. The decision was overturned in 2010 by the Fresno Planning Commission, which deemed the terms placed on Medina as too restrictive.
Brad Polzin, who has lived across Princeton Avenue from the service station for 30 years, has watched the business grow and seen the effects on the neighborhood. "We started noticing the huge increase in the number of cars on the street, the tow trucks operating at night, and even cars being worked on curbside."
"We want a successful business in the neighborhood, but we also want someone who follows regulations," Polzin said.
The issue of Van Ness Auto Repair's operating hours was scheduled to be considered at last week's City Council meeting, but the decision was delayed until Oct. 24 pending a community meeting.
The community meeting, the date of which has not been set, will give supporters of both sides an opportunity to speak on the proposal.
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