A Walnut Creek-based Sufi congregation is facing community opposition to its plans for a new complex. Sufism Reoriented’s proposal calls for a 66,000 square-foot facility including a worship hall, classrooms, a cafe, a bookstore and a chorus rehearsal room. But some residents say the facility, which would be bigger than Hearst Castle or the White House, would cause traffic and parking problems.

Robert Carpenter, sanctuary project manager with Sufism Reoriented
Wayne Fettig, president of the Saranap Homeowners Organization, which is opposing the project

  • Gabrielle Cavagnaro, Ph.D.

    I whole-heartedly support the idea of this beautiful building coming to the East Bay. It will not only transform the surrounding neighborhood, but will be a source of architectual pride for the entire Bay Area.

    • Guest

      The building belongs somewere else. We don’t want the neighborhood TRANSFORMED. Build homes on the land or leave it alone. The neighborhood wants to remain guiet and to enjoy the oak trees. This building does not belong in Saranap!

    • Carolb

      So perhaps you would like it to be constructed right next to your home so that yours can also be transformed?

      This inappropriate real estate development is incompatible with the majority of historic Saranap Area’s homes.  Family homes which will face further development encroachment and erosion of R10 zoning boundaries thanks to Sufism Reoriented’s single minded pursuit of a development project inconsistent with neighborhood size and scope.

  • Mani Sheriar

    I have been following this story very closely. I am so hoping that I can look forward to welcoming this beautiful building and gardens into my neighborhood. That part of Saranap is just absolutely dismal! It needs a facelift … badly.

    • Guest

      Build new homes, not this the HUGE building. Keep the trees and keep the neighborhood a neighborhood.

      • Blforma

         This building is not going to change the neighborhood.  It is not being plopped down in the middle of Saranap.  It’s on the edge.  The neighborhood will remain a neighborhood.  The only difference will be there will finally be a green area ‘park-like’ area where people can actually walk and sit and enjoy nature.

        • Carolb

          Construction of this building requires consumption of several existing single family homes, moving the “edge” deeper into the center of Saranap Area.  That would be a change.  An uninvited, undesirable, and unwelcome change.  We like our single family home edge exactly where it is.  

          A small group of people with access to deep pockets has decided to alter neighborhood boundaries to suit their own purposes only – under threat of lawsuits. 

          • Guest2

             There are three houses on the property, one of which is empty and uninhabitable.  That hardly qualifies as ‘several.”

    • Carolb

      Bulldozing family homes and destroying old growth trees, including precious Saranap Area oaks, so that a massive complex can be constructed is called a facelift?

      This real estate development project intends to serve a group of a few hundred people only yet impacts the entire community consisting of thousands of residents – whose concerns of size and impact have been largely unaddressed.

  • Benjamin Wells

    Alan Ritchie’s design of the proposed Sufism Reoriented sanctuary promises to be harmonious with the setting, and with the aid of landscaping designed by the SWA Group (think CalAcad Living Roof) it will provide a great enhancement to a neighborhood that could use some beauty.  Below-grade construction is seen at the Lick-Wilmerding addition and in USF’s Center for Science and Innovation, currently taking shape.  The Walnut Creek project is certainly innovative, but it shares elements with many other delightful buildings–there is no science fiction here.

    • Guest

      Not in this neighborhood. It doesn’t fit.

  • Imfran

    At a guess, the real objections to it are because it’s not “white and christian” –

    • Guest

      WRONG! It has to do with the size of the project. Not religion!!!!!!!!!

      • oh really?  Here’s some quotes from the Planning Commission meeting, give or take a word:

        1) It’s a spaceship
        2) It’s a mosque
        3) They’ll be teaching the Koran
        4) it’s an underground bunker
        5) it’s not as though it’s got a cross or a steeple

        and then many people clapped

    • Carolb

      It’s about digging a 2-story hole in the ground on a sloped property across the street from houses that sit on a 30 foot embankment down to a creek with decades of flooding and erosion problems.

      It’s about bulldozing existing single family homes and old growth trees in a residential area to plop down a massive 3-story building next to and in the middle of single family homes. 

      Office building, theatre, church, football stadium – who cares!

  • David_Dacus

    I hope, among the many green features of the building, you discuss the Traffic Demand Management Plan (TDMP) that is a cornerstone of encouraged vehicular traffic reducing measures in the county. Contra Costa 511, the county program that helps with these, has remarked that it could be a model for such programs. It is odd that opponents suggest there will be traffic problems, yet this program has been modeled for four years by the congregation already for their worship services. It makes one think that traffic is actually not their concern, but something else.

    • Guest

      It’s about size and the look of the building – it doesn’t fit in the neighborhood. Scale it down.

  • Thea Montandon

    This project has been carried out with the utmost consideration for the neighbors, which has always been the way of this group. Two-thirds of the members of Sufism have been living and working in this same neighborhood for over thirty years, and the majority of the residents fully support the Sancturary. The list of built-in design elements reducing the environmental impact of the project during building, and supporting the local infrastructure after completion, is exhaustive. This can only be seen as a beautiful and amazing addition to our city, and model example of a green building.

    • Guest

      It does not fit in the neighborhood. Environmental impact?? What about tree removal, what about digging a huge hole in the earth? What about the flooding problems this will cause the homes on the downslope of this builing? The building does not fit into the neighborhood. Why paint it white? It only makes it more noticeable and does not fit in. I don’t see how this could REDUCE environmental impact. Really??

    • Carolb

      Most of Saranap Area’s residents don’t support this project. 

      Sufism Reoriented stuffed support petitions with signatures of people who don’t live in Saranap Area, non-residents of Contra Costa County, some even out of state.  At the same time frequently claiming “majority community support”.  This tactic is where the ~85% support number you keep hearing comes from.  People who don’t vote in CCC, don’t live in CCC, don’t live in Saranap Area.

      When you don’t tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, you are lying. 

      What else has Sufism Reoriented lied about in pursuit of this real estate development?

      • Jerry Carlin

        That is not true. Wayne Fettig, President of S.O.S., during the broadcast did not dispute the statement about the 85% level of support in the area. He acknowledged it was correct. His point was that many of those who live close by are Sufis and support the project. That is certainly true. Sufis have as much right to be in favor of the project as you have to be opposed.  And the fact that so many Sufis live so close by is one of the important reasons for the location of the new sanctuary.

        So it seems you have an issue with Wayne’s remarks but that’s between you and him.

        • Carolb

          We looked at the public record containing petitions signed by all these community “supporters”.   Most are not Saranap Area residents.  Below are some of the places they listed as home.  Claiming broad community support is simply a lie.  I don’t have an issue with religious preference, but I do have an issue with neighbors lying to neighbors, to the media, to elected officials, in order to get something they want.  Shame on Sufism Reoriented.


          Pleasant Hill


          El Cerrito

          New York


          Washington, D.C.






          •  well, obviously they were not used in the statistics about within 300 feet then, now were they?

  • Rachel Dacus

    Why is the building that will be underground of concern to those who won’t even be able to see it? You can’t “loom over the neighborhood” from under the earth. The visible building will be no larger than the existing
    structure Sufism Reoriented now uses, which is just a few hundred feet
    away, and to which no neighbor has ever objected, as far as I know.

    • Carolb

      Precedent setting size: 66,000 square feet on 3.5 acres – once one massive structure gets approval in a residential neighborhood, the next real estate developer who comes along with an incompatible project has a much easier argument to make, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one.   Sufism Reoriented doesn’t seem to care at all about future impact to Saranap Area’s neighborhood of >2,000 single family homes, several of which will be bulldozed to make way for this project.  

