On June 8, 2009 an initial hearing was held before the City of Lomita Planning Commission for the proposed redevelopment of the Islamic Center of South Bay (ICSB). Initial specifications for the redevelopment included a proposed sanctuary consisting of 2,370 square feet, a proposed building area of 16,851 square feet, and a proposed 74 additional parking spaces. During the meeting, the architect for the project, Shakil Patel, addressed residents’ concerns about the project, including “the location and height of the mosque windows, the traffic and noise issues” and “the distance between the buildings” (Planning Commission Notes 6/8). After commissioners asked Mr. Patel questions about the project, Commissioner Dever suggested that the project be continued and that residents have an opportunity to voice their opinions about the project. Initial public reactions were not positive. Residents were primarily concerned over the additional noise and traffic that the project would create. On July 1 and August 12 of 2009, two community meetings were held so that the Islamic Center of South Bay could revise their initial project. These revisions were brought before the Planning Commission in a meeting on September 14, 2009. In this meeting, the Planning Commission voted 4-3 in favor of recommending the project for approval. Residents continued to express their concerns about the project leading up to the city council meeting.
On March 2, 2010, after a five-hour hearing, the Lomita City Council unanimously voted to reject the proposed redevelopment. Some of the project’s supporters alleged that religion played an important role in the decision. City Councilman Tim King contended that the decision was based on the structure’s location and the coding changes that would have been required (KPCC, 2010). Importantly, the rejection of the redevelopment allowed for the Islamic Center of South Bay to come back with another plan (”Lomita Stops Mosque Expansion,” KPCC, 2010). On November 18, 2011, the United States Department of Justice announced that it had begun a formal civil rights investigation over the rejection of the proposed redevelopment. Officials stated that the investigation was triggered after DOJ officials had read reports of the mosque’s denial (Green, 2011). While the DOJ investigation was still ongoing, the Islamic Center of South Bay on March 21, 2012 filed a lawsuit against the City of Lomita, seeking “damages and reimbursement for costs incurred during a planning process that has lasted more than three years” (Flaccus, 2012). To date, we have been unable to find the original lawsuit filed.
On January 11, 2013, it was announced that the City of Lomita had reached a conditional settlement with the Islamic Center of South Bay. “The agreement [allowed] the Islamic Center of South Bay to reapply to complete the expansions. It also [called] for the city to process the new application promptly and to waive application fees, with a caveat that if the new application is denied again, the lawsuit may resume” (“Islamic Center Reaches Settlement,” KPCC, 2013). On March 8, 2013, the DOJ filed a complaint and agreed order against Lomita, alleging that Lomita violated RLUIPA by creating a substantial burden for ICSB community members to practice their religion in their denial of the redevelopment. The agreed order affirmed the city’s settlement with the ICSB and mandated certain record-keeping and training requirements for city officials. On September 9, 2013, the Planning Commission discussed the ICSB’s new application. After a long public hearing, the Planning Commission voted 4-0 in favor of the redevelopment. On October 7, 2013, the City Council reviewed the new application, which contained changes such as a 7,000 square-foot increase in the site’s size after the purchase of a new lot and 20 more parking spaces (Green, 2013). The project was approved in the meeting by a unanimous vote. Construction was underway by 2014 and today the Islamic Center of South Bay’s redevelopment plans appear to have been completed and the site is operational.