City Dodges Contempt Ruling, Permits Synagogue Expansion

From a Times Staff Writer

Faced with a possible contempt citation, the city of Los Angeles agreed Monday to comply with a federal judge's order that it must allow an Orthodox Jewish congregation to enlarge its house of worship at 3rd Street and Highland Avenue in Hancock Park.

Susan Azad, a pro bono lawyer for Congregation Etz Chaim, complained that city officials had refused to abide by the order issued last July by U.S. District Judge Harry L. Hupp.

In court Monday, Hupp indicated he was prepared to hold the city in contempt, but he deferred any action for three weeks after Deputy City Atty. Tayo Popoola promised that the remodeling project could proceed.

Hancock Park homeowners have opposed the project, which calls for more than doubling the size of the present structure. The congregation claimed protection under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which prohibits local zoning regulators from substantially burdening religious practice unless they can show a compelling governmental reason for doing so.

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