      •  yeah, and guess who owns those rather dilapidated and/or out of code (due to a non-sufi) homes? The Sufis. It is their property; they get to bulldoze on their property; end of story.

        • Carolb

          I, and most neighbors I’ve spoken with would have no objection to replacing single family homes with single family homes as any homeowner is entitled to do.  It is the merging of single family home lots into a mega complex that is a problem. 

          No other homeowners in Saranap Area or Contra Costa County are allowed to buy adjoining properties then erect a single building incompatible with existing homes.  Most of us live within and respect the R10 zoning intent of this neighborhood. 

          Sufism Reoriented threatens a hardship lawsuit if they can’t construct a 3-story building, while actually enjoying land use rights individual owners are unable to access.  

          •  For the last dinkin’ time, churches ARE PERMITTED IN R-10.

          • Carolb

            Permitted or not, most of Saranap Area neighbors respect and live within the intent of R10 zoning for single family homes rather than purchasing adjoining single family properties with a hidden agenda of merging them and altering the entire neighborhood forever to suit a small minority steamrollering over the concerns of their neighbors and lying about community support.

            Pigs are permitted to fly, that doesn’t mean they should try it. 

          •  pandering bull puckey

          • Carolb

            @ Tom Newsom
            “pandering bull puckey”

            Good to know I’ve been promoted from bigot to panderer.

  • Kayla Miller

    I read something in the comments of one of the news articles online about this project that really stayed with me, so I’m going to quote it here.  In response to a claim that members of Sufism Reoriented couldn’t even cite one example of bigotry, someone responded:

    “The Sufis do not need to cite one example of religious bigotry, as many
    can be easily witnessed by simply watching a video of any of the public
    hearings. You will hear our sanctuary repeatedly referred to as a
    mosque, a bunker, and an underground compound. You will see people
    express their fear for their children, who live near us. You will hear
    musings on what we might be up to with our secret underground meetings,
    even implying that we may be terrorists. You will hear about our secret
    Sufi agenda to push out all non-Sufis and take over the entire
    neighborhood. You will hear the name of our group and the name of our
    spiritual teacher repeatedly mispronounced and misspoken, even though
    the opposition has heard them said correctly time and again for years
    now. You will hear our integrity and our motives as a group repeatedly
    questioned and even ridiculed. You will hear our our spiritual symbol –
    the white dome – mocked and denigrated. You will hear assertions that
    we are creating some sort of national headquarters, or even a convention
    center. A quick trip around the web articles written about our project
    will quickly show that we have been referred to innumerable times in
    the comments as a cult, and even as freaks and zealots. What if we were
    Christian, or Buddhist, or Jewish? How would these comments sound in
    that light? How can you say that we experience no religious bigotry?”

    I watched the discussion after that because I was curious to see the response.  That response included the following:

    “The fact that people mischaracterize your religion because, frankly, no
    one gives a rat’s behind about studying a 300 member group is the
    opposite of bigotry — it is INDIFFERENCE. You only wish people cared
    enough to express bigotry.”

    The opposition may or may not have some legitimate reasons to fight this project – I’m not educated about all the codes enough to know, nor have I followed closely enough to understand.  However, I have watched and read enough to be aware that many – perhaps not all – but many in the opposition seem to support the kind of negative and prejudiced statements cited.  In fact, when I watched one of the county hearings online I saw them actually clapping enthusiastically after such statements.

    • Guest

      The people in the neighborhood feel lied to. It really is not about religion. It is all about the size of the project. Most of the people in the neighborhood (not Sufi) just want the project scaled down. It does not fit the neighborhood. Keep in mind that a lot of the Sufi’s that have commented on this project do not own homes in the neighborhood. Statistics keep being put out there about how many homeowners are in favor of this project. Not true.

      • Mani Sheriar

        I am a homeowner in the neighborhood. 🙂

        What about the instances cited above (easy for all to see for themselves in the videos on the county website)? No one from the opposition seems willing to either condem or even acknowledge these commonly heard statements.


        • kfrances

          Not true.  Watch the tapes.  There are legitimite concerns about the size and scope of this project.  Calling people bigots is a bullying way to shut people down.  
          You can’t just do anything in the name of religion.

          • Blforma

             You are still not addressing the fact that some people at those hearings openly gave bigoted and inflammatory statements about Sufism Reoriented.  I was at every hearing.  Perhaps you should be the one to watch the tapes?

          • David_Dacus

             …they will never address it Blforma, because it doesn’t suit their purpose to try and defend the un-defendable. They can bury their heads in the sand and pretend that in dozens of awful letters and emails, and public testimony (on video), horrible things were said about the Sufis…vicious lies, and it is as if it never happened for these people!

        • Carolb

          some people have exercised their right to free speech by speaking. 
          Sufism Reoriented wants to exercise their right to practice religion by
          constructing a mega facility in a residential neighborhood. 

          Trying to focus on religion is a diversionary tactic. 

          The people who have made the most statements of intolerance are those who support this monster building, they keep the intolerance alive and in the present through constant repetition, care, and feeding that specter of bigotry which most of the neighborhood doesn’t agree with. 

          You are what you name.

          Let’s get back on topic : inappropriate real estate development in a residential area.

      • David_Dacus

         I think Guest is misinformed. There is a high degree of home ownership, advanced education, and professional careers among this group. They contribute to their community, and they contribute with taxes of every kind: property, local, state, and federal. They also give of their time in generous ways in support of the Saranap community through a toy and clothing exchange, neighbors helping neighbors actions, CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams), The Meher School and White Pony Pre-school, and in a new program for those seeking employment in this difficult economic time we all struggle through. It is a red herring to say these people are not home owners, and part of the distinction drawn by the Saranap Homeowners Organization (that requires a home ownership litmus test) over the Saranap Community Association that accepts home owners, duplex owners, condo owners, 2nd unit owners/renters, apartment dwellers, businesses, and those who work or have an interest in the Saranap community we all love. Who is being exclusionary and who is being inclusive?

    • Carolb

      Yes, some people have exercised their right to free speech by speaking.  Sufism Reoriented wants to exercise their right to practice religion by constructing a mega facility in a residential neighborhood. 
      Trying to focus on religion is a distraction attempt. 

      Just to return to the topic of the real estate development:  

      Whether it’s a football stadium or a church or an office building, a 66,000 square foot facility does not belong in a residential neighborhood primarily consisting of single family homes.  

  • Guest

    Why Rachel? Because 35 feet of it will be ABOVE ground and YOU WILL SEE IT. That’s why. Because all the oak trees will be removed. That’s why you WILL SEE IT.

    • AmyKeala

      Please remember that most of the building will be below ground and cannot be seen.  Any building that the Sufi’s build above ground will be seen, that cannot be avoided.  I am always amazed when people express how it will overshadow the neighborhood when it actually is on the edge of the very tired looking  commercial part of Boulevard Way, not in the middle of the residential area.  It will certainly be a beautiful improvement to what is currently seen on Blvd. Way.  The size of the building that you will see is about the same size of the building that is there now.  Over one hundred trees will be planted, beautiful gardens will be planted.  We cannot control the design of our neighbors houses and churches and sometimes we may not like what we see.  I think that in the end, residents will see a beautifully landscaped center of worship, and after the landscaping matures they may just mostly see trees.  They can choose to see this with an eye of with criticism, bitterness and contempt or with an eye of appreciation for the values, service, integrity and many contributions that the Sufi’s contribute to the community.  What the white (a soft shade) domes represent to the Sufi’s, the Divine, eternity, unity, purity, love and service, can also be a reminder of these wonderful ideals to any who drive by or live nearby for those who choose to see.  Please allow this wonderful congregation to build their place of worship in peace.

