Walnut Creek Community Voices Concern Over Sufi Center - NBC Bay Area

Walnut Creek Community Voices Concern Over Sufi Center

Neighbors complain that not enough parking and a unique design are not right for their neighborhood.



    Walnut Creek Community Voices Concern Over Sufi Center
    An artist rendering of what the building would look like once completed.

    The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Tuesday heard concerns from residents of an unincorporated Walnut Creek neighborhood surrounding the proposed site of a $20-million, 3-acre Sufism sanctuary.

    During the special meeting in Walnut Creek, attended by hundreds of area residents, the board heard from homeowners living near the proposed site of the "Sufism Reoriented" project in the 1300 block of Boulevard Way and from the project's directors.

    Those homeowners are appealing the county planning commission's recent decision to approve the religious sanctuary project's environmental impact report.

    The board is set to decide whether to approve the environmental impact report for the project, which includes a 66,000 square-foot building housing a 20,000 square-foot prayer hall, offices, library, classroom and performance space, according to a county staff report.

    Board members are considering whether to deny appeals from the Saranap Homeowners Organization and other area residents who say the project would overburden the neighborhood with additional traffic, noise and air pollution and out-of-place architecture.

    Since the proposed sanctuary would have just 74 parking spots for its roughly 375 members -- with a pledge that many will rely on alternative forms of transportation -- several residents Tuesday said they worry their streets will be used for overflow parking, especially during weddings and
    other major events.

    If approved as is, area homeowner Mark Redmond said the project "would set a dangerous precedent" for future large-scale projects that choose to offer minimal on-site parking.

    Another Saranap homeowner, Terrence Barnham, said the project will likely take longer to build than projected, creating noisy conditions for area residents for at least two years.

    Many of the homeowners who spoke in opposition to the current project said their appeals have nothing to do with accepting Sufism and are based on concerns that the sprawling site would be too big for the neighborhood.

    But Sufism Reoriented representatives told the board that county documents show the proposed new spiritual center has "unprecedented support" from surrounding residents, many of whom belong to the religious organization, which is now housed less than a mile from the proposed site.

    Bob Carpenter, the project's director, said the congregation needs a larger spiritual center and grounds in order to house all of the organization's religious activities on one site, following a key tenet of spiritual unity across the organization.