Plans to transform a 71-year-old Simi Valley church into the city's Cultural Arts Center were unanimously approved by the Simi Valley Planning Commission despite neighbors' reservations about potential parking woes.
The approval Wednesday of the proposal means that the arts center could open as early as January, city staff said.
"I think this project definitely needs to move forward," said Planning Commissioner Sherida Simmons. "But I also want to feel comfortable that this isn't going to create a problem for the neighborhood."
Neighbors had expressed concerns about the center's potential parking shortage.
Designs for parking at the center met city code, but neighbors have argued that 73 parking spaces for the proposed 300-seat theater and 140-seat banquet facility would be inadequate.
"There is no question that there's not enough parking for the proposed project," said Russell Barnard, who lives on School Street, next to the church. "The city staff has as much as admitted that already."
In reviewing the project, city planners recommended that the city make a parking agreement with a nearby school and office that would allow for about 60 extra spaces.
After debating that suggestion, commissioners decided that they would urge the city to arrange for a parking agreement but not require it.
"I think if they have met our code, than that should be enough for us," said Planning Commissioner Robert Swoosh.
The center has been designed to include the theater and banquet facilities, stained glass windows, a rose garden and improvements to allow for wheelchair access.
The entire project is expected to cost $2.8 million, according to city officials.