He bought the property in 2011 with plans to turn it into a sprawling Christian conference center. That is, until the San Diego City Council sidelined the entire project.
Well-known televangelist Morris Cerullo was planning to transform an aging Mission Valley hotel, which he purchased out of foreclosure, into a $160-million retreat and conference facility.
But in September, he failed to win the support of some council members who rejected the idea over traffic concerns, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Who, exactly, voted against the proposal? All Democrats: David Alvarez, Barbara Bry, Myrtle Cole, Georgette Gomez and Chris Ward.
Despite the fact that city planners said the 18-acre Legacy International Center would hardly increase traffic, the council naysayers brushed off their analysis and listed road congestion as the reason they just couldn’t support the endeavor.
Of course, the decision has the backing of other progressives in the area — like San Diego’s LGBT Community Center.
“The Legacy project is bad for our community, bad for traffic impacts and a bad deal for San Diego,” Rebekah Hook-Held, the center’s director of public affairs, said, citing “heavy traffic congestion” that would “present life-threatening delays [to the medical centers].”
Thankfully, a couple Republicans on the council saw right through the discrimination in the name of “traffic,” and called their liberal counterparts out for it.
Councilman Scott Sherman (R), who represents Mission Valley, urged the council to vote in favor of the 85-year-old evangelist’s project because his religion is not grounds to dismiss his request. He told the L.A. Times:
“Yesterday [Sept. 17] was Constitution Day and in our country we’re afforded certain rights and privileges — the right to free speech, right to assembly and the right to religious freedom. We may have disagreements with the applicant, but if they follow the rules and the law, we can’t, nor should we, find against them. This plan does everything that it’s supposed to.”
Likewise, Councilwoman Lorie Zapf (R) questioned the “traffic” concerns, suggesting the Democrats were actually opposing Cerullo’s plans on religious grounds.
“The comments I heard were clearly religious-based, and that is not a reason in this country to not have a faith-based project,” she said.
The editorial board for The San Diego Union-Tribune spoke out against the Democrats’ decision, siding with Sherman’s comments, too.
The council announced it will reconsider its original vote on Oct. 17, a decision the Union-Tribune praised in September because it “gives the council’s Democrats four weeks to decide whether they want San Diego City Hall to become the latest front in the country’s culture wars.”
In a letter obtained by IJR, several religious leaders — from California pastor Miles McPherson to Muslim leader Hugh Muhammad — also condemned the council’s “attack” on religious liberty.
The group of 12 faith leaders called the Democrats’ decision a “political/anti-religious vote based on the religious nature” and accused the officials of using traffic “as a pretense” for discrimination.
In addition to serving as Cerullo’s new headquarters, the development would have featured event and meeting spaces, a 127-unit hotel, a museum space with Christian-centered exhibits, as well as a theme park portion.
The facility would have housed a replica of Jerusalem’s Western Wall and a domed 4-D theater featuring biblical films produced by former Disney executives, according to the L.A. Times.