A series of unfortunate events

So there is this church in San Leandro, Faith Fellowship, that has been asking the city since last year to allow it to move into a vacant industrial building.

To this day, the church has been getting the same response from the city: Sorry, you’re not zoned for a house of worship.

The church sued the city and has been in litigation in federal court to get that industrial building. Whatever the outcome of the situation, it should be one for the history books because never in the history of San Leandro has there been a church that wanted to move into the industrial area of town.

So I thought it would be nice to provide a timeline of the series of events that have transpired since the church first began its quest.

Here’s what has happened:

2005: Church leaders realize the congregation at Faith Fellowship has swarmed to more than 1,500 weekly attendees and that the church has outgrown its sanctuary at 577 Manor Blvd.

May 19, 2006: The city receives an application from Faith Fellowship to rezone the former MDL building, which has sat vacant for months, after church leaders meet briefly with city officials to discuss buying the property.

January 2007: Faith Fellowship purchases the former MDL building.

March 19, 2007: The City Council approves a newly created assembly overlay district, which rezones 13 potential sites in commercial and industrial zones comprising 197 properties throughout the city. Faith Fellowship is not included in the overlay district.

May 1, 2007: The assembly overlay district goes into effect.

April 12, 2007: Faith Fellowship’s rezoning application is heard by the Planning Commission and denied.

May 7, 2007: Faith Fellowship appeals the Planning Commission’s decision to the City Council. The denial is upheld.

July 12, 2007: Faith Fellowship sues the city in federal court, claiming the city’s denial of the church’s rezoning application violates the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The church asks for a preliminary injunction allowing it to occupy the industrial building it purchased.

Sept. 5, 2007: A federal judge temporarily denies Faith Fellowship’s request to get a preliminary injunction, essentially siding with the city.

Dec. 6, 2007: The Board of Zoning Adjustments holds a public hearing after Faith Fellowship submits a conditional use permit to the city to allow the church to move into the former MDL building. This time, on the grounds it operates “entertainment activities,” a legality in the city’s zoning code that says assembly uses are allowed in industrial areas. The conditional use permit is denied.


  • dpb

    Unfortunate for the church, certainly, which moved ahead with a purchase before receiving approval to use it… There are two sides to this issue: the zoning board said, in essence, they didn’t like being used as an end-run around the City Council’s decision.

    The City Council has to consider the economic well-being of the town as well as the desires of a growing church. That industrial building in an industrial zoned area may be vacant now, but all this comes as there’s a strong push to turn the East Bay into the “Green Industrial Corridor” with new businesses and light industry planned for all manner of technologies in the growing green tech market. The city would receive no tax revenue and few new jobs from a relocation of the church, vs. a potential boon from having a vibrant industrial tax base in the near future.

    For the church to file under the “Religious Land Use” federal act, claiming that the city is stifling their religious freedom by not letting them swell to be a (for San Leandro, certainly) MEGA church is just Faith Fellowship understandably trying to make the best of a poor real estate decision.

  • cwbyht

    I fully agree with the above poster. Faith fellowship cares nothing about San Leandro, and is trying to make a statement, to the good of no one. Aparently they care little about making more room for their members. After 2 years they should find other accomadations, which are widely available, legal, and welcoming. Stubborness here. What would Jesus say?