Santa Clara County hosted a special meeting on July 12 for public comment on the Cordoba Center Draft Environmental Impact Report. Many in the crowded room ignored the purpose of the meeting and voiced “feelings” about the applicant or project.
South Valley Islamic Center project manager Sal Akhter earlier had assured residents of the project’s regulations and safety compliance. He said the Cordoba cemetery would be “green,” or natural. One opponent of the project questioned him about the cemetery and the use of cement vaults over each grave, saying she got the information from the project’s website. Akhter assured the group that there were no cement vaults being used and that he was unaware of that information on any website.
On July 18, Advent Lutheran Church pastor Anita Warner welcomed the community to another discussion of the project. In the applicant’s own project description on the county’s website, it states “Each grave will have a 7.5-foot by 3-foot submerged vault.” A copy of the project description was passed around in an attempt to clear up the discrepancy. Akhter stated at the meeting, “We need to correct that.”
Transparency? Full disclosure? Discrepancies? Can an applicant in this county apply for a building permit, provide county planning with a project description, then change it whenever they feel like it? Why wasn’t the public notified? Why wasn’t the applicant forthcoming about the change? Is this a county error or an applicant error? Are we supposed to believe the applicant wasn’t aware of the cement vaults in the project description? It’s discrepancies like these that foster distrust in the community regarding new projects. What else aren’t they telling the public?
I also expect Santa Clara County to do due diligence with respect to transparency and compliance by submitting a complete environmental document to the state clearinghouse that would notify all agencies having a stake in this project.
As a last point, this correction needs to be made to the article in the July 20 local papers.
1) The article says Islamic community member Hambdy Abass believed the majority of comments were in support. Not true!! I counted each speaker and there was equal representation: 28 spoke in favor, 29 opposed.
2) Stating many of the comments reflected the continuing culture clash rather than the EIR is not true, except by those supporting the project. This comment is supported in the article where it states “concerns regarding the cemetery’s effect on San Martin residents’ water supplies were echoed by many attendees.”
This is not about race, religion or bigotry. This is about the location not being right for this large project. Previously, other applicants, including religious institutions, have had projects denied based on an Environmental Impact Report. If this paper had printed the full statement from Trina Hineser, San Martin Neighborhood Alliance, this would be apparent.
‘Less than significant’ with mitigation
I refer to the Times article “Opposition To Islamic Center Continues,” on July 20.
Your reporter did not cite the pertinent paragraph in full when she quoted the Draft Environmental Impact Report on the proposed Cordoba Project in San Martin as, “The potential effect on groundwater is not because of any specific toxicity [human remains] possess, but rather because of the potential for increasing the concentration of naturally occurring organic or inorganic substances to levels that would render the ground water unfit for potable supplies or other uses.”
Had she read further in the report, or even its much shorter summary, she would have noted the mitigations to remedy that potential issue. The pertinent paragraph in the full report states (Page 4.4-28): “Significance After Mitigation: . . . With implementation of mitigation measures 4.4-4, . . . that operation [meaning, the proposed burial] does not affect groundwater quality, this impact would be less than significant.”
The highlighting (bold fonts) of the phrase “less than significant” is in the Draft EIR.
The Cordoba Project would be less controversial if facts are clearly and fully stated. The media should not contribute to misinformation. Omitting key phrases has the same effect and perhaps the same intent as to mislead.
President, South Valley Islamic Center