This is legal because of a law in California that needs to be changed. This California state law gives special religious exemption to churches based on their religious status. So far with the lawyers we have reached out to there is not much we can do from a legal standpoint. Both the San Diego City Attorney and the City Historic Resource Board says their hands are tied since the church is using their religious exemption to destroy the homes. Given this we think the only way to save the homes is to show the church that our community will not stand for this kind of destruction in our neighborhood.
Specifically the California State code section being invoked is Government Code Section § 37361(c), which states:
(a) The legislative body may acquire property for the preservation or development of a historical landmark. The legislative body may also acquire property for development for recreational purposes and for development of facilities in connection therewith.
(b) The legislative body may provide for places, buildings, structures, works of art, and other objects, having a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value, special conditions or regulations for their protection, enhancement, perpetuation or use, which may include appropriate and reasonable control of the use or appearance of neighboring private property within public view, or both.
(c) Until January 1, 1995, subdivision (b) shall not apply to noncommercial property owned by a religiously affiliated association or corporation not organized for private profit, whether incorporated as a religious or public benefit corporation, unless the owner of the property does not object to its application. This subdivision does apply to a charter city. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to infringe on the authority of the legislative body to enforce special conditions and regulations on any property designated prior to January 1, 1994.
Subdivision (b) shall not apply to noncommercial property owned by any association or corporation that is religiously affiliated and not organized for private profit, whether the corporation is organized as a religious corporation, or as a public benefit corporation, provided that both of the following occur:
(1) The association or corporation objects to the application of the subdivision to its property.
(2) The association or corporation determines in a public forum that it will suffer substantial hardship, which is likely to deprive the association or corporation of economic return on its property, the reasonable use of its property, or the appropriate use of its property in the furtherance of its religious mission, if the application is approved.
(d) Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to infringe on the authority of any legislative body to enforce special conditions and regulations on any property designated prior to January 1, 1994, or to authorize any legislative body to override the determination made pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (c). This subdivision shall apply to a charter city.