Plan to build San Martin mosque and cemetery clears major hurdle

SAN MARTIN, Calif. (KGO) -- A major victory for a small Muslim congregation that has spent two decades trying to build a new place to worship.

Tuesday night, county supervisors unanimously approved permits for the South Valley Islamic Community (SVIC) in San Martin, after multiple appeals and legal action from opponents.

"No matter how hard things get, and how frustrating it can be, if it's worth it to you, if it's important to you, you just keep fighting for it," said SVIC member Melinda Bush.

Some SVIC members have been harassed over the phone and have even received death threats.

"When you see any group or any American citizen and community member being targeted, it's in violation of what America was founded on, which is religious freedom," said SVIC member Noshaba Afzal.

Citing traffic and safety concerns, opponents say the 30,000 square foot project, which includes a mosque, community center, and Islamic cemetery, is just too big for rural San Martin. Some people are also worried about the impact on local groundwater.

"We feel that the size, scale, and intensity of the project really is more suited for an urban environment," said Stephen McHenry, interim president of the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance, one of two groups that previously filed appeals against the project. "We were painted as Islamophobes, white supremacists, etcetera... and while there were some comments on social media, those were not from our group."

The alliance says it's unlikely they'll sue to stop it, but will now focus on fighting a pair of proposed RV parks that the county is considering, including one that would be built right next to the mosque.

McHenry added, "We're really sorry that this had to become a divisive issue for the community, and now we just want to move forward with a more unified approach."

If all goes as planned, the SVIC hopes to break ground on the new Monterey Rd. campus in late 2020.
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