News

First Baptist Church prepares to shut down, sell assets

With its congregation dwindling, one of Palo Alto's oldest churches prepares for final chapter

Calling it a "death with dignity," parishioners and leaders at the First Baptist Church in Palo Alto are preparing to close one of the city's oldest churches and sell its steepled North California Avenue building.

The pending closure of First Baptist Church, which has been in existence for 126 years, follows decades of steady decline in the size of the congregation, according to Rev. Randle Mixon, the church's pastor. In its heyday, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the church had a congregation of 600 to 700 people, Mixon said. By the time Mixon joined the church 13 years ago, the average attendance for services was close to 60. Today, it's about 25.

"We just aged out," Mixon told the Weekly. "The congregation has continued to shrink to a relatively small number of people. Most of the people are older and we don't really have a strong leadership pool to draw from to lead the church in the future."

Mixon said the church has tried numerous initiatives to revitalize its operations. When he came to First Baptist, there was talk about a possible federation with another local church — a partnership in which the institutions would share resources — and even a potential merger. That plan failed to advance.

More recently, the church had ramped up its outreach to the broader community, sending people out to talk to residents "where they are," rather than inviting them to come to the church, Mixon said. While this program introduced the church to more people, the congregation didn't grow. (It didn't help that the outreach worker, Gregory Stevens, who resigned last year after sending out a series of vulgar tweets, some of which called Palo Alto "disgusting" and "elitist.")

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Facing an existential challenge, the church hired a consultant a year ago to assess its prospects. After talking to dozens of community members and leaders of other churches, the consultant determined that while First Baptist could function for several more years, the church would not be sustainable — both in terms of people power and financial resources — in the long term, Mixon said.

The problem facing the congregation, he said, are not unique to First Baptist.

"I believe we're in an age and a place where fewer and fewer people are looking for a traditional church," Mixon said. "And while we may be one of the first of the mainstream churches in Palo Alto to fold our tent, I'd say other churches are wrestling with what we're wrestling with."

In mid-20th century, the church was where the community gathered, people came to network and children went for activities.

"We now live in an age and place where there are so many different things that in a sense we compete with — from soccer to music to all kinds of groups and activities — that the church generally is no longer seen as the community center. It's not the principle place where people gather like it used to be."

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What comes next?

Now that the decision to close the church has been made, First Baptist leaders are exploring their options for selling church assets and giving away the proceeds from the sale. A church committee has been working on putting together a list of "legacy recipients" who would get contributions ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 each. Those on the higher end of the range include the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, the Ecumenical Hunger Program in East Palo Alto, Kids in Need of Defense (which offers legal services to immigrant children) and Habitat for Humanity, according to the list compiled by the church committee.

Mixon said the church will try to give away as much funding as possible to organizations it has supported in the past. The remainder, he said, will be placed into a foundation and disbursed in the future according to the church's instructions.

First, however, the church needs to close the sale of the property. Mixon declined to discuss the potential selling price or possible buyers, citing the sensitive nature of pending negotiations. He said the church is looking at a "variety of proposals," all of which would preserve the building as a religious institution.

While Mixon declined to discuss the status of negotiations, minutes from church meetings obtained by the Weekly indicate that one interested prospect is Sympara, a North Carolina-based community with a mission of "healing the world." Under terms that church leaders considered over the summer, Sympara would rent the church from a foundation that would be set up by the buyer of the property. It would then work with neighbors to establish a "sacred/civic space ministering to the neighborhood."

In recent months, the church has been evaluating business proposals from Daniel Pryfogle, a Baptist minister and marketer who heads the North Carolina-based consulting firm Signal Hill and who founded Sympara. After submitting several business plans earlier this year, Pryfogle has reportedly been trying to negotiate a sale with the potential unnamed buyer. The church also allocated $90,000 to Sympara in July so that Sympara can develop its programming for the church, which would be its first physical location. Parishioners agreed to reassess Sympara's proposal in December, at which time they will consider providing an additional $410,000 (the minutes did not specify what those funds would be used for).

According to the church minutes, negotiations between Pryfogle and the potential buyer slowed down in September but were set to resume in early October. (Pryfogle declined to comment for this article, also citing pending negotiations.)

Mixon told the Weekly on Thursday that the church is seeking to ensure that the various nonprofits, therapists and community groups that currently rent space at First Baptist will be able to remain. The tenants include the girls chorus iSing, as well as therapists, counselors, dance groups and a Persian-language instructor.

