What looks like a booming auto mechanic’s business along Ontario Street might actually be just one man’s solution to costly car repairs.
Steven Beattie was warned last month to stop violating the city’s zoning ordinance, which prohibits businesses in residential areas. Neighbors had complained that he was routinely working on cars in his driveway or on the street. They said he was running an auto repair business.
If he continues, he’ll be ticketed, Zoning Officer Steven Strichman said. The general punishment upon conviction is a fine.
But Beattie contends that although he’s “always” working on cars, they’re all his. He said he’s not getting paid to work on someone else’s car.
He’s been fixing his cars for about five years as a way to save money, while also making ends meet as a property manager, he said.
It started when one car needed repairs. He was forced to fix it himself because he didn’t have the money to pay someone else, he said.
“The garage is too much money,” he said. “When you have no money, and you have to go to work in the morning, you come to learn. It’s all basic common sense. It’s all nuts and bolts.”
At first it was tough, he said. But last week, he changed the brakes and rotors on one of his Escalades in half an hour. The cost was $118 for parts, he said.
He owns five cars, all purchased cheaply because he knows he can fix them up himself, he said. He has two Lexuses, two Escalades, and a BMW that he keeps for recreational driving only.
“They’re all in my name,” he said. “Nobody can say they see someone drive up, leave a car, come back, and take it. Nobody can say that because it doesn’t happen.”
He’s had problems with neighbors before — two years ago, he was sent a warning for selling vehicles at his house. When he objected, a city official told him it was illegal to fix up cars and sell them. But, Beattie protested that he’d owned all three cars for years.
The city official told him to ignore the warning, he said.
But neighbors aren’t happy. They have complained repeatedly to the City Council, saying Beattie is up late with floodlights, making noise as he repairs cars.
Councilman Vince Riggi insisted something be done after he drove by and saw Beattie on the street, working on a car with no fender or headlights.
Beattie acknowledged that he uses a light, though he said it’s always pointed down and that he would have moved it if a neighbor had told him he was shining it into their windows.
He said he was working on his BMW last week with a friend, taking it apart and making minor improvements. He replaced the headlights with fancier head lamps, among other changes.
“For fun. Not because it was broken,” he said, adding that his friend often brings over his car for the same reason.
The two men have a hobby of “hooking up” cars during the nice summer evenings, he said.
“You know, like ‘The Fast and The Furious,’ ” he said, referencing a car-racing movie.
“I don’t see why it’s an issue,” he added.
But now that the city has gotten involved, he plans to work on his cars behind his house in the paved area near his garage.
That’s totally legal, as long as they’re his cars. City ordinances prohibit working on any cars on the street or sidewalk, but not on the owner’s property.