March 15, 2009

Big, ugly “spaceship-looking” building or beautiful “sacred place?” Religious group’s sanctuary plans divide once tranquil WC/Lafayette neighborhood

Readers, sorry, this is a long post, but it's one of the weirder, more disturbing neighborhood disputes I've ever come across. The illustration at left says a lot.

On a rainy night two weeks ago, more than 200 residents of Saranap, an older unincorporated neighborhood between Walnut Creek and Lafayette, gathered together. It was the first general meeting of a new campaign called Save Our Saranap.

These were a fraction of the nearly 750 residents who have signed onto this campaign, many anguished and frustrated by a series of disturbing events that have taken place in their neighborhood over the past year.

These events all swirl around on a development, a massive, 66,000-square-foot white domed sanctuary, or “school of worship,” that a Saranap-based religious organization wants to build in their neighborhood.

The organization is called Sufism Reoriented, and the aerial view is above. Sufism Reoriented is based in Saranap and has some 350 members, about half of whom live in there. Save Our Saranap members say they have co-existed with Sufism members peacefully for decades.

Why wouldn’t there be a long history of harmony with Sufism members? After all, Sufism Reoriented says its teachings are “designed for individuals who strive to devote their lives to the love of God through service” and whose members “work in harmony with all religions.” Despite its name, the organization is not affiliated with Islam, but follows the teachings of the late Meher Baba, a spiritual leader from India who chartered the organization in 1952.

Sufism Reoriented also runs the well-regarded White Pony preschool and Meher K-5 Schools in the neighborhood. Some Save Our Saranap members send their children to the Meher school. I, myself, have friends and acquaintances who send or have sent their children to these schools; all report positive educational and social experiences for their kids.

By the way, I don’t live in Saranap, but have friends who do and who have signed onto the Save Our Saranap campaign.

So, what happened to make everything go so wrong?

Late last spring, these friends started telling me head-shaking stories about how their Sufism neighbors were bombarding them with press releases, expensive newsletters, and aggressive door-to-door visits to disseminate information about the project. My friends say the information and the manner in which it was delivered was misleading, evasive, downright deceptive, and condescending. They say Sufism members subtly or overtly played the religious-intolerance card—as in, if you don’t agree with how wonderful this project is, and how wonderful we are, then you are a religious bigot and anti-Sufism.

I myself was contacted by someone advocating the project. He didn’t identify himself as a Sufism member, even though I knew he was. To sell me on the project, he made false claims, such as that there was no opposition even though I knew there was. The communication reminded me of something voiced by a functionary from an Orwellian horror story, a “Freedom-is-Slavery,” denial-of-reality style of propaganda. I immediately understood why my Saranap friends shuddered at the memory of their encounters with Sufism members over this project.

On the face of it, the project sounds oh-so wonderful. The sanctuary would rise on a 3.25-acre site along Boulevard Way. The sanctuary would house classrooms, chorus rehearsal studios, and offices, and those 13 domed structures would be “inspired by Mt. Diablo and surrounding hills.” Sufism Reoriented also claims that the building would be environmentally friendly and would “have little visual impact” on the surrounding neighborhood because two-thirds of it—46,000 square feet—would be built underground.

Best yet, according to Sufism leaders, the project’s designer would be top drawer. The architect would be the world-renowned, Manhattan-based architectural firm Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie, which built the 101 California Street building in San Francisco, the Crystal Cathedral in Southern California, and Manhattan's Trump International Hotel and Tower and the "Lipstick" building (from where Bernard Madoff operated his Ponzi scheme) in Manhattan. Meanwhile, the landscaping would be handled by SWA Landscape Design firm, whose clients include the California Academy of Sciences.

So proud is Sufism Reoriented of this proposed project that its leaders say they wouldn’t be surprised if it landed in the pages of Architectural Digest.

My friends and Save Our Saranap leaders contend they never had any objections to Sufism building a new sanctuary in the neighborhood. But, as details emerged, they became concerned about the size and design. They couldn’t see how this big white building—18,000 square feet larger than the new Walnut Creek library and 20 percent larger than the White House—would fit into their neighborhood. It also didn’t make sense that it was being built just to accommodate the activities of Sufism’s 350 members.

“We are not anti-Sufi,” SOS leaders say on their website. “We have neighbors who are Sufis. We have friends who are Sufis. Our concern is that the proposed Sufism Reoriented sanctuary is too large for the site, and needs to be redesigned to be appropriate for our residential neighborhood.”

The situation between Sufism members and non-Sufism members degenerated into outrage and recriminations last summer. There were the two flattering—and in IMHO, insufficiently reported—articles in the Contra Costa Times about Sufism Reoriented and the sanctuary project. One notable thing the Times reporters failed to do was contact the Saranap Community Association, the body that, back then, represented the neighborhood to county planners on development issues. The association was on record as opposing the project because of its size and design.

Also, in documents distributed to neighbors and the press at this time, Sufism was cagey about their project's size. Even, in its original, supposedly handy-dandy Frequently Asked Question document, it failed to cite square footage in this basic question: “How big will this building be?”

Then came the Saranap Community Association’s annual general meeting on July 10, 2008. My friends and SOS leaders describe the meeting as disintegrating into a “hostile take-over” of the board by Sufism members.

“It was like when the Panzers rolled in as part of their Blitzkrieg,” one Saranap friend told me. He and others say Sufism Reoriented packed the meeting with people sympathetic to its project, and elected two new Sufism members to the seven-member board.

Sufism leaders deny that the takeover was hostile, but one leader, Pascal Kaplan, in a statement that Sufism posted on its website, acknowledges that the meeting got so tense that “three of the three of the incumbent board members and all four of the alternates resigned in a block, leaving a strong majority on the board who are members of Sufism Reoriented."

Now, with five of the six Community Association board members being Sufism members (as of last count), an alternate neighborhood group has sprung up, called the Saranap Homeowners Organization. Because of this project, this neighborhood now has two associations claiming to represent its interests.

