HOLY TRINITY ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
10945 Wentworth Street, Sunland, CA 91040
THE “SIGN” ON THE NEW CHURCH PEOPERTY
- 17 YEARS OF CONTINUOUS MAINTENANCE -
For display of pictures, please click on each one of the “exhibits” separately, or for all exhibits, click on the slideshow presentation.
On July 18, 1988, the Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church was granted a CUP (Conditional Use Permit) – BZA 3733/ ZA 87-1106 (CUZ) “with no time restrictions” based on Section 12.24-E, 2 of the LA Zone Code, as per the November 22, 1988 letter from the Office of Zoning Administration.
To benefit of “no time restrictions” status, the church was requested to “place a sign on the property indicating its ownership and the purpose to which it is to be developed, as soon as legally possible after such approval. Such sign shall have a surface area of at least 20 square feet” (Ord. No. 130,134 Eff. 7/8/65). Further request: “The sign is to be maintained on the property and in good condition until the conditional use privileges are utilized” (Ord.No.123,664, Eff.3/10/63).
The Church had had manufactured the “Sign” using the required measurements 4’ x 6’ (Exhibit # 1), which, on August 12 1988 was installed on the highest point of property street level (Exhibit # 2) – thus assuring a clear visibility from all the angles of the property (Exhibits # 3 and # 4).
The “sign” was installed at about 10-15 feet apart from a “Private Property – No trespassing” sign (Exhibit # 5), posted on the property even before the church purchased the subject property in 1987. Presently, the new neighboring homes could be identified in the background of both: the rusty “Private Property – No trespassing” sign and the CUP’s required “church sign” (Exhibits # 1 and # 5 ). Two members of the building committee, Mr. Miron Bonca and Joe Oros, supervised the work of the “church sign” installation. Mr. Miron Bonca (presently 83 years old, and retired) can be contacted at: (714) 434-9176; Mr. Joe Oros (presently 86 years of age, also retired) can be contacted at: (805) 965-3730.
In the letter dated September 30, 1988 (Exhibit # 6) to Mr. Stephen L Jones, the church’s attorney, Mr. Joseph Oros submitted to the church’s attorney 2 photographs (see exhibit #1), stating on the back of the photographs “same photos sent for Jon Perica concurrence 9-30-88; code section 12.24E.2”, therefore, copies of said photos are deposited in the Office of Zoning Administration file ZA 87-1106 (CUZ).
In the letter of November 22, 1988 addressed to Mr. Joe Oros (Exhibit # 7) , Mr. Jon Perica, Associate Zoning Administrator, states the following: ”You recently inquired if the City’s grant for your Romanian church project allowed an unlimited amount of time to start construction. Section 12.24-E,2 of the Zone Code allows churches and other civic institutions an unlimited amount of time in which to utilize the grant. There will be no time restrictions for your project – ZA 87-1106 (CUZ)”.
In November 1989 the church celebrated its 50th anniversary. A vespers service and the blessing of the property were officiated by Archbishop Nathaniel Popp (Exhibit # 8), in the presence of hundreds of people.
As customary in our church tradition, when the Hierarch blesses a “church property”, He starts with the sprinkling with the Holy Water of all the “structures” and/of “fixtures” then the property grounds.
As there were no “structures” but only 2 “fixtures” on the property, at that time were, He bless them as follows: the cross first (Exhibit # 9), the “sign” second, and the rest of the property grounds.
His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel is a member of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of America, with close to 10 Million Orthodox Faithful. The Archbishop can be contacted at: (517) 522-4800/Ext. 201; He could make Himself available to testify to the effect that he blessed the sign identified in exhibit # 1.
For 10 years (1989-1999) there were no development activities in the area where the subject property is located, therefore the church only took-care of 3 things regarding that property: 1). Pay the annual property taxes; 2). Clear the brushes and weeds 12 feet deep along the property line, as requested annually by the Fire Department; and 3). Make sure that the subject “sign” stays in place, and is properly maintained, at all times.