      • Carolb

        Whether two of the three stories of this massive building are below ground or not, it is unprecedented in size and scope. 

        A massive 3-story building does not belong in a residential area of mostly single story single family homes and will likely be pointed to by all future real estate developers like Sufism Reoriented as an example and a precedent to be followed in Saranap Area.  Thank a lot for contributing to the community.

  • Guest

    Stop playing the religion card! It’s not about religion. The Sufi’s have been in the neighborhood for years. It has nothing to do with religion. Get over it. It has to do with the SIZE OF THE PROJECT. The size of this building does not belong in the neighborhood. Does anyone get this?

    • Really, not about religion? Not about dehumanizing a religious order?

      First, here’s some quotes from the Planning Commission meeting, give or take a word:

      1) It’s a spaceship
      2) It’s a mosque
      3) They’ll be teaching the Koran
      4) it’s an underground bunker
      5) it’s not as though it’s got a cross or a steeple

      Second, here’s a review of what was on the Save Our Saranap site in March 2009:

      “…It is inferred that Sufis are “little children” and repeatedly
      inferred to as “little devils”. People linking religious group with the
      word “devil” is just not funny and implies a lot of bigotry. In
      an allegory of the Wizard of Oz, the Sufis are referred to as deceitful
      “Wizards”, as in “Hiding behind their cloak of “community good-deeds”,
      the Wizards are pulling the levers of deceit again”

      AND further, the Sufis are referred to as “flying monkeys”. If you
      recall, the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz attack Dorothy’s group
      and take them by force to an evil witch.

      Since the allegory made on the site is so complete, I believe calling
      the Sufis “flying monkeys” is a not very veiled attempt to infer that
      SOS thinks Dr. Conner is an evil witch – and honestly, I simply can not
      believe a group of adults would think making such an reference is an ok
      thing to do when arguing over what should be built on a church site.

      SOS also stated that:

      “Sufism Reoriented is asking us to suspend reality and make-believe”

      “Sufism Reoriented leaders have bombarded neighbors with press
      releases, expensive newsletters, neighborhood meetings and one-on-one
      visits full of misinformation and misrepresentations.”

      “Yet since first announcing its building plans, the childlike deviousness of Sufism Reoriented leadership continues into the holiday season.”

      SOS also calls the SCA board a “new hand-picked SCA-Sufi Board” when in fact that simply was not what happened there.

  • Jerry Carlin

    It should be noted that every new and innovative project is attacked. It seems to be a law. One classic example is the Golden Gate Bridge. The details are different but I think that those who like the design should be heartened by the complaints about aesthetics since the Golden Gate Bridge was described as follows:

    Critics attacked Strauss’ engineering abilities, and described his
    initial design as “an upside-down rat trap.” Still more criticism came
    from residents who did not wish to disturb the aesthetic beauty of the

    • Guest

      The Golden Gate Bridge isn’t in a neighborhood!!!!!!! Scale the building down.

  • K.Hughs

    1.  SIZE of the building.  The Sufi’s have always been welcome in the community.  ALWAYS.  It’s been a harmonious neighborhood. The Sufi leaders said it is in their core belief that the size be 66K sq. ft. What if they said 300K sq. ft. ?  The fact they won’t compromise is really not fair.  This is a small neighborhood with really nice people.  They should compromise, we always have.2.  CHURCH ? Meher Baba specifically said he did not want to start a new religion, The Sufi’s changed their tax status in 2003 to become a tax – exempt church.  SUFI’s are CONFLICTED about project.  (There is a letter on the CCCounty Planning Website from a Sufi that says many Sufi’s don’t even want this huge structure and they’re sad about what it’s done to the neighborhood)   They were TOLD to support it.  That’s not right. 

    • Jerry Carlin

      That statement is false. I am a Sufi and no one has told us to support anything. It was presented to us in the same way that it’s been presented to the public. We have been totally free react to the project as we chose. Quite frankly, the longer I’ve studied the project the more in love with it I have become. I do wish that more attention would be paid by those who have issues to the beautiful gardens that will surround the building and provide a wonderful atmosphere to the neighborhood.

      I know from personal experience how terribly cramped the current environment is. There was one person who did almost nothing but draw up complex schedules for use of the meeting room as a rehearsal space because that one room had to accommodate the chorus, actors, videotaping and worship services all of which were going on at the same time.

      I have to personally walk between three different spaces in the existing building to make DVDs because there is no one space to put the DVD copier, the machine that prints labels and the computer that holds the database of videos.

      Computers have been put in very odd locations including taking up space on an electrical repair workbench because there is no adequate office space.

      There is no space for properly preserving the fragile film and videos we own.

      I could go on and on but those are real world examples of why adequate space is needed and there are many more.

      About religion: You are misreading what Meher Baba wrote about religion. There is a distinction between a religion in the legal sense as determined by American law and a religion as Meher Baba used that word. As wikipedia put it:

      Meher Baba designed Sufism Reoriented as a universal spiritual school
      which recognizes a central core of divine love at the heart of all
      spiritual systems. Meher Baba reorganized patterns of life and inner
      training associated with ancient Sufism and adapted them to the needs of
      spiritual students in contemporary America. He identified the central
      principles of Sufism Reoriented as love and service: active love for God
      and active service to others in God’s world.

      So, yes, by American law Sufism Reoriented is a religion. By another perspective, it’s a spiritual school where the curriculum involves putting love for God into active service in the world.

      • Carolb

        A two-story dig on a slope across from a street full of houses which sit
        above a creek is inappropriate and inconsiderate of neighbors past,
        present, and future. 

        Maybe with all the space you will have you can make lots of copies of the soil engineering report on DVDs and use them to shore up all the erosion problems your neighbors will be dealing with.

  • kfrances

    Three Issues:
    1.  SIZE of the building.  The Sufi’s have always been welcome in the community.  ALWAYS.  It’s been a harmonious neighborhood. The Sufi leaders said it is in their core belief that the size be 66K sq. ft. What if they said 300K sq. ft. ?  The fact they won’t compromise is really not fair.  This is a small neighborhood.2.  CHURCH ? Meher Baba specifically said he did not want to start a new religion, The Sufi’s changed their tax status in 2003 to become a tax – exempt church.Prior to that time they were a non-profit.  SUFI’s are CONFLICTED about project.  (There is a letter on the CCCounty Planning Website from a Sufi says many Sufi’s don’t even want this huge structure and they’re sad about what it’s done to the neighborhood)   They were told to support it.

    • Mani Sheriar

      Can we get a link to that letter, please? Thank you.

  • Larry

    I’d be willing to bet money that the people who oppose this project also believe in the Neoconservatives’  conspiracy theory about Muslims perpetrating 9/11, even though there is a mountain of evidence and simply laws of physics showing very clearly that it was an inside job — a false flag attack.

  • kfrances

    That’s not fair

  • kfrances

    It’s about a 66 sq. ft. building with no willingness to compromise

    • Jane

      Isn’t building the majority of it underground a compromise..?