"We're trying to figure out a way where current partners who love being in the building and make use of the space will be able to stay," Mixon said.

The topic of who can rent space at the church became a community flashpoint about two years ago, when the city was besieged by complaints from neighborhood residents concerned about the noise and traffic created by church activities. One prior tenant, the New Mozart School of Music, left the church after the city's code-enforcement staff deemed it to be in violation with local zoning law, which they argued does not allow music schools in residential neighborhoods. (The school moved to another location in Palo Alto, the College Terrace Centre.)

The conflict was largely resolved in May 2018, when the council approved a conditional-use permit that designates the church as a "community center." While the permit allows the church to continue to rent out its space for secular uses, it also established hours of operation (10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) and created an occupancy limit of 70 people with exceptions for special events, up to six of which can be held annually.

Mixon called the restrictions "ill-conceived" and "unreasonable."

"It curtails what can happen at the church in ways that are just ridiculous," he said, citing a requirement that tenants be nonprofits (the permit does carve out an exception for up to five therapists).

But while the church's recent battle with the neighbors and the city over permitted uses was a factor in its decision to close, it was not a determinative factor, Mixon said.

"We had to face the writing on the wall," he said.

With the church's operation winding down, leaders of other congregations and parishioners expressed their sadness and gratitude in letters to the First Baptist. Cindy Sojourner, a former church member, wrote that she hopes the congregants find "new spiritual homes to nourish you up and lift you up," according to excerpts printed in the August edition of "The Spire," a First Baptist Church newsletter. Doug Donley, a pastor in Minneapolis, offered his thanks for the "impacts this great church has had in Palo Alto and across the world."

The process of closing has been "emotional," Mixon said.

"There's a whole range of feelings. We've had people for whom this congregation has been central to their lives for 60 years or more. To let that go is enormous," Mixon said.

Even so, people have accepted that closing the church is the rational thing to do, particularly in light of the report's conclusion. While the transition has inspired a wide range of feelings, including sadness and anger, there was also a wide sense of relief after the parish decided to start winding down the church's operations.

"People have been feeling the burden of trying to keep it going for some time," Mixon said.

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First Baptist Church prepares to shut down, sell assets

With its congregation dwindling, one of Palo Alto's oldest churches prepares for final chapter

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Oct 25, 2019, 6:59 am

Calling it a "death with dignity," parishioners and leaders at the First Baptist Church in Palo Alto are preparing to close one of the city's oldest churches and sell its steepled North California Avenue building.

The pending closure of First Baptist Church, which has been in existence for 126 years, follows decades of steady decline in the size of the congregation, according to Rev. Randle Mixon, the church's pastor. In its heyday, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the church had a congregation of 600 to 700 people, Mixon said. By the time Mixon joined the church 13 years ago, the average attendance for services was close to 60. Today, it's about 25.

"We just aged out," Mixon told the Weekly. "The congregation has continued to shrink to a relatively small number of people. Most of the people are older and we don't really have a strong leadership pool to draw from to lead the church in the future."

Mixon said the church has tried numerous initiatives to revitalize its operations. When he came to First Baptist, there was talk about a possible federation with another local church — a partnership in which the institutions would share resources — and even a potential merger. That plan failed to advance.

More recently, the church had ramped up its outreach to the broader community, sending people out to talk to residents "where they are," rather than inviting them to come to the church, Mixon said. While this program introduced the church to more people, the congregation didn't grow. (It didn't help that the outreach worker, Gregory Stevens, who resigned last year after sending out a series of vulgar tweets, some of which called Palo Alto "disgusting" and "elitist.")

Facing an existential challenge, the church hired a consultant a year ago to assess its prospects. After talking to dozens of community members and leaders of other churches, the consultant determined that while First Baptist could function for several more years, the church would not be sustainable — both in terms of people power and financial resources — in the long term, Mixon said.

The problem facing the congregation, he said, are not unique to First Baptist.

"I believe we're in an age and a place where fewer and fewer people are looking for a traditional church," Mixon said. "And while we may be one of the first of the mainstream churches in Palo Alto to fold our tent, I'd say other churches are wrestling with what we're wrestling with."

In mid-20th century, the church was where the community gathered, people came to network and children went for activities.

"We now live in an age and place where there are so many different things that in a sense we compete with — from soccer to music to all kinds of groups and activities — that the church generally is no longer seen as the community center. It's not the principle place where people gather like it used to be."

