Parishioners at historic Point Loma chapel may lose their church

SAN DIEGO -- Parishioners at Liberty Station's historic North Chapel have until Dec. 31 to find a new place to worship, unless the congregations, the City of San Diego, and the new property management company can come to an agreement.

The Times of San Diego reported last month that the leasing rights of Liberty Station had been sold to Pendulum Property Partners, a subsidiary of Seligman Liberty Station LLC, including the North Chapel.

The property management then contracted with 828 Venue Management Co., a venue operator, who planned to use the space for events but agreed to allow religious gatherings and other faith celebrations to proceed, according to emails obtained by FOX 5.

But parishioners, preservationists and other community members petitioned to preserve the North Chapel in its original form.

They brought their concerns to the San Diego City Council, and created an online petition that now has more than 2,000 signatures and 800 comments.

Church coordinator Arlene Paraiso said the chapel is where her father worshiped as a sailor during World War II, and it is where her family later celebrated his funeral.

"I don’t mind people gathering here for things that are reverential, but to know that this would be a place that the pews would be cleared out, everything would be cleared out, and people would be partying here -- it’s not exactly what I would like to have this building be," Paraiso said.

The North Chapel was built in 1942 for sailors to use before they were deployed oversea, and was deemed "historically designated" in a memorandum issued by the City of San Diego's Interim Deputy Chief Operation Officer, Erik Caldwell, on Dec. 6.

"Based on the research and discussions with the City of San Diego's Historic Resource Officer, staff has concluded that an adaptive reuse of the North Chapel for any use other than a place for religious gatherings, or an assembly of people or other similar events, would be highly improbable," Caldwell wrote.

He went on to say that removing interior features, such as pews, the altar or pulpit, "diminishes the overall historic character of the building."

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