Prayer is important but so is parking

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Finding a convenient parking spot is apparently as important as finding salvation judging by the size of the new garage rising next to Angelus Temple in Echo Park. The six- level, 225-foot long, 544-space garage has begun to make its presence known on the neighborhood skyline as it approaches completion, popping into residents’ views and rivaling the stature of the silver dome that rises above Angelus Temple. As big as it is, the garage would have been even larger if church leaders had stuck to their original plan to build a 700-space garage that would have covered nearly the entire block between the temple on the south and the El Centro del Pueblo recreation yard on the north. Angelus Temple, which says it pays hundreds of thousands of year to lease parking lots and shuttle in parishioners from remote locations, scaled back the garage to the Glendale Boulevard side of their property in the face of opposition. Still, it’s hard to hide a 74-foot-high, 225-foot long concrete box.

While the garage will help open up parking on the street, to the relief of many nearby residents and businesses, don’t expect Angelus Temple, part of the Foursquare Church, to open up the garage to the community. According to City Council documents, a church executive, in an email exchange with Councilman Eric Garcetti’s office, said that the Foursquare board “passed a resolution in 2005 limiting parking structure use to church related activities. While we have often shared our philosophical openness to community needs, we understand the danger of making any of this official, due to the fact that opponents of this project have repeatedly shown their diligence and creativity in delaying plans and construction.”

The garage was made possible in part because the blocks immediately around the church allow buildings as high as 75 feet – or 30 feet higher than most of the surrounding area. A proposal before the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council on Tuesday would make building such tall buildings more difficult. Still, expect more height on the way. Across the street from Angelus Temple and the new garage, a foundation affiliated with the church is seeking to build a 45-foot high, more than 100-foot long retirement apartment complex.

All this big building – and the demolition of smaller and older structures – is taking place only a few feet from the spot where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Planning Department General Manager Gail Goldberg and councilmen Eric Garcetti and Ed Reyes held a press conference in October 2008 to accept an urban planning award naming Echo Park as one of the nation’s 10 great neighborhoods in part because of its historic character.

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