Wayfarers Chapel Is Coming Down

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Perched among redwoods on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Wayfarers Chapel has served as a spiritual home in coastal Los Angeles County for nearly 75 years.

The glass chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes was a popular spot for weddings, and it attracted photographers for its architecture, sprawling ocean views and manicured lawns. But it was closed in February because of severe damage from a landslide that city officials attributed to recent winter storms.

Chapel leaders said this week that the chapel, a national historic landmark, would be disassembled and stored until a new site could be found.

“We’re all devastated,” the Rev. Dan Burchett, the chapel’s executive director, said in a news conference. “We’ve been working feverishly to do what we can to save the chapel. But the landslide is looming, and it’s a tragedy felt by many.”

Officials hope to rebuild the chapel in a safe, stable spot, either on its current campus or on another plot in the city, said the mayor of Ranchos Palos Verdes, John Cruikshank. The project to disassemble and eventually rebuild the chapel is expected to take four years.

I recently visited Wayfarers, walking under a canopy of redwoods and pines as crashing waves echoed in the distance. Stone walkways were cracked and broken. About 15 of the chapel’s glass panels were shattered, and several structural beams were on a precarious slant.

The chapel, affiliated with the Swedenborgian Church of North America, was built in 1951 in Portuguese Bend, an area notorious for ground movement. City officials attribute the current instability to the 1950s, when work crews were grading land for a road at the top of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and triggered a long-dormant landslide. It’s been in motion ever since, spanning 675 acres and threatening hundreds of homes, city officials said.

When the chapel closed in February, more than 175 scheduled weddings and special events were canceled. Naomi White’s wedding was among them.

“Getting married there was something I had my heart set on for a long time,” said White, 28, who grew in the nearby community of San Pedro and had chosen a date in July. “There’s something about how the glass brings in light in such a gorgeous way. The chapel combines faith with nature, and being there is a spiritual experience.”

Some parts of the ground in the landslide area are moving more than nine inches a week, affecting an important highway as well as the chapel. The road is rapidly deteriorating, with new fissures and large cracks that slow traffic. City officials have allocated more than $14 million to install pumps that remove underground water, which contributes to the movement, and to repave broken roads.

“Everyone is feeling anxious and nervous,” Ara Mihranian, the city manager, told me. “It’s very important to be aggressive and do what we can immediately. For years we’ve been saying something imminent is going to happen.”

Although the ground is moving fairly quickly, residents have been told that a single cataclysmic landslide isn’t expected, Mihranian said.

But for Eva Albuja, who grew up on a street above Wayfarers and has lived in the area for more than four decades, it’s still unnerving to think that the landslide is creeping closer every day. The ceiling and walls of her house on the landslide’s southern edge are lined with cracks. Two neighbors have had their houses red-tagged as unsafe to occupy, and many more houses have structural damage.

“It’s been very hard,” Albuja told me, holding back tears.We don’t know what will happen.”



A pilot program with students from the California School of the Deaf in Riverside is teaching the children how to code, ABC 7 reports. The course, taught by instructors at California Baptist University, is eight hours long.

The students are taught coding by creating their own video games. Instructors are aided by American Sign Language interpreters, some of whom are students with the Center for Deaf Studies.

“The students will engage with their instructor but they’re engaging in another language,” said Phil Van Haaster, dean of California Baptists’ engineering college. “And in engineering, computer science is very much another language.”


Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Soumya Karlamangla, Halina Bennet, Briana Scalia and Jonathan Wolfe contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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