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Council Rejects Chinese Baptists' Plan to Build Northridge Church

December 10, 1987|RICHARD SIMON | Times Staff Writer

Amid claims of racism, the Los Angeles City Council decided Wednesday not to allow construction of a Chinese church in a residential neighborhood in Northridge.

The council voted 12 to 1 to deny a conditional-use permit to the San Fernando Valley Chinese Baptist Church to operate a 70-member church at 8430 Corbin Ave.

Michael Woo, the only council member of Asian ancestry, cast the dissenting vote.

The vote followed a public hearing in which church supporters accused their opponents of racism.

"This would not be the first time in our city's history that minorities have been barred from certain neighborhoods by a coalition of neighbors and politicians," said the Rev. Ralph F. Wilson, pastor of Lindley Avenue Baptist Church in Tarzana, where the Chinese Baptist Church now shares quarters.

Councilman Hal Bernson, who represents the area sought for the church site, insisted that his opposition to the construction was based solely on his belief that a church does not belong in a single-family, residential neighborhood.

"I think it's very unfortunate, and I think almost disgraceful, that certain people would come here and try to paint this as a racial issue," Bernson said.

Bernson denied an accusation by church supporters that he told them he would oppose any location for the church in his district. He pledged to try to find another site for the church in his district.

Woo said racism was not a factor in the council's vote. "Many of the objections which have been raised would have been raised regardless of the ethnicity of the members of the church," Woo said.

Woo, in voting to support the church's construction, argued that the church had resolved concerns expressed by homeowners in the neighborhood by agreeing to restrict membership and hours of operation severely.

After the vote, the Rev. Paul H. Chang, church pastor, said he will explore the possibility of legal action against the council. He said there are about 10,000 people of Chinese extraction in the San Fernando Valley.

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