Two churches are fighting in court over the lease of a large church building in Mountain View, and a third church is tangled in the dispute.
On one side, there’s Vive Church, led by Pastor Adam Smallcombe. Vive has 10 locations, including two in Italy, five in the Bay Area and one in Palo Alto. Smallcombe says he wants to grow the church, and Vive purchased the 60,000-square-foot church building at 2440 Leghorn St. in September.
On the other side, there’s Abundant Life Christian Fellowship, which has leased the building at 2440 Leghorn St. since 2003. Gary Anderson is the pastor, and the church has about 500 congregants.
Vive is trying to evict Abundant Life, claiming Abundant Life broke the terms of the lease that Vive inherited.
Vive’s lawyer, eviction specialist Todd Rothbard, is also asking a judge to order Abundant Life to pay Vive $2,800 per day, every day after the lawsuit was filed on Dec. 3.
Vive claims that Abundant Life rented out the building without the landlord’s permission for $5,000 a month to Church of God Maranatha, a Spanish-speaking church that was meeting in a park.
Maranatha’s sublease expired in August, but their members have continued to use the building and pay Abundant Life monthly. They use the building at different times. In its lawsuit, Vive says that Abundant Life was deceitful about the arrangement, which constitutes an illegal sublease.
But Abundant Life’s attorney Kim Bomar pushed back in an interview yesterday. She said that Vive is using the sublease as an excuse to evict Abundant Life and take the building for its own service. Vive is acting un-Christian, she said.
“This shows that nobody is above incredible pride or selfishness or arrogance,” she said. “It can happen to anyone, and people may be blinded by self-righteousness — thinking they’re doing a good thing for God and their own church by stabbing their brother in the back.”
The money Maranatha pays to Abundant Life each month is a donation, not rent, and they could be asked to leave at any time, Bomar said. The arrangement is not a sublease, she said.
Archelle Funnie, the elder of business operations for Abundant Life, said issues began almost immediately afterafter Vive purchased the building. The two boards had a joint meeting after the property was sold, and one of Vive’s board members surprisingly said Abundant’s lease would be terminated, Funnie said.
Abundant Life’s board was shocked because their attorneys had reviewed the terms and found that they could stay until the lease ended, regardless of a change in ownership, Funnie said.
With Abundant Life fighting against any change in their lease, Vive started sending notices about issues with Abundant Life’s tenancy. Vive said contracts for landscaping, air conditioning and fire services weren’t satisfactory, and they told Abundant Life they’d be getting new contracts, Funnie said. Vive also said the roof was in shambles, while Abundant Life argued that was the landlord’s responsibility, Funnie said.
Eventually, Funnie said Vive found a technicality to get behind — the alleged Maranatha sublease.
“The reality is they’re just angry that they can’t force us out of the building,” he said.