Peninsula Planners Review North Chapel Changes

by on January 22, 2020 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach

Artist rendering of proposed changes.

“Factionalism” on Planning Board Has Led Chair to Resign in March

By Geoff Page

The subject of what was happening to a revered building at Liberty Station was the main item of interest at the first monthly Peninsula Community Planning Board meeting of 2020 – held on January 16 at the Point Loma Library.  The changes coming to the North Chapel are better known now and the only people in the room in favor of the changes were the new operators.

The North Chapel has been in the news for the past two years at least.  When McMillin divested itself of Liberty Station ownership, operation of the chapel changed hands.  A company named 828 Venue Management Company has control of the old building now.  They came to the meeting to explain their plans.

On the 828 Venue Management Company website, the opening banner reads “Unique Wedding & Event Venues Across the Nation.”  They go on to say:

“Since 2014, we’ve been on a mission to improve the wedding and event experience. Every wedding, pAy, celebration, corporate event, gala, fundraiser and beyond deserves a space that is as unique as the event. We start with unique and inspiring venues, sprinkle in some operational excellence and top it off by providing unparalleled customer service. We invite you to join us in the fun. You deserve it.”

To the people who hold this building and its history sacred, to use the place for commercial purposes is sacrilegious, to say the least. A number of church congregations have been using the chapel for Sunday services for some years and these congregations have been given the proverbial boot.  They’ve been told they can rent the place just like anyone else wanting to have an event.

In an email to one of the members of one congregation, the management company explained the congregation could rent the place on a “month-to-month” basis, would not be able to use the place during construction, and the kicker – “You and your parish must be supportive of 828 and our proposed changes to North Chapel.”  Then, in a bald-faced attempt to appeal to the congregation, the email explained:

“828 Venue Management Company is owned by my business partner and me through a joint company called R8 Capital.  R8 stand s for Romans 8:28- “And we know that all things work together fro the good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

This was supposed to mollify the people who have been using this now commercial event space as a church?  Does this mean the Big Guy has blessed 828?

The management company has another space in Liberty Station called The Brick. They advertise that it can be rented 24 hours a day, seats 220, more if there are cocktail and standing events, and you can bring your own vendors or let 828 Venue Management provide them.  They tout The Brick as their “flagship venue” that was established in 2014 and has hosted 500 events since then.  Kind of paints the picture of what is in store for the chapel.

The North Chapel is already on the company’s website renamed simply “Chapel.” Says it has a 200 person capacity and a client suite.  See more

828 explained the effort they had gone through checking the historical status of the chapel and what they could and could not do.  Apparently, the building itself is not designated a historic building but the pews inside and some of the stained glass windows are.

The plans for the building are in flux but one plan is to remove the pews and store them in a room within the chapel in case anyone wanted to use them.  But, the idea of schlepping heavy pews in and out does not appeal to anyone.

The general plan seems to be to clear the inside of the building out so it can be rented and reconfigured for events.  The pews would be in the way.  There is also a plan to remove the stained glass windows and “display” them somewhere inside the chapel.  Some of the windows were not original with the building and are not included in the historical designation.  The reason for removing them appeared to be to brighten the inside of the building with clear windows.

The heart of the issue is simply turning a place of worship into a commercial venture.  The original plan for Liberty Station called for restoring two chapels on the old military base.  Restoring for the original use.  McMillin reneged on a long list of obligations from its original agreement to redevelop the base and one was the other chapel.

The PCPB discussed the North Chapel for some time and wanted to send the matter to a subcommittee to write a letter of support for the opponents.  But, several board members insisted the letter be written at the meeting and voted on, which it was.  The PCPB had already written a letter of support last year. The reason for the urgency was not readily apparent and the  two board members who most interested were unable to explain it.

In other news:

  • The PCPB approved two new companion units adding to the transformation of single-family neighborhoods to multi-family neighborhoods.
  • A letter was approved to change some parking regulations on San Antonio Ave.
  • The Navy provided information on a website that is tracking developments at the old SPAWARS sitem renamed NAVFAC here  .
  • Plans are beginning for the yearly planning board election in March.  There are five seats up for election every year, sometimes more if there is a vacancy that needs to be filled.

Internal Strife

And finally, internal strife is still roiling the PCPB.  Board member Don Sevrens, who filed a lawsuit against the PCPB that was settled, had not even let that body get cold before filing another internal complaint against board members, including the chair.

He also expressed outrage at an email sent to the board by one member about the elections and wanted that member removed as the head of the election subcommittee as he was worried that person would sabotage the election.

This has apparently had a detrimental effect on the board because today – January 22 – , the PCPB chair and the person who was to head the elections subcommittee announced they are resigning after the March election.  Here is why:

“Our tenure of service to the PCPB has been troubled with continual turmoil, slander, animosity, personal attack, false accusation, formal complaint, and a civil rights action suit amongst and between two factions of boardmembers. It is not the responsibility of the Board officers to regulate and pacify contention and dispute amongst the boardmembers.

“We each have important personal and professional lives and no longer desire to exhaust our valuable time and effort mediating, resolving, and working through these conflicts, nor have our attempts been successful at bringing these hostile actions to termination.”

In this reporter’s view, Sevrens has been accusing various board members of malfeasance of one sort or another ever since he was elected several years ago. An indication of the problems was that only eight of 15 board members showed up for the first meeting of 2020. Stay tuned.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Paul Webb January 22, 2020 at 3:13 pm

Makes me a little glad I lost in last year’s election.

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Avatar triggerfinger January 22, 2020 at 3:31 pm

Toxic board members need to be shown the door! This is a volunteer group for benefit of the community. Self-serving members that embroil the board in lawsuits and petty grievances willreap what they sow, but it’s sad to see it unfold.

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Avatar Loves Crafts January 23, 2020 at 1:28 pm

There are always two sides to a story, and the truth usually lies somewhere in-between.

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Avatar Geoff Page January 23, 2020 at 3:01 pm

I have to disagree, Loves Crafts. Many times one side is right and the other is very wrong. We are seeing this on the national stage right now.

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Avatar Debbie January 24, 2020 at 1:41 am

“In an email to one of the members of one congregation, the management company explained the congregation could rent the place on a “month-to-month” basis, would not be able to use the place during construction, and the kicker –You and your parish must be supportive of 828 and our proposed changes to North Chapel.”

Sounds like a quid pro quo :-)

This owner is going to do whatever they want. There is no accountability or enforcement by the city/mayor.

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