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For several reasons, the Santora Building located in the Santa Ana Art District will not be turned into a place of worship when the prospective new owners, New Song Church take over. First of all, the building is registered with the National Historic Society, which means that there cannot be any structural changes inside or outside the building. None of the inside permanent walls can be removed or changed in any way. The angels and gargoyles on the face of the building must remain as well.
If New Song Church wants to have some sort of large gathering, the zoning laws will classify the church as an assembly, so it will be illegal. The Santora Building is a 75 year old building and cannot structurally hold more than fifty people in any one area.
Alicia Rojas, President of the United Artists of Santa Ana sees these restrictions as good things. She hopes that the findings will help ease tensions among the local artists in the area, some of whom have studios inside the historic building.
“I feel that today’s meeting with the City of Santa Ana Ad Hoc Committee was a positive thing. Twenty five percent of our concerns were addressed , so now we need to meet with Daid Gibbons, the Senior Pastor of New Song to discuss the remaining seventy five percent.”
Sandra Pocha Pena, another member of OASA, wants to see an economic impact study done by the city to discuss the value, including fostering tourism, that art brings to Santa Ana. She also wants to see artists get gallery space at the old train station a few blocks away. Pena wants the future owner, whoever that turns out to be, to address maintenance concerns. These including fixing the constant leaks, replacing burned out light bulbs, putting up emergency exit signs, and getting the elevator inspected; the permit expired in 2009. The current owner, Michael Harrah, was given $450,000 to maintain the building; its residents would like to know how that money was spent.
Long time artist Skeith De-Wine, who rents space inside the Santora, was not so positive about the possible sale. “What if this turns into a Christian art gallery? What’s going to stop him from moving in Christian artists when other artists move out? What if they decide to hand out Christian literature to customers and drive them away? What if the members of the church don’t like the artwork displayed in the studios? Do they have the power to censor artists?”
The concerns over Gibbons’s true intentions arose when locals found out accidently that a church was buying the property. Artists had not even known that the Santora was up for sale.
Last week, flyers were left on cars in the form of questionnaire. It consisited of a detailed list of practices that the church considered to be occult, including tarot cards, Reiki, Zen Buddism, and Yoga. After the person answering the questions turned in the form, he or she would be contacted by church members that are trained in healing those in need with prayer.
Individuals not belonging to the UASA plastered flyers around the Art District that asked “is Yoga a cult?”. This seemed to create more tension between New Song and the art community. In response, De-Wine said that he found white dove stickers, the symbol for New Song Church, around the Santora Building as well.
Rojas is working on meeting with representatives of New Song in the next few days to discuss other concerns from the resident artists. These include:
- getting an extended lease for those who are paying month to month
- ensuring that the showcase remains art related
- ensuring that there are no restrictions to the common area
- ensuring that the building remain open twenty-four hours a day
- ensuring that at least 80% of the studios remain dedicated to art.
Rojas is working to keep the peace between artists and New Song and has asked artists to give her until this Saturday before putting together any kind of protest for the next Art Walk, scheduled for June 2.