The sanctuary proposal remains in the hands of county planners, who will determine whether an environmental impact report will be required. Meanwhile, the SOS campaign is growing, with its numbers now dwarfing the Sufism membership more than 2 to 1. SOS leaders say Sufism members continue to play the religious-intolerance card and to make misleading claims. One example I found on Sufism’s website: that only “small core of individuals” oppose their project. Check out the online list of residents who have signed on to the SOS campaign and see if those represented constitutes a “small core.”

Here are other key SOS concerns about the project:

-- With regard to the eco-friendly, the project will be “very brown” before it becomes green, SOS says. With 46,000-square-feet of the sanctuary underground, the excavation will need more than 3,400 dump truck loads over five months. Rather than “sit lightly on the earth,” as Sufism claims, the project would crash onto the earth, “like a meteor, complete with crater,” SOS says.

--Although Sufism Reoriented describes the sanctuary as “nestling in a glade of trees,” to build it, the plan calls for the destruction of all vegetation and buildings on the site and the removal of all 42 existing trees, including six heritage oaks.

--While the plan describes a park-like setting and two acres devoted to open space, “the development is so massive” that “portions of the garden are grass pavers within the parking lot.”

--This is not a public neighborhood park, as Sufism implies, but private property. Unlike other religious groups, Sufism doesn’t have a tradition of regularly welcoming outsiders into its events or its facilities.

--Those 13 “sloping, saucer domes that mirror the shapes of the surrounding California hills”: SOS says “that’s like saying an oil refinery mirrors the shape of a redwood forest. Stark white, saucer-shaped domes have nothing in common with the hills of California.”

Overall, the 66,000-square-foot size leads SOS members, and me, to question what true long-term goal Sufism Reoriented has in mind. In its online literature, Sufism likes to project an image of modesty and to claim that it doesn’t prosthelytize.

But its own statements also show that it wants to build an architecturally ambitious, internationally admired project. It is therefore reasonable to ask whether this sanctuary is actually designed to host a much larger number of people on a regular basis. Sufism adamantly denies it has grander designs, but the organization’s prior tactics have left my Saranap friends unable to trust what Sufism representatives say.

Also, consider that throughout history, religions—Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims—have built architecturally grand monuments to make grand statements about their world view, to attract new followers, and to spread the word about what they stand for. Sure, these organizations do good works. But history has also shown that religions want to expand the power and wealth of their organizations, and, sometimes, of their leaders.
“I'm beginning to believe that they have their whole identity and future staked on this building,” one Saranap friend told me. “It seems to be the essential centerpiece of all their dreams and illusions of grandeur, and I think they will stop at very little to achieve its establishment.”

SOS just wants Sufism Reoriented to do a better job listening to their concerns “and reduce the size and bulk of the project, provide adequate parking, retain trees, and reconsider the design so it blends in with the Saranap community.”

To sum up, SOS is asking Sufism Reoriented “to be the good neighbors that they have been for many years."


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Concord Blogger said...

OMG. I had no idea there were groups like this in the area. That is a huge compound they are planning to build. Thanks for the story, now I'm interested to see how all of this plays out.

Anonymous said...

"Insufficiently reported" stories? Actually, they were suck-ass. The reporters had, as they say, drunk the Kool-Aid. Soccer Mom, you really think the Times needs to keep going.

I hate to say that about the Sufis. I've met some and they are decent people, but the way they, or their leaders, have handled this school of worship this is really scary. Thanks for posting that photo. It's really instructive.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I had no idea. And I was going to buy a house in Saranap last year. Good thing I found one in a different location.

Anonymous said...

Wow I do not want this god squad to plant such an ugly piece of garbage in my neighborhood. I don't see how this building can be interpreted as anything other than a religious show of force. NOT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD.

The traffic increase on Saranap Ave. was bad after the public storage facility went in, I can only imagine the impact this could have.

Anonymous said...

There are really no ways to stop 'religious' instututions from building in neighborhoods. When we were all Leave It To Beaver types, churches were considered as vital to neighborhoods as schools. Thus, no restrictions on what are considered elements to the community.

We Are The World. (hehehe, watch out what you wish for)

Anonymous said...

Think of all the taxes they will have to pay! Oops they're exempt right? Then maybe we should ask what will this will ending costing taxpayers? (in services, not religious) Or, is asking a hate crime?

Anonymous said...

I hate to tell you this, but it is highly likely that the project will get built.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, 42 USC §2000cc et seq. ("RLUPA"), provides, in substance, insofar as is pertinent to zoning, that the municipality shall not impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly, or institution:

(a) Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

(b) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

(a) and (b) above represent the strictest limitations on government that apply in decision making. Given the strength of RLUPA, the city will have a very hard time stopping this, even if tens of thousands of citizens oppose it. In fact, RLUPA would trump a local measure put to the voters.

Good luck with stopping this, but I imagine we will see this come to fruition.

Castle Hill Bill said...

Is this property in city or county jurisdiction? If it's county, these plans will probably have very little difficulty getting thru the permit process(example 'big ugly house'(s)on the hills above Parkmead. See CIS's great series) unless there is strong organized opposition with political clout. I think that the Saranap residents needs to support SOS to stop this project bigot label be damned. A note to Parkmead residents- have you noticed how much influence a certain church has gained in the neighborhood over the last few years? Stay vigilant.

Anonymous said...

These guys were the ones who forced out the Boulevard Market by raising their rent and then offering to sell them that run down building for $1 million. At least that's what the store owner had told me, she couldn't afford to pay that price so out they went.

Now the way is clear to build this monstrosity. This cult seems pretty creepy to me. Wonder where they get their money?

Anonymous said...

My husband grew up in Saranap. We have family are business owners in that area. We have family that rent residential housing to the Sufis. I have friends that send their kids to the schools in Lafayette run by the Sufis.

From everyone I've spoken with, the Sufis are very well-liked. My family FAR prefers this to the rentals in that area because there are too many burglaries perpetrated by the locals that live in the rentals around there.

Boulevard Market used to be De La Rosa's market. My husband says that $1M for that building and esp. the lot with all of the frontage parking was a fair price.

I guess it's a matter of substance over style. My family prefers having good neighbors who don't rip them off.

Anonymous said...

My hubbie also prefers this development over the newer, money-lovin', pretentious downtown Walnut Creek (rather than the older charming downtown he used to frequent as a kid). He preferred Clifford's and Love's to PF Chang's (we've never set foot in a PF Chang's).

