Judge OKs Steps Taken by Rev. Drake to Comply With City Codes


A municipal judge ruled Thursday that the Rev. Wiley Drake and his church have taken reasonable steps to comply with city building codes by limiting the number of vagrants on the property to 52, a prosecutor said.

Assistant city prosecutor Greg Palmer criticized the decision by Judge Gregg L. Pricket, calling it a double standard that allows the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park and its pastor to break the law.

“The judge has treated this defendant differently than any other defendant . . . and the only reason I can think of for that is this defendant happens to be a church,” Palmer said. “It’s very unfair from the point of view that everybody else in this city is required to comply with the law except this church.”


Drake and his church were convicted of four misdemeanor counts for allowing homeless people to live in a patio structure and camp in a parking lot. In September, First Southern Baptist was placed on probation for three years and ordered to make good-faith efforts to follow city ordinances. Drake was spared a jail sentence.

The point of contention between the prosecutor and the judge appeared to be a dispute over what defines a good-faith effort.

Prickett said that the church complied with the order by limiting the number of vagrants allowed on the property and submitting plans to build another structure in accordance with city codes, attorneys on both sides said. The proposal for the new building, which will house up to 52 people, will be considered for approval next week.

“As long as our efforts are reasonable and in good faith, then the judge was not going to hold it over our heads in terms of whether there is a violation of probation,” said Adlore Clarambeau, the pastor’s attorney.

But Palmer disagreed, saying church officials could have moved the homeless from the patio into other shelters throughout the county while plans are underway for the new building. City authorities even offered to help by donating 10 motel rooms to house the homeless for a week. But about 35 vagrants remained on church grounds, Palmer said.

“The judge basically said, ‘It’s OK for them to be sleeping in cars, sleeping in the parking lot, even sleeping on the roof.’ Yet, they were also ordered to violate no law,” Palmer said. “Well, those things are inconsistent.”


Prickett also modified the terms of probation Thursday to allow the city to periodically inspect the church to ensure that no more than 52 people are living on the property at any one time, Palmer said. Although Drake and his attorney initially asked that the inspectors be from a neutral party rather than the city, both said they were satisfied “in a general sense” with the judge’s ruling.

“We’re happy that they’re going to leave us alone,” Drake said. “We can continue to do what we’ve been doing, and that’s helping people.”