A Yoga Instructor’s Dream Becomes A Nightmare

Angie Hall left her lucrative 16-year corporate career to better people’s lives through yoga and meditation. She worked hard to earn her success and when she discovered yoga, it changed her life. She began teaching throughout the Valley. Wanting to share her teachings on a more personal level, she decided to start her own yoga business. But because of city permit requirements, Angie’s dream of having a home-based business became a nightmare.

For years, Angie offered private meditation and yoga instruction, helping her clients physically, mentally, and spiritually. Some clients expressed a desire to practice in a quiet space outside of the busy, commercial studio setting. So Angie decided to construct a quaint studio in her backyard.  Here, the sessions would be, in the words of one of her clients, “very small, intimate gathering[s] with no more people in attendance than at a small dinner party.”

Angie had owned her home for 11 years and remains there to this day, maintaining her status as a kind and tidy neighbor. She consulted with her neighbor, a contractor, who had recently finished building a home office in his own backyard. He initially expressed an interest in building her space. She knew that other residents on the street operated businesses out of their homes without a permit. They weren’t doing anything dangerous or bothering anyone, so she didn’t complain. However, Angie wanted to follow the rules.

So Angie got a building permit for her backyard studio and disclosed her intentions to offer yoga there. She applied for a permit to run her business from home. She also applied for a permit allowing increased traffic, even though she didn’t think her business would bring extra traffic to the neighborhood.

Little did she know what would be in store for her next.

After Angie chose to use a different contractor, the neighbor who originally offered to build her studio decided he didn’t want another business in the neighborhood. His parents also own a house on the street, and together they began campaigning with fear tactics instead of facts against Angie’s request for a permit.

The small coalition of neighbors began spying on Angie. They photographed cars that parked in her driveway or near her home, as well as guests that entered the house. One neighbor began listening to her conversations through the fence, stalking her social media accounts, and printing out posts regarding the studio.

Angie wrote letters to her neighbors regarding her intentions. She asked their concerns and adapted her plans to meet their needs, but the few neighbors did not budge. When Angie offered to host a neighborhood meeting to discuss her modest plans, the neighbors refused. Angie had hesitated to hire a lawyer because she believed what she was doing was well within the law. She thought, mistakenly, that the law would be on her side, since she had done her best to follow every instruction she received from the city.