San Diego Mayor Refuses to Suspend Megachurch's Permit

The mayor of San Diego has decided to not suspend the conditional use permit of a large local church, going against an earlier recommendation.

Mayor Jerry Sanders announced on Wednesday that he will not suspend a permit of The Rock Church, a local megachurch that holds five worship services each Sunday with an estimated 15,000 total in attendance.

"We are pleased, but not surprised, by the City of San Diego's response to the Grand Jury's inaccurate conclusion that the Rock Church is incompatible with Liberty Station land-use plans," said Rock Church CEO Mark Stevens in a statement.

 "We appreciate the city's diligence in thoroughly reviewing this matter and concluding with what we have always known, which is that we have been operating in compliance with our conditional use permit and that the findings in the Grand Jury report are inaccurate."

Mei Ling Starkey, public relations manager for The Rock Church, told The Christian Post that since getting a conditional permit in 2005, The Rock Church has dealt with the traffic problems caused by its services.

"With a large congregation, and five services on Sundays, there was an inevitable impact on traffic and parking," said Starkey.

"These issues were taken into consideration by the city in issuing the permit. Although the church has taken numerous steps to alleviate the impact of traffic, some neighbors have remained unsatisfied."

The Rock Church moved into its present Liberty Station location in the neighborhood of Point Loma in 2007.

In May, the San Diego Grand Jury released a report stating that The Rock Church's conditional use permit was incompatible with the land use of its facilities.

A resident living near Liberty Station in Point Loma, the neighborhood where the Rock Church is located, complained to the Grand Jury regarding traffic congestion caused by the large congregation's activities. Another issue brought up was that the facility the church was using was meant for educational purposes, which the complaint alleged were not being performed.

"The City's issuance of a Conditional Use Permit to a church to operate in the educational area is not allowed by provisions of the Precise Plan," reads the Grand Jury's report in part. "Traffic congestion, parking problems, the need for a street closure, and other issues alleged in the original complaint are directly related to a church not being compatible for the Liberty Station area."

However, Mayor Sanders argued that the suspension of the permit was "not warranted or reasonable," believing that suspending the permit would cause greater harm to the area than the present traffic situation.

Regarding the mandate for an educational facility, Sanders noted that the church does have an educational institution, known as the Rock Academy, which is part of their facility.

Starkey of The Rock Church told CP that with Mayor Sanders' announcement, the legal effort to suspend the megachurch's permit has ended.

"The time for a legal challenge to the church's conditional use permit has passed. The city has reviewed this and found that the church is in legal compliance," said Starkey.

"The church will continue to be a good neighbor, as it has in the past, and implement its traffic plan in coordination with the city."