In 1999, the church celebrated its 60th anniversary. In the spring of that year, the community elected Dr. Sorin Muntean as chairman of the building committee, and requested of him to conduct a “feasibility study” and establish a timeline for the new church building project to start.
A few weeks after election, Dr. Sorin Muntean took a group of co-associated/co-chair people: Mr. & Dr. Dan Nuta, Dr. Kalin & Mrs. Spariosu (Exhibits # 10 and # 11) to inspect the new property. In exhibit # 11, one could see from afar, as one looks at the picture, the existence of a “sign” on the property (lower left corner). A close-up of the sign (Exhibit # 12) proves clearly that this sign is the same original sign installed on August 12 1988, but the colors stated to fade-away. Dr. Sorin Muntean can be contacted at: (805) 373-9475.
In February 2002, when Mrs. Maria Pincu (310/394-7560) took the building committee chairmanship, she ordered the building committee treasurer (Mr. Aurelian Marin – 818/951-8503) to have a new sign manufactured, and “installed over the old-sign” (not in place of the old-sign), using for mounting the initial supporting structure (2 iron polls, the aged-wooden frame and the 4 iron-string anchors (The back of the sign frame close-up from 2 different angles, with the new homes development in the background: Exhibits # 13 and # 14).
In the Spring of 2002, Mr. Aurelian Marin contracted the manufacturing of the new sign with “The Advertising Ideas” Company, Mr. Peter Lucian president (818/988-3377), which was nailed over the 1988 sign, as one could see in exhibit # 15 - for close-up purposes, only the last part of the sign is displayed.
One could easily “un-nail” the new sign for the purpose of revealing the original, undisturbed and permanently maintained sign portrayed in exhibit # 1.
On Saturday, June 14, 2003 – Bishop Irineu, Auxiliary Hierarch of ROEA (tel. 517/522-4800 / Ext. 214) officiated a vespers service, at the subject property in Sunland, blessing with the Holy Water the 2 “fixtures” (the “cross” and the “sign”), followed by the blessing of the property grounds where the new facilities will be erected (Exhibit # 16). One could see in the background of the picture - Exhibit # 16 – the grading work in progress of the neighboring 57 homes development project, completed in 2004.
In November 2003, 4 Romanian priests (Frs. Simion Pavel from Chicago, Ioan Catana from Seattle, Dan Paun from Dallas and Ioan Andrisoaia from Montreal, Canada), on the occasion of the 2003 Episcopate’s Retreat in Southern California, have visited the church property, and prayed at the Cross (Exhibit # 17), re-painted in 2002, at the same time when the “new sign” was manufactured and applied over the “old-one” (for comparison – click on exhibits: # 9, then # 17 ) above).
At the beginning of 2004, a gentleman, who later-on became the owner of the adjacent house to our church property (1st house to the east), learning from the sign on the property that the church will undertake a “building project”, called a couple of times the Church’s pastor Fr. Alecse to make inquiries about the Romanian Orthodox Church, thus making sure that his family will feel comfortable with this church as a neighbor, in case they decide to purchase that house. So, “ the sign “ worked.
On June 12, 2004, a visiting priest and his wife, Fr. & Presbytera Viorel Mierlusca, from Romania, who wanted to show his priest-colleagues the new property where the Holy Trinity Church will build its new facilities, upon their return to Romania (end-of-June 2004) are pictured in front of the “church sign” (Exhibit # 18) .
On Saturday, November 6, 2004, on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the church, Archbishop Nathaniel, pontificated the great vespers service, at the new property, and blessed the Cross, the Sign and the breaking of the grounds (Exhibit # 19), thus, marking the official beginning of the church building project (3rd and last BLESSING, since 1989 - see exhibit # 9). The “sign” in subject, could be identified in the upper-right corner, as one looks at the picture.
