As longtime citizens of South County, the members of South Valley Islamic Community (SVIC) are committed to being good neighbors. We understand the concerns of the local community and have worked hard to address those concerns and answer any questions about the project you might have.
If you have additional questions not addressed below, please feel free to Contact Us.
Does the project seek any variances from the County General Plan and Zoning ordinances?
No, the project complies with all general plan policies and zoning ordinances and, in several cases, exceeds regulatory standards. For example, the project far outperforms development density standards, with all proposed structures on the property collectively covering less than 5% of the available area – the rest is open space.
Does the project lie in a flood zone?
No, the project site is not located within any type of flood hazard zone. Site topography ranges from 298 feet to 384 feet above sea level.
Will the project impact traffic in San Martin?
The Cordoba Center project site lies at the northern limits of San Martin (see map), away from the densely populated areas. It is located along Monterey Road, which is a major 4-lane arterial roadway. All ingress/egress to the project site is provided from Monterey Road, and no significant impact is anticipated on residential streets. A professional traffic study will also be conducted as part of the EIR process. If any significant traffic impacts are identified by the traffic study, mitigation measures will be incorporated into the project, to assure those impacts are reduced to a level of insignificance.
Will the surrounding neighborhood be affected by noise and lights from the project site?
The project is surrounded mostly by open pastures and a few industrial buildings (see map). All outdoor illumination at the project is designed to be low impact lighting, and that lighting will project downward. Similarly, there will be no amplified audio outdoors at any time (e.g., no amplified musical entertainment or “call to prayer”), and most of the proposed uses are indoors. Furthermore, the extensive landscape plan for the project is designed to effectively shield and isolate immediate surroundings from onsite activities (see view shed renderings).
Did the waste water treatment (septic) system for the project pass soil percolation tests? How will it affect groundwater?
Yes. A number of soil samples were taken and percolation tests performed in the presence of County Environmental Health Inspectors at various locations on the 16-acre parcel. The two leach fields for the septic system were located in the areas with the best percolation data, and those locations meet State and County percolation requirements. In addition, the vertical separation from the bottom of the leach fields to the top of the underground water table will be between 36 and 46 feet. The California Regional Water Quality Control Board – which is the state agency that ensures groundwater quality – requires a minimum separation of 5 feet for this site. For this reason, the septic system significantly exceeds state standards and will not threaten groundwater quality.
Are the proposed buildings at the project site too large for the ambience of San Martin?
The project is located in an area designated by the County General Plan as an “Industrial Use Permit Area” along Monterey Road (see Santa Clara County zoning map). There are several large commercial and industrial buildings in the immediate vicinity of the project site and many more in other areas of San Martin. The Cordoba Center architecture follows the classic “Mission Style” that is widely prevalent in South County and all over California. In fact the Mosque building resembles many Catholic missions that are iconic to the California landscape.
Why are a Mosque and Community Building of this size needed for just 300 people?
Like a residential home where separate areas are needed for different uses, often adding up to a few thousand square feet of living space for just a few people, these institutional facilities are also designed based on specific uses by the attendees and in accordance with the established building codes for occupancy (minimum area per person) and fire safety.
For example, the prayer hall in the Mosque is approximately 3,900 square feet, based on a minimum area per person of 10.5 square feet per person plus 20%, as established by the County. In addition, there are areas dedicated for an entry hallway, bathrooms, stairs, corridors, babysitting, pastor’s office, storage, mechanical/HVAC equipment, etc. All those spaces add up to over 9,000 square feet, but are needed to support 300 people.
Similarly, the banquet hall in the Community Building is approximately 4,600 square feet, based on a minimum area per person of 15 square feet per person, as required by the California Building Code. Additionally there is space for a kitchen, classrooms for Sunday school, administrative offices, bathrooms, an atrium, and mechanical and storage facilities, bringing the total area to approximately 14,500 square feet. Each space is needed for its unique use.
Will the cemetery contaminate local groundwater resources?
