The Orange County Register
Santa Ana, California
May 29, 1980
Churches In Commercial Zones Must Get Permits, Council Says
By EDD CLARK
ORANGE - The age old struggle between God and Mammon has surfaced in the
downtown business district in an apparent clash between church and
commercial land uses.
Although 10 of the city's 37 existing churches are in commercially zoned
areas, the city council passed a 120-day urgency ordinance March 25
requiring conditional use permits for church and church-related
activities in commercial zones.
Prior to the urgency ordinance, commercial zones were the only place in
the city where churches weren't subject to special government
City action on the new ordinance came shortly after the Rev. Joseph
Magliato's Son Light Center Church at 172 N. Glassell St. purchased a
building in the same block and served eviction notices on two of its
retail business lessees.
Magliato said he believes the council action less than 10 days after
escrow closed on the church's new building discriminates against the Son
He said he opposes the idea of subjecting his church to the conditional
use permit procedure because it gives the city a right to say no to
something that was legal and proper when the building was purchased.
Son Light Center operates out of a leased former movie theater. There
are three other churches within a four-block area of the Son Light
Center, although none of the others is within the proposed "Old
Towne" historical restoration area.
Magliato said the church intends to move its bookstore into part of the
new building and only use the back of it for youth meetings and
counseling session activities.
Councilman Jess Perez said the city is more concerned with displacement
of retail businesses in the commercial zones than any objection to the
Son Light Center itself.
He admitted the proposed Son Light Center expansion sparked the issue
and raised concern by the Downtown Merchants Association and Councilman
Don Smith, who is one of the prime boosters of the "Old Towne"
A staff report resulting from the initial council action pinpoints the
economic nature of the issue. However, the city staff recommendation for
a permanent ordinance requiring conditional use permits cites only
parking, health and safety and promoting "compatible land
uses" as issues.
According to the staff study, churches and church-related activities
have an adverse impact on the city tax base, particularly the retail
Noting that churches are exempt from property, sales and income taxes,
the staff report pointed out that sales tax is the largest single source
of revenue to the city.
"When churches and church-related non-commercial uses locate in
commercial districts, it is at the expense of tax revenue," the
report states. "When a church locates in a commercial rather than
residential district, there is a comparative diminuation of the tax
Less direct economic effects listed in the report include:
- Retail uses involve more rapid circulation of money, resulting in
greater levels of economic activity.
- Rapid money circulation from retail trade creates more jobs and
produces more income than slower economic transactions of church uses
- Parking problems created by church use tend to drive away retail