Also, in November 2004, on the occasion of the ROEA’s Clergy annual retreat in La Habra-California, 4 Romanian clergymen - Exhibit # 20 - (Frs. Dumitru Sasu from Florida, Dr. Casian Fetea, from New York, Remus Bleahu from Youngstown-OH and Dr. Nicolae Stoleru, from Montreal, Canada) visited and prayed on the new church property. The “short green grass” in the picture’s background is a testimony that property, prepared for the 65th anniversary celebrations (held on Nov.6-7, 2004), after a few raining days, had sprung-up in the area where the anniversary service was held.
Mr. Daniel Green, LA Zoning Administrator, through an e-mail, dated June 9 2005, 5:33 pm, addressed to our church architect, Mr. Garo Minassian (copy to email@example.com), alerted the church that: “I have color photographs of the site taken recently which demonstrate that there was no sign at the site. What evidence do you have that confirms that there has been a sign on the property continuously since 1988? The photographs of the signs you submitted could be any age, not necessarily anything erected 17 years ago”.
The church took the e-mail message, and the alarming June 9 2005, 5:33 pm statement very seriously, and - fearing that someone who may have a hidden agenda – knowing that the church is in the process of getting the building permits from the city - could’ve taken down the sign in the last few days (thus trying to prove that the church “did not fulfill the CUP requirements”), decided to dispatch to the property, just a few hours after the receipt of alarming e-mail, a church representative to asses what had happened to the “sign”. Thus, Mr. Constantin Jercan, the building committee chairman, arriving at the property around 9:00 pm, found-out that the “sign” is in its place intact. In Exhibit # 30 Mr. Jercan is pictured at night, in front of the sign which is in place continuously since 1988 (June 9 2005, appox. 9:00 - in the night).
The following day, June 10 2005, between 10:00-11:00 am, the pastor himself went to the property, took a few pictures of the subject “sign”, which, some, are presented in this report as “evidences”.
Testimonials to the effect that “the sign” was on the property continuously since 1988:
1. Physical evidences (Hard-ware & Soft-ware):
(Polls, frame and anchors, pictures & microfilms)
b. The “present sign” could be easily “un-nailed” from the frame to reveal the original sign, mounted and installed on August 12, 1988, on the same initial supporting structure: 2 ground-cemented iron polls, the aged-wooded frame and the 4 iron-strings anchors (Exhibits # 13 and # 14).
c. After examining the “signs” (old and newer one), the anchors, the frames… “builders” and experts in building-materials, could testify that the sign was manufactured, installed and permanently maintained on the property since 1988.
d. The “undisturbed” grounds, with weeds around the polls, around “the sign” and its proximity are testimonials that the sign was placed and maintained on the property since 1988, in the area where “the sign” was initially installed (Exhibits: # 21; also # 13; # 14; # 30).
e. All pictures and above-stated documents, specified as “exhibits” (originals 1987-2005) are preserved in the church archives and could be submitted for examination per request. Their “microfilms” are also kept in the church’s archives, remaining confidently positive that the “Kodak” experts could easily point to the fact that they belong to the 1987 picture developing techniques.
f. The hard copy of the pictures, presented as 1999 “exhibits” could also be identified by Kodak experts as belonging to that year.
Also, the people identified in the pictures could testify to their identification.
g. The Cross on the property, “planted” into the grounds only a year apart (1989) from the time “the sign” was placed (1988) which is still there, as is the “sign” itself, is also a testimonial, vivid in the minds of visitors and passers-by who, over-the-years identified the property only by the 2 fixtures: The sign and The cross.
h. Taken on June 10, 2005 – by Fr. Constantin Alecse, the church pastor - the pictures of the “sign/signs”, identified in the exhibits underlined below, were, are and will continue to be on the property, uninterruptedly (since August 12, 1988, present and in the future until the time the grading work will start), clearly visible from all the angles of the church property - see “exhibits”: # 21; # 22; # 23; # 24; # 25; # 26; # 27; # 28; # 29; # 30.
