Tarzana : Congregation Decides to Demolish Church

After months of indecision, members of St. James Presbyterian Church have voted to demolish their earthquake-damaged sanctuary building and build again if city permission can be gained to sell part of the congregation's Ventura Boulevard property.

On Jan. 17, 1994, leaders of the congregation were dismayed to find that the Northridge temblor had caused the ceiling and light fixtures to come crashing down on the pews in the 800-seat church. In addition, cracks were found running along some of the walls.

By last fall, members had raised $64,000 toward repairing the structure, but cost estimates continued to escalate, church officials said. In the meantime, the church's two ministers took other church positions out of state. Senior Pastor Ken Baker said he had spent too many pastorates involved in time-consuming building projects.

However, now that the decision to rebuild has been made, the congregation is eager to move ahead, according to Elder Bob Tyler, chairman of the church's implementation task force.

Tyler said it may take a year or more to obtain city permission to sell one portion of the church lot and acquire a zoning variance for a new parking area. No date has been set for the demolition.

He said preliminary market appraisals indicate the church could gain about $1 million from the sale of part of the property at 19414 Ventura Blvd. Plans call for building a smaller church that would seat 400 people. The congregation will continue to meet in the church's Fellowship Hall.

The church will hold an Autumnfest fund-raising event at 9 a.m. next Saturday featuring crafts, games, food, entertainment and prize drawings.

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