Residents protest proposed church with Sunday caravan

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SAN DIEGO — Cars lined up in front of Hearst Elementary School in Del Cerro Sunday as residents protested what they call the “Mega Project.”

It was the latest move in Del Cerro residents’ fight against a proposal by All Peoples Church to build a new place of worship near College Avenue and Interstate 8. The plot of land was previously zoned for a 24-unit housing development.

“When this started, it was a really small project. Now it looks like we’re building the White House in Del Cerro,” resident Ricki Billauer said.

Neighbors said they fear the proposed church, planned at about 50,000-square-feet with space for 900 seats, is too large and not the best fit for the area.

“When I found out they were going to build a very large structure — it’s a church,” Francine Chemnick said. “I don’t really care what it is, but where it is would have a huge negative impact on the neighborhood, the traffic, the safety.”

Chemnick lives in the Del Cerro house she grew up in. She loves the neighborhood, which she calls inclusive and full of caring people. She said she understands things change over time.

“I’ve seen it, change, and most of those changes are pretty good, but this would be a radical monstrosity, if you will,” Chemnick said.

More than 70 cars drove through Del Cerro Sunday to draw attention to the proposed construction. Calling themselves “Save Del Cerro,” the group’s social media pages have drawn attention online and a GoFundMe campaign was launched for yard signs that could be seen outside some homes.

Residents who took part in the caravan Sunday said the location for the project isn’t logical. With San Diego State University just up the street, they also pointed to concerns about traffic and safety.

“That piece of land basically is a place where we have a lot of people walking to and from school. We have a freeway exit right there,” Billauer said. “When I was 16 years old, I was hit by a car, at 16, pushed right into the middle of traffic.”

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

A pastor at All Peoples Church told FOX 5 earlier this week that he was surprised by the strong opposition to the project.

FOX 5 contacted All Peoples Church on Sunday. Pastor Robert Herber sent a statement in response to the protest: “We are saddened by the misrepresentations being made about our church and proposed project. It is our sincere desire to serve the community and be good neighbors. We are continuing to move forward with the review process and trust that the City Council will consider our project based on the facts and its merits in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.”

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