‘It’s wrong’: Catholics testify on clinic issueSeptember 11th, 2013 By Valerie Schmalz
Catholics crowded the South San Francisco City Council chambers to oppose a Planned Parenthood clinic, but even the impassioned speech of a 13-year-old St. Augustine parishioner did not sway the majority.
“People who know the truth will know this is really a death center in camouflage,” said Jeremy Perlas, 13.
“I pray you guys make the right decision,” said San Francisco State University student Vivian Abellana, former student body president of College of San Mateo, telling the council members at the Aug. 28 meeting “you know it is wrong.”
Following three hours of testimony, the city council voted 3-2 to uphold the planning commission decision granting the conditional use permit for a Planned Parenthood medical clinic at 435 Grand Ave.
A conditional use permit is required for building uses that are not directly addressed by the existing zoning regulations. South San Francisco zoning code requires a conditional use permit for a storefront medical clinic on that section of Grand Avenue, according to a staff report.
A group of four All Souls parishioners, also known as Respect Life South San Francisco, filed an appeal to the city council to overturn the May 2 planning commission approval. Their next step will be legal action to block the clinic, a petition for writ of mandate to be filed in San Mateo Superior Court by month’s end, said attorney Gregory Weiler.
Rosa Gomez, one of the four, said 220 letters, 2,513 signatures on petitions, and “many emails” were sent to the council.
“This is something objectionable to our residents,” All Souls pastor Father Agnel de Heredia told the council. “Do not vote for political expediency.”
“I believe the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion,” said Jaime Gonzalez, holding a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe as he spoke.
“Ultimately, the taking of human life is unacceptable,” 45-year St. Veronica parishioner Mary Beaudry told the council. She was one of a several dozen Catholics from parishes in the city and surrounding area who spoke.
In contrast, two of the three councilmen who voted for the clinic cited their Catholic faith.
“While my Catholic upbringing does tell me the taking of a life in any form is wrong, and that resonates greatly within me,” Councilman Mark A. Addiego said, he accepted the city planners and city attorney’s argument that the permit should only address land use and not the effect of the storefront clinic on the neighborhood – including ongoing protests on the sidewalk outside the clinic.
Another medical facility in the city offers abortion to those who can pay, Addiego said: “I can’t stand in judgment of others.”
Councilman Richard Garbarino voted for the Planned Parenthood clinic. He said he had discussed the issue with his “confessor,” who told him, he related ‘You have to do what you’re going to do.’ “I have to uphold the law whether I like it or not,” said Garbarino, the only one of the five council members whose term continues past November.
“I won’t stand in judgment of people who choose to use their services,” Garbarino said. Also voting for the clinic was councilman Dr. Pradeep Gupta.
Voting for the appeal, Mayor Pedro Gonzalez said the clinic was not in accord with the general plan for the downtown area and he disagreed with the city’s waiver of an environmental impact report, a requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act.
Mayor pro tem Karyl Matsumoto, the second vote against the clinic, said she supported Planned Parenthood but did not want the clinic on Grand Avenue.
Shortcutting the environmental review was unlawful, Weiler said, adding “guards or cameras or crowd control or provide more parking spaces” were all items that needed to be analyzed.
Those testifying in opposition included members of All Souls, St. Veronica’s, St. Augustine, St. Bruno’s, and as far south as St. Gregory’s parish in San Mateo. A rabbi presented a letter in support of the clinic and an Episcopalian minister said her religion supported Planned Parenthood’s services for its outreach to the poor. Board members of Planned Parenthood and a handful of South San Francisco residents spoke in favor of the clinic, as did people from other parts of San Mateo County.
The All Souls parishioners who filed the appeal were Gomez, Vera Priego, Rolando Delgadillo and Teresita Valido.
From September 13, 2013 issue of Catholic San Francisco.
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