THE CHURCH BUILDING PROJECT
(2nd Semester Report)
Dear members of the Building Project,
Dear Faithful of the Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church,
In the last issue of „The Christian Life”, the quarterly magazine of the Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church, Los Angeles, California, in the article called: „Sunland Property – Ready to start Building at the beginning of May 2005” we have expressed the “conviction” that “the physical work” on our new Church Property will start, immediately after 2005 Orthodox Easter, which meant that sometimes at the beginning of June 2005 we would’ve start “the grading”.
Having such a “timeline” established, Fr. Constantin, the civil engineer, and the architects were working diligently to obtain the “grading and architectural permits” (ALL THE PLANS BEING ALREADY APPROVED); When we made the required “applications”, the Los Angeles Building Department informed us that the Church has to take care of some 15 “clearances”, as follows:
While the civil engineer and the parish office were working to expidiently resolve the stated „clearances”, at the beginning of June 2005, we found out that Mr. Jon Perica – The L.A. City Zoning Administrator retired in April, and the new Zonig Administrator, Mr. Daniel Green is contesting the validity of the CUP (Conditional Use Permit) of 1988, therefore he „put-on-hold” the whole project.
The „action” of the new Zoning Administrator „project-on-hold” was operated into the Building Department Systems (at both locations: Los Angeles and Van Nuys), therefore the civil engineer could not go forth with the above-stated „15 clearances”, as no officials will accept any paper-work for action, unless the Zoning Administrator is chanding into the „Systems” the Church’s CUP status from „expired” to „valid”.
For the last 4 months, the church had an up-hill battle.
It took the parish office some 2 weeks of „work-and-correspondence” with the new Zoning Administrator, to convince him that „a sign was installed and uninteruptedly maintained” on the property, as per the CUP requirments, and therefore the CUP is valid. On June 13, 2005, the Zoning Administrator e-mailed our office the news that „It appears from your extensive documentation that your signage meets the requirements of the Code and that the time in which you may utilize the grant has not expired”.
Three days later, on June 16, 2005 the Zoning Administrator e-mailed our Architect Mr. Garo Minassian the following request: „In order to obtain the Zoning Administrator clearance, you will need to submit plans for us to stamp that are consistent with the plans Mr. Perica saw in 1988. We stamp and sign 3 sets, keeping one, and returning the other two to you for use at plan check. We also need the clearance summary worksheet created by the plan checker. When we're stamping the plans, we can add a note indicating the grant is still alive based upon the posting of signs”.
Following his instructions, the Architect presented the ZA (Zoning Administrator’s office) with the 3 sets of requested Architectural Plans for reviewing and approval.
The ZA would not review the stated plans, unless the plans are accompanied by the “landscaping and irrigation” plans (condition #5).
Therefore, helped by the architect and the civil engineer, the parish office hired the “Larry Tison Landscaping Co.” to draw the landscaping plans.
Even then, the ZA would not give its approval, invoking conditions #5 and #15, which states: “Landscape plans to be submitted to the District Council Office for review and to the Office of Zoning Administration for approval”; and “All plans shall be submitted to the District Council office for review and to the Office of Zoning Administration for approval” (respectively).
In following this procedure, the Architect Garo Minassian and Fr. Constantin Alecse scheduled an appointment with the District Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, for July 19, 2005
To our surprise, on July 18, 2005 the architect was called by the councilwoman’s office, informing us that, due to the L.A. re-districting process of 2-3 years ago, our new church property in Sunland is located in councilman Mr. Alex Padilla’s District (District #7), therefore an appointment has to be scheduled with councilman Padilla’s office.
After many attempts, by our architect and the parish office, to reach Mr. Padilla’s Office to schedule an appointment (to make the required architectural presentation), we were finally successful to set an appointment for August 2, 2005. Thus, architect Garo Minassian, accompanied by Fr. Constantin, met, on August 2, with 2 representatives from the councilman’s office: Mr. Dan Rosales, Jr. (district director), and Mr. Khaim Morton (field deputy).
The meeting was fruitful (we thought…), and we have been assured that our church’s building project will be fully supported by Alex Padilla’s office.
We were told that, after the councilman himself will review our church’s architectural, landscaping and irrigation plans, a letter of support (that’s all we need from the councilman’s office) will be written by councilman Padilla’s office to the Zoning Administrator’s Office.
After a month-and-a-half of daily telephone calls, voice messages and e-mails (sent to the 2 representatives of the district councilman’s office, we have met with), on September 12, 2005, Mr. Khaim Morton (the field deputy) answered our calls, telling us that “the letter is in the making”, from the councilman’s office to the Zoning Administrator, but we have to contact the president of the Shadow Hills Neighbor’s Council (Mary Anne Guyer), to schedule an appointment with the Neighbor’s Council, to make a presentation of our church’s overall project to the representatives of the Shadow Hills community.
Having the unpleasant experience of 5 public hearings (which lasted more than one year, 1987-1988), we have tried to convince the councilman’s representatives that, there is no need for a meeting of our church representatives with the Neighbor’s Council representatives, because our Church Building Project was approved in 1988, with a CUP’S 21 Conditions.
During September 20 - December 5, 2005, the councilman’s field deputy, informed us (on 4 occasions in telephone conversations) that they will issue a letter of support to us, on the condition that our church representatives will meet with the Neighbor’s Council representatives. Ultimately, we had no choice but to agree with this requirement, with the understanding that the councilman’s office gives us the letter first, then we will schedule the required meeting with the Neighbor’s Council.
As of today, December 5, 2005, we did not receive the councilman’s office promised letter, and were unsuccessful to reach by phone either the district director or the field deputy of councilman Alex Padilla’s Office.
As it stands, NOW, as we draw closer to the end of the year 2005, we are still fighting an up-hill battle with the L.A. City officials to obtain the “permits” to start our building project’s physical work. It looks to us, on one hand, that our community is “discriminated on religious grounds”, and - on the other - “the economic factor” is playing a major role in this process (it is the interpretation of our church faithful that the city officials believe that, through the hardship imposed on us, the church will get discouraged, give-up its project, and a developer will develop the 8 acres piece of property, bringing-in to the city tens or even hundreds of thousand US Dollars in annual revenues, taxes, etc).
We do assure our community, and the City Officials, that WE DO NOT GIVE-UP. No matter how long it will take, we will get the permits, and before long the Church Building Project will be back on track.
The civil engineer, Mr. George Boghossian has all the required “paper-work” prepared (for more than 4 months), ready to submit in order to have the 15 clearances resolved, as soon as the ZA will give his approval, and the “CUP status changed from “expired” to “active” operated into the Building and Planning Department Systems.
We will keep-you all informed of the future developments of our Building Project, as soon as the Christmas Holidays and the Epiphany 2006 celebrations will be over.
On behalf of the Building Committee & the Parish,
Fr. Constantin Alecse, Parish Priest
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