      • Carolb

        No.  It is still a 3-story, 66,000 square foot building in a residential area consisting primarily of 1-story single family homes – several of which will be destroyed by this project. 

        Real Estate Developer – 1
        Residential Neighborhood – 0

  • kfrances

    That’s 66 thousand square foot building

  • k.w

    It seems that the visual appearance of this new building will be much less domineering than the average neighborhood church.

    • Carolb

      Perhaps.  Not really relevant to the size issue, though. 

      Domineering or not, this building is incompatible with the size and character of the Saranap Area neighborhood.  It is oversized for a residential neighborhood filled mostly with single family homes who have respected the primarily R10 zoning.

      •  disagree – I think it is fine to be built where they want to build it and I live here too.

    • David_Dacus

       As someone who is a consultant in design and planning, I find the building’s round shape very appealing. Because of the curves, the building recedes–in every direction–away from the viewer. The same with the domes that are graduated in three sizes, shallow in form (like the dome on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC), they too recede away from the viewer. The fact that the building is round and the domes circling it are symmetrical means they recede from EVERY vantage point from which one might see the building. The decorative wall will screen the lower portion and provide some relief to the garden from passing street traffic on the arterial (Boulevard Way), and the 168 trees added will enhance the beauty of the street scape on a poorly maintained bend in the road with improved sight-lines for added safety.

      • Carolb

        Yes, and if it were to be constructed on, say, 10 or more acres near buildings of similar scope and size rather than ~3 acres of small single family homes – it would be just about perfect.  Unfortunately, this design is oversize and too dense for the surrounding neighborhood.

  • kfrances

    1. Size – Sufi’s will not compromise.  Not right.
    2. Became a church in 2003 to ram this through.
    3. Sufi’s forced to support it internally against their will.

    • Design

      I can assure you we are not “forced” to do anything against our will. How absurd!

      • kfrances

        Not absurd – It’s right on a public document on the Contra Costa County Website.  The Sufi’s were TOLD to support it – not absurd.

        •  Ms./Mr. Frances: Let’s assume you are correct for just a second (and I am not sure you at all are) – I can say this because I have known the Sufis for about 30 years: if a Sufi does not wish to take the advice of their leadership, they are free to leave.

          • kfrances
          •  that’s not the link to whatever letter you were referring to – that’s a link to the appeals package – how ignoble of you

          • kfrances

            The Contra Costa Website Planning Dept. posted the letter in July 2011 – that is the link to the CCCounty Website that posted the letter. 

          •  I’ll need a little more specific information to find it, thanks

          • kfrances

            I can’t find it.  There were letters (pdfs) in support and opposed going back months and months. The only letters I can find now are for this month?  There were also many signatures in columns from Sufi members who pledged to walk to the Sanctuary which I can’t find now.  The letter is an anonymous letter so there is no way to prove the validity of where it came from technically anyways, but it sounded very sincere and it sounded like a Sufi member who was not happy, and was told to support the project.  That’s all I can tell you.  They must have archived the older letters? It was from July 2011 – I don’t know…there’s many letters to the Planning Dept. on both sides of the issue…but now I only see Feb. letters.

          • Guest2

             An anonymous letter?  Now there’s a credible source of information.  That could have come from ANYBODY.

          • kfrances
          • Hi Kfrances – I think you know what the problem is with that letter: it’s anonymous, and so we have no way of knowing if it really was written and sent in by a Sufi or if someone who is strongly opposed penned it to suggest that there is internal discord in the order (especially since the things it says are specifically what people who are opposed say, and they have said them here today, almost verbatim)

            That said, thanks for taking the trouble to find it.

          • Jerry Carlin

             I certainly commend you for your dedication to finding the letter. Let’s assume the letter is genuine. There’s no proof who wrote the letter, of course, but there are some important points that are true no matter who wrote the letter.

            And if the letter is genuine, I would not think less of the person who wrote it. Honesty is one of the absolute bedrocks of a spiritual life and anyone who is honest with themselves and others has my admiration and support.

            But an important point is this: If you were to carefully read the letter there was a statement that Sufis were ASKED to support the building NOT TOLD to support it just as the neighbors were asked to support the building. No one was required to sign a letter of support.

            I signed the support letter because I wholeheartedly believe that this a design which embodies my wish to manifest beauty as a means of worshipping God.

            I could probably write a very long article about the significance of the curvilinear form and the color white, but that’s beyond the scope of a blog posting. But just one comment: consider the color white. God’s dove is pictured as white for a very important spiritual reason.  And the new building is white for that very same reason.

          • kfrances

            You are right – asked vs. told. vs. forced have very different meanings.  I guess the tone makes me think he or she didn’t feel they had a choice to not support it – but we all have free will.  I hope there is a peaceful resolution.

          • Jerry Carlin

             I think it’s quite natural. If you’re with a group of 10 friends and all of them are very excited about something and you’re not, you’d probably feel very uncomfortable speaking up. It’s perfectly understandable to me.

            And, this might sound strange, but I’m grateful to you and some others for your challenges. Because you’ve caused me to be more reflective about my perspective than I would have otherwise. Socrates wrote “An unexamined life is not worth living.” You have helped me examine my life and what I believe in. So, thank you.

    • Carolb

      Agree that the lack of any attempt at compromise is wrong. 

      The Sufism Reoriented concept of “unity” appears to be internal only, while disregarding concerns of neighbors about this supersized real estate development.   

  • Patrick

    Why is it we always hear concerns about non-Christian churches such as in the case of the New Yorks Islamic center or this center?

    • Carolb

      You are hearing concerns about a real estate development : size and scope.  It’s about a massive building inappropriate in a residential neighborhood.

      Think of a 66,000 square foot building on 3.5 acres, next to houses ranging from maybe ~1,000 – 2,000 square feet.  Some of it’s underground?  Who cares?  It’s too big for Saranap Area.
      Think old growth trees destroyed forever.  It’s about the building.

  • Jen

    Would it be better to put a multi-apartment complex or other form of condensed living project warranted by Agenda 21 in this neighborhood instead?  I certainly think not.  More traffic would be generated by just one additional apartment block in this neighborhood than this group could ever generate.  

    • Carolb

      If it’s a 66,000 square foot apartment complex, it would face the same opposition for the same reasons : inappropriate size, erosion of single family home boundary, development encroachment into a residential area.  

      Bulldozing single family homes and old growth trees to make way for an oversize building is wrong.

      •  it’s not wrong, it’s called progress.

        • Carolb

          Smells more like de-evolution or regression – back to some older way of doing things where a small minority holding some resources bullied their way into decisions impacting the majority.  18th century sounds about right. 

      • David_Dacus

        Although I support the sanctuary project, I wanted to thank Carolb for the true statement about the trees. It is the first time in about four years of following this projects trajectory through the approval process, that someone has NOT referred to the trees as heritage trees! There are NO heritage trees on the site, and I’m personally grateful for that distinction to be made. As it is, there are about 6-7 large trees on the site, but the 58 trees removed will be replaced by nearly 170 new trees that will veil the building in about 3-5 years. The insidiousness of the reference to heritage trees was made palpable when one of the supervisors referred to heritage trees in a staff question. The FEIR points out this distinction correctly. Thanks to KQED for this very balanced view on this important issue in my neighborhood.

        • Carolb

          Old growth, old, heritage – I doubt the existing trees the Sufis want to bulldoze and grind up in their Sufi wood chippers care which term is used to name them.

