It has been about 80 years since the church of Aimee Semple McPherson, the famed evangelist whose domed Angelus Temple sits across from Echo Park Lake, purchased about 30 acres of hillside property between Lincoln Heights and Montecito Heights. On hills more than 800 feet high, the church built a radio tower to broadcast Sister Aimee’s sermons and other religious programs but the left most of the land remained undeveloped except for some narrow dirt lanes that cut across grassy fields. But now the Church of the Foursquare Gospel has put neighbors on notice that its hilltop holdings – including Flat Top, a popular neighborhood gathering spot and view point – are ready for development. Last November, a developer working with Foursquare gave residents a sneak peak at a proposal to build more than 30 homes on streets that would loop around the existing transmission towers. The developer and church officials are scheduled to return to a community meeting on Feb. 16 to provide more info. But many Montecito Heights residents say the church faces a tough sell.
The land might be privately owned but decades of residents have long considered a shared space. “The simplest way to make a synopsis is that everyone in our community has used that open space as their own public land,” said Montecito Heights resident Scott Rubel. “It is full of coyote and hawks and rabbits and everything else. Over the past eight years there have been possibly up to eight sightings of a mountain lion. It’s part of the little open space left in Los Angeles, and the benefit to our community is that it is view shed.”
Roy Payan, President of the Montecito Heights Improvement Assn., said he’s highly skeptical the developers could sell the homes at prices that could cover the high costs of building new streets, utilities. His group is not opposed to development but Paytan and others have expressed concerns about grading the hillsides, the impact on wildlife and additional traffic congestion on Montecito Drive, which would serve as the only access to the new homes. The construction of new streets could open the door to the construction of more homes in the years ahead, said other residents.
Officials with Foursquare and developer Vince Daly did not return calls or emails seeking comment.
Payan, whose remembers running across the hills as a member of the Lincoln High cross country team, said he would prefer if Foursquare was able to sell the property to the Santa Monica Conservancy or other agency that could keep the hills open to the public. Foursquare could then take the money to develop property on some place flat, he said.
“They would be better served and buy a piece of land that is flat … and more conducive to development.”
Daly and Foursquare officials will be present during the meeting of the Montecito Heights Improvement Assn. on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7 pm. The meeting will be held at the Montecito Heights Senior Center, 4545 Homer Street.
- Foursquare church plans 32 home development on Flattop Hill. Boulevard Sentinel (pg 8)