Historic Olvera Street Church to Get New Lease

The church's original 50-year lease, which was $1 a month in rent, ended in 2006.

A new agreement has been reached between the City of Los Angeles and the historic La Plaza United Methodist Church after nearly five years of contentious negotiations to renew their lease.

Councilman José Huizar made the announcement as about 50 church members rallied on the steps of City Hall, calling for a fair lease agreement.

When negotiations began in 2006, the city sought to charge about $14,000  in monthly rent. Church officials objected, saying it was too high and they would be forced out of their home of nearly 100 years. 

In the interim, the two sides agreed to a $232 monthly rent plus a series of pay-per-use fees that, while less, still amounted to thousands of dollars. The church's original 50-year lease, which was $1 a month in rent, ended in 2006.

Huizar told the crowd that an agreement was reached between Methodist Church leaders and the City Attorney's Office late Tuesday. He said he plans to bring the lease before the City Council on Friday.

"This I think will allow the church to continue its presence at Placita Olvera," Huizar said.
Under the terms of the tentative agreement, the church would pay $663 in monthly rent and would have access to part of the building 80 hours per week for religious and community services.

The contract has been complicated by the separation clause in the U.S.  Constitution, which provides barriers between religion and government. To circumvent it, the lease agreement requires the church to  establish a museum that exhibits the Methodist Church's history in Los Angeles.

"We've come up with a calculation for the rent that we believe is legally defensible in court and will allow the church to move forward with providing its services at Placita Olvera," said Huizar.

The rent is below market value, but is based on an hourly rate charged to other tenants of historic Olvera Street, which also signed new lease agreements with the city this summer, Huizar said. The lease is 15 years with an option to renew for 15 more.

"It was tough but at the end of the day I think the church gets a very very good deal financially and at the same time allows the city to move forward with a renewed museum, services at Placita Olvera, and some stability," Huizar said.

The lease will need to be approved by the board of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. Huizar hopes to have final approval from the City Council by November. 

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