          Yeah, just slap some new trees in, no harm no foul, got your point loud and clear.

          What a pity the Sufi sense of unity doesn’t extend to respect for and stewardship of all living things.

          •  comments like that seem to me to be pandering

          • David_Dacus

            I’m the chair of the Application Review Committee of the Saranap Community Association (and a board member). The SCA receives tree removal applications from the county to review, and we are offered the chance to respond. The last four applications we received were for an average number of trees removed per lot of MORE TREES than those being removed per lot on the Sufi site. Three of those 4 lots were on Warren Road near the site, and one was on Whyte Park at the corner of Boulevard Way. If the “neighbors” were so concerned about tree removal, why were these tree removal permit requests on other nearby lots (with higher per lot totals) not objected to by the Saranap Homeowners Organization or Save Our Saranap (both have the same PO BOX address….they are quite transparently one and the same)? I think this suggest it isn’t about the trees at all! It is about stopping the Sufis. Otherwise, they would have objected to the ZA’s tentative approval of granting these removal permits. We are also sent the appeals. We received none. The SHO also receives these tree removal requests. Why did they not object?

          • Carolb

            Objections to tree removal are on record.

            It’s about an oversize, inappropriate building in a residential area.  66,000 square feet on ~3 acres next to single family homes.  If Saranap Area had any interest in “stopping the Sufis” (stopping Sufis from what exactly?), that behavior would have manifested at least once and more reasonably numerous times in the past 35 years in this formerly peaceful neighborhood. 

            The proposed building is simply too big for the land available, and is incompatible with the residential neighborhood.

  • Mekahel Francois

    The opposition to this proposal doesn’t seem to have legs to stand on. I hope they will have some standard of local hire practices to do the construction. This could do some good in injecting money into the local economy. I really doubt if this was a building for mainstream Christian denomination we would even have this conversation.  All proper codes have been followed, they’ve shown through County attendance records and “green” planning that they don’t need lots of parking. Opposition has presented no valid reason to oppose. This would be a major jobs and business generator.

  • seems like the neighbors are trying to get the Board of Supervisors to get into litigation with the Sufis just so they would not have to pay for it – if any one is being disingenuous here, maybe it’s not the Sufis 

    • Neighbors

      Try build that on your own town. The residents have a say to this. You can certainly ask Sufis to build in your neighborhood.

      •  they are building in my neighborhood – I live here too, and I am fine with them building here and building what they are intending to build.

        • Carolb

          Most Saranap Area residents do not support a 3-story 66,000 square foot megacomplex on ~3 acres in this residential neighborhood.

          • For those with an opinion, 75% living within 1/4 mile do, and that’s documented.

          • Carolb

            Community support for this project can be found in one apartment building where many of the local Sufis live? 

            We are talking about a 3-story 66,000 sf building on ~3 acres, and its  impact on a neighborhood of ~2,000 single family homes, not just a minority of individuals across the street. 

            The written County public record shows *most* signers of support petitions live out of the area.  That is not broad community support, and to claim community support for this monster complex based on petitions is a lie to all of us. 

            Thanks for clarifying that 25% of the ~350 Sufis who live in this area are also opposed to this divisive and oversized real estate development – those who are willing to risk leaving the Sufi organization for voicing dissenting views, that is. 

            Read below, those who don’t agree with the Sufi party line on the megacomplex are free to leave the church.  Hmm, sounds a bit like intolerance . . .  

          • Carolb – your view (below this message) that what I wrote means 25% of Sufis are opposed is just nonsense and is what is meant by “lying with statistics”. I am not going to digress into where all the Sufis live, because I do not know.

          • David_Dacus

             To be clear for Carolb: it is 75% of RESIDENTS….not 75% of Sufis. So it is not 25% of Sufis who oppose, it is 25% of residents within the quarter mile. Some Sufis (for purposes of the TDMP) either walk, bike, or carpool who live farther away.

          • Carolb

            So out of ~2,000 homes in Saranap Area, only those within 1/4 mile matter?  How was this artificial zone selected for surveying and representing community opinion? 

            Well, a high concentration of Sufis lives in this zone; check public records or your own knowledge of the neighborhood.  Let me get this straight, Sufis asked an area containing mostly Sufi residents if they were in favor of the Sufi monster building on ~3 acres, and most agreed. 

            This deceptive tactic is one example of why Saranap Area neighbors feel lied to about this oversize development in a residential area.  

          •  referring to Carolb below, first you all say only homeowners in the Saranap should have a say, that most of the people in Saranap are opposed, but now you say it should not be an issue if 75% within 1/4 mile are in support.

            Which is it?

            Clear this up for us, won’t you?

            The Sufis are legitimate in counting everyone who lives within the close radii of the location.

          • David_Dacus

            By all means provide your proof that “most do not support a 3-story [sic]…megacomplex” When we say 84% of residents within 300 feet support it…that is from the county’s own count. When we say 75% within a quarter mile support it…that is from the county’s own count. What is YOUR count from. It is oft repeated, and oft challenged, and never supported by any evidence. Btw: It is a two level building with one level below grade. It is the adjacent Le Boulevard Apartment that is 3-stories. There is a mid level mechanical space (not even a floor!), and it is to hide and quiet the mechanical system for the benefit of the neighbors. The Sufis often seem to get beat up for the very things they are doing to try and appease the un-appeasable, and then are accused of not giving in on anything. The big lie.

          • Carolb

            Sufis surveying Sufis, many of whom live near the development.  Your percentages add up to nothing but an attempt to deceive. 

            The building size is huge, and has not been scaled down at all.  Neighbor concerns about 66,000 sf on ~3 acres have not been addressed.   The overall height compares to a 3-story building regardless of counting floors.  How is a smaller building more appropriately scaled for the land and the surrounding neighborhood such a hardship which merits Sufi threats of lawsuits?

            If it wasn’t such a massive building, it wouldn’t need a massive mechanical system to support it, massive mechanics making so much massive noise that a special room is required.  How about building a smaller building rather than the Hearst Castle megacomplex proposed?  Smaller mechanical systems likely to be much quieter than those supporting a megamonster building.

            Pointing to an exception in the neighborhood, a building of 3-stories, to justify this grossly oversupersized building is exactly what future real estate developers will do to justify their next monster project in Saranap Area.  If this Sufi monster building is approved, there will be one more precedent setting example to cite.  Thanks very much for that.  Won’t change the character of the neighborhood to the detriment of most residents?  Hardly.  It makes me feel absolutely sic.

          • wda

            Wow, I can’t believe how many comments this topic recieved.

            From an outsiders perspective it appears that the Suffis are engaged in a well orchestrated strategic plan to sway public opinion.

            I wouldn’t be surpirsed if they had lap tops set up and a phone bank going to call in on Forum.

            I’m a little surprised that Krasny allowed his show to be hijacked as such.

          • David_Dacus

             @wda: At first people were surprised by the accusations of Machiavellian plots by the Sufis. Now they are not surprised, and just understand it is more of the fear an innuendo campaign by the Nimby opposition. Sufis were accused of “busing people from Antioch!” for a meeting in which opposition people lost an election, now at the end of this process they are accused of operating KQED style phone banks to achieve their project. Well, they certainly have contributed like KQED listeners! But it is more understandable for the Nimbys to assume a plot, that to recognize hard working neighbors who want a new church after outgrowing their old one (in an old Portuguese Holy Ghost Society social hall and converted restaurant), who have scrimped and saved for decades for a new church, and their very neighbors are led by the nose by a few loud and selfish “I’ve got mine…no one else can have theirs” folks who have CONSISTENTLY told them lies. We will see what truth prevails today.

