Alameda County is poised to control the future of Castro Valley church properties, stirring pastors normally reluctant to involve themselves in governmental affairs to take action.
At 6 p.m. Monday, pastors from Redwood Chapel and other churches will speak during the public forum portion of an Alameda Planning Commission meeting held in the public hearing room at 224 W. Winton Avenue in Hayward.
"This appears to be a precedent-setting situation. It is not normal," said Pastor Joseph Linn of , speaking to 10 other pastors from churches throughout Castro Valley.
They gathered Thursday morning for the sole purpose of talking about the county's proposed blueprint for Castro Valley's future growth.
"It's bad policy and wrong. It's overstepping," said Doug Tegner, senior pastor at Redwood Chapel. Tegner called the meeting and gave a briefing on what normally is an arcane topic mostly discussed in the halls of bureaucracy.
He distributed to each pastor three color-coded maps, two letters to the county and printouts of portions of what is officially called the Draft Castro Valley General Plan. This document infrequently reaches public awareness but dictates what activities can take place where — for example, whether a store can open in a residential area (usually not) and where apartments and houses can be built.
The 600-page document with maps is available for review here.
You can read Redwood Chapel's specific objections in the pastors' own words by clicking on the images of the PDFs at right. Clicking on them enlarges them and also provides tools for further enlarging, if necessary.
The proposed changes include a new category of land use called "public facilities," which includes Castro Valley schools — both public and private, whether on church property or not — as well as East Bay Municipal Utility District land.
The new category "amends the zoning ordinance to include standards and limitations for religious and other community assembly uses that will facilitate their approval ..." That line comes from Action 4.4-1 of the plan. There are many such pages of definitions, goals and policies.
The schools and utility district are already on record against the proposal. For more detail on their objections, click . Planning Director Albert Lopez agreed the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council's proposal is .
So far, no study sessions have been called to find out whether the MAC members — six unelected Castro Valley residents who advise the county board of supervisors — can achieve their goals while also respecting the goals of the schools, churches and the utility district.
The Castro Valley MAC makes initial recommendations about the blueprint for future growth in a legally binding document called the General Plan.
The seven-member Planning Commission, which is also unelected, includes two Castro Valley residents — Ken Carbone and Richard Rhodes. This county commission votes on whether to send the plan to the county Board of Supervisors for final approval. The supervisors are elected. None are Castro Valley residents.
Changes to the finalized General Plan are possible but not routine. The process for diversions from the plan involves public hearings.
Asked for comment about this story, Bob Swanson, Castro Valley's liaison to Supervisor Nate Miley, said: "The supervisor's office and the county were always open to input, and we would look forward to hearing what they have to say. This General Plan is generated and supported by the people of Castro Valley, and it's their plan, and we definitely want to hear from everyone in the community."
Pastors who attended Thursday's meeting were from , , , , and Chaplain Support Ministries.
Another 10 pastors were invited to the meeting but couldn't make it on short notice, Tegner said. About 20 pastors from different churches throughout Castro Valley meet monthly to discuss issues they have in common.
The Redwood Chapel pastors, who only recently learned the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council had proposed changes that affect them, have spent the past six weeks studying the plan.
In the course of the church's research and discussions with county planners, Tegner said "there were mixed messages verbally" that suggest not only Redwood Chapel's future property decisions will be controlled by the county but possibly also those of other churches.
Tegner and Linn repeatedly said before, during and after the meeting they didn't want to be confrontational or political but feel they now have no choice but to take a stand against "vagueness" that opens the door to county control of a church's property decisions.
"Five, 10 years from now, what does it mean, depending on who's in charge?" Tegner said. "What we're trying to do is push the point and ask for clarification."
"We're not trying to go after the board," Linn said.
Last week, Redwood Chapel pastors met with Senior Planner Sonia Urzua to get answers to questions and make their concerns known. "We had a very healthy meeting," Tegner said, emphasizing that Urzua was receptive and interested.
Tegner said he was expecting to receive a report from her that would also be presented to the Planning Commission, but the hearing is now two work days away and he said he has not yet received a report.
"I'm not sure the Planning Commission has ever heard from her about our concerns," Tegner said.