The use permit will be for five years, but there will be a check-in with the Planning Commission in a year to see how the permit is working.
The weekly afternoon sessions, which are held at the former bank building at 900 Santa Cruz Ave., typically last no more than two hours. The sessions had been held unofficially, but recently the church was alerted that tenants at neighboring businesses had complained about the noise the students generated.
So the church administrators submitted a formal proposal for a use permit, and agreed to discontinue what was one of the major noise sources — basketball and sports in the parking lot behind the building. Previously, the building was used as a drive-through bank, but it was acquired by the church in 2010. It had been mainly used as an administrative building until the "Bank Hang" program was initiated.
Members of the public who were in attendance spoke favorably of the program. Susan Bird, co-founder of SafeSpace, a teen mental health operation in Menlo Park, said that her organization has surveyed teens and parents in the community, and one of the top five things respondents said they felt the community needed was more places for young teens to go after school.
Sheriene Saadati, whose children attend the program, said, "When you have kids who are healthy, you have a healthy community all-around."
Some, however, said that while the benefits of the program were uncontested, there have been real noise-related impacts to nearby businesses. Sam Wright, who said his family owns the three buildings immediately adjacent to the Bank Hang site, told the commission, "What the church is doing is a wonderful service to the community."
He added, "We have existing tenants and prospective tenants, both who are really just up in arms about the noise and disruption that are coming from right next door."
With the commission's decision, commissioners Drew Combs and Susan Goodhue made asides to youngsters in the audience, pointing out the democratic process.
"This is small-town democracy," Goodhue said.