What comes next?

Now that the decision to close the church has been made, First Baptist leaders are exploring their options for selling church assets and giving away the proceeds from the sale. A church committee has been working on putting together a list of "legacy recipients" who would get contributions ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 each. Those on the higher end of the range include the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, the Ecumenical Hunger Program in East Palo Alto, Kids in Need of Defense (which offers legal services to immigrant children) and Habitat for Humanity, according to the list compiled by the church committee.

Mixon said the church will try to give away as much funding as possible to organizations it has supported in the past. The remainder, he said, will be placed into a foundation and disbursed in the future according to the church's instructions.

First, however, the church needs to close the sale of the property. Mixon declined to discuss the potential selling price or possible buyers, citing the sensitive nature of pending negotiations. He said the church is looking at a "variety of proposals," all of which would preserve the building as a religious institution.

While Mixon declined to discuss the status of negotiations, minutes from church meetings obtained by the Weekly indicate that one interested prospect is Sympara, a North Carolina-based community with a mission of "healing the world." Under terms that church leaders considered over the summer, Sympara would rent the church from a foundation that would be set up by the buyer of the property. It would then work with neighbors to establish a "sacred/civic space ministering to the neighborhood."

In recent months, the church has been evaluating business proposals from Daniel Pryfogle, a Baptist minister and marketer who heads the North Carolina-based consulting firm Signal Hill and who founded Sympara. After submitting several business plans earlier this year, Pryfogle has reportedly been trying to negotiate a sale with the potential unnamed buyer. The church also allocated $90,000 to Sympara in July so that Sympara can develop its programming for the church, which would be its first physical location. Parishioners agreed to reassess Sympara's proposal in December, at which time they will consider providing an additional $410,000 (the minutes did not specify what those funds would be used for).

According to the church minutes, negotiations between Pryfogle and the potential buyer slowed down in September but were set to resume in early October. (Pryfogle declined to comment for this article, also citing pending negotiations.)

Mixon told the Weekly on Thursday that the church is seeking to ensure that the various nonprofits, therapists and community groups that currently rent space at First Baptist will be able to remain. The tenants include the girls chorus iSing, as well as therapists, counselors, dance groups and a Persian-language instructor.

"We're trying to figure out a way where current partners who love being in the building and make use of the space will be able to stay," Mixon said.

The topic of who can rent space at the church became a community flashpoint about two years ago, when the city was besieged by complaints from neighborhood residents concerned about the noise and traffic created by church activities. One prior tenant, the New Mozart School of Music, left the church after the city's code-enforcement staff deemed it to be in violation with local zoning law, which they argued does not allow music schools in residential neighborhoods. (The school moved to another location in Palo Alto, the College Terrace Centre.)

The conflict was largely resolved in May 2018, when the council approved a conditional-use permit that designates the church as a "community center." While the permit allows the church to continue to rent out its space for secular uses, it also established hours of operation (10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) and created an occupancy limit of 70 people with exceptions for special events, up to six of which can be held annually.

Mixon called the restrictions "ill-conceived" and "unreasonable."

"It curtails what can happen at the church in ways that are just ridiculous," he said, citing a requirement that tenants be nonprofits (the permit does carve out an exception for up to five therapists).

But while the church's recent battle with the neighbors and the city over permitted uses was a factor in its decision to close, it was not a determinative factor, Mixon said.

"We had to face the writing on the wall," he said.

With the church's operation winding down, leaders of other congregations and parishioners expressed their sadness and gratitude in letters to the First Baptist. Cindy Sojourner, a former church member, wrote that she hopes the congregants find "new spiritual homes to nourish you up and lift you up," according to excerpts printed in the August edition of "The Spire," a First Baptist Church newsletter. Doug Donley, a pastor in Minneapolis, offered his thanks for the "impacts this great church has had in Palo Alto and across the world."

The process of closing has been "emotional," Mixon said.

"There's a whole range of feelings. We've had people for whom this congregation has been central to their lives for 60 years or more. To let that go is enormous," Mixon said.

Even so, people have accepted that closing the church is the rational thing to do, particularly in light of the report's conclusion. While the transition has inspired a wide range of feelings, including sadness and anger, there was also a wide sense of relief after the parish decided to start winding down the church's operations.

"People have been feeling the burden of trying to keep it going for some time," Mixon said.