2. Personal testimonials:
(Witnesses & Potential Witnesses)
1. Rev. Fr. Constantin Alecse, pastor of the Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church (since 1982), unequivocally testifies that:
a. THE SIGN IN SUBJECT WAS PLACED ON THE PROPERTY ON AUGUST 12, 1988 AND MAINTAINED, UNINTERUPTEDLY UNTIL PRESENT;
b. AT ANY AND ALL TIMES, when Church Hierarchs, visiting clergy, parishioners, prospect-for-hiring professionals, friends, etc., met the priest, or any other church officials, at the subject property, they ALWAYS, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, made sure to point-out the fact that “in order to continue having the BZA 3733/ ZA 87-1106 (CUZ) CUP valid, the church has to - pointing to the sign - “maintain this sign on the property, in good conditions, until the conditional use privileges are utilized” (Ord.No.123,664, Eff.3/10/63);
2. Testimony can be given by the owner of “Advertising Ideas” Company, Mr. Peter Lucian, president (818/988-3377), who in 2002 manufactured the new sign and nailed it over the original sign of 1988;
3. Representatives and other parish officials: former and present leadership of the building committee, parish council, church auxiliaries;
4. The Hierarchy of the Diocese (i.e. Archbishop Nathaniel, Bishop Irineu) who blessed the new church property, grounds, cross and sign - during 1988-2004 numerous services;
5. Mr. Gaudencio Rosas (818) 830-0815, the gardner and his crew, who – for many years – were hired to annually clear the brushes and weeds 12 feet deep along the property line, as requested annually by the Fire Department (Exhibit # 31);
6. During 2004-2005, a prospect of 7-10 graders, were given appointments to meet the church officials at the “new church property” in Sunland, could testify that they identified the property by “the sign” and “the cross”;
7. Testimonials could be sought from the church’s hired professionals: 2 architectural firms; the civil engineering firm (George Boghossian & Associates, which was with the project since 1987, doing some preliminary work for the church for the 1987 “public hearings”), etc.
8. Comstock Homes Company (Mr. Andy Byrne, project manager 310/546-5781), owner and developer of the neighboring 57 homes development, 2003-2004, could also testify to the effect that the church “sign” was maintained at all times during those years.
9. The owner of the closest house to the church property (a doctor), who conversed on occasions with the church’s pastor, before purchasing the house;
10. Faithful attending the services officiated on the Sunland church property, over the years (1988-2005), especially before the neighboring house development came into its place 2003-2004, did identify the property by “the sign” and “the cross”. And the list could go on, and on…
The pastor, and the leaders of the church, who did work so hard, and detailed all the presentations at the 4-5 public hearings (1987-1988), until “CUP” was granted (Exhibit # 32), could testify under oath they made sure, that the “sign” in subject, placed on the property on August 12, 1988, was and continue to be maintained at all times, as per the CUP requirements; And, moreso…
Consider the fact that, the Church Chancery, spent hundreds of thousand of US Dollars to hire professionals to draw all the building project plans, and paid additional tens of thousands on various city departments’ fees (plans submitted and approved), would not act so irresponsible to decide recently to ignore the essential condition, which gives the “no time restrictions” status to the church, and abandon the maintenance of the requested “sign” on the property … in good conditions, until the conditional use privileges are utilized” (Ord.No.123,664, Eff.3/10/63).
And, a final thought
Could we dare to suggest that maybe (just “maybe!), due to the neighboring new 57 home development subdivision process 2000-2002, which caused the change of the initial church property address, from : 9801 Wentworth Street, to: 10945 Wentworth Street (new address) could’ve play a role in a possible mis-identification of the subject property, and the Zoning Administrator may be in the possession of photographs taken at a different property, where the disputed sign could not be found, because the “sign”, is, where always has been since August 12, 1988 on the right, located (according to the newly “reassigned” address, at: 10945 Wentworth Street , Sunland, CA . Just a thought!
Thank-you for your time and consideration.
Fr. Constantin Alecse, Pastor
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