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OJAI : Panel Deadlocks on Convent Plan

The Ojai Planning Commission deadlocked on Wednesday over a proposal to allow Michael Jackson’s former manager to convert a Catholic convent in downtown Ojai into an office complex.

The 2-2 vote by the commission amounted to a denial of the proposal by music promoter Frank Dileo, who once guided Jackson’s career. The two commissioners who opposed the project said they were concerned about increased traffic in the residential neighborhood, where an elementary school is located.

Dileo’s partner, Jim Exon, said he would appeal the decision to the City Council. Exon and Dileo want to buy the 33-year-old St. Thomas Aquinas Convent at 214 Aliso St. from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which has agreed to the sale.

Dileo and Exon propose to occupy some of the 5,196-square-foot building and rent out office space to other businesses.

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If Dileo and Exon succeed in convincing the City Council to overrule the Planning Commission, they would change the building by rebuilding the front walls and creating a new arched entryway, Exon said.

The Sisters of Bethany occupied the eight-bedroom convent from 1957 to 1985. When they stopped teaching at nearby St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School, all but two of the nuns moved, said Barbara Caballero, a former nun who has been retained by the archdiocese as caretaker of the convent.

Although the parish still uses the building for meetings and Friday Scripture readings in the summer, the archdiocese put the convent on the market last year for $550,000.


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