Comments

apartment building
Professorville
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:02 am
apartment building, Professorville
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:02 am
51 people like this

This would be the perfect location for a low-income apartment building. Close walking distance to the California Ave business district and the train station and access to jobs up and down the peninsula. Lower rents will add some much needed diversity to this part of town. A high-rise apartment building could have parking on the ground floor. Or limit parking and encourage residents to walk and bike (good location on the Bryant Street bicycle boulevard) and use Caltrain.

I know the church was trying to become more of a community center, but a residential complex might fit better into the neighborhood.


Marc
Midtown
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:34 am
Marc, Midtown
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:34 am
24 people like this

Re: apartment building

Really? I think the local residents would be up in arms with any idea of affordable or dense housing in their neighborhood. You will see lawsuits and protests and endless arguments that it would ruin the neighborhood.

They don't even like the groups that rent space there.

It's more likely that a group of rich neighbors will buy the property and never let any development happen.

/marc


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:40 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:40 am
24 people like this

I would like to think that another church body could take over the premises and keep the building for the purpose it was designed for. There are many church bodies meeting in various locations all over town and would love to have a permanent home.

This should be shared with the various faith based communities in the area.


Alvin
Registered user
Professorville
on Oct 25, 2019 at 9:13 am
Alvin, Professorville
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 9:13 am
23 people like this

Great location to build a RV park, or convert the church and adjacent buildings on the land to apartment units with all the appropriate utility hook-ups and wifi and use the rest of the land for RV parking. It would relieve some of the congestion on El Camino and other major thoroughfares.

Owners make money, low income residents have housing and parking for their RVs, and the city benefits too. Win-win-win.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 10:06 am
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 10:06 am
42 people like this

While we're all imagining ideas that can't happen (ahem, R-1 zoning), why not just turn Gamble Garden into an RV park. It actually has better road access for RVs being right on Embarcadero.

I'm sure all you snarky Professorville folks would enjoy that.


WatchDog
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 10:57 am
WatchDog, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 10:57 am
25 people like this

Why exactly is a 25 person church giving $90,000 with the prospect of another $410,000 to this new Sympara organization which does not even have a physical church? I smell something very funny going on here. What exactly are they doing for this money? Where is this money going?

I hope the underlying zoning as a community center can be revisited upon a change in ownership.


Family Friendly
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 11:05 am
Family Friendly, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 11:05 am
19 people like this

@WatchDog:

Probably a tax dodge. My guess is that the church is trying to preserve the tax exempt status of the property in order to increase the value to a potential acquirer.


allen
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 11:21 am
allen, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 11:21 am
40 people like this

My Dad came to Palo Alto one summer with his Dad who was trading congregations with the local minister. My Grandfather was then minister for a summer at the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, which was in a different location. I was told that at the time the congregation was shrinking and in trouble. Sounds familiar. The story handed down to me was that my Grandfather got the congregation worked up to build a new church - one that would be an asset to the community with facilities for the community to use. It should have a basketball court for the kids to use. The congregation raised money and after quite a few years built the building discussed in this article. When I first told this story to someone from the church their face got big and they asked how did I know that building was a basketball court as only the church elders were allowed in there. I said my Dad told me. I exist because of this church. My Dad ended up working his way across the country to attend Stanford where he met my Mother. That was all because of the summer he spent here a few years before. I am sad to see it go. And to the neighbors who complained about it being a community center all I have to say is that it was before you moved there. It was built to serve the community and hopefully it will continue to do so.

I also agree the finances sound very odd.


Another Palo Alto church
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2019 at 11:25 am
Another Palo Alto church, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2019 at 11:25 am
14 people like this

If they are thinking about where to donate the funds, how about some of the other churches in Palo Alto that could really use help with upgrading their facilities so they can accommodate younger congregations? (And maybe be good places for the existing congregants to attend?)


Kim Martin
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 12:47 pm
Kim Martin, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 12:47 pm
22 people like this

It is suspicious and frustrating to hear about the planned church closure after listening to hours of opinion at City Council meetings about how despite being a small congregation, church representatives said it was working. I recall discussion where it was suggested that the church had only 14 congregants. I recall Mixon going on the record claiming having no plans to wind up the congregation and not having started any negotiations to that end....and all the families in support of retaining the iSing girls' choir program at that church while iSing was massively exceeding the capacity for the site. Didn't anyone see this coming? If so, can we be more honest about these types of deliberations next time?

