San Martin, CA

Cordoba_Timeline.jpg
Mosque-Building-Elevations.pdf

Description

A documented account of Case No. CA_07, occurring in San Martin, CA, from August 2012 to present

Creator

Ammarah Ahmed

Proposed Project

The Cordoba Center project includes a 9,000 square-foot mosque, 14,500-square-foot community centre, 15,000-square-foot community plaza, 3,380-square-foot caretaker's building, and a 2000 square-foot cemetery. It is designed to be an eco-friendly project with heavy influence from Spanish-Andalusian architecture.

Outcome

Still pending: The South Valley Islamic Center is still waiting for the project approval from the Planning Commission

Narrative

South Valley Islamic Institution Present Masjid Proposal

The South Valley Islamic Community (SVIC) in San Martin, California had been gathering in a small sheep barn in San Martin to carry out religious activities like praying and providing children with Sunday school. The barn, which was loaned to the Muslim community in 2001 by a Vietnam War veteran for free, was only a little larger than 1,000 square feet and only contained a small air conditioning unit and carpet (Vo 2019, May 23). This was insufficient for the almost 100 Muslim American families that make up the Muslim community in the neighbourhood.

These situations encouraged SVIC to propose building a mosque, community center and Islamic cemetery in San Martin, named Cordoba Center, to better accommodate the growing community. The name was inspired by the Spanish city, Cordoba where Islam, Christianity and Judaism flourished together during the Dark Ages (Rodriguez 2012, August 21). The proposed project included a 5,000-square-foot prayer hall, multipurpose room and a 2-acre cemetery on a 16-acre property on Monterey Road (Rodriguez 2012, August 21). The project had been in planning by the South Valley Islamic Center since 2006 but was delayed until 2012 due to a lack of adequate funding.

Initial Acceptance of Project and Consequent Backlash

The project gained conditional approval from the Santa Clara County Commission on August 2nd, 2012 after five Santa Clara County supervisors unanimously voted in favour of building the mosque (Rodriguez 2012, September 26). After reviewing the capacity of the septic system, the Planning Commission decided to limit the facility to 80 regular attendees and a maximum of three single day events throughout the year for up to 150 people with extra porta-potties provided on those specific days (Santa Clara County 2012, September 27).

This conditional approval faced backlash from both the Muslim and non-Muslim community in San Martin. Whereas the SVIC and Muslim community were dissatisfied by the conditions imposed on the mosque to be built, the non-Muslim community in San Martin opposed the construction of the mosque and Islamic centre, citing environmental and traffic concerns as the main reason, despite the initial project being scaled down. However, another reason for this backlash to the project was the anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim sentiments in the town. The opposition to this project became clear at public meetings held in Morgan Hill where opponents of the mosque did not hide their disapproval and anti-Islamic sentiments (Muslim Center 2012, August 4). One group of opponents, Gilroy/Morgan Hill Patriots, argued that the Cordoba Center was not useful for the community because they believed that no Muslims were living in the San Martin community and that only Muslims coming in from outside the San Martin community would use the proposed mosque (Muslim Centre 2012, August 4). The opposition group invited a guest speaker, Peter Freidman, who manages an anti-Muslim website, to the Gilroy Library on August 18th, 2012 for a presentation on this matter (Rodriguez 2012, September 26).

Legal Actions and Consequence

The dissatisfaction from the two communities led to three appeals being filed against the Planning Commission’s decision to approve of the project. The People’s Coalition for Government Accountability and the San Martin Neighbourhood Association wanted to reverse the decision of the Planning Commission through their appeals (Santa Clara County 2012, September 27). The South Valley Islamic Center on the other hand, appealed to change some of the restrictions imposed on the Cordoba Center, requesting to expand one of the buildings and increase the number of events they could hold throughout the year (Rodriguez 2012, September 26).

The project received approval from the county Planning Commission after the appeals had been filed, allowing the Center to organize one additional event throughout the year (Santa Clara County 2012, September 27). This left the People’s Coalition for Government Accountability and the San Martin Neighbourhood Association disappointed. They felt that the project was too large for the rural area and that the water contamination from Muslim burial methods and traffic concerns had not been examined carefully. Although county officials argued that the planned mosque passed all the necessary tests, opponents continued their attempts to block the mosque. The opposition, along with the threat of legal actions against the Islamic Centre, led to the Islamic Center voluntarily withdrawing the project proposal.

Resubmission of Masjid Proposal and Current Status

In 2016, the South Valley Islamic Institution proposed the Cordoba Center project again for approval. The project, however, was almost triple the size of the previous project proposal, citing potential population growth and future requirements as the main reason. The new project, at the same site, includes a 9,000 square-foot mosque, 14,500-square-foot community center, 15,000-square-foot community plaza and 3,380-square-foot caretaker's building and a 2000 square-foot cemetery. The new facility would have a maximum capacity of 300 people for regular events and would organize four special events throughout the year for up to 500 people (Vo 2019, May 25). The group agreed to fund an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

The new project received further backlash from the San Martin community. Most people argued that the rural area was not adequate for this project. Previous reasons for opposing the proposal resurfaced again. Most people cited environmental concerns, particularly that of water contamination. Traditional Muslim methods of burial do not use a coffin or embalming. This led to concerns that the well water in the community would get polluted. The EIR suggested that the impact on groundwater would be alleviated if the mosque limited burial to 30 per year (Vo 2019, May 25). Others suggested that the Cordoba Center did not represent American culture and would spread Islam and terrorism in the community. Others believed the project was too large for the area, despite a Hindu Temple of 15,000 square-feet having gained approval for extension recently (Danish 2018, September 5). The Planning Commission requested a scaled-down version of the project for consideration. The project is mainly funded through donations and traditional loans. As of 2019, the Santa Clara County Planning Commission is predicted to meet in fall to deliberate the new proposal.

Last Updated

October 26, 2019

Collection

Citation

Ammarah Ahmed, “San Martin, CA,” U.S. Mosque Controversies, accessed September 27, 2021, https://usmc.ecdsomeka.org/items/show/9.

Output Formats