Appeals Board Clears Way for Shadow Hills Church Complex : Romanian Church Approved for Shadow Hills

Times Staff Writer

Despite heated opposition from about 40 homeowners, the Los Angeles Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday cleared the way for a $2.5-million Romanian Orthodox church complex to be built in rural Shadow Hills.

The appeals board voted 3 to 1 to overturn a zoning administrator's decision last December to deny a permit for the Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church to build the 5,000-square-foot Byzantine-style complex on eight acres of hilly property at 10500 Wentworth St.

But the board ordered church officials to commission a study of increased traffic the facility would generate. The results of that study must be turned over to the city Department of Transportation, which could block construction of the church if the traffic is judged to be hazardous, board members said.

Chapel, Social Hall

The church, which has outgrown its facilities in Glendale, plans to build a white-stucco, tile-roofed facility with a chapel seating 300 people and a social hall accommodating 500 people, church officials said.

The Shadow Hills property was purchased in October for $230,000. The money came from donations from the church's about 220 parishioners, said Joseph Oros, a church spokesman.

"We are in love with the land, and we are determined to build a worthy, beautiful church," Oros said.

Residents of Shadow Hills, which is west of Sunland, have complained that the church would mar the surrounding rural landscape and disrupt their equestrian life style. They also have said it would add noise and traffic in their neighborhood.

"We want to protect the very, very rural, pastoral environment that exists there," said Tina Eick, president of the Shadow Hills Property Owners Assn.

After more than four hours of testimony from residents and parishioners, three board members decided the church would be an asset to the rural community. Board member Joseph D. Mandel chided the homeowners for "not welcoming the church into their neighborhood."

"I do believe that this community just can't be as rigid as it has been about something as benign as a church," Mandel said. "We're talking about something that belongs in a residential community."

"I think you need to give them a chance," said board member James D. Leewong.

Xenophobia Alleged

Ilene Olansky, chairwoman of the board, hinted there was an element of hatred of foreigners in the homeowners discontent when she read from a resident's letter. "This area should be retained without alien influx," a passage in the letter read.

But residents at the hearing said they were not against the church, but against use of the land for anything other than residences and horseback riding.

Board member Nikolas Patsaouras said he voted against the project because of the increased traffic that churchgoers would bring to the surrounding community.

Besides the traffic study, several other conditions were imposed on church officials--including a prohibition of amplified music, a limit on nighttime lighting and a requirement that any future expansion be presented to homeowners during public hearings.

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