Pacifica, CA

Iglesia Ni Cristo moves pews into on-site buildings at Pacifica site as it awaits permits to hold services

Kristen Philipkoski

(Iglesia Ni Cristo church in San Jose, CA)

Neighbors of 650 Cape Breton in Pacifica recently noticed pews being carried into existing buildings on the site recently sold to Iglesia Ni Cristo, a megachurch that purchased the property in December 2020.

The neighbors were alarmed by the activity because while the church now owns the land, the Pacifica Planning Commission has not approved the site for church services.

Iglesia Ni Cristo, a megachurch established in 1914 in the Philippines with 156 locations, approximately 7,000 congregations and 3 million members around the world purchased the 1.89 acre lot for $3.49 million in December 2020. Cape Breton is a residential cul-de-sac, and the land was formerly the home of horse stables and riding lessons.

Neighbors are concerned that a church on the site would increase traffic congestion, fire danger, and disrupt the quiet environment the neighborhood currently enjoys. Iglesia Ni Cristo churches typically meet nearly every day of the week.

The group recently applied for a temporary use permit “to operate a church within a tent erected beneath an existing covered arena structure for a period not to exceed six months.” The permit claims the increased traffic would be negligible, but nearby residents are skeptical.

At a January 19 Pacifica city planning meeting, many neighbors opposed the permit as well as a future church being build on the property, expressing concerns about traffic congestion, potential fire danger, historical preservation of the land and further disruption to the neighborhood where children bike and play. They also complained that they had not been informed sooner about the sale of the land and its potential use.

The planning committee pushed further discussion of the issue to a February 16 city planning meeting, where they heard more public comments, one of which pointed out that incorrect permits were currently being used in the matter. The committee once again pushed further discussion and any decisions on the to an as-yet determined future date. The issue does not appear to be on the March 1 meeting agenda.

The planning committee did not respond to a request for comment before publication of this article.

Next-door has erupted with threads voicing concern about the potential megachurch, bringing up issues ranging from traffic to alleged corruption and criminal activity associated with the church.

One commenter said she noticed guard stations were being built where the stables once stood.

“While I'm not against these churches, I think the location is terrible,” one commenter said. “It will funnel large crowds on Linda Mar and Fassler to a quiet hillside neighborhood. Such a church should be closer to a main freeway and public transportation. We are being strangled by excessive traffic as it is on the south end of town. I couldn't imagine an extra 100 or more cars midday church services.”

Some residents said they were not properly informed of the sale or potential church. “I live next-door and the city never contacted me,” one neighbor said.

Another pointed out a harrowing article in Canada’s CBC detailing the story of a Canadian man who had property disputes with an Iglesias Ni Cristo church built next door to his home in the Philippines and was murdered. The article also detailed additional corruption accusations.

‘That last time was really the worst. They were really, really mad that time. They said: 'We're not done.' Two days later, two men arrived on a motorcycle and shot Barry Gammon to death.

Another Nextdoor commenter linked to this Balitang America video in which a former Iglesias Ni Cristo minister in Concord, California broke down in tears saying he’s concerned for his family’s safety after he was expelled from the church for criticizing the lavish lifestyles of some of the church’s ministers while some congregations went without actual church locations.

We will keep you updated on developments in the permitting process.

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I'm a veteran writer and editor and founder of Mean Magazine and The Mean Podcast for GenX women. I write about everything from fashion to science and everything in between. I’ve written for Racked, Refinery 29, 7x7, SF Chronicle, Wired, Gizmodo and many others.

Pacifica, CA

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