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House of Yahweh Zoning Appeal Denied

The Lawndale City Council has unanimously denied an appeal by the House of Yahweh for an exemption to a zoning regulation requiring that an addition to its soup kitchen be set back 10 feet from the sidewalk.

The decision came after nearly an hour of testimony at a public hearing Thursday night and more than a month after the Planning Commission voted 3-1 to deny the charitable agency’s request for a variance.

Work on the two-story addition, on 147th Street near City Hall, was halted in May after city officials discovered that in granting a building permit, they had overlooked a regulation in the surrounding civic overlay zone that requires new buildings to sit behind a 10-foot landscaped strip bordering the sidewalk.

Council members said that there were not sufficient legal grounds to grant the variance, but that they would consider reimbursing the House of Yahweh for some of the expenses caused by the mistakes of city employees. The House of Yahweh has said it spent more than $35,000 on planning, demolition, grading and foundation work at the site.

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Councilwoman Carol Norman said many properties in the civic overlay zone, a six-block area surrounding City Hall, may be too small to easily accommodate the setback requirement. She asked the Planning Department to determine if the zoning rule should be changed.

But Sister Michele Morris, the House of Yahweh’s executive director, said she held little hope that the city would revise its ordinance any time soon. She said she would go ahead and have new building plans drawn.

“We’ll start again with something bigger and better,” Morris said.


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