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Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

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Churches and businesses in Huntington Park criticize city’s permit crackdown

Emanuel Guadarrama
Angel Mendoza, owner of Jubilee Furniture on Gage Ave, Huntington Park, April 28 2024.

Huntington Park is fining churches and businesses with fees in what residents say is an effort to force them out to make way for affordable housing.

According to Jackie Cadena, the business administrator for Praise Chapel Christian Fellowship on Gage Avenue and Arbutus Avenue, “The city is pushing for all the churches to file for a conditional use permit, which just the permit fee alone is over $6,000.”

The permit would allow them to operate under certain conditions as a church; however, paying the fee doesn’t guarantee that they’ll get the permit.

Pastor Daniel Brito of the Iberoamerica Assembly of God church on Templeton Street and Belgrave Avenue, was told that he hadn’t paid the business licenses for his church since 2009.

“I never saw a letter [bill] from the city,” he said, “We don’t know how it is that they said we paid it in 2009. Who paid for it? I didn’t pay it.”

Once informed, he paid for the business license but was told that he’d have to apply for a conditional use permit as if he were just now opening the church.

He was told he had 30 days. That was in December 2023. He got a lawyer to contest the fines and was then told he had until the beginning of February this year.

Brito’s lawyer has made records requests which have been answered; however, a letter written to the city attorney and mayor, contesting the fines hasn’t been answered since April.

Likewise, the city has been responsive with Cadena of Praise Chapel – who seems to be less willing to contest the fines than Brito – answering her questions about what licenses she needs and why.

“For a nonprofit, it’s really difficult because you’re covering just enough expenses to host your community and outreach events.

“We host a food bank twice a month, we host a very large backpack giveaway once a year, and a toy drive at the end of the year. We do a lot of events for the community but then now you’re telling me, ‘We want all these thousands of dollars,’” Cadena said with a sigh.

It’s not only churches that say the city is surprising them with permit fees, businesses along the historic Pacific Boulevard say they’re experiencing the same thing.

Luis Torres, of the Best Buy Music Store on Gage Avenue and Pacific Boulevard, stated that sometime in March, the city’s code enforcement swept Pacific Boulevard, citing every business they could.

“I had a little table sticking out [on the sidewalk.] I had to pay $200. Some other people down the block paid over $1,000,” Torres recalled.

Similarly, Angel Mendoza, owner of Jubilee Furniture, located next to Praise Chapel, received fines from the city for having furniture on the sidewalk.

“It was $1,000, which I basically gifted to them,” Mendoza said indignantly.

Mendoza said his neighbor, Elias Solis Quesada, owner of Modern Glass and Mirror Works, was issued $20,000 worth of fines.

Quesada, “had $1,600 in fines originally, but because he couldn’t pay them, they gave him fine after fine… at $10,000 they told him they wouldn’t increase it anymore, but now he has $20,000 worth in fines.”

In October 2023, Mendoza was issued a fine. According to Mendoza, the issuing officer claims, “A lot of times, what they’re [the city] looking for is to harm the property [with the fines], to take them to court and take it from the owners.”

Residents and people who operate in the city believe the fees coincide with recent California housing bills that will force cities to build affordable housing.

Their fears, which stem from these various housing bills, were signed to go into effect on Oct. 2023, by Governor Newsom.

These housing bills are an attempt by the state to help create more affordable housing e.g., SB 423 would require local governments to streamline affordable housing projects if they are failing to meet the state’s housing goals.

“Where are they [the city] supposed to find additional land for this [housing units], it’s definitely a question and a rumor that I’ve heard,” Cadena said.

“They started getting like this from the start of the year to now,” Mendoza recalled, “The city had a different system, they helped us a lot as merchants…back then, the chamber of commerce helped a lot even if you weren’t affiliated with them.

“They would get permission from the city mayor to have three-day sidewalk sales…

You could leave your furniture or other merchandise on the sidewalk so people could see them and increase sales.”

“If we ever had a community event here, we’d always invite them [city officials], they would come with the police, the fire department and join us. Here we’ve never had any problems at all,” Brito said.

As of May 13, the city of Huntington Park has been unavailable for comment.



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About the Contributors
Edward Fernandez
Edward Fernandez, Staff Writer
Edward Fernandez is a staff writer for Talon Marks covering arts and entertainment and community news. Aside from reporting, Fernandez enjoys reading and hiking. He hopes to transfer to Cal State Fullerton in the Fall.
Emanuel Guadarrama
Emanuel Guadarrama, Co-News Editor
Emanuel Guadarrama is the returning news editor for Talon Marks, who’ll be covering any and all newsworthy events or stories on campus. When he isn’t working on his news section, he enjoys listening to various genres of music and reading. He also likes going on hikes, walking with his dog and spending time with his friends and family.
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  • J

    JohnMay 19, 2024 at 9:03 pm

    Great story. Coming from a Huntington Park resident and former Talon Marks Staff Writer/ Editor.