Over the congregation’s objections it would infringe on its religious freedom and be illegal, the Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to consider a church in Westwood be added to the list of historic-cultural monuments.
Before the 10-0 vote, representatives of the Twenty-eighth Church of Christ, Scientist congregation said the move would be unlawful, while Councilman Paul Koretz said church members are the ones acting unlawfully.
The church’s lawyer said in a letter to the council that the church leadership wants to tear down its main building and move worship to a smaller building in order to cut costs.
Koretz claims the church plans to redevelop or sell part of the property.
“The owner is clearly proposing a redevelopment to a much larger building, and yet has said they have no plans for a project and claim the reason for demolition was reducing the operating and monthly expenses with maintaining the building,” Koretz said.
But Koretz said the owner also filed papers with the city a few months ago for a “lot untied, and claimed within their documentation that the purposes was for the sale of the property and development.”
Koretz also said the city had been presented with real estate advertisements for the sale and development of the property.
“This piece-mealing is unlawful and shows bad faith in working with the city and the Westwood community,” Koretz said. “The lack of transparency has caused many to question if all options have been fully explored.”
Koretz stressed that the motion — which would bring a temporary stay to any demolition or alternation of the property — is just for the city to begin the process of considering it for historical status.
But a lawyer representing the church argued that the designation would be against state law.
“According to government code section 37361, if a religious institution objects to the application of local preservation laws in a public forum, on the grounds that the application may lead it to suffer substantial hardship, which is likely to deprive it of economic return on is property or the reasonable use of its property if furtherance of its religious mission, then those laws do not apply to it,” said attorney Victor de la Cruz.
The church was built in 1955.
Survey LA, the citywide historic resources survey, has labeled the church — built in 1955 — as appearing eligible for designation and said it is an excellent example of New Formalist institutional architecture.
“I mean no disrespect to the church or the congregation or its precepts, but I am seeking to explore a preservation solution as an alternative to demolition,” Koretz said.
— City News Service
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