Parishioners of the Springfield Baptist Church can continue to worship at their two-story unreinforced masonry building on Broad Street despite the risk it poses should an earthquake happen.
The San Luis Obispo City Council voted 3-2 to extend the church’s seismic upgrade deadline to 2015, thwarting the city’s plan to red tag the building and declare it uninhabitable.
In February 2010, the council gave the church a one-year reprieve that would have expired in July.Pastor Henry Ford pled with the council Tuesday to give him more time to try and raise the money needed, more than $500,000, to complete the retrofit.
“If we vacate this building, we have nowhere to go,” said Ford. “We are still working. I am still spending a lot of sleepless nights worrying about the church.”
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The church building at 1127 Broad St. was one of more than 100 buildings identified in the city as needing earthquake retrofitting. It was given one of the highest hazard ratings because of the potential for loss of life.
The church, with a small congregation of less than 40 people who are mostly elderly or disabled, has struggled with finding the money to do the required work. The building was put up for sale more than a year ago.
At the same time the City Council set the July deadline for the church, the council also extended the deadlines of several other buildings to 2015 that are included in future projects downtown: Garden Street Terraces, Chinatown and the Naman project at Higuera and Chorro streets.
One of those buildings — now housing SLO Brewing Co. on Garden Street — was given a higher hazard ranking than the church.
Several council members Tuesday expressed the need to be equitable in their decision, saying they could not force the church to shutter its doors without making the others do the same.
Councilman Andrew Carter likened it to a “tale of two assembly halls,” one a profiting business, the other a nonprofit.
“We gave the building with a higher risk factor an extension, and I am not prepared to put the not-for-profit on the street after allowing SLO Brew to continue,” Carter said.
Councilmen John Ashbaugh and Dan Carpenter voted against extending the church’s deadline. Ashbaugh chastised the church for not doing enough to raise the needed money, and said he wanted to see more of an effort made to do so.
Carpenter, who was not on the council when the extension was given to the other buildings downtown, said it wasn’t a risk he was willing to “morally” take.
Ford said he plans to ramp up fundraising efforts now that the deadline has been extended. “We’ve been under a tremendous amount of stress and strain trying to meet the mandates by the deadline,” he said. “I am elated.”
Ford said the church will remain for sale, but he would prefer to be able to complete the retrofit and stay. “We really don’t want to go anywhere,” he said. “The Lord opened the door to us here in 1947, and I don’t want to close it.”
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.