Pacifica, CA

Iglesia Ni Cristo megachurch gets 'stop work' order in Pacifica

Kristen Philipkoski

(Iglesia Ni Cristo church in San Jose, CA)

Following an uproar over pews being moved in and other work being performed at a sited recently purchased by megachurch Iglesia Ni Cristo, City of Pacifica building inspector Earl Jeremiah has issues a "stop work order" at the 650 Cape Breton location in Pacifica, CA.

That means all construction work must stop immediately at former equestrian complex as of March 8 when the order was posted.

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 so narrow that two cars can't drive it opposite directions simultaneously—one needs to move over. The land was formerly the home of horse stables and riding lessons.

Neighbors in the area have expressed concern that a church on the site would increase traffic congestion and fire danger, take up all the parking spots, and disrupt the quiet environment the neighborhood currently enjoys. Iglesia Ni Cristo churches typically meet nearly every day of the week.

Workers were recently spotted carrying pews into existing buildings on the property. The activity alarmed neighbors because while the church now owns the land, the Pacifica Planning Commission has not approved the site for church services.

The stop work order refers to state and local building code ordinances, which state: “It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to erect, construct, alter, extend, repair, move, remove, demolish or occupy any building, structure or equipment regulated by this code, or cause same to be done, without first obtaining a building permit from the building official,” the notice reads. The paperwork includes information on how to apply for a permit.

The handwritten notice reads, “need permit for grading work and work in barn.”

“Any person who shall continue any work in or about the structure after being served with a stop work order shall be subject to penalties as prescribed by law,” the stop work order says.

The church has 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 on Cape Breton, which is a residential cul-de-sac, 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 built 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.

At the March 1 city planning meeting, commenters said they've seen workers pouring cement and plumbing work being done at the site. Cars and trucks, including U-Hauls, are driving in and out of the site daily and disturbing the neighborhood, all before temporary use or construction permits are approved.

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.

They also said guard stations were being built where the stables once stood, and 24-hour guards stand watch over the area.

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 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 posted as this story develops.

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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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