Staff report dated July 22, 1999, was presented to consider a request for a church use on property located at 140 West Wilshire Avenue (south side of Wilshire Avenue, between approximately 50 feet and 100 feet east of Malden Avenue) (C-3 zone) (Categorically exempt under Class 1 of CEQA Guidelines).
Program Planner Linnell reported that the existing building is presently being utilized as a banquet hall/reception facility. The applicant desires to conduct church activities in the facility at certain times of the week, when the banquet/reception hall is not being used. The property is located within the Central Business District, where approximately 250 public parking spaces are available. Staff does not believe that parking will be an issue, especially on Sundays; however, staff is concerned that activities during the week may adversely impact the operation of other businesses in the area. In addition, the Redevelopment Agency Director warned staff that the precedent of allowing church uses in the Central Business District may negatively impact the economic health of the downtown. Staff recommended approval of the request with conditions of approval, the third condition being a six-month review of the operation. Program Planner Linnell corrected the listed hours of operation for Sunday, from 10-11:30 AM and 6-8 PM to 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM.
Chairman Godfrey recalled that there had previously been a prohibition of churches in the downtown area. Program Planner Linnell confirmed that there had been such a prohibition, but that it had been overturned in 1995, after a committee review determined that churches brought people into the downtown area to patronize existing businesses. Chief Planner Rosen added that any churches in existence in the downtown prior to that time were grandfathered. Program Planner Linnell also advised that one of the reasons the Redevelopment Agency viewed churches in the downtown unfavorably, was because when a building is not being used for church activities, it is "dead space" which does not generate revenue or attract people to the downtown.
Commissioner Simons inquired if this was the location in which a homicide had occurred the previous year, and Chief Planner Rosen answered affirmatively. Commissioner Simons also noted that after banquet events are held, the grounds will require extensive clean-up before the church may use the building.
Commissioner Ranii inquired if the Downtown Business Association was notified of this item, and Program Planner Linnell replied that they had not been.
Commissioner Sandoval wished clarification of Condition No. 2, which states that the "applicant will receive approval of a tenant improvement plan that shows how the church intends to occupy and use the building." Chairman Godfrey suggested that the word will be changed to must.
Gary Chalupsky, Executive Director of the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency, submitted a letter for Commission review. The concern of the Agency centers around the influx of church requests in the downtown area. While supportive of churches in general, he expressed concern about the investment of public funds as incentives to get a certain vitality occurring in the downtown. He recognized that this is a difficult building, and a Sunday use is not a problem for parking. Additionally, this building is in a parking district, where the owners have a right to the available parking. However, there is a concern about the church activities during the week and the impact those activities will have on the available parking in the area, particularly on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In response to a question by Chairman Godfrey, Director Chalupsky indicated that he felt the Downtown Business Association would be supportive of his position in this matter and that they wish to see activity in the downtown. Director Chalupsky also stated that he supported the conditions of approval as presented, particularly the six-month review of the operation. He expressed concern about the Saturday hours ending at 3:00 p.m., due to Saturday night rental of the banquet facility.
Public hearing opened.
Steve Forell, property owner, described the multi-use facility and how well the church request fits into the building's schedule.
Commissioner Ranii questioned whether there would be a problem with the church vacating the premises by 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon. Mr. Forell stated that it was his understanding that a very small group from the church will meet on Saturday for band practice, so the facility would be available for set-up during that time.
Commissioner LeQuire noted that the building will be available to the church from 7 AM to 10 PM; however, the conditions of approval list the hours of operation from 10-11:30 AM and 6-8:00 PM. He asked which hours the church desired to have listed on the Conditional Use Permit.
Pastor Mike McNichols, senior pastor, 401 Robby Place, Placentia, gave a brief history of Vineyard Christian Fellowship. He felt that it would be an easy transition from Saturday night events to church services the following morning. Responding to a question by Commissioner Sandoval, he wished to have the hours of operation for the church listed as 7 AM to 10 PM. He noted that the groups who would assemble during the week are very small (approximately 15-20 people).
Commissioner Ranii asked if the pastor would be comfortable sharing the facility on Saturday mornings, with persons who would be setting up for an event. Pastor McNichols answered that he would have no problem with that arrangement.
Public hearing closed.
Commissioner Sandoval supported the request as conditioned. She desired that the hours be modified to read from 7 AM to 10 PM. She also noted that the condition pertaining to the six-month review was placed in the staff report under "Findings" and not "Conditions of Approval." With those corrections, she supported staff's recommendation.
Commissioner Ranii recalled that he had been on the Downtown Committee in 1995, that reviewed the issue of prohibiting churches in the downtown. While not in favor of a large number of "storefront" churches in the downtown, he favored utilizing a building already designated as an assembly use. He advised staff to ensure that the Saturday morning arrangement is running smoothly during the six-month review.
Commissioner LeQuire would not be in favor of replacing a retail establishment with a church in the downtown, but because the sanctuary would contain portable chairs, and not fixed seating, he supported the request. Chief Planner Rosen confirmed that should the church desire to have fixed seating in the future, they would be required to apply for a building permit to do so. Commissioner LeQuire requested that, in the future, the Downtown Business Association should be notified of any projects in this area.
Commissioner Ballard wished the record to reflect that he was an owner of property within 300 feet of this location, but he had nothing to gain or lose by the request. He supported the request, adding that he would like the specific church service times listed in the conditions of approval. Commissioner Simons concurred.
Chairman Godfrey asked if the applicant understood the change in listing the church hours and, should the church desire to change the times of services in the future, they would need to return to the Planning Commission for approval. Pastor McNichols indicated that he understood said change.
There was a consensus of the Commission for approval. The title of Resolution No. 6834 APPROVING a Conditional Use Permit to allow a church use in an existing commercial building on property located at 140 West Wilshire Avenue was read and further reading was waived.
Commissioner Sandoval interjected at this point and wished to specify that the Saturday hours from 10 AM to 3 PM would be used for "non-assembly uses only." The remaining Commissioners concurred.
Pastor McNichols also desired clarification on the condition requiring a tenant improvement plan, when no improvements are planned at this time. Chief Planner Rosen stated that this condition was added on advice of the Building Official, should any platforms or raised stages be used in the future.
MOTION by Commissioner Ballard, seconded and CARRIED unanimously by voting members present, that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS AMENDED as follows:
Condition No. 1 shall list the times as follows:
Condition No. 2: the word "will" to be changed to "must".
||From 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM|
(Services: 10:00 to 11:30 AM and 6:00 to 8:00 PM)
||From 7:00 to 9:30 PM |
||From 6:30 to 10:00 PM |
||From 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM|
(Non-assembly use; preparation for services)
Condition No. 3: the six-month review will be moved from "Facts and Findings" to "Conditions of Approval."
Chief Planner Rosen announced that this item may be appealed within ten days. Commissioner LeQuire suggested that a copy of the Resolution for this item be sent to the Downtown Business Association before the end of the appeal period.