The city of San Leandro will pay a local church $2.3 million to settle a lawsuit filed in 2007 after Pastor Gary Mortara tried to move his congregation from Washington Manor to an industrial area zoned for making widgets, not prayers.
The settlement with the International Church of Foursquare Gospel, of the Faith Fellowship for short, ends a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and tested the power of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.
RLUIPA (pronounced ree-loopa) gave churches the benefit of the doubt when it came to zoning disputes with local authorities.
Last November a Wall Street Journal article highlighted the significance of the case in testing the balance between RLUIPA and zoning codes.
The newspaper predicted at the time that San Leandro could be on the hook for $4 million or more in damages and attorney's fees.
Other estimates put the city's potential liability as high as $20 million.
The $2.3 million settlement was announced Monday evening at a city council work session.
The payment will come from the city's self-insurance fund and reserve account, and the cty said sufficient money has been set aside to handle the obligation.
According to a city statement, San Leandro admitted no wrongdoing and preserved its zoning code.
The statement said the church dropped all claims against the city and pledged not to file another RLUIPA lawsuit against San Leandro as it continues to search for a new meeting hall subject to city's zoning ordinances.
Mayor Stephen Cassidy said the settlement "brings to an end costly and time-consuming litigation while preserving the sections of our zoning code that reserve land for industrial and commercial uses."
What do you think of the case and the settlement?