Extensive independent studies specific to the project site, conducted by professional hydrogeology consultants, have shown no adverse effects of the cemetery on local ground water resources. Their data has been further evaluated and approved by both the Santa Clara County Environmental Health Department and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Due to the rising topography of the project site, the underground water table is much lower at the site of the cemetery and the leach fields than at the southern perimeter of the property. The soil composition also changes significantly from the southern end of the project site to the hillside in the northerly portion. While the soil conditions and water table level may not support installation of burial sites along the southern perimeter and in the adjacent lot, much more favorable soil and groundwater conditions exist in the northern portion, along the hillside. The cemetery will be placed only in this location.
Llagas Creek lies to the north of the project site, separated and protected by the east-west trending bedrock ridge along the northern perimeter of the parcel. Again, all of these findings have been corroborated by independent geological and geotechnical reports, and the proposed cemetery plots will exceed both the County and State standards regarding groundwater protection (see data and illustrations).
Prior to the acquisition of this parcel by SVIC for the Cordoba Center project, the site was severely neglected and used as a dumping ground. At the time the property was purchased by SVIC, assorted debris was strewn across the site. All that waste was cleaned up by SVIC (see photos), and the site was restored to the state that we see today, characterized by local grasses. The cemetery will use at-grade markers (not standing headstones) and will maintain the natural grassland landscape.
Muslim burials do not use vaults or sealed coffins. Does that risk environmental contamination?
Muslim burials, similar to those in the Jewish faith and increasingly popular “green” burial practice, do not involve embalming and/or treatment of the deceased’s body with formaldehyde or other preservative chemicals used for embalming. Incidentally, the chemicals used for embalming in conventional burials, as well as those used as wood and metal preservatives in the construction of coffins, are well documented and known contaminants for the natural environment and groundwater with long lasting effects (see numerous resources on the web, one for example: http://www.sevenponds.com/after-death/environmental-impact-of-death).
The operation of cemeteries and burials is regulated by the California Health and Safety Code. The Cordoba cemetery will be operated and maintained by state licensed professionals. Green burials are an accepted practice under the Health and Safety Code. Information on green burials can be found at: http://www.greenburialcouncil.org.
In a traditional Muslim burial, the body of the deceased is washed at a funeral facility and shrouded in an untreated cotton sheet. It is then placed directly in the grave on dirt to allow quick and full bio-degradation in its natural state. Sometimes a cardboard or untreated plywood coffin may also be used. This is a natural process and, when conducted appropriately in accordance with state and local regulations, will not cause contamination of groundwater or other aspects of the environment.
Why has the Cordoba Center project grown larger in size since its first iteration in 2012?
The original project included a smaller Mosque, a smaller Community Building, and a cemetery, to serve only the then-current needs of South Valley Islamic Community (SVIC). The project was approved unanimously by both the Santa Clara County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, with the provision that SVIC could apply for expansion of the facilities over time as its membership and needs grow.
Following this approval, a group of people opposed to the project sued the County, alleging that the environmental review of the project – which did not include an environmental impact report (EIR) – was inadequate. In part, the opponents claimed that the County failed to assess the environmental impact of the Cordoba Center over time, taking into account both the original project and its potential growth over an extended time period. In order to avoid a protracted legal battle, SVIC voluntarily relinquished its approvals and offered to conduct an extensive environmental study in an EIR.
In the time since the original application was submitted and approved, the current and anticipated near-term future needs of SVIC have grown, along with the population of the local Muslim community. In preparing the new project application, SVIC determined that the most appropriate approach – in terms of design, cost, and environmental review – was to build a larger Mosque and Community Building, and to evaluate the environmental impacts of those larger buildings in an EIR.
How can we ensure that the project will not result in significant environmental impacts?
A comprehensive analysis of the project’s environmental impacts will be circulated for public review as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Report for this project (DEIR). The DEIR will address, among other things, impacts associated with traffic, noise, esthetics (visual impacts), and water quality. The public and the County will have the opportunity to review and comment on the project’s impacts during the environmental review process, and the County will consider all of these impacts in determining whether to approve the project.
How is the project funded?
The project is funded by traditional loans and local private donations.