          •  here’s the thing – if it had been incompatible, it would not have been approved by the Planning Commission

          • Carolb

            “… 84% of residents within 300 feet support …”

            Tell the whole truth. 

            Since many of the ~350 Sufis in Saranap Area live within 300 feet of the megacomplex, it’s not surprising a survey by Sufis asking Sufis if they support a Sufi building yields a lot of “yes” answers.  Why else choose the 300 foot artificial boundary?  Surveying a biased population to get the desired result. 

            I hope for your sake achieving the goal was worth lying to get it. This is one example of many ugly tactics visited upon a once peaceful neighborhood.

          • David_Dacus

            I’m glad you brought this up for clarification. The 300′ figure came straight from what staff was asked to provide for the Board of Supervisors, who believe this is the distance that those who are most affected may live. THAT is why 300′ was used. It is also, as I understand it, the distance for notifications of any and all hearings for those “most affected” and it is within that distance that the applicant must typically pay for postage for all notices sent out.

            Sufism Reoriented didn’t choose this distance…the County did.

            However, you bring up a really good point. It is the membership that is primarily affected. So, 84% of those most affected are supporters, and perhaps the other 16% may indeed come to love this very nice building and grounds once completed.

    • Carolb

      It is the Sufis who threaten litigation, and seem to be salivating to get into an even bigger, ugly fight.  The Saranap Area neighbors who oppose this massive real estate development just want development that’s compatible with the majority of the single family homes in our neighborhood. 

      • It was the attorney letting the Supes know that the Sufis had done several times more than just about anyone else to work within the system and they are not going to have their rights trampled on by anyone who might be sitting up there on the Board thinking this is the opportunity to gain political brownie points. It was the right call.

  • kfrances

    From the Contra Costa Times article dated 2/22/12:”Religious freedom does not give a faith community the right to run roughshodover reasonable planning guidelines and does not make those who question bigots”     No name calling/bullying please, we have legitimate concerns.

    •  But there are a lot of bigots – see my other posts here – and the Times is not in a governance capacity – and the Sufis followed the plan submission rules of the county, which the Times appears to have overlooked in their haste.

      • kfrances

        This is about the SIZE – there were no problems with the building proposed 10 years ago, before the Sufi’s switched to CHURCH status in 2003 and decided to ram this HUGE project through.  
        There is a very environmentally friendly option.  The available JCC building just down the road.   

        • Size is below ground and what’s above ground is the same size as their current building – perhaps you mean really, “it’s white domed and does not have a steeple”

          Glad it’s not your call when deciding what should or should not get built anywhere – we’d all have to move to dilapidated buildings then, right?

          • kfrances

            No it’s not the same size – they haven’t even put up one story pole. – So no…Don’t call me a bigot – unfair.

          • kfrances

            Do you realize you are  being a bigot by calling me a bigot?

          •  No, I said there are alot of bigots – you glamored onto it being about you – not my problem…

          • kfrances

            Personally, I would never do this to a nice neighborhood full of nice people who have lived nicely together for years.  I would never do that.  It’s not right.  Now to pull the religious card and name call – It’s just sad.  

          • ok, you can pretend people at the planning commission did not say one or more of the following, often to applause

            1) It’s a spaceship
            2) It’s a mosque
            3) They’ll be teaching the Koran
            4) it’s an underground bunker
            5) it’s not as though it’s got a cross or a steeple

          • kfrances

            Why won’t they compromise – not very nice –
            I would never do this to someone

          • Jerry Carlin

            That’s incorrect. There are reasonable compromises and compromises which are in fact surrendering key principles.

             For example, when the plans were presented to neighbors, there was a request to consider alternatives to the aesthetics to how the boundary would look from the road. I know for a fact that the response to that request was a positive willingness to look at that perspective and to see if the boundary could be made even more attractive.

            To compromise on key principles would be like asking a church not to have a cross on the outside of the building and not to use stained glass on the walls.

          • Carolb

            That two of the three stories are below ground is irrelevant to the issue of size.  A 3-story, 66,000 square foot building in a residential area primarily consisting of 1-story single family homes is inappropriate. 

          •  if it were inappropriate the Planning Commission would not have approved it

          • Carolb

            Nine opposing appeals to the CCC Board of Supervisors says the Planning Commission decision is flawed and inappropriate. 

          • no nine appeals say that some people think their rights supersede the rights of another property owner to build on their own land

      • Carolb

        There are not “a lot” of bigots in Saranap.

        A few people said some inappropriate things in the past?  You keep hate
        alive in the present by bringing it up over and over again.  Try some
        forgiveness for words which may have been hurtful in the past. 

        The building, however, will remain in all of our futures for a very long
        time.  Quit using words of a few in the past to justify a building Saranap Area will be stuck with for decades.

        •  there will be plenty of time for forgiveness once this is over – bringing it up now is pandering

    • Jerry Carlin

      It’s fair to distinguish between people who are opposed. Some have aesthetic concerns and have no issue with the size or location of the project. Some have no issues with the design, size and location but  have parking concerns. And some are bigots as was acknowledged by Wayne during the broadcast.

      Only God knows what is in someone’s heart. I may fail but I am trying to respond to people as individuals based on how they are acting and what they are saying and writing.

  • Stephen

    One of the major concerns of the the community seems to be the parking. The proposed parking 71 spots, is inadequate to accommodate the current membership of 350, even if everyone arrives 4 people to a car. Yes, people can walk, but what if membership grows, or the building changes hands. The Supporter of the project even admits that the parking is inadequate and requires overflow at nearby schools. It seems foolish to build a facility with inadequate parking. Why doesn’t the Sufi community reach-out and address this issue?

    •  They have demonstrated that they only need 71 or fewer spots; this is a conditioned on compliance program, and there are consequences for not complying with the parking program. That’s all the outreach on it they need do, in my opinion, and I am not a Sufi member, just so that is clear.

      • Stephen

        It is my understanding that these terms were agreed to under the assumption that they could lease The Meher School for overflow parking, but the Lafayette School District, the lessors of the school property, has written a letter to the supervisors explicitly stating that The Meher School, was not authorized to enter into a such third party agreement. Also, this does not address the long term use of the site. I hope the Sufi’s continue to prosper, but what happens if the property changes hands and the new tenants are not committed to walking. As I said initially, it seems short sighted to build a structure with inadequate parking.

        •  Red herring – you think by repeating all that 100 times that it makes it the truth. The Superintendent told the Meher Schools in writing that they could continue to let other orgs use the parking lot like they have been for 30 years – there is no difference in that. Red herring

          • Stephen

            Please, don’t ascribe meaning to my actions. I actually SUPPORT the project, but I am concerned about the parking.

          •  Then Stephen why don’t you do a bit of research, sit in front of the Sufi center on Friday and Sunday evenings and watch how it works for yourself?  Perhaps better, ask the Sufis for more explanation about how it works instead of feeding the opposition pot?

          • Stephen

            I have. I have talked with some Sufi’s and I actually receive mailings from groups both in support and opposition to the project. I find that most things are not clear cut pro/con and I do not feel that I am feeding the “opposition pot.” I appreciate that the project is “green” and that they are attempting to build a sustainable structure; but the fact that it needs overflow parking indicates that this aspect of the project is under-designed. It is easier to get things “right” the first time. Why not build in at least enough parking to accommodate current maximal needs.

