Churches raise concerns about increased parking regulations in County

Steve Gramm Steve Gramm


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.