Share Button

East County Performing Arts Center in talks with Rock Church

Union Tribune (2014-02-27) Karen Pearlman

This Page:
Media Link:
More Info: Church State Separation, Save ECPAC

East County Performing Arts Center in talks with Rock Church

By Karen Pearlman8:47 p.m.Feb. 27, 2014

The shuttered East County Performing Arts Center is in downtown El Cajon.
The shuttered East County Performing Arts Center is in downtown El Cajon. Karen Pearlman

EL CAJON — A representative from the giant Rock Church met last week with El Cajon City Manager Doug Williford about leasing space in the yet-to-reopen East County Performing Arts Center.

While details and dollar amounts were not divulged, El Cajon City Manager Doug Williford said that during his talk with Mark Stevens, a pastor at the Rock Church who is listed on the church’s website as its chief operating officer, the church expressed interest in leasing space on Sundays and other occasions for a five- to 10-year period.

“Although the discussions have only been preliminary, as a community-based organization, The Rock feels it would be a great tenant for these limited time periods,” said Mei Ling Starkey, a spokeswoman for the megachurch that has three San Diego County campuses, including one in El Cajon.

“The Rock would pay the city for use of the facility and would only be willing to undertake a lease with the backing of the community. Our intent to use the facility is only for the limited times and would not prevent other potential tenants from using the facility for their own purposes, as determined by the city of El Cajon.”

Several residents shared their concerns about the proposal at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, before the council, Williford, city attorney Morgan Foley and other city staff members met in closed session to discuss the proposal.

El Cajon resident Art Ballantyne told the council that “a proposed lease (with the Rock Church) would in my opinion detract from time available for actual performing arts activities.”

In reference to maintenance problems that were a reason the arts center shut down and which must be addressed before it reopens, Ballantyne said he hoped the city would concentrate on “the repair of leaking roof and leaking gutters... then contact an appropriate management company.”

He said he hoped the city would “continue to concentrate on the center as a performing arts facility.”

East County resident Ray Lutz, who formed the Save ECPAC group in 2012 to advise the city on ways it could open the center, told the council he thought negotiations with the church amounted to a “backroom deal.” Lutz said he felt the city was in violation of the state’s open meetings law by handling the talks about the city's interest in a deal with the church in closed session and that the city was improperly “engaged in a no-bid single-source negotiation with a specific church to use public property.”

Both notions were shot down by Foley.

Foley said the proposal from the church came to the city unsolicited. He also said that terms of a lease were going to be discussed and such negotiations are handled the same way regardless what organization wants to lease a piece of city property.

He said of any decisions made in closed sessions, “any negotiations will be vetted by the council and the public before we (deem) it appropriate to enter into any type of relationship.”

The council did as a whole agree with Lutz’s statement that “ECPAC should be reopened on a fast track for the benefit of everyone.”

Lutz charged that the Rock Church would attempt to win the right to manage the center, but Williford has made it clear that the city has no such interest.

Williford also said he was going to have staff members “craft a request for proposal to put into the marketplace” to see if there might be “similar such proposals for the city to consider” from other entities.

Williford also said that he wouldn’t “overpromise” on what would be offered at the center but that “the city’s goal to make use of the performing arts center for as good of public shows that we possibly can in the future.”

Before it closed in 2010, ECPAC offered concerts, plays, dance performances and more. It opened in 1977 and was initially operated by the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, then later transferred to the city of El Cajon for $1 in 1995. The city planned to reopen it in 2011, but safety issues stalled that plan.

Mayor Bill Wells noted that to reopen the venue, the city would need outside groups like the Rock Church to help pay for it.

“We have all heard that everybody wants us to open ECPAC,” Wells said. “That doesn’t happen by magic, it costs money. If a group wants to partner, that’s just prudent. If somebody makes us an offer, we have to listen.”

ECPAC could open later this year, but needs fire alarms, smoke detectors, roof repairs and upgrades that would make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. An October estimate shows costs for repairs plus architectural and other necessary fees to reopen ECPAC near $2.5 million.


Media Form edit

Title East County Performing Arts Center in talks with Rock Church
Publisher Union Tribune
Author Karen Pearlman
Pub Date 2014-02-27
Media Link
Embed HTML
Forum Link
Note Rock Church Ecpac Takeover
Keywords Church State Separation, Save ECPAC
Media Type Linked Article
Media Group News
Curator Rating Plain
Author Name Sortable
Thumbnail Link
Topic revision: r3 - 08 Sep 2014, RaymondLutz
This site is powered by FoswikiCopyright © by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
Ideas, requests, problems regarding Cops? Send feedback