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Sweeney Ridge Equestrian Center may cease to be used by horse lovers. Adam Pardee / Tribune

Islesia Ni Cristo, also known as Church of Christ, is hoping to be the new owner of the stables at the end of Cape Breton Drive. The church filed an application with the Pacifica Planning Department to temporarily use the land at the Sweeney Ridge Equestrian Center as a church for six months, said Christian Murdock, senior planner.

The application was received at the end of September. The new permit will eventually go to the Planning Commission for review.

“We don’t have a permit yet. The applicant wants to apply for a permanent location for the church during that period,” Murdock said. “They contacted us as the purchaser of the property. The city has not been involved in the sale of the property.”

The current owner, Social Good Fund, Inc., purchased it in 2019, keeping it as a stable. The church would be using it for worship services five days a week, Murdock said.

“If this goes through, it may no longer be operated as a stable. People are concerned about that, which I understand. We’ve received letters about that,” Murdock said, adding that the city can regulate specific uses on the property.

Murdock said he didn’t know the purchase price or details about the property sale.

The land is home to two businesses – Sweeney Ridge Equestrian and California Riding Academy. Jessica Beyer Harrell owns the riding academy. She made an offer to Social Good Fund, Inc. to buy the property for $2.6 million, but the offer was rejected, she said.

The riding academy boards horses and employs horse trainers. Sierra Valencia lives on site and would be displaced if the stable could not continue. 

“I don’t want it to change. It’s such a nice place so close to the city,” she said.

Avery Allen said her grandmother rode there, indicating how long the place has been in existence as a stable. Many Pacificans remember “Frontier Days” and the annual rodeo.

Horse boarders said they would be disappointed if the stables could not continue. They love it because it has the only covered arena in the area. It’s a place for riding lessons to all ages. Equestrians say they are quiet and fit in well in the Park Pacifica neighborhood.

Harrell could be evicted as well, she said. She lives in a home on the property.

“I was born and grew up in the Bay Area with numerous stables around. Now they are nearly gone due to development. I fear Pacifica is the next casualty. What a crown jewel to this community. If this is not saved, we will then have all this population with nothing to do, from Pacifica to San Francisco and the entire upper peninsula. CRA proudly hosts a plethora of international clients from China, France, Japan, Spain, etc., cultures who value the horse and come to us for solace,” she said.

“We welcome all walks of life, because you also understand the importance of the horse in mankind’s history and the therapeutic value today of our beloved horse,” she said. 

Riding academy parents said they would be sad if the stable closed or shared space with the church.

“My heart aches to think of all that being shut down by a mega-church. I don’t think this is the right choice for Pacifica,” said Britta Narum.

“Pacifica is a city of gems, some more hidden than others. … I know the equestrian facility doesn’t impact every citizen of our lovely beach town but the ones that it does impact, it does so deeply.

“There are probably other places a church can set up, but far fewer facilities that can house the horses and everything they enable,” said Kelly Thompson.

Charlotte Allen’s daughter has taken lessons at Sweeney Ridge for almost 10 years. She cares for the horses and spends a lot of time at the stables. The whole family loves the peace and quiet there.

“If large groups are coming in and out or making noise, this can create distraction and grave danger for the horses and children riding them. As a parent, I am not comfortable with unaccounted strangers and adults entering the property. This space is zoned for equestrian. This is COVID-19,” she said. “This is one of the only outdoor spaces with few people I have allowed my child to be, with strict mask wearing protocol and attention to social distancing.

“Will this congregation do the same?” she asked.

Calls to an architect representing the church were not returned in time for this story.

This version corrects the current owner of the property.

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