San Gabriel Mission gets temporary roof; restoration to be completed by November

Scaffolding surrounds the San Gabriel Mission.
The San Gabriel Mission’s temporary roof, which will protect it during the rainy season as restoration begins after a fire heavily damaged the historic building in July.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The San Gabriel Mission is heading into the rainy season with a temporary roof as investigators continue to probe the cause of a fire that heavily damaged the 249-year-old church six months ago.

About $400,000 has been raised to restore the adobe structure, which suffered significant interior damage. Along with a new roof, it needs new wooden screens behind the altar and several new pews.

The historical preservation firm working on the job estimates that the restoration will be completed by November.


The price tag is still unknown, with not all of the damage covered by insurance, Los Angeles Archdiocese officials said.

“You’ll know we’ve done a good job and everything goes well if we’re able to make the San Gabriel Mission look exactly like it did before the fire — like nothing happened,” said Reuben Lombardo, a senior estimator at Pomona-based Spectra Co., which will be working with the architectural firm Melvyn Green & Associates.

Spectra restored the Santa Barbara Mission’s facade in 2015 and renovated Hollywood’s El Capitan Theatre.

The restoration of the mission will include the removal of steel beams inserted during an earthquake retrofit in the 1990s. The fire was so hot that it warped the beams, Lombardo said.

The temporary roof is made of wood and a waterproof membrane.

“With the rainy season right around the corner, it was important to protect the mission,” archdiocese spokeswoman Adrian Marquez Alarcon said.

The San Gabriel Mission's temporary roof
The San Gabriel Mission’s temporary roof on Dec. 1
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As of Monday, the mission’s fire restoration fund had raised more than $200,000, and the archdiocese has received about $180,000 in additional gifts earmarked for the project, according to church officials.

Some of that money has come from GoFundMe pages, including $2,745 raised by Remy Tran of Garland, Texas, who formerly led the choir at the mission’s Vietnamese-language services.

The investigation into the July 11 early-morning fire, which left longtime parishioners grief-stricken, is continuing, said Jonathan Fu, the city of San Gabriel’s public information officer.

The Verdugo Arson Task Force, consisting of investigators from regional fire departments, is in charge and has been assisted by the Los Angeles Fire Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Fu said he has received several comments from community members wondering why the process has gone longer than “some people would have liked.”

“This is a building that is hundreds of years old, and we just want to make sure we have the proper picture and all facts gathered before we make an announcement,” Fu said. “We are asking the community for patience.”