Questions about mosque project

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.

Susan Mister

‘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.

Karen Musa

President, South Valley Islamic Center

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Here it is straight from the County Planning Website as of 10:57am July 28, 2018 AND the Council on Green Burials:
    • Cemetery: The western 3.55 acres of the site has been reserved for an Islamic cemetery. The cemetery will use flat grave markers (no tombstones projecting above ground surface) to minimize visibility of the hillside alteration to views from beyond the site. The cemetery area will be terraced to provide a level surface for the graves and adjoining gravel pedestrian paths. These flat terraces will be separated by vegetated slopes as shown on the project plans. Each grave will have a 7.5-foot by 3-foot submerged vault.

    **NOTE LAST LINE: EACH GRAVE WILL HAVE A 7.5-FOOT BY 3-FOOT SUBMERGED VAULT. Apparently the Applicant wasn’t able to erase what they called “erroneous” vaults before trying to sell the “green” cemetery to the public. Seems there’s no transparency in the County or the Applicant.

    Even the Council on Green Burials agrees:

    From: Kate Kalanick

    Subject: Re: [your-subject]
    Date: December 9, 2016 at 10:46:11 AM PST

    Thank you for contacting the Green Burial Council. As you know we did cancel our appearance in support of the project due to them not meeting our criteria. This was based on the requirement that a cemetery not use cement vaults in their burials as we do not endorse masses of concrete being placed into the natural earth. The burial ground in your area to our knowledge is planning on some type of vault being placed into the ground. Contrary to popular belief burial vaults do not aid in the preservation of bodies nor in public health.

    Our basis for stating that cemeteries have not contaminated water is not only based on green burial sites but conventional cemeteries as well. There was a large study done by the World Health Organization that attests to this fact in addition to no reported incidents.

    If you have any further questions we are always here to help you understand our criteria and our position on green burial.
    Best,
    Kate

    Kate Kalanick, Executive Director
    Green Burial Council
    http://www.greenburialcouncil.org
    888-966-3330 x104

  2. Like many others, I’ve read the EIR and reviewed the information on the Cordoba Project. It’s clear the ‘Patriot’ members Susan Mister & Georgine (aka APIGCA44…who posted her real name on a post so it’s public knowledge now) & “Anonymous” have clear alternative motives to oppose this project: http://gilroydispatch.com/2012/08/13/mosque-opponents-target-the-evils-of-islam/
    They seem to be now desperately using outdated information as a last-ditch effort to create confusion and mislead. The Project Description that the Patriots provided is clearly dated January 2016, it doesn’t matter if it just downloaded “today”, the date remains the same. The Draft EIR is dated May 2018. One should logically evaluate the latest document, particularly when it’s a critical scientific study that forms the basis of all environment assessments about this project. The Draft EIR provides the Cordoba cemetery description in three different places: Sec 1.2.3 (P 1-2), Sec 3.3.3 (P 3-9), and Sec 3.3.5 (P 3-18). None of those descriptions include any cement vaults. Project scopes naturally evolve and its various elements are refined over time as it goes through an iterative process with the County Planning. It’s a very normal process, most projects and even home designs have changes and introduce refinements from the early architectural concepts to the final construction drawings. That does not imply something sinister about anyone’s motives. To the contrary, it shows that when someone finds room for improvement, they implement it…most would agree that’s a good thing! I’ve looked into to the earliest iterations of this project, it didn’t even have a cemetery back then. The cemetery was added to the subsequent iteration of the project as part of a need, and that’s where this is today. Not as mysterious as some want to mislead everyone to believe.

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