Click photo to enlarge
The Renewed Church in Oakley had undergone some changes including painting the outside with a green color, but got in trouble with the city because they didn't go through the appropriate approvals in Oakley, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLEY -- It seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time.

Renewed Life Church had undergone some organizational changes and now, with a new pastor and the desire to dissociate itself from the past, its leaders decided the old building could use a fresh look.

So it was that the tidy-looking house of worship with the bell tower that stood alone at the corner of Oakley's Main Street and Live Oak Avenue underwent a face-lift about a year ago, receiving a fresh coat of paint that transformed it from all-white to green with creamy white trim and brown accents.

There was nothing haphazard about Renewed Life's choice of colors -- church leaders had consulted a paint manufacturer to find out what hues historically had been used for Victorian-style buildings.

The primary color, accent and trim they chose came with whimsical names: "Grant Drab," "Trail Dust," and "Frontier Shingle."

The church originally was a school that was built in 1903, according to the East Contra Costa Historical Society.

The church discovered Kelly-Moore's "Historic Lifestyles of the West," a color palette that was used on buildings reflecting half a dozen architectural styles from bygone eras.

The efforts impressed Councilman Kevin Romick, who acknowledged them at a council meeting Tuesday even though he admitted he was "a little bit shocked" when he first saw the new color scheme. For decades, the building had been known as the "little white church" on Main Street, an iconic landmark whose image came to be closely associated with Oakley.

But long after the paint had dried, Renewed Life Church learned last spring that there was a problem: It hadn't received permission to make the change.

Oops.

The city requires owners of all nonresidential buildings -- churches included -- to obtain a thumbs-up from its employees or the City Council itself before they make any changes to the exterior.

That involves applying for a design review, which meant Renewed Life Church had to deposit a $2,538 fee from which the city deducts the actual cost of staff going over its beautification plans.

Scott LeBoeuf, a church elder and the painting contractor responsible for the building's appearance, said that the cost of going through the approval process together with the amount of paperwork involved is why it took until this week to obtain the city's blessing on the project.

"We're a small church. Money is always an issue," he said.

As to why the city would require a property owner to obtain its endorsement of a building modification after the fact, it's a matter of fairness to all the others who must do the same, said Nancy Marquez-Suarez, assistant to the city manager.

If Renewed Life Church hadn't corrected its zoning ordinance violation, it would have risked fines and the city denying permits that it might seek in the future, she said.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Reach her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.