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October 5 , 2007





Church gets tax refund; supes nix assessor's ruling



DALY CITY — The Korean Central Presbyterian Church probably figured it had enough of a challenge when landslides in 1998 forced the demolition of the Daly City parish.


But then the San Mateo County assessor's office added to the burden by taxing the church property for four years between 1999 and 2003 while it was being rebuilt, saying the land was no longer being used exclusively for religious purposes and therefore was not exempt from taxation.


On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously reversed the assessor's decision and issued the church a refund of $64,059, saying the church never should have been taxed during tax years 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003.


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


The county assessor's office said the church voided its nonprofit status because of a contract it had entered into with Daly City that allowed for the church's demolition.


The winter landslides in 1998 had destroyed a city-owned property next door to the church on Northridge Drive, requiring the city to come in and clean it up. To be able to perform the needed cleanup and repairs, the city offered the church $1.52 million and a 2,000-square-foot adjacent property in exchange for the right to demolish the church and remove dirt from the site, said County Counsel Mike Murphy. The church eventually secured a permit to construct a new church on its old site in January 2003, but the assessor taxed the site for every year except 2000, when the church was accidentally given an exemption.


California's constitution allows property or equipment used "exclusively for religious worship" to be exempt from taxation, but requires that status to be re-assessed each year.


Supervisors said the intent to rebuild the church was there in this case and that the property shouldn't have been taxed, and that the fundamental use of the site had not changed.


Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, who sat on the Daly City Council during those years, said the church was doing the city a favor by allowing it to remove dirt and try to repair the landslide damage.


"To me it would just seem unfair that we would be penalizing the church," Tissier said.


E-mail Shaun Bishop at