Mailbag: St. James the Great should remain a church

On June 15, a Newport Beach town hall meeting was held to discuss the fate of the St. James the Great Episcopal Church. The meeting room overflowed with parishioners clad in bright-red shirts that proclaimed “Save St. James the Great.”

While the emotion and sentiment rested with saving the beloved sanctuary, much of the city’s presentation was dedicated to the process by which Legacy Partners Residential, developer of the proposed luxury town-house project, could undo the protections afforded the church with its sanctuary zoning and convert the space to commercial/residential.

In the development of Newport Beach, city planners crafted communities that balanced commercial and residential properties and thoughtfully included schools, churches and other social services. With this balance in mind, why are we talking more about how to undo this positive work rather than preserve it?

In its community outreach, St. James the Great provides a host of activities to our local community — classes on technology, meeting space for our local Brownie troop, services to the homeless and public events, including dinners, wine tastings and concerts.

Interestingly, there seems to be an option to save St. James the Great.

In the meeting it was revealed that in 1945, the Griffith Co. (responsible for building much of the Lido Isle community) donated the land at St. James Church to the bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.

Wisely and with great forethought, President Stephen Griffith included significant deed restrictions to keep the land for church purposes and ensure a home for the church in perpetuity.

The grant deed from Griffith Co. to the bishop states:

“The property conveyed shall be used for church purposes exclusively and no building other than a church and appurtenances may be erected, placed or maintained thereon. The foregoing restriction shall be binding upon the grantee, his successors and assigns. Upon the breach of the foregoing condition, the title to said property hereby conveyed and to the whole thereof shall become at once divested from the grantee herein, his successors or assigns, and shall revert and revest in the grantor, its successors and assigns.”

The wishes and intentions of the donor, Griffith Co., could not be clearer. With this protection still in place, how can there even be a discussion or plan to raze the church to build town houses?

The Lido Village area has long been defined by its diverse texture and personality. The current revitalization projects feature three luxury developments including nearly a city block of town houses. If the historic church is demolished to make way for even more town houses, try to imagine what our community would look like and what it would be missing.

This is a very big deal that will impact our community for generations to come.

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Bill Kroener

Newport Beach


Leave the church standing

I object to the sale of St. James the Great Church on Via Lido and the building of townhomes on the property. A few condos are already being built in Newport Beach, the old City Hall is going to be converted into a hotel, and the Marina Village will introduce more shops and restaurants.

Camille Rizko

Newport Beach