Anonymous said...

No one says that the Sufis weren't well-liked or that they don't run a school that a lot of people value.
We just don't like how they have handled this issue. Maybe not individual members, but the leadership.

Anonymous said...

Methinks the issue comes down to one side not getting their way.

It's change. There are people in Saranap and around Blvd. Way that will support this.

Anonymous said...

Methinks the side not getting its way is the Sufis. They threatened to pull up stakes, sell ALL their properties, and leave the neighborhood if they couldn't get the church just as they wanted.

Methinks the people along Boulevard Way who will support it are the Sufi members living the apartments and those that have bought up the property where this "lovely" piece of architecture will be built.

Anonymous said...

Well, me thinks you are incorrect. I am a long-term resident of Saranap from 1958. Not a Sufi; just an old white guy originally from another state.

The Sufis are the best thing that's happened to this area in a long, long time. They're the best neighbors and tenants we've had. I like that they're no trouble.

Perhaps our focus should be cleaning up the neighborhood.

Your post here just reinforces my position. If someone doesn't agree with you then you're a Sufi? How ridiculous.

Tell me where to write my letter of support.

Anonymous said...

Concord Blogger,

These people have been around for many years. They don't bother anyone, I've never heard any complaints, they're properties are immaculate.

If anything, they enhance neighborhoods. You're too funny. Your prejudiced against a group that you 'had no idea there were groups like this in the area.'

I've never heard of them committing crimes, it's obvious the Saranap neighborhood doesn't want them to 'pull up stakes, sell ALL their property off, and leave the neighborhood.'

OMG, they must be really bad, yes?

Anonymous said...

oops. typo: You're not your.

Anonymous said...

This development equals progress?

Anon 2:13. So, f you think this sanctuary is too big, or have concerns about how all the trees and vegetation will be destroyed, you are prejudiced? That's the line this group, which touts their peace-loving, open-minded, compassionate ways, has tried to shut people up.

And if you question why they really need this big of a space for 350 people, you're also prejudiced.

My question in general?

WHere is this 350 group getting all the millions it will cost to build this sanctuary? Big name architect, big name landscaper, all that excavation?

Why did they change their tax status from non-profit to religious organization? So, that no one would find out that they are more than just a small local worship group?

It's been painful to see people get angry and upset about all this but the Sufis brought it on themselves.

That's nice that they are good clean tenants but that's not the point.

Anonymous said...


Yes, my guess it's prejudice. You complain because they're hiring big name companies to work on their project, and you'd complain if they hired no-names to work on the project.

Where does the Catholic, Mormon or Evangelical Churches get their money? What I really think is that they're good at selling God, but I also think that it's none of my business.

Northcreek built a new big-ugly addition to their already unattractive existing one. This certainly can't be any worse than that.

Could they have changed their tax status because it benefitted them financially or does it have to be some big conspiracy?

The fact that they are such good neighbors DOES matter. It certainly matters to me, and my voice counts as much as the next Joe.

I support them, and I certainly hope they stay.

DUBC said...

Great story Soccer Mom. Thanks for the info. Keep us updated.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the single aerial shot posted on the blog, I admit the planned construction looks awful, like some kind of grounded spaceship. But if you look at the artist renderings on the Sufism Web site depicting the eventual look of the project, the plans look quite lovely, with the eventually mature plantings, and the domes peeking out from among the trees, etc. As a relative newcomer to the area (been in WC for 2 yrs; was in SF for 25 yrs), I have to say this is the first I've heard of the Sufism community here and am really intrigued to hear of their presence. I'm hopeful that the center will be a positive thing.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about the Sufis. When my son was younger, we met a family through his basketball team. They sent his son to the Meher school.

We weren't happy with the local public school or the system then, at least for my son, so we checked the Meher school out. It seemed great, but something wasn't right. I watched this video the school produced of the Sufism leader, the murshida, she's called. She talks about the basic ideals of the school. It was kind of soothing and inspiring, but also weird at the same time. It's hard to explain. She talked about the "spirit moving abroad" and how special we all were, Americans in the 21st century. She seemed like a saleswoman trying to flatter parents into sending our kids to her school.

She was smart and all the people seemed positive and educated, but I got this weird vibe.

Then I happened to meet this lovely older woman through work. We became friendly. She lived by herself in one of those apartments off Boulevard Way. She was nice, and one evening, I dropped her off after work and she invited me up to apartment for tea. Her apartment was filled with pictures of Meher Baba and this leader of Sufism, Carole Conner. All over. Every shelf. It was a little bit of cult of personality.

That's when I thought, this is a bit too much for my comfort.

This woman I got to know was nice and the murshida seems nice. But something felt off. I guess, almost cult-like. I hate to say that, but it was too much, and we decided not to send my son there.

Anon123 said...

If they own the property, back off and let them do what they want with it. It is their land and their right... Too many people trying to regulate because their opinion might be offended. No more HOA's, no more ACLUs, if they own the land, let them be....

Edi Birsan said...

I have not made up my mind on the issue after reading the blog, the links and the comments most of which bring up valid points on both sides.

I do have questions though:
from the Sufi Reoriented web site:

"members of Sufism Reoriented have dreamed of building a permanent sanctuary that could house all our activities in the neighborhood where we live."

1. what activities in the neighborhood are going on and where are they housed?
2. does the current level of activities fit in the new facility and what is left over?
3. what will be the effect on the community of the centralization of the activities, considering that there are only 72 parking spaces there?
4. When you build a structure like this you sort of expect that it will be a center of the group to orient on. Will that mean tourism from prior residents who were converted (if the site is private membership only), or does it mean a return to the neighborhood of the past folks and does that even matter in the scope of the discussion.
5. Is there any restrictions or general plan sort of conditions that would come to play?
6. has there been a finding of environmental impact which includes a range of issues such as traffic, impact on services, population growth and quality of neighborhoods etc>?

Anonymous said...

Anon 123- Hopefully you do not reside in Saranap or anywhere around WC. Without proper planning, zoning restrictions, and public comment we would have housing all the way up Mount Diablo (the mountain not the street) or porn shops next to schools. Local government regulations can be/are a pain in the ass but it is a necessity for a civilized society. If all of this is too much for you to take, maybe you should relocate to Bophal, India where chemical companies think like you.

