South Bay Mosque Proposal Heads to Planning Commission

A South Bay Islamic congregation that has worshipped in a converted barn for the past two decades has spent more than half that time planning and fundraising for a permanent place of worship. Tonight, that proposal to build a mosque, community center and cemetery in rural San Martin comes up for a key vote.

Santa Clara County staff has recommended that the planning commission approve the Cordoba Center proposed by the by the nonprofit South Valley Islamic Community.

The project has been in the works for 13 years and is now—despite vociferous opposition from a small, but organized contingent—has reached the final stages of approval.

The project has been fraught with controversy, with the South Valley Islamic Community having purchased the property and withdrawn two applications before the most recent version. The main concerns raised by critics have involved potential flooding, the proposed cemetery and inducing more traffic.

But some of the backlash has been xenophobic.

Members of the Islamic community at the meeting last week countered that approval of the project is a matter of religious freedom. Overall, staff recommended giving it the green light because the environmental impact report indicated that it would not have a significant effect if mitigation plans were put in place.

Sitting on nearly 16 acres, the project is also proposed to include a plaza, cemetery, maintenance building, caretaker’s dwelling, youth camp, playground and orchard. County staff told community members and a local neighborhood advisory committee that regularly scheduled events would not create congestion on San Martin streets. Staff said that when major events were held at the site, the South Valley Islamic Community would have to implement a valet or shuttle system to accommodate visitors’ cars.

“A traffic study was prepared by Fehr and Peers, dated April 2017, that evaluated potential traffic impacts from the project and the potential for the project to worsen traffic congestion affecting the surrounding area,” the report stated. “The project would only add vehicles representing less than 7 percent of the weekday peak hour volume on Monterey Road, and these added vehicles would be dispersed with some traveling to the north and some to the south.”

The cemetery, which would sit on 3.5 acres of the nearly 16-acre property, has worried residents who thought it would cause groundwater pollution. Clean water in San Martin has been an ongoing issue, with a vast perchlorate contamination in the early 2000s and numerous sewage system ruptures in recent years. To mitigate any possible effects, the groundwater and nitrate levels will be monitored, according to county staff.

Santa Clara County Planning Manager Rob Eastwood said in an earlier interview that planners had consulted with the regional water resource board when creating mitigation plans for the cemetery. There were no existing standards, so experts were hired “to go in and craft a very conservative standard.”

For the first five years, Eastwood said there will be a limit of 30 burial sites per year, with annual monitoring of groundwater quality.

The staff report also stated that flooding would not be an issue with the project. The Cordoba Center would neighbor Llagas Creek, as it would sit on the highest point in San Martin, it would not be at risk for flooding, according to the report.

To mitigate any possible flooding impacts, the county would require the South Valley Islamic Center to implement a variety of drainage systems that will be monitored.

“Proposed plans indicate that storm drainage will be adequately managed through the installation of drainage facilities onsite, including a proposed drainage retention pond with drainage inlets from the access driveway and parking lot, and grassy swales surrounding the proposed structures,” said the staff report. “The cemetery would be terraced along the contours of the hill slope and hydro-seeded with native grasses to prevent erosion. The cemetery has also been conditioned to require a drainage analysis, prior to the issuance of a grading permit, to ensure positive flow such that no ponding or saturation occurs in this area.”

Ultimately, the cemetery plans will also require approval by the Board of Supervisors.

4 Comments

  1. Oooh, southern Santa Clara County is such a hotbed of xenophobia! You guys are a bunch of clowns. You know that, right? I mean, you’re hacks, right? You couldn’t possibly be this stupid. The idea this piece is sincere, is too ridiculous to contemplate.

    • > The idea this piece is sincere, is too ridiculous to contemplate.

      I think I agree with this.

      This article and the underlying debate as presented here seems like total misdirection.

      The REAL issue is: what goes on in a mosque, and is it consistent and compatible with the norms of our society.

      Ultimately, it is a POLITICAL question, and no one wants to admit that they are opposing a rural, sixteen acre real estate development project for POLITICAL, MORAL, OR ETHICAL reasons.

      The simpleton narrative is that this is just a “religious” issue, and OUR CONSTITUTION — which progressives profess to revere every now and then — guarantees religious liberty.

      But wait just a minute!

      Islam has a long, long history and what it is and what it does is well known to humanity. It is apparently just not well known to Jacqueline McCool and Santa Clara County Planning Staff.

      Islam is much more than a religion. It is a civic order wrapped around a core of “transcendent” beliefs. While the Bill of Rights may tolerate Islam’s transcendent beliefs, it very definitely has things to say about the civic order that Islam presumes to impose on Americans in America, and everyone else in America protected by the Bill of Rights and the American ethical concept of human rights.

      Islam encompasses a vast swath of human society and undoubtedly reflects significant diversity as to beliefs, practices, and behaviors.

      The mere fact that an Islamic group wants to establish an operating religious/civic facility within the dominion of the American Republic and the Bill of Rights does not tell us enough as to whether such a facility should be automatically accepted and embraced with equanimity.

      America and Americans need to know: WHAT behaviors do the occupants of the facility expect to exhibit and expect to be tolerated by their neighbors and American society? The question is much larger than just zoning compliance, parking, and environmental testing.

      The questions are POLITICAL and LEGAL: Do the occupants and the visitors to the facility FULLY accept the civic and social norms of America and America’s understanding of American sovereignty and the primacy of American Rule of Law?

      Or, is the facility just going to be a staging area for a different civic order?

      Probably uncomfortable questions for conflict averse civil servants, but Americans would like some answers.

  2. I am offended by the suggestion that the residents of San Martin are Islamophobic. There may be a very small group of people who are, but to suggest that the only reason the Cordoba Project, as it is currently, is not supported by the residents here simply over religion is ludicrous. The problem we are having is with the size, scale and intensity of the current proposed project. In the currently plan, there will be times where there will be 300-500 worshipers there at a time. They only have plans for roughly 150 parking spots. Where will everyone else park? (Think Usegui’s pumpkin patch leading up to Halloween.) If they would reduce the size by 50% and drop the cemetery they would have more support from us. This is a tiny rural village with just over 7,000 residents. We just don’t have the infrastructure for the type of proposed developments we are seeing. Currently there are roughly 5 development projects proposed for our tiny village. Two of them are RV parks that could add over 300 new residences. Where will the children go to school. We do not have a mayor or a police department. Who will keep our village safe? Surely not the sherriff’s department. They get angry when residents call with issues. That is our reality, we have no voice so others can come along and do as they please, taking advantage of the rural nature of our village. Several projects in the past have been passed through the system only to go on and develop the land in ways that were not originally stated in their use permit request. The building across the street from my house is 2 times taller than what we were told it would be. Now the “barn” they erected as a business building completely blocks our view of the West, the mountain range and any view of the sunset. Nothing like being lied to, right. Sometimes it is easier to do as you wish then ask for forgiveness rather than get permission ahead of time, especially if they know it will not be welcomed by the community.

  3. These places are a pain.they will have non stop functions. It will destroy the tranquility of the area. I hope they don’t have the speaker when there is a call to prayers, five times a day. Not sure if any noise ordinance is valid.

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