Neighbors spar over potential church development in Del Cerro

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SAN DIEGO – A group of residents in the eastern part of San Diego have mobilized to oppose a potential new neighbor: a Christian church looking to build at the entrance to their community.

More than 300 people in Del Cerro have joined a fight against All Peoples Church, which has proposed building a new place of worship near College Avenue and I-8 on a plot of land previously zoned for a 24-unit housing development. The church has been in San Diego since 2008 and would use the site as a permanent home after using several rental spaces through the years.

It still has a number of committees to get through before reaching San Diego City Council, likely not until the end of 2021.

But neighbors fear the project — planned at about 50,000 square feet with space for some 900 seats — is too large and would not be the best fit for the area.

“We are defending our neighborhood from an ill-conceived, very large project that requires very different variances from the current residential zoning and it’s just too big,” resident Michael Livingston said.

Calling themselves “Save Del Cerro,” social media pages are drawing attention and a GoFundMe campaign was launched to pay for signs which can be seen in some front yards in the neighborhood.

The church’s pastor says he’s surprised by the strong opposition coming forward.

“I think I’m mostly just saddened by it,” Pastor Robert Herber said. “A church wants to be an asset to a city. A church wants to serve — that’s what we do.”

Residents say one of their chief complaints is about traffic.

“The particular type of church that this is seems to be targeting San Diego State University students and part of the problem with that for us is they want to lure them all over here and you can’t walk from here to there — so cars,” Livington said. “More and more traffic.”

Herber contends a traffic study conduct prior to the COVID-19 outbreak when SDSU students were in session shows the traffic impact to be minimal. The church also is proposing an intersection light that will be green for much of the time so people can easily travel in and out.

Although the church has held several community meetings about the development in the past two years, neighbors like Livingston aren’t budging. They argue the traffic light won’t do much to help the flow and believe church traffic might push more people to make illegal U-turns.

Livingston also takes issue with the church’s “feelings toward (the) LGBTQ+ community.”

Herber has heard a range of concerns lately. He said the church wants to be good neighbors.

“We love people and we respect them no matter what their beliefs,” the pastor said. “We are not going to force our beliefs on anyone. Our desire is to be people who serve and respect even when people believe totally different than us.”

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