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Church Preschool Plan Rejected : Bell City Council Told Vinevale Neighborhood Objects to Traffic

September 25, 1988|JAMES M. GOMEZ | Times Staff Writer

BELL — The City Council has rejected a bid by the Templo Calvario Assemblies of God congregation to establish a preschool and day care center, but church leaders believe the center still has a prayer.

The council denied the church's application last week after neighbors complained that a day care center would increase church-related traffic problems along quiet, residential Vinevale Avenue north of Gage Avenue. The center for churchgoers' children was planned for a back room of the 300-seat Pentecostal church, which has no parking area.

Church leaders, however, said they plan to add parking and will submit another proposal for the center.

"This area needs a center," church spokesman Robert Guzman said, noting that several small children in the congregation need day care because both parents work.

Street Already Clogged

But neighbors told the council that 150 to 200 cars already clog Vinevale when parishioners attend Sunday services. The church also holds midweek services and Bible studies.

"We don't need more traffic here," said Fred Brewer, 66, who lives three houses from the fenced-in church property, which the Assemblies of God bought three years ago. "It's bad enough as it is."

The council voted unanimously to reject the proposal.

"My feeling is that if the people in the neighborhood are going to be so adamantly opposed to it, I could not go along with it," Councilman George W. Cole said.

Church spokesman Guzman, son of pastor Guadalupe R. Guzman, said church leaders were frustrated by the vote because the church had complied with several conditions imposed by the city and because city staff members had recommended that the council approve the center.

Church officials, anticipating council approval, spent $200 to apply for a city permit, Robert Guzman said.

According to a July 18 staff memorandum, the preschool program would be acceptable to city officials if the church limited enrollment to 25 students, restricted the school's operating hours to 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and got a state license. Parents would pay an average of $85 a week for child care.

City Requirements Satisfied

The church has applied for a state license and is awaiting approval, said Guzman, who added that all the requirements outlined in the city memo have been satisfied and that church officials have sponsored several open houses to explain the preschool program to residents.

"We've done everything we were told," Guzman said. "Everyone is against us because they think that the children will make too much noise."

Guzman said church officials also plan to develop off-street parking by buying two homes next to the church property. He did not know how much parking would be made available by the land purchase or when the conversion would take place, but did note that a zoning variance would be needed to create a parking area, necessitating a permit for which the church must apply separately.

"I'm sure it will pass the next time," Guzman said, referring to plans to apply again for the child-care center.

'Business in Residential Area'

But neighbors interviewed last week said they consider the preschool issue closed, despite the church's newest promise to seek a permit.

"They are not going to run a preschool at that church, period," said Brewer, who collected signatures from most Vinevale Avenue residents last month and delivered them to the City Council.

Brewer said he does not mind the church's presence in the neighborhood, but "they are trying to operate a business in a residential area. I don't care if it is a church or what. This is a residential street."

Brewer said early-morning noise from parents "slamming car doors" to drop off their children would disturb neighbors, many of whom are retired.

Across the street from the church, Hugo Galves, 37, and his nephew, Sergio, 24, stressed that they have nothing against the church, they simply oppose the dozens of cars that stand in front of their homes.

"The point is that they don't have enough room to make parking," Galves said. "All over the street, you can't even find a place to park your car."

Many homeowners are forced to park their cars on their front lawns, said Leo Villalobos, 74. "I'll fight this to the end," he said.

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