Anonymous said...

Based on my dealings with the pinheads at Walnut Creek Building Department, the building will end up being 2,800 square feet, beige stucco with a brown shingle roof.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for length, but I read the whole blog and feel a lengthy response is called for:

I have lived in Saranap for a few years – I’m not a member of the Sufi congregation. Most posters here seem to agree that Sufis are helpful and have seriously improved the area.

So - FIRST: The Sufis DID NOT take over the SCA association: they legally followed the by-laws to gain some representation in the face of a board that was going against its own clearly established precedence in the process it used to review and make recommendations to the county. Then, in a sour grapes move, the other board members resigned and so it made it look as though the Sufis “completely took it over” when the Sufis in fact, did not. To wit. the new SCA Board President is not a Sufi. That, my friends, is the truth of what happened there, and it is easily verifiable.

SECOND: To say there is a small group in opposition is 1) true if you count the core opposers. The SOS was created by the old board members and mostly the people whose property is directly adjacent to the site, and 2) true at the time when the Sufis put up the website information in December-ish, no matter what count you use. Quite honestly, there are a lot of massive distortions on the SOS website and so there is no reason for anyone to actually believe the 700+ number. This is the same group that tried to get people to put bumper stickers on their cars to show the high level of opposition. I have yet to see any SOS bumper stickers on cars and I walk the neighborhood regularly.

So, the facts are, to counter claims that SoccerMom (who usually gets her facts right) clearly just pulled from the SOS site:

1) The RLUPA law, as someone else posted, makes this situation mute because it applies most specifically to small and unknown groups – which Sufis are.
2) The zoning laws allow for a church on that property.
3) no trees have been certified as "heritage" – that’s just fear mongering.
4) a height variance has CCC precedence on an adjacent property and guess whose property that is: one of the main SOS leaders. It was okay for him to get a height variance, but some how it is not ok for the Sufis, even when their percent of building above the height limit is less than his is?
5) The Sufis did some sort of traffic study that fully supports that there will be little or no new traffic, so that’s going to be seen as a mute point.
6) The County has repeatedly approved far more ugly buildings.

In my opinion, as is true for many small spiritual groups, the Sufis appear to have suffered from a bit of insular thinking about how to conduct PR. I think that if they had started a few years sooner on the newsletters about themselves, folks would have no argument about that piece of it. I sense that perhaps the Sufis felt pressure once they got out there talking with folks and so they compressed a "getting to know us" outreach process which rubbed some folks the wrong way. Of course they see the sanctuary as special and having the potential for admiration – did they make the best statements about how others might see it? Of course not.
Since when does a religious group know how to do PR “the right way”? Were they even thinking that way about the Architectural Digest comment? No – they were probably just really proud of it, thinking that others too would find it as beautiful as do they – and that type of thinking is consistent with the Sufis I know. I think people should cut them some slack on this issue.

So, they are NOT a cult, but they do have some serious requirements for time service by their members - which is really why, in my opinion, they need/want that much space. I personally think that they will use every inch of the place. They apparently are a respository for Meher Baba items, and he is an international spiritual figure – so that makes sense to me that they would need space for archiving. They also do all this AV stuff and produce full fledged DVDs and so forth – not many small groups do that, so I think they need adequate space for that sort of thing. In sum, I do not think they are lying about keeping numbers small – they just are not “Christmas and Easter” worshippers.

AND - Contrary to what's been said here, they do invite neighbors to events. I've been to 5-6 events over the past few years, as have many of my non-Sufi neighbors, and there is NOTHING peculiar going on. If you'd seen the Christmas concerts and plays that are performed, a person can easily why they'd want a couple of big areas for those events. Sure, they have pictures of their spiritual guides around, as Christians often have paintings of Jesus in their homes – you make not like that, but it does not mean that they should not have a place to worship that fits with their own symbols of faith.

In sum, since I have seen this situation unfold, the fact is that neighbors just don’t want something big and white and domed in their backyard – this is simply a NIMBY situation – and guess what? The neighbors are just going to have to grow up. In fact – the rhetoric by the neighbors has changed from – “You can’t do that and we’re going to stop you!” to “Please listen to us because we don’t want a white building there” which means to me that they are finally becoming educated about what is going to happen.

What I feel that neighbors won’t admit to is that had the Sufis proposed a slant roofed, wooden building of the same size and put a Christian cross on top, many neighbors would not have challenged it at all: there is an acceptance of Christian architecture no matter how against design folks might feel it is.

Thank God we have a Constitution that protects small and unknown religious groups who emerge in this country. How else would Muslim (and these Sufis are not Islamic), Jewish, Baha’i, Hindu, Mormon, Zen, Zoroastrian, or Buddhist congregations get anything built?

In sum, I ask SoccerMom to do more research before assuming the worst of a very devout and honest group of people. Again, the Sufis need a few lessons in PR, but that should not at all be the measure of them. Also, SoccerMom is a balanced thinker in general and so I hope she takes more time with this. It’s clear that she talked with SOS group members who have filled up the comments section. I only wish she had done the same with Sufi people.
ALSO - my sense is that the number of comments is being done intentionally to try to create enough noise to get CC Times to do another story on it. If that’s the case, then I would hope that the CC Times does a complete job of getting both sides to the story. The facts are still the same however: the Sufis will get their sanctuary, and they, like smaller unknown groups before them, will get to decide what kind of building corresponds with their needs and their faith. This is the American way.

Anonymous said...

Someone asked where to write in support of the Sufis project:

RE: Application LP08-2034 / MS08-0011, Sufism Reoriented

LaShun Cross
CCC Planner
Community Conservation & Development Dept
651 Pine St, 4th Flr, North Wing
Martinez, CA 94553-1229
T: 952-335-1229
F: 925-335-1222

Gayle Uilkema
Supervisor District 2
CCC Board of Supervisors
651 Pine St, Room 108A
Martinez, CA 94553-1229
T: 925-335-1046, 925-646-6067(msg)
F: 925-335-1076

Anonymous said...

Wow 7:04 - Thanks for that information. It really presented a more balanced view of the situation. I live in the area, and that was very helpful.

