By Kiet Do

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The Bay Area’s real estate affordability crisis has officially reached biblical proportions.

The city of Palo Alto is cracking down on churches that are trying to cut costs by subletting their space.

The clock is ticking for one church, which has been told all its tenants have to get out in a few weeks, or face severe fines.

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The First Baptist Church has been on the same street corner in Palo Alto, serving the poor and needy, for 125 years.

But after a brief, informal meeting with city code enforcement officers earlier this year, Pastor Rick Mixon suddenly got a sternly worded letter from the city, telling him he must cease all non-religious activities, and that his tenants, which include a music school, a psychologist, and the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, to get out by August 17 or face severe fines.

Mixon said, “In order to operate here, to keep it looking good, looking nice in a nice neighborhood, we need to rent the space. It represents about a third of our budget right now.”

For years, the church has rented the space on the second floor to music classes, choirs, dance clubs, and hosted dinners and weddings.

The problem is that the neighborhood is only zoned for residential use.

The city received many complaints about traffic and double parking, and decided all the tenants violated zoning laws.

Mixon said the definition of church has changed over time, and that it’s no longer what just happens on Sunday mornings.

What’s more, the church will lose about $120,000 from its budget and will likely have to shut down.

Mixon said, “So it’s a different understanding of church in 2017. So there’s this bigger issue the city has to come to grips with. Otherwise they’re going to be putting every church in Palo Alto out of business.”

One of the tenants getting kicked out is therapist Jill Cooper, who among other things, counsels teenagers struggling with thoughts of suicide.

She pays about $1,400 a month for her office, which is well under market, and helps keep her care affordable.

Cooper says she got six weeks’ notice to vacate, and tried to get an extension with the city’s lead code enforcement officer, saying the real estate market was brutal.

Cooper said, “And Mr. Stephens said he understood and he was sorry, but he could not grant me an extension. That was basically it.”

Chuck Fulanovich has lived across the street for 39 years, and admits there are some parking and traffic issues, but he wants the church to work it out with the city.

Fulanovich said, “I don’t know if the city and church officials talked about the situation and what could happen in the future, but it’s never too late to sit down and talk about things.”

The city said in a statement, “Our goal is to balance neighborhood concerns with our zoning laws, and to find a solution that works for everybody. We are asking the Church to apply for appropriate permits where possible, and to help relocate those activities that aren’t allowed in residential neighborhoods.”

The church says it will fight the order.

Comments (36)
  1. Churches are community institutions and serve many of the communities needs both spiritual and secular. Maybe it is time for them to explain to their members that they are under attack by the gentrifiers and real estate interests. Talk to other institutions under the same pressure. Organize and VOTE the local morons out of office.

    Then have the new government officials revamp the laws and fire the code Nazis who are acting on behalf of the outside real estate investors trying to turn a very quick BUCK at the expense of many long time residences, businesses and institutions of that area. It is a very old story.

    The rich and uppies of this country have systematically wrecked many neighborhoods while pocketing millions. Government has been used to cripple local institutions in order to drive up prices beyond what long time residences and others can afford. These NEW threats are part of the scam.

    Changing the enablers and corrupt government officials MIGHT be the only way to survive the onslaught. If you do nothing say good-bye to your neighborhood.

  2. So I guess the God-less moneychangers in Palo Alto cannot tolerate religion, let alone religious organizations doing God’s work by allowing valued services access to the community,

    I am sure, they would prefer dozens of teenage suicides, kids on the streets instead of in music class, and the churches to sell out to sleazy, Godless sycophants and move their horrible moral and ethical business out of the city / sarc.

    Palo Alto does not need religious institutions, they have Stanford and Hewlett Packard (although they lost Facebook and Pinterest).

    The hedonistic Palo Alto does not want you. Let them burn in …

    1. These same tin-pot tyrants have no problem whatsoever with having the BUMS, sorry but that is what they are, fill the streets with their excrement, harass the citizenry, and sleep any where they pass out! Why anyone other than the communists that are in control there and do not have to put up with this debauchery would want to reside in this hell-hole is beyond me!

  3. Jim Kress says:

    Are there any MOSQUES being forced to close?

    1. That is a vital question. We won’t expect it to be answered, however.

  4. Lulua Mahalo says:

    But, Palo Alto has no problem with itself as a sanctuary city and sanctuary churches for illegals.

