Crystal Cathedral Will Disclose Growth Plans, Fate of Housing Units

Times Staff Writer

The Rev. Robert Schuller on Wednesday said reports that the Crystal Cathedral plans to raze a recently purchased 84-unit apartment complex to make way for a family center are "premature."

Schuller said he will reveal his expansion plans today at a news conference.

Church spokesman Michael Nason said Schuller has declined comment until after a Wednesday night meeting with members of his congregation. A separate meeting with property owners and residents of the surrounding area was scheduled for tonight at the Garden Grove Community Meeting Center. Nason said all affected property owners have been notified by mail.

The Crystal Cathedral has purchased a string of four-unit apartment buildings on Jetty Circle, just west of the cathedral property. City officials said Wednesday that church officials have assured them that relocation payments will be made to any residents displaced by development.

But Nason wouldn't discuss what the church's plans are for the property, saying only that Schuller would provide details today. "We'll address all that tomorrow," he said Wednesday.

Plans Withdrawn

Construction of a family center was proposed last year in conjunction with the church's application for a cemetery on the Crystal Cathedral property southwest of Lewis Street and Chapman Avenue. The family center plans subsequently were withdrawn in the face of vocal opposition from neighborhood residents. But the cemetery was approved on a 3-2 City Council vote last November.

Nason said many activities encompassed in the family center--including a Sunday school, Bible classes, recreation facilities and youth meetings--were housed in the Hour of Power building across Chapman Avenue from the church, where Schuller's sermons are beamed to a nationwide audience each Sunday. The TV facilities were to be relocated, but they still operate from the Chapman Avenue building, he said. "That will be resolved tomorrow," he said.

City Council members, with the exception of Raymond Littrell, have been briefed on the church's plans, Nason said, although no application for construction approval has been filed yet. City planning supervisor Patrick Richardson said public hearings would be required before the Planning Commission and the City Council, adding that he would attend tonight's meeting to find out more about the plans himself.

Sees No Problems

Mayor Jonathan H. Cannon said he had been briefed on the plans and said he doesn't see any problems with them yet. However, he stressed that he has taken no position yet and would want to know what impacts a new structure would have in terms of traffic, noise and other environmental concerns before giving his approval.

Public outcry alone won't sway his decision, Cannon said. "My decision is not going to be based upon who produces the most people in the audience."

Some residents of the area said Wednesday that their feelings haven't changed much since the church made the first proposal last year. "It's going to be horrendous, it's going to be absolutely horrible," said Shirley Eskenazi, a resident of Greentree Avenue who said the big three concerns are traffic, noise and parking.

Eskenazi said traffic generated by nearby office buildings is bad enough, and her street is packed as it is during Sunday services. She added that nobody on her street had received any notification of a neighborhood meeting but that she planned to be there anyway.

"I don't think we're going to win it. I just have that feeling," she said. "But we're going to give it a darn good try."

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