Palisades Lutheran Church Buildings Reopen After Water Damage


All connected to Palisades Lutheran Church are breathing a collective sigh of relief now that construction is complete and it’s time to return to community volleyball games and encouraging prospective families to visit the preschool.

On September 9, PLC reopened its gym for an evening of community volleyball after a car and truck accident caused devastating water damage to the church last year.

On March 20, 2018, a driver entered the PLC property over a curb. It took 18 months “to repair the enormous damage done to the Luther Hall building … when the car and truck accident sheared off the fire hydrant at El Medio and Sunset last spring,” said parishioner Joanne Fife in an email to the Palisadian-Post.

People are still talking about the incredible amount of water that came out of a fire hydrant when a truck hit it, said Gerhard Pichel, PLC Council member and an architect.

“It caused a geyser that went 40 feet up in the air, it was huge,” Pichel said, “ … and it went up in the air for two hours.”

“The fire department said the problem was there was a street light next to it, and they were concerned that somebody could get electrocuted, so they had to go around it and they had to investigate where the nearest shut-off was,” Pichel continued.

“We learned that firefighter hoses don’t only spray water, but they can be used to sweep water away as well,” said Heather Wilken, STAR preschool cluster leader at PLC, about attempts to remove water from the gym as it poured in.

Insurance covered the asbestos removal and most of the damages.

Photo courtesy of Richard Wilken

“The final cost of the damages is still to be determined, but it’s well over $100,000,” said Rich Wilken, Church Council president and an architect. He added that the preschool also incurred a significant financial loss of approximately $100,000, due to children leaving the school.

“For a couple of hours before it could be stopped, everyone rallied to keep everyone safe and minimize the damage,” Pichel said, extending gratitude to LAFD and LAPD for their efforts.

After months of renovations, representatives from the church shared excitement to return to normalcy.

“We want the Palisades community to know that our community volleyball nights are back and people are welcome to come and play in our beautiful, newly restored gymnasium in Luther Hall,” Fife said. The games, open to all ages, start at 7:45 p.m. on Monday nights.

The STAR preschool has also returned to the Luther Hall building, Fife said.

“Now the fresh new start to the school year not only brings the completion of the repairs but the excitement of being able to enjoy all of our campuses, again,” Heather said.

She added that the preschool promoted consistent learning for the children during the changes.

“In addition to using our classrooms and amazing gym, we always utilize our playground area and middle courtyard to have outdoor classroom experiences as much as possible,” Heather added. “Moving around in our rotations to different environments during the day is consistent with children’s natural instincts to move and explore.”