Planned church stirs controversy


The Board of Supervisors held a special meeting Tuesday to address the concerns of residents.

"I'm very upset that they would even get this far with it," said Carolyn Campbell, who opposes the Sufism Reoriented church's plans. "It's the wrong location for the wrong development."

The 350-member Sufism Reoriented church purchased its current building in 1974. Last fall the Contra Costa Planning Commission approved a new sanctuary for the church near its current location.

"I think a lot of people feel resistant to change and I think a lot of people have issues that are based on misinformation," said Cynthia Pastor, a Sufism Reoriented member.

According to church literature, Sufism Reoriented aims to work in harmony with other religions. Love and service to others are its core principals.

Two-thirds of the new 66,000-square-foot building would be underground, and the exposed 20,000 square feet would be shrouded in 168 trees and an extensive garden.

"The gardens will be open. It can only be a beautiful addition to the neighborhood," said Ellen Evans, a Sufism Reoriented member.

Yet some residents still have concerns.

"We already have a parking problem, really bad, and for something as big as Neiman Marcus moving in across the street from me, where 1,200-square-foot houses are, is just -- just ridiculous," said Marianne Byars, who is against the redevelopment.

Opponents of the new sanctuary have appealed the planning commission's earlier approval to the Board of Supervisors.

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