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Anaheim Residents to Ask City Council for Closure of Church-Operated School

June 03, 1986|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

Anaheim residents who lost an earlier battle to keep a school for artistically gifted, mentally retarded people out of their neighborhood will be back before the City Council today to appeal the February decision.

But this time, residents of the Anawood neighborhood are taking a different approach. Julia E. Sylva, an attorney for the residents, said they no longer oppose the relocation of Hope University-UNICO National College to a local Baptist church--if a Christian school now on the site is closed.

The residents "welcome Hope University" into what now is the Euclid Street Baptist Church, Sylva said. But they are not ready to welcome the continued noise and traffic they said the existing church-operated, 250-student elementary school has brought to their area.

3-Year Phase-Out OKd

On Feb. 25, the City Council approved the relocation of Hope University in a complicated plan that also called for a three-year phase-out of the church's elementary school.

Although the city attorney had earlier said that the church school was operating illegally and the city Planning Commission had ordered it closed, the council overturned the commission's decision. Council members agreed with church officials who had said the permit allowed for church-related activities, which they said included their private Christian school.

Through a land swap, the university--believed to be the first of its kind in the country--plans to move into the Anaheim church this summer. Currently, the school operates out of two back rooms in an Anaheim shopping center.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old church plans to move to Anaheim Hills. While the new church is under construction, church officials want to continue operating the elementary school, which has expanded through the last eight years to include a preschool with day-care facilities, while gradually phasing it out of its Euclid Street facility.

But residents said they are tired of the noise and traffic congestion that has increased through the years with the growth of the church's school.

'Satisfactory to Everyone'

"They want the elementary school to be closed immediately," Sylva said Monday.

Bryan Crow, pastor of the church at 1408 S. Euclid St., said he will make a presentation today "which will be satisfactory to everyone." Crow declined to elaborate. Sylva said the two sides have been unable to compromise on the school.

"It doesn't look very favorable. It doesn't look like we're going to be able to settle it," Sylva said.

The residents' appeal has been postponed twice in the last few months at the request of attorneys attempting to reach an agreement before taking the issue back to the council.

Gift Received

The church and Hope University are not associated with each other. Hope's move to the church site is made possible by a gift from UNICO (Unity, Neighborliness, Integrity, Charity and Opportunity) International, the largest Italian-American service organization in the country. In exchange for the 2.9 acres and structures on Euclid Street, UNICO plans to give the church at least 30 acres of land near Weir Canyon Road and the Riverside Freeway in Anaheim Hills to build a new sanctuary and school, the associate pastor, the Rev. Don R. Simmons, said.

Hope University is an offshoot of a program that started under the Anaheim Union High School District. The school features Hi Hopes, the best known of several performing groups composed of mentally retarded students.

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