Note to self: always look for information representing both sides of a story before forming an opinion.

Anonymous said...

This has been an extremely educational group of postings to read. I would imagine that this situation is "classic" and simply characterizes various sorts of conflicts in values, with enormous unconscious components. The same building can look beautiful or ugly depending on who is seeing it and what underlying feelings percolate through!

In this case, there are likely to be projections of various fears about a "religion" that is, or at least appears on the surface to be "different" from what most people are used to. If such fears are unconscious, they can take any form whatsoever! A person can't be responsible for what's not fully conscious.

The entire situation seems to me to be one of fact, on ALL sides.

I think in the final analysis, the Alan Ritchie building will be seen as an asset by everyone, or almost everyone in the neighborhod. It was rather a low blow to say that Ritchie/Johnson designed the Lipstick Building in NYC "where Bernard Madoff did his thing." Come on, now.

Anonymous said...

A new one from "7:04" - the long post from this AM:

I re-read what I wrote and in my list of facts, I did not mean to imply that I think the Sufis proposed building is ugly when I said CCC approves many very ugly buildings.

I actually think it is a building appropriate to their faith and has beautiful design lines.

I simply meant to make the point that CCC does not seem to make a decision based on opinions about what is beautiful and what is not.

Soccer Mom said...

I'm heartened by the range, thought, and heart behind all these comments. I think it's great to hear from people who have had good experiences with Sufism members as neighbors and tenants and who think they have the right to build their sanctuary as they wish. I also think it's great to hear from people who are poking around all the related websites to come to their own conclusions, and those who still have questions, who think the building is ugly, who have had less than positive experiences with the organization.

It should have been pretty clear from my post that I am biased and am sympathetic to people who organized to raise questions about the project. Some of the people on the list are people I've known for a long time and for whom I have a lot of respect. A couple are more outspoken about the project than others, but all have concerns about it. Maybe they are closet anti-Sufism bigots. I don't think so. I think they are people who formed the concern than some group was trying to pull something over one them.

Yes, I did hope to raise the attention of more mainstream news organizations about the situation. That could include the Contra Costa Times. I do think the stories the Times did last summer were pretty one-sided--and lame. They just re-wrote the Sufism Reoriented press releases

One commenter complained about my need to do more research. Sure, I can always do more research. But the Times, as our so-called local newspaper of record should have done a hell of a lot more research. It was clear from their stories that they did nothing near what I did, and I'm not getting paid for writing this. I wrote this post because I think this is a local Walnut Creek/Lafayette issue that needs to be explored more thoroughly.

If nothing else, the Times missed a hell of a good story brewing, about what one commenter termed a "classic" neighborhood dispute, but one with more than the usual interesting overtones, about religion, aesthetic tastes, land rights, possible NIMBYism.

It's clear that this dispute has left a lot of people on both sides really upset. The fact that this neighborhood now has two associations claiming to represent its interests says a lot, whatever your opinion about who is to blame.

So, I would love to see another news organization--if that's even possible given the state of the news business--do a more thorough story; look into, yes, some of the development and legal disagreements, but also into the underlying sources of tensions. Even though I have my bias, I actually don't see this in black and white terms. There are a lot of those proverbial shades of gray.

I wish I could do that story, but I can't because of my bias.

One poster said the group probably should have done a better job of public relations. That could be the crux of it--not so much PR, but communications and getting out of an insular way of thinking.

As much as Sufism says it reached out to the community and tried to be inclusive, it's clear that the message didn't get across to a lot of people. And the approach they used was, for some people, very unpleasant. I had my own honestly disturbing encounter with someone from the group. That was a while ago, and maybe Sufism has learned some good lessons.

To be fair to the group--yes, I can try to be, despite my Lipstick building/Bernard Madoff swipe--I had a very positive experience with someone else from the group a short time later, just by happenstance, and this person talked a little about the faith, and its relation to other traditions, and it was an interesting, enlightening chat. This person and I never got around to talking about the sanctuary project, which is probably just as well.

And actually, I thought the issue had died down and been worked out. I recently learned not, and that's why I chose to write about it.

Thanks again for sharing thoughts and for those who shared good information. We'll see what happens, and I actually hope that different groups involved can find a way to work things out.

Anonymous said...

As long as you are listing weblinks, you might list the one for the actual popularly elected neighborhood association, and not just those who are opposed to things (you listed two).

That group is the Saranap Community Assosciation, and it represents the concerns not just of area homeowners, but also those of apartment renters, condo owners, duplex owners, and business people in the whole Saranap area that we all love--as well as homeowners. You can learn more at:

Anonymous said...

To: Soccer Mom
From: A non-Sufi Saranap neighbor

Well, to your credit, you have now admitted that you carry a level of permanent bias against the Sufis to an extent that you cannot present a non-biased case. It's too bad you did not admit as much at the beginning of your original blog.

Part of the reason I read you regularly is that you have stated you have been a journalist and you have said that you feel there is some journalistic integrity lacking - that in some way, your public relations face has been that your blog provides an alternative to corporate media with its built-in biases.

On this topic too I expected to hear that same independent critique’er whom I've come to admire when addressing some of the concerns in the WC community - but instead, I find a poorly researched, unverified stack of what amounts to a personal attack. You presented the Saranp situation as if you were a journalist for most of the first two segments, but then a bunch of website quotes from a group that is openly hostile to the Sufis is used as a resource as if everything they posted were a basis in fact. Isn’t fact checking a tenet of proper and unbiased journalism?

So, I understand you to say that you had a bad experience with Sufi person. Only after being called on being biased did you admit that you also had a good experience with another Sufi person. It would have been nice to hear that at the outset – shades of gray and so forth.

But no! Your response to one reader is not that you will engage in finding out any more actual data, for instance, the data of what happened at the SCA group and instead you cover your head and say that you are unwilling to do anymore than throw one side's argument up - as if it were the only legitimate view of the situation. That is just not the Soccer Mom I know and respect.

So - today - and I just cannot think it is any kind of coincidence at all - a relatively small group of SOS picketers (half of whom were children under 12) was found along Boulevard Way with some “TOO BIG” signs, and gee, a TV crew showed up, and gee, a helicopter was overhead for 10-20 minutes - - - could the timing of your blog have been part of a concerted effort?