          •  Because they chose to commit to a new and innovative way of addressing traffic congestion, for them and for the neighborhood. They took it on 4 years ago so that, in my opinion, they could demonstrate goodwill to the neighbors and their shared concern about potentially increased traffic. They could have asked for a variance, but they are green thinkers in general – the building and landscape shows that – and I think they just wished to adopt as much green thinking as they could. The Traffic Program just extends from this same thinking.

            Look, here’s another way to look at it: in the extreme example, if the Sufis or someone else in the future, has to pay, say the city of walnut creek for use of a parking lot somewhere for a few days a year – how is that a bad thing? fewer cars along Blvd Way and the city gets some fees for probably an underused lot.  If another church came along and bought it – they would buy it knowing the restriction would apply to them too.  This is why I think it’s just a red herring to focus on.

            I appreciate why you are concerned but I don’t think it is a big deal; it’s a business transaction kind of issue, not a planning issue.  

          • Jerry Carlin

            That concern was expressed to the Supervisors with the suggestion of additional monitoring and remedies to verify continued compliance.

            Personally I think that’s a very reasonable request. No one I know would object in the slightest to having a mechanism in place to verify that the practice and the experience of the prior four years is continued into the future.

      • Judy

        The Sufi parking criteria was based on past requirement not future requirements. The Sufis by their own admission have come close to the maximum Sufi population density they can have in the half mile radius of the Sanctuary. New participants will be forced to live outside the ½ mile radius and it is not reasonable to expect them to walk long distances on Saranap’s rural roads, especially at night.  The Sufis have stated that they do not intend to grow their membership, but no one can anticipate this and a new 66,000 sq foot Sanctuary with a maximum capacity of 1700 says there will be growth. They may not seek new members, but this “Showcase Sanctuary” screams welcome new members.  Also, if there a change in building owners the Transportation Demand Management Program is not enforceable.
        The 71 parking spaces were based on the results of the TDM plan using 350 members and only 5,000 of the 66,000 square feet of the Sanctuary. The maximum capacity of the Sanctuary is 1700 people. Assuming the 224 Sufis that are within the ½ mile radius walk to the Sanctuary and another 71members use the on-site parking, where are the other potential 1400 members/visitors attending future service and events to park? Parking is a huge issue.
        A 66,000 square foot Sanctuary, with a maximum capacity of 1700 people, 71 parking spaces is not reasonable for the semi rural Saranap.  We all need to come to a compromise.

        •  your desire for compromise, imo, is an attempt to simply delay the project…

    • Blforma

       In the interview today, the project manager said there is one event a year that requires overflow parking.  Most of the congregation live nearby and walk or bicycle to their current facility.  Those who don’t live nearby carpool. This has been their practice for 4 years. ‘

      My opinion, no matter what size building would be proposed there, or houses, or whatever, the Saranap Homeowners Org would object loudly.  This is what they do.  This is their history.

      • Carolb

        Saranap Homeowners Organization has a history of supporting real estate developments compatible with the neighborhood.  This project is incompatible.

        Single family homes within the R10 intent that most of the rest of Saranap respects and lives within, preserving trees, preserving the character of the neighborhood – likely to be welcomed.

        When do these proposals from Sufism Reoriented begin?  So far, there has been only one channel : theirs.

        • Blforma

           I did not know that, Carol.  Which real estate projects were proposed that they did not protest?

          • Carolb

            Take a stroll over to Lauel Oak Lane sometime and view the single story, single family homes, abundant space for parking, and the preserved old and heritage trees – on acreage not a whole lot larger than the proposed development.  Note the design compatible with the Saranap Area neighborhood homes. 

            This project was supported by the Saranap Homeowners Association.

          • Guest2

             It was supported only after the SHO put up their usual fuss to meet their demands.

  • kfrances

    And if this “showpiece” as it’s been described by the Sufi leaders, is dropped from the sky (using 6 thousand dump trucks excavating 80 thousand square feet of dirt) for the sanctuary and gardens, lighted domes – how many people will be drawn causing parking – and traffic problems and change this sweet and welcoming neighborhood forever.   People have no idea what they’re talking about unless they live in the neighborhood.  It’s easy to criticize unless you know the history of the nice relationship we’ve all had.  


    • Dropped from the sky? Really? LOL!  I live in the neighborhood, not a Sufi, never sent any kids to their schools, but really? They do not prosthelytize – a lot of people around here did not even know they were there; if they ever drew lots of people for events, when was there ever a complaint before this project came around?  There was not – it’s just bull puckey

      • Carolb

        Here’s the overlooked point: 6 thousand dump trucks excavating 80 thousand square feet of dirt to build a megacomplex in a residential area.

  • kfrances

    The Meher School is renting the property from the Lafayette School District. The letter from the Superintendent specifically states they are not able to guarantee parking in the future (for this “Showpiece” as described by the Sufi leaders)

    • Correct! yes you are, but the Traffic Program just states that there will be a place for overflow, and it DOES NOT have to be the Meher Schools, and the county staff already identified 3 other locations within 2 miles that could serve the same purpose, so every one harping on this is just being less than clear about what is required and quite honestly, this is one reason why you all lose credibility with other people on it – it’s not a big deal AT ALL.

    • Jerry Carlin

      During the Supervisor’s hearing, County Staff identified three different alternative locations for overflow parking. And, as stated, overflow parking is not required by a TDMP. So this seems to be a case of “no good deed goes unpunished”.

  • Colleen Mihelitch

    I for one would like to know where all you bloggers live…   Are you my Saranap neighbors? … or just want to but in with your opinions. For those of us who live in this neighborhood and are very informed about this structure, I want to make sure to ask that EVERYONE stop using the religious aspect of bias.  I have many Sufi friends in this neighborhood  I applaud their beliefs.  When in doubt there is always the need to make it about persecution… this takes the real fight away from the violations of land use regulations, the  use of inappropriate calculations for TDM ( Transportaion Department Management) for parking ratios etc.  I for am so tired of this of this pathetic and calculated endeavor to make us all look like bigots… Please stop with this nonsense.

    • Blforma

       There are documented ( video and in writing) expressions of bigotry toward Sufism Reoriented.  While I’m sure it’s not everyone who is opposed, it is enough people that it can’t be ignored.

      FWIW, I am a homeowner in Saranap within 1/4 mile of the building project.

    • I live here, but I am not going to tell you where so that my home does not get pounced upon by little yellow and black signs.

      Look, the Sufis submitted their plans appropriately and so the calculations, as county staff said, do not apply – ergo, why are you all still harping on that as if it will have any teeth? It won’t because then the Sufis will have huge standing on which to sue, and I doubt the Supervisors will be into that since it’s an avoidable situation.

      So, the only answer that sticks with me as to why you all are still hanging onto the parking issue is that it is not about land use. I personally am not going to let you all “scrub” this situation and pretend that there is no bigotry going on, so every time you post that there is no bigotry, I am going to remind you that multiple opposers at the planning commission meeting, to applause, stated:

      1) It’s a spaceship
      2) It’s a mosque
      3) They’ll be teaching the Koran
      4) it’s an underground bunker
      5) it’s not as though it’s got a cross or a steeple

      • kfrances

        It’s just too big.