I hope the Weekly takes this story back further into its timeline. Was the church in fact negotiating a sale when it was representing to the City that it was not? I hope the City learns from this experience. The CUP should have been granted with more restrictive conditions that it was. The CUP could have been voidable if the church were to wind up or sell its assets within a period of years, say 5 or even 10. Does the City reserve any right of first refusal on the property? It should.

Sadly, churches are exempt from so many types of informational and financial filings that we will probably never have transparency into the details of what has happened or will happen to this property and this particular church and the transfer of ownership. Yet another reason to not grant a CUP to a church without requiring things in exchange like financial statements, property and asset records, etc - things that would be in the public domain for other types of organizations.

I sincerely hope that the church, the City, and perhaps also the PAHS take steps to record and preserve the relevant history of the church and how it served Palo Alto through the years.

Before tearing down a church, or transferring its ownership to an organization on the opposite side of the country, it would appear to make sense to have a community process to determine whether relocating another place of worship from within Palo Alto would benefit both the community and that other church. If the City does not already have the authority to insert itself into that process, let's put something in place legislatively so that it can.

I hope the outcome here is one that brings the community closer together rather than tearing it apart, which the last round of discussions on this property appeared to do.


Brad
Fairmeadow
on Oct 25, 2019 at 12:50 pm
Brad, Fairmeadow
on Oct 25, 2019 at 12:50 pm
12 people like this

Realistically,
Another chance for a multibillionaire to come in and build a monstrosity. The city is so Bass Ackward. Money rules! And the residenbts complaining of music at 9:00 on Saturday. The Church didn't stand a chance against all of these entitled citizens of the richest place but morally bankrupt place in the world. And good luck getting low income or an RV park there. Sounds like a great idea......just not in my neighborhood.


Jim
Midtown
on Oct 25, 2019 at 2:10 pm
Jim, Midtown
on Oct 25, 2019 at 2:10 pm
7 people like this

Guess here is that the church will be sold and houses built on the site. That's what Palo Alto does. There was an old home across the street on the corner that sold for nearly $10 million a few years ago. Money talks the loudest in this city.


Eric
Professorville
on Oct 25, 2019 at 2:29 pm
Eric, Professorville
on Oct 25, 2019 at 2:29 pm
12 people like this

Thanks for sharing your memories of your grandfather and father and details of the history of the church, Allen.

And, Kim Martin, I agree. Great points!


Anon
Evergreen Park
on Oct 25, 2019 at 3:04 pm
Anon, Evergreen Park
on Oct 25, 2019 at 3:04 pm
16 people like this

A church with no congregation seeks a zone change to support their illegal commercial uses just before shuttering.....not much of a surprise


DSP
South of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2019 at 3:27 pm
DSP, South of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2019 at 3:27 pm
23 people like this

I, too, as a member of First Baptist,, have encouraged a sale to another church or non profit in the area. Unfortunately, only the long distance idea of “Sympara” was considered by the tired and easily led congregation.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 4:07 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 4:07 pm
19 people like this

I agree with Kim Martin that something isn't right here. My feeling all along is that Mixon has not been honest about the decision to sell the church property or when that decision was made. Even to the point that when neighbors ( I was one) met with a regional representative from First Baptist to discuss how the church would move forward, my gut feeling was that they knew all along the property was to be sold and already knew who the buyer was. The moderated get together seemed a sham, especially now after this new information has come to light.

Watchdog makes an excellent point about the advancement of funds to an organization that wants to "change the world" but has no physical location. It wouldn't hurt to look into this group and find out what they are all about.

It would be great for P.A. Daily to investigate this, but I doubt they will. They were pro community center conversion from the very beginning and didn't offer much support for neighbors of the church.

Daily Post might be more interested in taking this on.


Brad
Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2019 at 4:38 pm
Brad, Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2019 at 4:38 pm
8 people like this

All I have to say "HA HA HA" Welcome RV Park. Take that you multimillionaire entitled Lori Laughlins and Felicity Huffmans.


Gus L.
Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2019 at 5:03 pm
Gus L., Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2019 at 5:03 pm
4 people like this

[Post removed.]


Here are the facts
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 5:40 pm
Here are the facts, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 5:40 pm
17 people like this

The conditional use permit issued by the City of Palo Alto on May 14, 2018 expires "if a church ceases to exist at 305 N. California Avenue."