I think so, and I am thoroughly disappointed with your so-called “coverage” of this situation.

Anonymous said...

to the person who talked about the Sufis supposedly forcing out the Blvd Way Market:

I saw, with my own eyes, and more than once, the Blvd market folks selling alcohol to underage minors.

What goes around comes around.

Anonymous said...

Soccer Mom said:

To sum up, SOS is asking Sufism Reoriented “to be the good neighbors that they have been for many years."

According to most readers, the Sufis have been good neighbors, so is Soccer Mom now the publicity firm for the SOS people?

What does it mean: be good neighbors? Should the Sufi people
> Give up the symbols of their faith?
> Make it too small to be effectively useable for their purposes?

Seems like the Sufi people could argue that the SOS people are (and the first community group were) not being good neighbors.

As I understand it, here these tolerant religious people provide a cheap private school, be good tenants, and clean up the bad lots of garbage for 30+ years and the community association does not even give their plan a proper hearing before voting NO on it.

How is that representative?
How was that a fair thing to do?

yer losin' me Soccer Mom! Please go back to being less biased - you were lots more fun that way

Soccer Mom said...

Anon 3:46: Point taken. I will attach the links to the Saranap Community Association

Anon 6:16 and 6:48: Don't read my blog if you don't agree or like what I write. It's my blog. I do it on my personal time. I express my opinion about issues I care about. I do not work for SOS. I think they raise worthwhile questions that deserve a hearing. That's why I wrote about their organization and their objections to this project.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:53- You were doing so well in your argument in support of the Suffi's, that I was rethinking some of the reasons I have for my position on the project. It's too big,it's not 'green', and it's ugly. However, after reading your well written although inaccurate,bigoted, and inflammable response to the opposition, my feelings against it are even more firm. Unlike Soccer Mom who admits her bias up front, you show yours by omission and deceit. You fail to mention the thousands of yards of soil that will be removed and trucked out of the site. You say no trees have been certified as "heritage". Even if they haven't been designated as heritage, if they meet the code requirements for heritage tree designation, that will have to be declared when a permit to remove is applied for. But what really outraged me was your claim (which I cut and pasted here for accuracy)..."What I feel that neighbors won’t admit to is that had the Sufis proposed a slant roofed, wooden building of the same size and put a Christian cross on top, many neighbors would not have challenged it at all: there is an acceptance of Christian architecture no matter how against design folks might feel it is." You are the worst kind of person. To paint those who oppose this project for its size and design and then state that it's all about religion is indicative of a true lowlife bigot!
Read the following article from the CC Times.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Contra Costa Times

Byline: Theresa Harrington

Sep. 30--A proposed church facility expansion in a residential area of Walnut Creek has sparked controversy among neighbors, including KGO radio personality Bill Wattenburg. Some residents, including Wattenburg's wife, are appealing a Planning Commission decision granting the expansion at St. Matthew Lutheran Church on Wiget Lane, which they fear will bring more traffic congestion, parking headaches and noise to their quiet streets. The City Council will hear the appeal Tuesday.

COPYRIGHT 2006 Contra Costa Times

Anonymous said...

I was very saddened to see parents proudly standing behind their little children who were holding protest signs against a church.

Children don't hate people on their own...they have to be taught to hate other people.

Ms. Soccer Mom: You who rail against child predators! Where is your outrage at this abuse?

Anonymous said...

8:23: Great comment! And thanks for more information about another controversial church project.

8:42: Yeah, it's not like the Sufis don't trot out their kids every chance they get for every conceivable public relations opportunity to show how wonderful, compassionate, humane, and family friendly they are. Just go to their website, or their glorification of their involvement in the Meher school. Wonder what "indoctrination" goes on there?

Anonymous said...

Come see for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:42- Hate?!?! What has protesting have to do with hate? Again you are spreading a lie! The children were there as part of their families that live in the neighborhood. It is their neighborhood too. They also have a stake in its future. They were also getting a lesson in American civics.They were protesting against the plans for the eyesore. How is that considered hate? You are the one that really needs to take a civics lesson and also learn how to report the truth. You are trying to make the opposition to 'Starship Galictica' as being opposed to Sufisism and we ain't gonna let you do it!

Anonymous said...

There will always be people who exploit their children for their own purposes. Nice dog-and-pony show.
Sarah Palinesque.

Anonymous said...

The Sufis would NEVER trot out its children or images of children to assert, in a public relations way, its amazing political/religious viewpoint.

Give me a break. Just check out Page 8 of the Winter newsletter "Neighborhood Newsletter." This is the regular newsletter that the organization so kindly shares with its neighbors to tell us just how we need to think about a particular issue. 6 of those 8 pages keep us up to date on how great the sancutary will be.

Or check out any of their newsletters, which you can view at

Kids, kids, kids.

If you want to talk about spreading hate--or at least attempting to indoctrinate students and their parents to take a particular stance about an issue--what about a letter the Sufis distributed to kids at the Mehers schools?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:14 -

First - re the amount of soil - wht does that have to do with bigotry? Part two to that is that the SOS claim a ridiculous number of truck will be needed. The actual size of trucks used for jobs of that size means that 1/2 or less the number claimed by SOS will be needed. I know this for a fact, given I have had relatives in the construction industry.

Re: the trees - the point is that they are not heritage trees NOW, and SOS basically claims that they are - and that's misleading.

Re: the slanted roof - look, if the sanctuary had been tan, you would not care, if the sanctuary had been Christian, not so much fuss at all - it's because it is white and big and NO ONE ASKED YOU FOR YOUR PERMISSION TO DO IT.

Anonymous said...

to continue on the last post -


it's simply not your property, so thank God there's an extra Federal law that makes it so that you can't tell the Sufis what to do with THEIR property.

from "the worst kind of human" who happens to believe in property rights...

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of Lafayette Morehouse. What's up with all these cult-like organizations in this area anyway?

Anonymous said...

oh give me a break, Morehouse had weird purple cadillacs and weird purple people eaters... not even sure they are still over there.

Sufis are toatlly integrated into American society - totally unfair comparison... a spit ball.

