Churches raise concerns about increased parking regulations in County

Steve Gramm Steve Gramm 6 Comments


A proposed amendment to the County of San Diego’s parking regulations is raising concerns due to the significant increases in the number of parking spaces that would be required of churches.

A Board of Supervisors’ hearing is scheduled tomorrow (Item 2 on the Agenda), February 6 at 9 a.m., for consideration of an ordinance amendment, “Improving the County’s Off-Street Parking Regulations.”

According to Ron Harper Jr. of Harper Communities, the proposed changes would increase the current requirement of one parking space for every four church seats to .40 spaces per seat (1.6 spaces for every four seats), a sixty percent increase in the required number of spaces.  Yet, he further points out that private clubs with lodges and halls are only required to have 0.35 and conference centers only 0.25 spaces per seat.

In addition, Harper noted, other ancillary uses at churches such as Sunday School classes would increase the parking requirements even more, having a significant impact on land values while raising environmental concerns.

“This would designate all existing religious assemblies in the unincorporated areas of the County as having ‘non-conforming’ parking,” said Harper. He detailed a list of concerns…

  • Future planned phases by churches will need to reduce seating by approximately 40 to 50 percent.
  • Current land values will be reduced based on reduced capacity potential.
  • Churches will be unable to refinance based on their reduced land values.

Harper provided additional details…

“All land that could potentially allow churches in the future would also be reduced in value by about 40 to 50 percent, given the capacity of a church being reduced by that amount.

“Future church projects now will need approximately 50 percent more land for the same size sanctuary allowed under the old code.  The reality is that churches can’t afford additional land so they will be forced to reduce the size of the sanctuary they can build by about 40 to 50 percent as well.  A church planning a 500 seat sanctuary will now will only be able to seat 250 to 300.  A congregation hoping for 100 seats will now only seat 50 or 60 church members.  This will stop all church growth in the County of San Diego.  Churches will no longer be able to build adequate assembly space in the County.

“This will have an environmental impact as well.  If a church grew to need a 1,000 seat sanctuary it would have needed only 2-1/2 acres of parking under the old code but now would needs four acres of parking. The visual impact and increased heat generation will have a significant negative impact on the environment.

“It gets worse, however.  Sunday School and other ‘accessory uses’ meeting at the same time as the main sanctuary must provide additional parking.  If Sunday School is considered a religious assembly use, then even beyond the 60 percent increase in required parking for the main sanctuary the church would also need 40 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet.  A church with a 500 seat sanctuary under the old code needed 125 parking spaces, but now would need 200 parking spaces plus 240 more parking spaces for eight Sunday School classrooms.  That is 440 parking spaces now when 125 were fine prior.

“Church property values will crash since the allowed seating per acre will decrease about 40 to 50 percent in the future, based on expert estimates.”

Harper encouraged citizens to contact their Supervisor to express their concerns with the proposal.

Harper also said that Bob Tyler, general counsel for Advocates for Faith and Freedom, will be at the County hearing tomorrow and offered to represent at no charge as many churches as possible.

“Let me know if any churches want to join the fight to save their land values and future growth of all churches in San Diego County,” said Harper. “These kind of code changes spread to surrounding cities and could impact every church.”

Please send an email to and we will pass it along to Harper.


Comments 6

  1. Why is the County changing the rules in the first place? Has there been a spate of complaints about church parking? If so, I am not aware of it and I’m a commercial real estate broker. As it is, it is tough enough to relocate a church, school or other similar use. The County needs to make things easier, not more difficult.

  2. LOL.

    A) Least we forget, the Rock Church in Point Loma creates significant challenges each and every Sunday for the other residents and visitors to Liberty station.

    B) Ron Harper is currently looking to entitle some land for a church adjacent to the 4S Ranch community. It backs up to residential homes who bought assuming that the county would maintain the current zoning of this property as low density residential and not allow a church of a fairly significant size and footprint with inadequate parking.

    It is a good word to the wise not to take everything in an advocacy post on “face value” as, sadly, there are often additional motivations and concerns at work.

    For more on the church project in 4S Ranch see (pro-side) (anti)

    and at least one story about the conflict worth knowing

    fair disclosure – I am not DIRECTLY impacted by the project but my nearby neighbors would be. IMHO the project just doesn’t work as proposed and, sadly, there are several nearby properties that would seem to work BETTER/as well as where Harper is proposing – just likely not as cheaply. And usually I am about as pro-development as they come.

    Oh and second BTW – Harper’s “outreach” to the neighbors has been a farce when compared to what other land use consultants do. It really is a bullying effort to get the project through

  3. Thanks, Erik, that is good information to provide an overall perspective of the situation.

    As noted by your comment, it appears that Harper’s effort for a church in the 4S Ranch area, aside from any increased parking regs, does have the existing burden of a zoning change and possibly even a waiver of the current parking requirements. Is that correct?

    It would seem that the issues he raises, despite his advocacy on this one church, would be of interest and concern for any churches already meeting zoning and current parking requirements, no?

  4. So who thinks it’s a good idea to pave over ground for parking 1 day a week — for 4 hours usage? Where are the environmentalists, who should be protesting this absurd requirement that damages our ecosystem (and our wallets, but environmentalists don’t care about our wallets)?

  5. TA – Absolutely!!! I just think that if you are going to advocate for something it is important to also note when you have a direct interest in the policy outcome when that isn’t obvious. I have tried do this in my Rostra musings – so, for example, when noting “Carl is doing something great” I thought people would benefit from also knowing I donated to him.

    In the case of Ron I thought it useful to note that the parking requirement could make the 4S Ranch project either DOA or, at the very least, much more difficult.

    In addition to issues of parking the 4SRanch project will need several other variances/changes to get entitled. I am not as connected as others but I understand there are flood plain variances, emergency access, and lightening standards that all present some hurdles. But that is just a curosory glance through the stuff – more committed advocates on both sides will be much more up to speed as to the nitty gritty particulars – thus linking both the pro and the con sides so those true policy wonks can explore more.

    To Richard – the issue really is that for that one day a week how much “off site” parking should adjacent neighbors have to absorb. Frankly that doesn’t bother me in the slightest but I also know that some people get irate when there are other cars parked in front of their house so to each his own.

  6. Erik, I face this “church” parking problem in front of my house — twice a day, five days a week, over 8 months a year. A block and a half from my house is a public school.

    Parents park on “my” street — filling all the empty space — and I never think twice about it. Traffic is congested and a bit harrowing during this time, especially considering the sometimes irresponsible behavior of little people. Oh my!

    Yes, a church is private. But most of us don’t use the public school — often we never did. Either way, such “outsider” parking is an imposition on my neighborhood.

    So, does anyone want to file a lawsuit, or demand city zoning restrictions to keep such schools from being built in neighborhoods?

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