And even if the new occupant is a church, the conditional use permit must be renewed after 5 years, which is mid-May 2023.

The permit allows up to 5 counseling and psychotherapy offices, meetings and events sponsored or used by non-profit organizations, and rehearsals, programs and performances by non-profit musical groups, however it does not allow the dance classes and Persian language classes mentioned in the article.

So has the church admitted it has not been complying with the permit?


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:23 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:23 pm
32 people like this

Many churches in Palo Alto are flourishing. Mixon could not grow the church. He was a failure as a leader. The progressive liberal agenda he promoted didn't fly with the congregation. Prior to his arrival a young woman Pastor came in and the situation changed. Younger people, families with young kids, and it started to grow. She got recruited by the regional Baptist administration and after that it was "rent a pastor" until Mixon showed up. He failed to grow the congregation, brought in a gay activist assistant Pastor whose online posts were filled with foul language and hate for the aging congregation and got caught. Mixon hired him and denied knowledge of his online activity. He was exposed at the city council CUP meeting and shortly after that the church "decided" to fold.

He had an agenda that most didn't agree with.

Wrong leader. Period.


Alvin
Registered user
Professorville
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:08 pm
Alvin, Professorville
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:08 pm
Like this comment

@Me 2: The Church is closer to the California Ave. train station for all your future RV residents and an ideal location for Uber/Lyft pick-up and drop-off. And, unless you know something that I don't, Gamble Gardens (which is located in Old Palo Alto) isn't for sale.


Hulkamania
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:36 pm
Hulkamania, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:36 pm
25 people like this

Castilleja should buy it and use their garage money to open a second campus.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:41 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:41 pm
2 people like this

[Post removed.]


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:45 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:45 pm
2 people like this

@ Jim...that "old home" you refer to was torn down and a new home with basement was built. The "look" was kept the same but the square footage was more than doubled.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:51 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:51 pm
6 people like this

[Post removed.]


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:53 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:53 pm
5 people like this

@Alvin...maybe you can buy the property and fulfill your hateful pipe dream. C'mon you can do it.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:55 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:55 pm
6 people like this

@ Here are the facts...the church has been non-compliant since the day the CUP was granted.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:01 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:01 pm
4 people like this

[Post removed.]


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:03 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:03 pm
3 people like this

[Post removed.]


Oldster
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:48 pm
Oldster, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:48 pm
11 people like this

Is Mixon the one who sold the church's house in the back corner off-market to a child daycare owner who was his friend? I understand the sale did not require the daycare to give any preference to parishioners' children. When I heard about that sale from some older parishioners it seemed odd.

Interesting the church does not have a pre-set beneficiary for sale's proceeds and that the members plan to keep a large fund for future disbursement.

My best wishes to the last parishioners there. They are the ones who must decide what to do.


Alvin
Registered user
Professorville
on Oct 25, 2019 at 9:42 pm
Alvin, Professorville
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2019 at 9:42 pm
6 people like this

@What Will They Do Next. I'm thinking about buying and converting it to an RV Park & Inn if the city will allow a variance. The other Palo Alto property I wanted to buy, but wasn't for sale, was Town & Country Village. My dream for that location was to build the world's biggest Walmart Supercenter.


YSK
College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2019 at 9:47 pm
YSK, College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2019 at 9:47 pm
3 people like this

You know the billionaires are just drooling over the property hoping to make it into a pool house or guest cottage. You know, the whole compound mentality. It's about money money money...GREED


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2019 at 9:19 am
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 26, 2019 at 9:19 am
2 people like this

Alvin....can't wait for you to move in.


Gnar
Crescent Park

on Oct 26, 2019 at 12:40 pm
Name hidden, Crescent Park

on Oct 26, 2019 at 12:40 pm

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Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 27, 2019 at 8:00 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2019 at 8:00 am
6 people like this

Hilarious comments about an RV park at this location. What is concerning is that most religious organizations have a central administrative governance location which monitors and manages the over-laying costs of church locations. The Presbyterian Church main corporate office is in Kentucky due to great tax benefits in that state. That is where their head shed is. It is odd that the Baptist Church organization is not involved at the top level since this property has great value. Someone needs to investigate the corporate structure here and figure out why they are not involved with this sale of property.


