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Saranap Neighbors Prep For Feb. 21 Sufi Hearing

County meeting is scheduled for Lesher Center to accommodate large crowd wanting to be heard on new Sufism Reoriented sanctuary.

The yellow SaveOurSaranap signs are sprouting on the lawns lining the winding streets of the residential neighborhood in unincorporated Walnut Creek.

That hearing is Tuesday, Feb. 21, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. To accommodate the number of expected attendees, the county Board of Supervisors has moved the meeting to the Hoffman Theater at the Lesher Center for the Arts, at Civic Drive and Locust Street.

Local freelance writer Wendy Lack has written a detailed look at Sufism and the controversy in Saranap, posted on the Halfway to Concord blog.

The church has been meeting in a temporary sanctuary for decades, according to the Sufi Reoriented website, and the new design will be one of the greenest buildings in Contra Costa County.  

The large new facility will harm aesthetics, traffic, and air and soil quality, neighbors have complained.

The Saranap Preservation Society has an online petition opposing the project.

michael frederick February 23, 2012 at 05:21 AM
Saranap Resident, As always, with pleasure. This was taken from Wendy Lack's Halfway to Concord article. I think it dovetails into the following, which you might also want to consider as it lends credence. For the first quarter century of operation here in Saranap, the group DID NOT apply for status as a religion. It was only after RUILPA was passed in 2000 that the group soon after applied for status as a religion and evolved into this in your face, we're not going to compromise, organization -- and, anyone who requests that we recognize impacts to neighbors is a NIMBY or a religious bigot... That's a good tactic to get something built, I suppose. It's probably not good -- should Sufi Joe Dacus be misleading on his assessment that 83% of people around this support it. Probably also not good if the Sufi's website opinion that "a few people will always oppose" understates the resentment that the zealous door-to-door, harrassing of county staff, Skaggs' RUILPA threats to supervisors, etc. tactics have inspired. They've inspired me away from neutrality. I've lived here for 50 years and know literally hundreds of people throughout Saranap. I recognize the 83% as garbage due to the fact we have zealous religious members disproportionately attending meetings. Conversely, I don't want to be the instrument of misinformation so, if you have something intelligent to set the record straight -- great. Does that square with your sequence of events?
Saranap Resident February 23, 2012 at 05:43 AM
Well - thanks for my answering my question. I recall that comment in Wendy Lack's article. I asked her as well about her source of information, and she didn't have one. It was something she heard. I was thinking you might have a source for the information that she didn't have. I guess not. Which brings me back to my first conclusion. It's a rumor. I think it's helpful to stick with the facts that we know to be true, as best we can. There are a lot of high emotions around this obviously, and strong opinions. That's to be expected. But I don't think it's a service to either side to make statements as fact, when we don't know them to be fact. It's pure speculation - and should be expressed that way. Just my opinion.
michael frederick February 23, 2012 at 05:58 AM
Saranap Resident, I agree with your "opinion." I presented this in context with other developments I'd appreciate your commenting on. Obviously, you are someone who has a stake sufficient to perform research. What about the "rumor" that religious status came on the heels of RUILPA, after twenty five years? Incidentally, that's what is nice about this format -- as opposed to fliers or other sources of info -- interaction, to try to get to something better. So, please share what you know about this part of the equation.
obiwan February 23, 2012 at 06:53 AM
I don't have a dog in this fight, but I've been following the conversation and I did look at that Wendy Lack article. It has a link to County documents for application DP003002 for an 11,000 sqft building for classes, services, etc and as a residence for the head of SR and a personal staff member. The documents include a letter from Principal Planner Debbie Chamberlain that states: "I would encourage you to review the proposed design and consider modifications that would reduce the visual bulk of the structure and conform the building to existing development in the area." The application was submitted in 2000 and withdrawn in 2002. The reasons for the withdrawal are not stated.
michael frederick February 23, 2012 at 07:28 AM
Obiwan, Thank you for establishing the facts, here. It is as I surmised. In 2002, the Sufis had a plan on the table for 11,000 sq ft above ground that staff concluded had too much "visual bulk." I'm awaiting confirmation from Saranap Resident on this but, RUILPA was passed in 2000 and Sufis applied for and received status as a religion in ~2002. I believe Wendy Lack's article addresses this also. In 2012, while threatening RUILPA litigation, they are back before the County to propose twice as much above ground "bulk" in the middle of a residential neighborhood. That's residential -- to the North, South, East, and West. Twice as much bulk in an obviously less appropriate location. What changed? RUILPA and religious status. The contention that RUILPA isn't driving the process seems ridiculous, to me. Absent RUILPA, this proposal would've been summarily discarded, in accordance with precedent. It is the location that bothers me tremendously. If this same proposal were made, for instance, where the storage facility is -- up against the freeway, across the street from a mortuary, with a pest control business and the back of a commercial complex as neighbors -- I doubt if anyone would care. As someone who did the development across the street from the proposed Sufi site, I'm disgusted by applicant presentations and County affirmations that these are the same neighborhood and similar sites. One doesn't need expertise to dispell this, just eyes.

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