Daly City church’s prayers answered

A long and bitter fight between the county Assessor’s Office and parishioners from a Daly City church concerning $64,000 in tax refunds came to an end Tuesday.

San Mateo County supervisors voted unanimously in favor of refunding the money for tax years 1999 and 2001 through 2003 to the Korean Central Presbyterian Church of San Francisco.

The church was inadvertently given a refund for the year 2000, but the Assessor’s Office did not seek repayment, citing the statute of limitations.

Tuesday’s vote rejected the long-held stance of Warren Slocum, the county’s tax assessor.

The now-sour relationship between the church and local government began in 1998, in the wake of a landslide that threatened seven homes in Avalon Canyon, as well as city property that sat adjacent to the church at 50 Northridge Drive.

When city construction crews needed access to the church’s property to make repairs to city land, church leaders agreed to enter into an agreement with Daly City.

As part of the agreement, Daly City would give the congregation $1.5 million in exchange for permission to demolish the church and set up shop on its property until repairs were completed, county counsel Michael Murphy said.

But the trouble came when the church lost its tax-exempt status for the four years the city was working on the site due to Slocum’s interpretation of the law.

“It’s the assessor’s position that the law says that during the time the city was working in the property, it wasn’t being used for religious purposes, so the exemption disappeared,” Murphy said.

Church leaders, however, said that the exemption should remain in place because they intended to rebuild after their obligation to the city was over.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, county supervisors were vehement in their support for the church.

“I can’t understand why we’re here today,” said Supervisor Jerry Hill. “It seems clear to me they deserve the exemption.”

Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, who was a Daly City council member when the landslide hit, said the church shouldn’t be punished for doing the city a favor.

“It seems unfair that we would be penalizing the church for doing something good for the city,” she said.

Attorney Lage Anderson, who represented the church in their claim against the county, lauded the supervisors for taking the time to understand the church’s position despite the fact that there wasn’t a huge amount of money at stake.

“The Board of Supervisors knew what the right answer was. I know the congregation will be pleased,” he said.

A bit of relief swept over the church on Tuesday afternoon as news of the settlement set in.

“This is good news,” Associate Pastor Jason So said. “Hopefully we can put this behind us now.”

tbarak@examiner.com

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