Response to Resident1
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2019 at 2:46 pm
Response to Resident1, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2019 at 2:46 pm
7 people like this

American Baptist Churches, of which First Baptist is a member, believe in local autonomy, so each church is its own separate self-administering entity. The "head shed" for this region is near Seattle (Web Link ), but it has no control over the actions of the church other than to advise and consult and it can take action. First Baptist Church of Palo Alto is a California not-for-profit corporation. Its board of directors consists of several members of the congregation. The board has legal authority to sell the church, distribute the proceeds to one or more not-for-profit organizations including a foundation it can set up as a separate entity, and dissolve the corporation.


Recall now
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2019 at 2:47 pm
Recall now, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2019 at 2:47 pm
Like this comment

American Baptist Churches, of which First Baptist is a member, believe in local autonomy, so each church is its own separate self-administering entity. The "head shed" for this region is near Seattle (Web Link ), but it has no control over the actions of the church other than to advise and consult and it can't take action on its own. First Baptist Church of Palo Alto is a California not-for-profit corporation. Its board of directors consists of several members of the congregation. The board has legal authority to sell the church, distribute the proceeds to one or more not-for-profit organizations including a foundation it can set up as a separate entity, and dissolve the corporation.


Palo Alto Resident
Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2019 at 8:45 pm
Palo Alto Resident, Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2019 at 8:45 pm
16 people like this

I don't understand. They have an amazing location.
Why not merge with THRIVING Bay area churches that have an extremely vibrant young people population?

ECHO Church (formerly known as South Bay Church) often partners with various churches in the Bay area to make satellite churches. WHY NOT merge with them?

Menlo Church also does what ECHO Church does and merges with existing churches.

How many local bay area churches have this church considered to merge with and partner with?

WHy not try to sell to a local church?

When the Catholic church sold off various sites to pay for their sexual abuse lawsuits, they sold a prime location downtown Cambridge (near Harvard University) to a church. Even though multiple developers and other "religious" (but NON Christian organizations) offered to pay exorbitant sums for the land and building, the Catholic church refused to entertain their offers and went with the much LOWER offer of purchase by Vineyard Church.

They ended up selling the church to VINEYARD church and the building was renovated and a vibrant Christian community moved in. Sure the Catholic church could have sold the lands to the highest bidder.. but they chose their buyer to be a Christian fellowship.

To only entertain one potential merger and then back away (when there are MANY vibrant partnering local Christian churches in the Bay area).... and then ONLY try to sell to the North Carolina group seems really ODD.

More corruption? Maybe selling to a smoke and mirrors firm that buys this land for a wealthy single buyer under a hidden incorporated name or a land developer?

It would be a shame for this land to not continue to remain and be a place of Christian worship - what it has been for generations.

What a shame. A waste.


Response to Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2019 at 12:14 am
Response to Palo Alto Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 28, 2019 at 12:14 am
8 people like this

Great location but grossly inadequate parking. To be realistic, a successful church cannot expect its parishioners to walk or bike to church or take Uber/Lyft for regular services or other activities. They will drive to attend church activities so adequate parking will be required.

The First Baptist Church has only 11 parking spaces, several of which are allocated to the independently-owned and operated child care center that is next to the church and shares its parking lot. The occupancy rates of the church would require many more spaces if it were to get a CUP under the current rules.

The reason the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto was able to get a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for its current community center activities because it was in existence before there were parking rules, i.e. parking requirements were grandrathered.

Whether that grandfathering would apply to a new occupant of the property is an interesting question.

With the few exceptions of 3 or 4 churches located in or proximate to Downtown Palo Alto that also have very limited parking, most other Palo Alto churches have very large parking lots. For these churches, parking is not an issue. For the First Baptist Church property lack of enough on-site parking spaces that comply with current rules is a serious problem.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 28, 2019 at 6:16 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Oct 28, 2019 at 6:16 am
1 person likes this

Comments on parking respond to a different issue - the "city" asking churches to provide space for RV's and car dwellers. As you can see from comments above that is a ridiculous request - the church first has to respond to the members who come to church. If a church cannot respond to the members then it will go out of business.


Another idea
Charleston Meadows
on Oct 28, 2019 at 6:30 am
Another idea , Charleston Meadows
on Oct 28, 2019 at 6:30 am
10 people like this

There are ‘churches’ all over Silicon Valley in converted office buildings. The parking lots are full every Sunday. Too bad one of them cannot take over this space. Clearly organized religion not as out if fashion as you might think.


to Resident of Old Palo Alto
Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2019 at 10:29 am
to Resident of Old Palo Alto, Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2019 at 10:29 am
16 people like this

well why not just get rid of all the churches in Palo Alto that have grossly inadequate parking spaces? They daren't not park on the city streets. THOSE streets are EXCLUSIVELy reserved for the folks who live in the homes. Yup. Even for a few hours on Sunday.

