San Martin, CA

Mosque-Building-Elevations.pdf

Description

The Muslim community of the South Valley Islamic Center (SVIC) in San Martin seeks to build a mosque, community center, and cemetery because their current place of worship, a barn, is insufficient for the growing community. Despite gaining approval from the county Planning Commission, the group withdraws the project in response to a lawsuit filed by opposition groups. When SVIC resubmits the project in 2016, it again faces opposition from the community. The Board of Supervisors finally approves the project in December 2019.

Creator

Ammarah Ahmed

Year

2012

Proposed Project

The Cordoba Center project 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. The project is designed to be eco-friendly with heavy influence from Spanish-Andalusian architecture. The proposed cemetery covers 3.5 acres and has a maximum of 1,996 gravesites, with a limit of 30 burials annually.

Outcome

The South Valley Islamic Center received project approval in December 2019.

Narrative

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 American Muslim families that make up the Muslim community in the neighborhood.

These situations encouraged SVIC to propose building a mosque, community center, and cemetery in San Martin, named Cordoba Center, to better accommodate the growing community. The name was inspired by the Spanish city of 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 Subsequent Backlash
The project gained conditional approval from the Santa Clara County Commission on August 2, 2012, after five Santa Clara County supervisors unanimously voted in favor 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 upholds planning commission approval, 2012, September 27).

The conditional approval faced backlash from both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities in San Martin.  Whereas the SVIC and Muslim community were dissatisfied with the conditions imposed on the mosque to be built, members of the local non-Muslim community opposed the project citing environmental and traffic concerns as the main reason, despite the initial project being scaled down. Another reason for the backlash was the anti-Muslim sentiment 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 anti-Muslim sentiments (Muslim center approved for South County, 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 center approved for South County, 2012, August 4). The opposition group invited a guest speaker, Peter Freidman, who manages an anti-Muslim website, to the Gilroy Library on August 18, 2012, for a presentation (Rodriguez, 2012, September 26).

Legal Actions and Consequences
The dissatisfaction from the two communities led to three appeals being filed against the Planning Commission’s decision to approve 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 per year (Santa Clara County, 2012, September 27). Opponents of the People’s Coalition for Government Accountability and the San Martin Neighbourhood Association expressed 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 project passed all the necessary tests, opponents continued their attempts to block it. The opposition, along with the threat of legal actions against the Islamic Center, 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 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, included a 9,000-square-foot mosque, 14,500-square-foot community center, 15,000-square-foot community plaza, a 3,380-square-foot caretaker's building, and 3.5 acres for cemetery use. 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 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 Board of Supervisors finally approved the project in December 2019 (Vo, 2019, December 20). Fundraising for the project is ongoing. It is mainly funded through donations and traditional loans.

References

  • Danish, M. (2018, September 5). Mosque and community center planned in San Martin waiting for green light. KALW Local Public Radio. Retrieved from: https://www.kalw.org/post/mosque-and-community-center-planned-san-martin-waiting-green-light - stream. 
  • Muslim center approved for South County (2012, August 4). San Jose Interfaith Examiner (CA). Available from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current: https://infoweb-newsbank-com.proxy.library.emory.edu/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/14084C306C052658.
  • Rodriguez, J. (2012, August 21). Rural Mosque divides area: Muslims’ search for a home in South Santa Clara County sparks a clash over religion, politics and the environment. San Jose Mercury News (CA), p. 1A. Available from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current: https://infoweb-newsbank-com.proxy.library.emory.edu/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/140D1A3AA310CE80.
  • Rodriguez, J. (2012, September 26). Mosque OK’d in rural area- American Muslim group allowed a smaller building than it wanted. San Jose Mercury News (CA), p. 1B. Available from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current: https://infoweb-newsbank-com.proxy.library.emory.edu/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/1418F61BA277FD68. Muslim center approved for South County (2012, August 4). San Jose Interfaith Examiner (CA). Available from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current: https://infoweb-newsbank-com.proxy.library.emory.edu/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/14084C306C052658.
  • Santa Clara County Upholds Planning Commission Approval of the Cordoba Center Religious Facility (2012, September 27). Targeted News Service (USA). Available from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current: https://infoweb-newsbank-com.proxy.library.emory.edu/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/141911B5901347B8.
  • Vo, T. (2019, December 20). Mosque to rise amid new Islamic cemetery - Board of Supervisors unanimously approved permits for the project, which has been in the works for a decade. Mercury News, The (San Jose, CA), p. B1. Available from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current: https://infoweb-newsbank-com.proxy.library.emory.edu/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/177F75EABADF59A0.
  • Vo, T. (2019, May 25). Scaled-down San Martin mosque requested- Santa Clara County Planning Commission supports project but says it’s too large for rural community. Mercury News, The (San Jose, CA), p. 1B. Available from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current: https://infoweb-newsbank-com.proxy.library.emory.edu/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/173B80D40BC171F8.
  • Vo, T. (2019, May 23). Mosque/Cemetery Proposal stirs controversy in San Martin- size of Islamic Center project would ‘change the face’ of rural area, some residents say. East Bay Times (CA), p. 1A. Available from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current: https://infoweb-newsbank-com.proxy.library.emory.edu/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/173B7F7CC59058D0.

Last Updated

April 8, 2022

Collection

Citation

Ammarah Ahmed, “San Martin, CA,” U.S. Mosque Controversies, accessed August 7, 2022, https://usmc.ecdsomeka.org/items/show/9.

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