        • no – 2/3rds underground, the visible portion is the same size as their current building and yet you do not say their current building, which is clearly 40+ feet high, is too big

    • Mani Sheriar

      I live here too.

    • Stephen

      live in Saranap.

  • JMR

    Children’s Hospital in Oakland embarked on a building program in 2008. A loved non profit organization doing good work for children that has been located in the same modest neighborhood for 100 years. They assumed there would be no opposition and thought the neighboorhood should be happy to have their continued and even greater presence. But the local neighbors thought the proposed project too big and sucessfully opposed. In the final outcome Children’s had to abandon their plans. They are currently starting to plan a more modest complex, working to gain support of the neighbors and taking pains to involve the whole community…”all interested and impacted parties”. This was reported in the Oakland Tribune 4 days ago and I think it is a good comparison to the planned project in Saranap.

    I would ask the Sufism Reoriented Organization to bring all interested and impacted parties together to form an acceptable solution.  One of the problems has been the firm refusal to compromise on any issue, even “story poles” which do not change the current design. 

  •  “and the look” – right – well, that “look” is protected by RLUIPA, sorry buddy

    • kfrances

      RLUIPA would not let a 300K square foot building go in…Sufi’s became a ‘church’ in 2003 after 50 years of not being a ‘church’ so they could claim RLUIPA -Meher Baba in his writings specifically said he didn’t want Sufi Reoriented to be a ‘church’…

      • Jerry Carlin

         You obviously did not see what I wrote earlier. So here it is again.

        About religion: You are misreading what Meher Baba wrote about
        religion. There is a distinction between a religion in the legal sense
        as determined by American law and a religion as Meher Baba used that
        word. As wikipedia put it:

        Meher Baba designed Sufism Reoriented as a universal spiritual school  which recognizes a central core of divine love at the heart of all spiritual systems. Meher Baba reorganized patterns of life and inner training associated with ancient Sufism and adapted them to the needs of students in contemporary America. He identified the central principles of Sufism Reoriented as love and service: active love for God and active service to others in God’s world.

        So, yes, by American law Sufism Reoriented is a religion. By another
        perspective, it’s a spiritual school where the curriculum involves
        putting love for God into active service in the world.

        And, by the way, what’s wrong with asserting one’s legal rights?  You’re asserting what you believe are your legal rights. Are you suggesting that it’s not acceptable for Sufism Reoriented to act to protect its rights under the constitution and the law of the land?

        • kfrances

          It’s just interesting that they changed their status in the U.S. after 50 years when they decided they wanted a 66K Thousand Square Foot building. 

          I have no problem with them being a religion.  It sounds like there are some great principles about Sufism Reoriented. 

          Their entitlement attitude to a 66K Sq, Ft. building seems a little unfair to a nice neighborhood that then…what – has no rights?

  • Test_User1234

    Testing user name, this comment can be deleted

  •  Hey KQED – one of my friends just got an email from you asking if you could use their comments in an article – you can use any of mine.

    • Jerry Carlin

      Tom, do you have any idea what kind of article and where it would appear? I’m very interested in seeing it.

      •  no, I didn’t catch that – i think the email went to the people who were involved in the Public Survey.

  • Guest

    Tom Newman, why do you keep repeating yourself?

    This project should be voted on by HOMEOWNERS in the neighborhood, say within one square mile, and then let’s see how popular it is.

    This does not belong in MY neighborhood. This is a steamroller and wool pulling exercise by a bunch of renters with lots of cash.

    • Actually I am glad you asked. This message board seems to have malfunctioned a few times. I had hit reply to someone’s comment and then it posted them as if they were new, so apologies for sounding more redundant than I had wished to – I have deleted their content.

      that said, it’s such a good thing that only homeowners do not get to decide that , or wow, we’d almost be back in the 18th century now wouldn’t we? Back then, only white male Christians could vote, right? I guess you think it was better back then, huh?

  • Guest2

    Let’s all take a deep breath, watch Glee, and get a good nights sleep!  We have a big day tomorrow. XOXO

    • I have all night if they want to keep up the nonsense. I agree with you in general, but it’s really important that some folks understand that they can’t just bulldoze their opinion through on an unsuspecting KQED audience and get away with it.

      • Guest2

         I’m right there with you, Tom.  But I think everything worth saying has been said.  Any unsuspecting soul who happens through here will get the picture. 

        I’m looking forward to an excellent day tomorrow!  One we will both be happy about!

  • Dang it’s hard to track a comment on here.

    Getting my popcorn ready.

    Good luck Sufis!

  • Overall, a very good and clarifying radio interview — thanks to Michael Krasny. 

    As a former Walnut Creek resident, and periodic return visitor, I wholeheartedly join voices with a majority of the current locals in welcoming this beautiful (and, what with landscaping plans, carefully understated) architectural asset — an asset to be enjoyed by those in the neighborhood as well as many (like the present writer) who can look forward to the peaceful atmosphere that the innovative, “green” construction promises for current and future generations.

    David Raphael Israel
    (Los Angeles)

  • vera selig

    This group. is a cult and the structure they want to build looks like something
    dropped from the sky in a Star Wars film and will look wierd and overwhelming
    in a residential neighborhood and the folks there have  every reason to protest
    its being built.  Vera Selig/Orinda, California

    • Vera Selig,

      I wonder whether you might have viewed the architects’ renditions about the visual impact of the sanctuary, as conceived?  These renditions effectively address and ameliorate concerns about visually “overwhelming” the neighborhood.  You and other readers can readily see those renditions here:


    • David_Dacus

       You are entitled to your opinion, but I think you are wrong. The board of supervisors approved it 4-0 about an hour ago. When it is finished, you may come and walk the beautiful gardens (open to all for quite contemplation), and visit the bookstore, and see for yourself. You may change your mind.

  • Manu Sheriar

    Unanimous approval from the board! 🙂

  • Guest

    Our sympathies and best wishes for good health to Honorable Gayle B. Uilkema, CCC Board of Supervisors District 2 (including Saranap Area) – reported too ill with pneumonia to attend the last two public meetings in person or to vote on this issue. 

    The remaining 4 supervisors ensured this oversized 66,000 square foot building doesn’t get built on 3 acres in their residential backyards.

    • Mani Sheriar

       Actually they unanimously approved the building.

    • David_Dacus

       4-0 in FAVOR of the project.

    • It would seem the Guest has second-guessed in a novel manner, declaring day to be night for the sheer chutzpah thereof.

  • Vijaybhalekar

    what a pity? Residents are opposing Lords Blessings on Walnut Creek?
    I pray to Lord Meher Baba to confer inner wisdom to local community.

  • Sufis are trained not to “clash” but to harmonize and accept other’s viewpoints and beliefs. They have been patient for many years and have done everything required by the law. I am grateful to the Board of Supervisors for approving of the plans for building which have been taking many years to put into place. The Saranap neighborhood will benefit in many ways and the nay-sayers will  be amazed at the benefits and the beauty that the new sanctuary will bring to the neighborhood. I hope they can accept in a positive way the decision of the Board. 

  •  I am amazed and saddened at all the negative rhetoric and outright lies being thrown around carelessly! How can anyone say the new bldg. “doesn’t fit” when the old bldg. at 1300 Blvd. Way is larger and sticks up higher than the newly planned bldg.

  •  It fits better than many industrial buildings already in the neighborhood, and is not as high or large as the present sanctuary at 1300 Blvd. Way. How can you say “it doesn’t fit”! And most of the members do live nearby!

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