While we're at it, lets get rid of all the parks in Palo Alto that have grossly inadequate parking spaces as well. How dare those folks park on the streets adjacent to the parks to use the public green spaces.

Oh. You like the parks but not the church? You think the parks add value to the your home value if you're adjacent to the green space, but not the church? Ah gotcha.

Don't live near the church if you don't want a vibrant Palo Alto community.
Next time move to Hillsborough (where are nothing but residential homes) or Atherton where there is tons of acreage.

Considering making Palo Alto thrive. Be giving. Life is larger than one's own little plot of land one lives on in Old Palo Alto.

Good grief.


Response to Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2019 at 1:42 pm
Response to Palo Alto Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 28, 2019 at 1:42 pm
8 people like this

Parking for religious services or religious education at First Baptist Church have never been bothersome to the church's neighbors, who often joked that the quietest day of the week at the church was Sunday.

The troublesome issue is the parking required for non-church "community center" activities. According to the Conditional Use Permit, parking is permitted when a community center activity is separated in time by at least 15 minutes from an organized religious service or religious education and falls within the hours of 10:30am to 8:30pm Monday through Thursday and 10am to 7:30pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Ancillary counseling and psychotherapy can start at 9:00am regardless of any religious services. The CUP grandfathers off-site parking for the church for non-church activities. According to the law, it can be argued that grandfathering the parking rules should only apply to the church's religious activities and not to other activities. However the City generously extended it to non-religious ones.

Parking related to the counseling services provided by psychologists and psychiatrists who rented office space at the church was never a problem, had no impact, and resulted in zero complaints.

The parking and traffic issues at First Baptist Church that troubled its neighbors were triggered by the church renting space to to the largest for-profit music school in the area, which had perhaps 20-30 teachers and hundreds of students. This is a very fine school but it is a business, unrelated to any religious activities at the church, that generated hundreds of car trips per week to a location that was not capable of handling it. The school had operated without a Conditional Use Permit for many years. When it applied for a CUP one could not be granted because City regulations did not permit a music school in an R-1 zone. The school was allowed to stay at the church until it could re-establish itself at a new facility, which it was able to do.

Many neighbors of the church have expressed the hope that the facility would remain as a church. It is a beautiful church that operated harmoniously with the neighborhood for more than 70 years. With some luck, the new owners can restore that harmony.


Christopher Chiang
Mountain View
on Oct 28, 2019 at 2:48 pm
Christopher Chiang, Mountain View
on Oct 28, 2019 at 2:48 pm
2 people like this

Not informed enough to have an opinion on the future of the First Baptist Church property, but the dignity and charity on how they are going about this, they are the model for all of us on how to be in life. They represent the very best of the our community, and I am sad for us to lose them. Thank you.


Jerry
Evergreen Park
on Oct 28, 2019 at 5:27 pm
Jerry, Evergreen Park
on Oct 28, 2019 at 5:27 pm
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[Post removed.]


Roxanne Reeves
Professorville
on Jan 1, 2020 at 10:52 am
Roxanne Reeves, Professorville
on Jan 1, 2020 at 10:52 am
Like this comment

Does anyone know if The Neighborhood Infant Toddler Center (little house behind the church) is on the property owned by the church? Will it be in jeopardy?


Roxanne Reeves
Professorville
on Jan 1, 2020 at 11:16 am
Roxanne Reeves, Professorville
on Jan 1, 2020 at 11:16 am
Like this comment

Does anyone know if The Neighborhood Infant Toddler Center (little house behind the church) is on the property owned by the church? Will it be in jeopardy? Also, here is the link to an article by Mr. Pryfogle, if you want to get a flavor of his intentions for the property. Basically, if you removed "Baptist" from what Rev. Mixon has been trying to do there, you would have Mr. Pryfogle's idea. Simply let the space evolve into something that will meet a need...space for non-profit, small group functions and/or housing. NITC is a long serving children's center and its function would blend nicely with this space. And the nieghbors, BTW, are not complaining about NITC, to my knowledge. Many of us have used it or been cared for at NITC. So, to argue that the neighbors will fight against any "pro-social" use of the space is shutting the door a little prematurely. Web Link


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