By William W. Abbott
Divine purposes are not a free pass from local zoning regulations. In County of Los Angeles v. Sahag-Mesrob Armenian Christian School (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 85, the Sahag-Mesrob Armenian Church owned two parcels zoned R-1, and on May 28, 2008, filed an application for a conditional use permit to operate an 800 student school. In September of the same year, the County received complaints that the school was operating in advance of the issuance of the conditional use permit. The County conducted an inspection, verified that the school was operating, and issued a Notice of Violation, giving the school 15 days to cease operation. Within this 15 day period, the Church applied for a “clean hands waiver” from the County, which would allow it to operate during the pendency of the use permit review and processing. The County denied the waiver request. The County then issued a final code enforcement order directing that the school cease operating within 15 days. This order was appealed and denied. Following subsequent verification that the school was still operating, the County filed a code enforcement action, and sought a preliminary injunction against the Church for operating the school illegally. The trial court granted the preliminary injunction and the church appealed.