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Judge Hears Shop Dispute

Laguna Hills says the home-based music repair and rental store violates zoning. The owner says she's being singled out.

May 30, 2003|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

A long-running battle between the city of Laguna Hills and a resident landed in court Thursday, with attorneys for the city telling a judge they are "reluctantly" seeking to shut down her home-based musical instrument repair and rental shop.

In opening arguments, City Atty. Dan Spradlin said Rebecca Apodaca is violating several building and zoning codes.

"We have to have consistency within residential neighborhoods," Spradlin said.

But David Flyer, Apodaca's attorney, portrayed her as a model citizen who has the support of her neighbors and has been unfairly singled out.

"The city has been selectively enforcing its codes," Flyer told Judge Kim G. Dunning. "The codes have been modified to accommodate other businesses in the area."

Apodaca, a 49-year-old single mother, has operated A&D Music out of her garage and home for more than two dozen years, well before Laguna Hills became a city.

Apodaca, who has been disabled by hip replacement surgery, insists the city is trying to bankrupt her by bringing the 3-year-old dispute to court.

"The city is trying high-hand poker, hoping I'll eventually give up," Apodaca said.

Spradlin argued that Apodaca is operating a retail business in a residential neighborhood, selling sheet music and accessories for instruments. He also said Apodaca is violating fire and safety codes by operating her business in an enclosed garage with inadequate ventilation.

Laguna Hills began asking Apodaca to comply with its codes in the fall of 2000 after city officials say they received complaints from Apodaca's neighbors. It took legal action last year. Apodaca countersued, seeking damages and the right to continue operating.

Despite the reported complaints, many neighbors have rallied behind Apodaca and have urged the city to drop its case.

Apodaca believes the city is going after her to accomplish a secret redevelopment project; Laguna Hills officials have declined to comment on the case.

"What are their plans for this neighborhood?" she asked. "Am I the first case for something else the city is pursuing?"

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