The Department of Justice has launched a ‘civil rights’ investigation into whether Lomita officials violated federal law when they rejected a proposed mosque expansion two years ago.
Daily Breeze Federal investigators are interviewing 13 past and present members of the Planning Commission, City Council and other officials this week, said City Attorney Christ Hogin. “It’s a little alarming the federal government would come in and second-guess a land-use decision like this,” she added.
On a 4-0 vote, the City Council in March 2010 rejected an expansion of the Islamic Center of the South Bay, which sits on largely residential Walnut Street off Pacific Coast Highway. The panel believed the project would cause traffic and parking problems. (Yes, the parking of Muslim asslifters on the sidewalk problem)
But both municipal staff and the Planning Commission had recommended approval of the plan to build a two-story, 14,320-square-foot main building on the site. It was to replace eight, aging buildings on the 1-acre lot. However, opponents, led by neighborhood resident Henry Sanchez, contended the traffic study was flawed. He maintained it undercounted the number of people who would arrive alone in a car. Moreover, they believed, the expanded facility would accommodate more people than just worshippers because others would use classroom facilities at the same time.
Ameena Qazi, an attorney affiliated with terrorist front group CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) who is representing the mosque, said the investigation was triggered when Justice Department officials read news reports about the denial of the proposal.
She appeared to be referring to a Los Angeles Times blog post that quoted Iraj Ershaghi, a founding member of the mosque and the project manager for the expansion proposal, in the wake of the council meeting. He charged that “some of the comments made by neighbors opposed to the project had an anti-Muslim undertone,” the newspaper reported. (America IS anti-Muslim, so what?) “The tone was that, `You don’t even exist,”‘ the newspaper quoted him as saying. (We wish)
Officials are investigating whether Lomita violated a federal law known as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Provisions of the law “prohibit state and local governments from imposing a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person,” according to the Justice Department website. While that often applies to people confined to an institution such as a prison, it also can apply to land-use decisions that place a substantial burden on the ability of a group to practice its religion.
Qazi said publications by anti-Muslim groups have specifically cited using land-use restrictions to prevent the construction or expansion of mosques. (Sadly, the only way, but an effective one)
In the Lomita case, the council in part balked at rezoning necessary to allow the mosque to expand, noting that such action would reduce the size of the city’s limited commercial zones and potentially decrease sales tax revenues. Qazi said she didn’t believe that was a compelling enough issue to justify the panel’s decision.
“I believe the city’s denial of the rezoning has constituted a substantial burden on the mosque community to practice their religion,” she said. “We’re hoping the (Justice) Department will find out whether this action had any sort of discriminatory intent behind it. “I am not saying that there is evidence of anti-Muslim sentiment sufficient to prove discriminatory intent under (federal law) at this point,” she added. (Then why did you involve the Muslim-directed DOJ?)
However, Ershaghi said Thursday he believes the city discriminated against the project on the basis of religion and has violated the law.