YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Transit Is Forcing Out Church for Deaf

County supervisors vote to condemn the Riverside site in favor of freeway improvements. Congregants wonder where they'll wind up.

May 21, 2003|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to condemn a church for the deaf to make way for freeway improvements that will ease traffic on a critical interchange.

The Calvary Deaf Church in Riverside, as well as a parsonage and three homes, will be paved over as part of a massive $295-million construction project where the Riverside and Pomona freeways meet.

The Assemblies of God church's parcel is one of more than 90 that are being condemned.

Supervisors were sympathetic with the church's plight but said they had no choice.

"We are very concerned ... that they are being uprooted," said board Chairman John F. Tavaglione.

"It's something that none of us look forward to having to do, [but] this project is so critical to the whole region."

The church, established in 1956, has about 40 congregation members across the Inland Empire.

Two single mothers, nine children and a man who was once homeless also live on the church's rental property.

"That's part of the church's ministry," said church Pastor Tom Mather.

Church leaders said they are not opposed to the construction plan but worry they will not be properly compensated for their move. They have to leave their 1.17-acre parcel by Nov. 18.

"Our fear is they will successfully boot us off into nowhere, then delay in making us truly whole," Mather said.

Church representatives are negotiating with the California Department of Transportation over compensation.

Mather said the church needs not only buildings of comparable value, but also a similar facility -- a church, parsonage and housing on a site as visible and accessible as its current property in the 1700 block of West La Cadena Drive.

Marjorie McCarthy and her five children moved to one of the rentals seven years ago when her husband died. McCarthy and three of the children are deaf. She fears leaving their home for unfamiliar surroundings.

"I've always felt safe with the people around," she said. "If I had to move ... it would be scary."

Los Angeles Times Articles