Monday, May 30, 2011

Trinity Lutheran of Reseda making way for affordable housing

Plans to raze Trinity Lutheran Church of Reseda to make way for an affordable-housing development have been approved by a city commission.

The Los Angeles Planning Commission last week unanimously approved the plan to tear down the 60-year-old church and allow Los Angeles-based developer Abode Communities to build its Kittridge Family Housing project, a 77-unit development expected to break ground next year.

Trinity Lutheran, at 18425 Kittridge Street, has had declining membership over the past several years, prompting the church to put the property up for sale.

"It's served its community well," said Dr. Larry Stoterau, president of the Pacific Southwest district of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The church will continue to hold services through the fall, and is looking for a new home.

"It's absolutely horrible," said Linda Roca, 55, of the news. Growing up in Reseda in the 1950s and 1960s, Roca grew up singing in the choir and attending the church's school, where her father worked as a principal.

"All my friends were from the school and the church," said Roca, who now lives in upstate New York. "I can't believe that they are allowing it to be torn down."

Dwindling attendance at Valley churches has forced congregations to sell their property, says Eileen Parker, director of operations at the Valley Interfaith Council, a social services group that works with 50 Valley congregations.

"When a church

is down to a few members, like 15-17 members, you can't (afford to keep it open)," she said. "There's the property to maintain, the utilities, the grounds."

Membership at many San Fernando Lutheran and Presbyterian churches has declined partly due to the growing number of Latinos, who are more likely to attend Catholic and Evangelical churches, church officials said.

In the past, "churches were planted in a neighborhood," said Stoterau, "when there was just one population.

"Then different ethnic groups moved in, and the population changed."

Not everyone is sad to see Trinity go.

"We welcome additional affordable housing," said Nancy Sweeney, president of Revitalize Reseda, a nonprofit group that focuses on quality-of-life issues, who appeared at Thursday's Planning Commission meeting to support Abode Communities' project.

The Kittridge Family Housing development will offer one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. The four-story project is receiving $4 million in Community Redevelopment funds, and additional funding is still being sought, according to Lara Regus, senior project manager at Abode Communities.


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