Residents’ complaints trigger new, but temporary, restrictions on Trinity Broadcasting
Los Angeles Times, Mar. 26, 2003
In an ongoing spat between a handful of Costa Mesa residents and the world’s largest Christian television ministry — which operates in their backyard — the city’s planning commission Monday ordered the Trinity Broadcasting Network to be better neighbors.
While the city considers the network’s request to conduct outdoor tapings on its property, the commission gave TBN a list of two dozen good-faith restrictions intended to appease neighbors.
The commission took the action despite a 12-page letter from TBN that argued the network was allowed to tape outdoor shows under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. The legislation protects religious organizations from zoning laws that prevent the practice of religion. TBN is on property zoned for administrative, not religious, purposes.
Many of the city’s restrictions on TBN are in direct response to complaints from neighbors.
The commission told the network to: limit street parking by visitors arriving in buses and cars; establish a 10 p.m. curfew for churchgoers; provide on-site security to direct traffic; and limit nighttime hours of the million-light display.
The commission postponed consideration of TBN’s permit request for nine months, hoping to give the two groups a chance to find common ground, said commission member Katrina Foley.
“We wanted to get a handle on what was happening now and get management to deal with the current problems before expanding use and activity on the site,” Foley said.
TBN officials say they never veered from the network’s original permits, which city records show allow for “an administrative office complex including TV-production facilities, screening and meeting areas.”
Residents disagree, however.
The list of grievances from neighbors, most recently over the outdoor recording sessions, prompted city staff to require TBN to seek a permit to increase its outdoor activities.
Calls to TBN representatives seeking comment were not returned Tuesday.
Neighbors said they don’t expect TBN to abide by the rules in the long run.
“It has been decent for the last two weeks with the city watching, but they’ve shown over the past six years that they can’t be trusted,” said Lars Sivring.
Sivring said he bought his home just as TBN was moving into the neighborhood in 1996, thinking it would be a small Christian operation, not a $160-million business with more than 5,000 stations worldwide.
Soon after TBN bought the property off the San Diego Freeway, it converted an existing building into the palatial Trinity Christian City International headquarters.
Neighbors say their living situation is not the quiet, suburban lifestyle they expected.
“They don’t feel they have to follow anybody’s rules,” said Stacy Schofro, who said she paid $4,000 for her bedroom window shutters to dim the effects of the nightly 1 million-light show.