  5. Jim Davidson says:

    I think the church Pastor Rick Mixon let the truth slip it: “They’re going to be putting every church in Palo Alto out of business.” The operative word is “business.”

  6. The pastor was saying that they have to pay the bills.He is not one of those pastors fleecing the people to live in a giant mansion.

  7. Zoning, covenants…Whenever you place your life in the hands of committees, you get what you deserve.

  8. Sounds to me like someone is eyeballing a piece of property that could make them a lot of money if only that pesky religious institution was just out of the way

  9. Dwight Davis says:

    Totally unconstitutional. Politicians in Palo Alto need a lesson on the Constitution.

  10. ” What’s more, the church will lose about $120,000 from its budget and will likely have to shut down.”

    And there it is. The REAL reason the left went after this church. The left despises churches and by extension, religion, especially anything Christian. They MUST go.

  11. The city is run by Libs. They always shut down ALL tax-exempt or lower-taxed property use and replace them with higher-taxed property owners, giving the city more tax revenue. When it comes to Libs, always follow the money.

  12. Steve Barker says:

    The churches hands aren’t clean. These are businesses which are not allowed in that area. I’m not a fan of zoning laws except for manufacturing and other potentially dangerous businesses. That said, the church has no right to violate zoning laws by renting to non-religious businesses in an area which doesn’t allow them. Why can’t they turn the spaces into apartments and stop violating zoning laws?

    1. Jace Curioso says:

      ‘The First Baptist Church has been on the same street corner in Palo Alto, serving the poor and needy, for 125 years.’ It’s not like the city wasn’t suddenly made aware of a church magically appearing and doing all sorts of illegal things. Work it out, Palo Alto; 125 years in the same location deserves some kind of consideration.

  13. Stehr Va says:

    California is one of the most evil places on this Earth. So glad I am not stupid enough to live there.

  14. Just like a bunch of worthless progressive liberal socialist in California! Always trying to destroy the Church and its message.

  15. Jerry Snaper says:

    Change the church to mosque, play loud calls and noise at 5 am and there will be no problem.

  16. Lynn Wood says:

    The churches need to band together and start to invest the ownership of residential real estate as tax exempt entities. Perhaps our real estate professionals can entice other great religions of the world to invest in the never failing greatest investment in the world, American residential property.Surely the steady stream of ever rising rental revenue will allow the good funding of religious programs.

  17. Churches and NGOs are some of the MOST GUILTY when it comes to flouting our immigration laws, read: ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION & SANCTUARY POLICIES. I could have gotten behind them on this issue if it wasn’t for their utter disregard for the “PUBLIC’S” SAFETY.

  18. Greg Goetz says:

    If it was a mosque would it be under the same pressure?

  19. John Pepin says:

    Would this story be the same if it was a Mosque rather than a church. If so why?

  20. Steve Neely says:

    Another godless California government strikes. God, begone!

  21. Asian countries for Asians.

    Black countries for Blacks.

    but White countries for everybody?

    That’s genocide.

    Anti-racist is a codeword for Anti-White

  22. This is a good thing and I am all for it. The exemptions on taxes for churches is good, for spiritually related things such as spreading the Gospel Message of Christ. But the secular usage of these facilities are for the express purpose of making money else those services would be offered for free and without cost as the delivery of the Gospel Message of Christ intends it to be. God recognizes cost which is why we are instructed about tithes and offerings to keep that message alive and going forward. That does not include secular things that are being used for the purpose of making money. This is the same problem that Christ faced, which got him crucified, when he threw out the money changers and retailers out of the temple of Jerusalem. I feel pretty much the same way about churches who rent out their facilities to other churches of a different denomination in order to keep their church alive. It doesn’t say much for putting your faith in God and Jesus when you compromise the churches beliefs and doctrines when you sanctimoniously accept the money to allow another denomination with different beliefs and doctrines. I don’t think it’s being done but would a Sunday keeping church allow Muslims who worship on a different day of the week to use their facilities? What about mixing Satanists with Christian churches? If a church was really serving it’s congregation shouldn’t the facilities be used and dedicated for that purpose and not compromised for the sake of money? You don’t have to agree with me. My church does it. Doesn’t make it right but there’s nothing I can do about it save for pointing out the spiritual error in all of it.

  23. Sim Dunn says:

    Have the tenants who rent space join the church and contribute the rent as “Tithes” to the church. That’s not illegal, but outsmarting the Government.