Anonymous said...

Ummm I just saw this story on the News. They showed pictures of the proposed building from ground level. The pictures were surprisingly beautiful.

I don't get it?? Save our Saranap from what?????

Anonymous said...

And here I thought I was going to be bored once I moved from San Francisco to the suburbs -- but no! Sufis! Controversy! Lafayette Morehouse! I didn't know about any of this before. I love the blogosphere and I've become a regular reader of Claycord and Crazy in Suburbia and don't know what I'd do without them (and even though I'm currently partial to the Sufi building, I figure I don't know enough about it yet, and also, on a related note about another post above, people who expect blogs to be unbiased just aren't keeping up with the times. It's a blog, not a newspaper article. Bloggers express their opinions. C'mon.)

Anonymous said...

Re: 2:16 AM -

Of course blogs are supposed to be opinions, but most of them are not written by someone who claims, in many of her posts, to use a journalistic lense - and then, when that's brought into question, basically resorts to saying basically, "shut up or yell at me, I can write what I want"

It just undermines all her work to have established herself as a "credible voice" when she relied on the SOS website as a main source for "the real data".

and that't the point I was making...

if she's going to be opinionated and not do any journalistic fact-checking, well FINE, but then I think she owes it to readers to stop claiming that she uses a journalistic approach.

Anonymous said...

So, to sum up the BIG story:

KPIX sends at least two people in a news van, and more in a helicopter to unincorporated WC, to interview Sufis, and show about 25 "protesters"--counting children & bicycles--wave about four signs...didn't even have them talking on air (probably too shrill). This from the "we've got more than 725 people against this!"

Yea...not so much I'm must be using new math. Tempest meets teapot in a "nutshell."

I bet the editor thought "it's a slow news day. Let's go with it since we invested 8 person hours and the helicopter!"


Anonymous said...

All right - I go to the site and there's a followup story to the TV story. They quote a county staffperson who says that the county has 200 letters from each side!


1) if there really are 725 vehemently opposed SOS people, how come only 200 letters from that side have been received at the county?

2) if the Sufis really are doing a conjob, as Soccer Mom stated, would they not have made sure there were at least 350 letters sent over to the county, at least one from each of them plus even more from whomever they have supposed hoodwinked in the neighborhood?

So thanks Soccer Mom for bringing a real news agency into it!

and thanks Channel 5, for providing news info because now I feel I understand who is being more truthful in this situation.

In reading both websites and most of the blog comment, it seems clear to me that the SOS'ers are the group that's not on the up and up.

Too bad, because the obvious exaggerating only makes them look pathetic and I wonder what the county people think of their exaggerated claims.

Like someone said, cut the church some slack on the PR stuff - they're only human. Keeping it real: Most church-type people don't think like media types and they don't vet their newsletters for how they might sound to everyone who would read them. I think they did a good job on making pretty newsletters. Sure they sound a bit rosy, but what do you expect, they're rosy posey type-church people.

Anonymous said...

anon 11:31-

Just what we've all come to expect from SOS: "We aren't against Sufis, or anyone's religion," and then refer to them disparagingly as a cult. Weak, false, and transparent. Pants on fire! Not a great civics lesson for those hapless children. It is too bad they DON'T go to the Meher Schools, where young people are taught to love and respect one another--and their unique qualities--and a love for the diversity of mankind, its achievements, and a deep love of this country and its hard won freedoms.

This church wants to build a beautiful sanctuary-to worship God-in an area they've already been in, and improving for 35 years. They want to do it in a peaceful glade of trees...with a lovely garden open to the neighborhood.

What does the Saranap need to be saved from? I think we have all got a hunch by now, but it's not Sufism Reoriented. That group of Saranap residents is constructive and contributing, and doing it in the proper quiet step at a time. Make no mistake, there IS a civics lesson here, but the children are looking in the wrong direction.

Ashamed of "Neighbors"

Anonymous said...

Wow ... I am so saddened by all of this. I actually attended the Meher Schools as a child and I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it was. My parents were not Sufis, but lucky for me I ended up there. In all my educational experience since (which includes public and private schools, college, and continuing education) I have never had an experience remotely as lovely as that of my time at the school run by the Sufis. It was so special that I struggle to find words to describe it. It was an atmosphere full of nurturing, respect for all people and things, art, drama, music, dance, beauty and love. Love - that's the special ingredient. As I understand it now, pretty much the central theme of their teaching and lives is simply to be as loving as they can in all aspects of life. And as a child, believe me, it's pretty nice! Switching to a fancy private school after leaving the Meher Schools, it was shocking to find that not all adults were as nurturing and kind as the teachers I had grown accustomed to.

And, as for indoctrination, there simply isn't any. The only aspect of their "Sufiness" that comes through is shown in their kindness and the general manner in which they conduct themselves, not in their curriculum (which is excellent, by the way). Maybe you are unaware, but the Sufis have no desire to convert anyone. As I have learned, one of their main tenets is not to proselytize (which I certainly find refreshing). They are not seeking new members, so there is no need to indoctrinate children. They run a school which they make affordable through untold amounts of unpaid volunteer work - volunteers that clean, garden, paint, repair, build, do office work, and who knows what all else - these volunteers are mostly all Sufis. Why do they do this? To indoctrinate children and parents? No - they do it as a service to their community.

And, wow, am I glad they do, because now that I'm a parent myself I moved from another part of the state and bought a house in Saranap so that I could send my child to their school. Some of the same teachers who were my teachers are still at the school and will be teachers for my child. Now, as a parent, I couldn't be happier with the education and quality of my child's life at she school. And I can't tell you how grateful I am to the Sufis for providing the same wonderful childhood they did for me, for my child.

I urge anyone who is feeling threatened or afraid of this "cult" to simply visit the school, or talk with a Sufi and ask them the questions you want to know. I think you'll find they are actually quite kind and open. In fact, I'd say the main thing that distinguishes them from those that oppose them or their plans for a new building is that you never hear them speaking in an unkind or attacking way. Take a look at their presentation about their project on their website ( and you might feel surprised to see how lovely the plans for the building are - not at all the hideous "space-ship" that it is touted to be. That is one aerial image. Are you going to be viewing the building from a hot air balloon every day? No? Then perhaps you should take a look at how it will look from ground view before getting so upset.

