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La Plaza United Methodist Church reaches tentative deal with city

August 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A long-running dispute over a lease for a historic church on Olvera Street appears to be over.

The city of Los Angeles and La Plaza United Methodist Church reached a tentative deal on Wednesday. That deal would end nearly five years of turmoil.

Threatened with losing their church's home of nearly 100 years, congregants and supporters of La Plaza called attention to their predicament with an early morning rally and march at City Hall.

"There's no greater time than now," said community activist Richard Zaldivar. "When people are unemployed, people are homeless, you need a vibrant place in the community like Plaza."

It's not the group's first time before the council. They've made several appearances over the last few months and it may have just paid off.

Tuesday night, the group agreed to a tentative lease deal after several weeks of negotiations with Councilman Jose Huizar and his staff.

"I think we came up with something that makes sense that will number one, respect their historical contributions to Placita Olvera and the city of Los Angeles," said Huizar. "And two, allow them a reasonable amount of rent to pay that allows them to continue to do the good work they're doing."

The proposed 30-year lease gives La Plaza clergy and their members 80 hours of access to the church for a flat fee of $663 a month, and allows church members use of the basement for a Methodist church historical museum.

The new fee is significantly higher than the $1 per year agreement it had for some 50 years, but Church leaders say its deal they can live with.

"We really want it to happen," said L.A. Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, United Methodist Church. "We really want a long term lease. We want to be present and witness in a positive way."

If approved, the final deal could be finalized by November.

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