Blame Sister Aimee if you can’t find parking in Echo Park

Echo Park evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson had a thing about cars. In 1918, Sister Aimee drove from New York to California in a newly purchased, seven-seat Oldsmobile that became known as the “Gospel Car.” While Sister Aimee loved cars, she did not bother to think about parking when she built the 5,000 seat Angelus Temple, the domed church opened in 1923 north of Echo Park Lake. More than 80 years later, Angelus Temple is finally getting a garage but only after triggering a parking vs. preservation fight that looks to be coming to an end.

It was about two years ago when fans of old Echo Park (that would include me) felt like the neighborhood had been struck by the wrath of God when Angelus Temple said it wanted to demolish almost the entire city block surrounding the church. The goal was to build a nearly 700-space garage for parishioners, employees and visitors.

Councilman Eric Garcetti’s staff helped negotiate a plan that allows the church to build a garage, albeit a shorter, smaller, 544-car structure along busy Glendale Boulevard. That’s still plenty big and it’s not clear what it would look like. But the plan would spare a quaint row of two-story apartment buildings on a side street connecting Echo Park Lake and “downtown” Echo Park.

Still, the idea of such a mammoth building is going to shock a lot of people and Garcetti’s office is trying to line up support as the proposed garage goes before a city council committee next week:
“No doubt this will be very impactful to the community but it is the best result we could hope for and the Church has been very good to work with all along,” said Mitch O’Farrell, head of the council office’s constituent services, in an email sent to some residents. “I hope you all can help spread the word on how this all came about once the “rubber hits the road” because people who have no knowledge of the history of this project are going to take notice!”
Maybe free valet service on Sunday will help seal the deal.

Photo at top from Wikipedia and bottom image from You are Here.

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