Please consider getting to know the school, the organization, their history in this neighborhood, their plans for their sanctuary, or even just a few actual Sufi people themselves before getting so worked up. I promise you, from my perspective as a home owner, a former student of their school, and a parent, that we are very lucky to have them here, and that our neighborhood is enhanced by their presence.

Anonymous said...

"Just what we've all come to expect from SOS: "We aren't against Sufis, or anyone's religion," and then refer to them disparagingly as a cult."

This is anon 11:31 here. I never said I wasn't against Sufis. I am against that cult. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck! If it has a "church" like a spaceship, a cult of personality, it's a cult. And thankfully, I am not a Saranap resident.

Anonymous said...

finally, an honest quack~

Anonymous said...

Cult-dude 11:31:

From Aristotle, the logical syllogism:

1) You are against "that cult"
2) you are talking about the Sufis when you mean that cult

Therefore, you are against these Sufis

Anonymous said...

Read 9:47 again. I had to read it twice.

He says he IS against the Sufis and compares them to the old Lafayette Morehouse commune. But at least this person isn't trying to appear unbiased. You must give them that.

It's like their trying to paint the Sufis with the old racist negative tar brush, the same way they did referring to Philip Johnson and the "lipstick" building...and then referring to that admitted mega-criminal Madhoff in the same sentence. As if they were linked together. It is called Magical Thinking.

This is when you realize they've got nothing but marginalized desperation. I'm sure we will see more of the same.

Check out "Lafayette Morehouse" on Wikipedia, and see if it resonates with your experience of these Sufi citizens. Doesn't match mine. Mine is like that expressed by Anon 9:43.

Anonymous said...

Wow - like the gal who went to school at Meher Schools, I am just completely astonished at what people have been saying about the lovely Sufis. I have a close friend who is a Sufi and I live in the Saranap.

From what I know, the only personality they are really into is the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" guru who is actually no longer living.

But I am pushed to post here because I want to talk about the pictures of the teacher(s) and the so-called cult idea that someone has proposed. There seems to be some confusion about why Sufis have pictures up and I think I can help.

The Sufis' main thing is "remembrance of the God as the Beloved". My friend told me that she has pictures up so that she is reminded of people who she feels are the best examples she knows of selfless, loving service - and that this helps her in her own life as she makes decisions and deals with life's difficulties. It's that simple and I've seen nothing that contradicts what she told me.

Believe me, my Sufi friend is a lovely gentle person most of the time, but she is very much an individual too or I would not be able to stand being her friend. Simply said, she's no cult member and I know she'd quit if it ever turned into something like that.

I've actually met the Murshida, Dr. Conner, and she is just a truly charming person. I expect a minister to have certain admirable qualities, and Murshida Conner has the kind of calm energy I would want in a minister.

Also, in the few times I've been around her, there's not been any fawning or drooling or batting eyes or whatever people might use as criterion for determining by the behavior of their followers that a situation is cultish, so I think the "Sufis are a cult" projection can be dropped anytime now.

As the gal said, get to know some Sufis - they don't bite - you might be surprised to find out how well educated, kind, and balanced they are.

About Honesty: One thing I do know is that they do not lie - it's against one of their core principles - so all this talk of them lying intentionally seems ridiculous. Maybe there was the random, not well thought out discussion OR Maybe they did not know how to talk about something like this to their neighbors since they've nbever had to do that before, but intentionally lying about facts, I simply find that hard to believe. I've known these people for 25 years - they are good human beings.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:30 wrote:

*** Just what we've all come to expect from SOS: "We aren't against Sufis, or anyone's religion," and then refer to them disparagingly as a cult. Weak, false, and transparent. Pants on fire! ***

I was curious about this SOS group calling the Sufis a cult, so I went to the SOS website and looked for "cult" and it isn't there. Well, it is, once, as part of the word "difficult".

So I tried to figure out what Anon 9:30 was referring to, and came to the conclusion that it's his/her "Pants on fire!" by painting anyone who is not in favor of this project is claiming that Sufis are a cult. Dude, on their website the SOS writes that they are opposed to the "size and bulk" of this project, not that the Sufis should be prevented from building something on this site that fits it better.

I'm surprised that someone professing to the ideals of this Sufi religion and philosophy would distort what SOS actually says on their website by saying they are responsible for what other people post on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Thanks 10:32 about Cult-Dude - you are right - he did say he is against them - he just used a double negative or something to say it - threw me off.

The Magical Thinking is what will very probably marginalize the SOS as the county makes the decision. The county deals with these sorts of neighborhood disputes all the time - why SOS does not seem to get that is beyond me.

The illogical part of what they are up to is that the county has heard every argument about "heritage trees", "too big", "too much traffic", "too high", "too few parking spaces" - they've heard ALL OF IT before.

So there is NOTHING NEW here that the SOS people can position as being "so unique to the governance of the Saranap" that the county people will stand up and "put a stop to it!", whatever "it" is. This is clearly an overblown NIMBY situation, as someone else said before.

Fact is: the county people will have to follow the RLUPA law so as to avoid a lawsuit from the Sufis -which I think most any religious group would do if pressed and would win, based on my albeit limited understanding of that law.

Anonymous said...

There have been comments about the view of the proposed Sufi building being hidden by the landscaping. I was curious so I went to the Sufism Reoriented website and took a look at their drawings that show what they say their building will look like from the street. They also say that it's about the same hgight as the condo building next door to where their building will be.

The drawings are misleading. They show the building hidden by trees. I looked at the condo next door and it's easy to see that it would take hundreds of huge trees to screen that building from the street.

The Sufism Reoriented site also says that they are going to remove the existing trees on the site to allow construction, and will replace them with many new trees. I've planted trees at the various For those trees to reach the height and breadth needed to screen the building will take many, many years.

Anonymous said...

Doh! Hoisted on my own "canard." [look it up...]

You make a good point, just not a huge one. SOS is careful to avoid calling people a cult in print--on their site--it is just done verbally to neighbors, and on this blog, where they believe they can't be linked to it. I think most people are wise to this thin veil.

I do apologize for an unfair characterization of such fair folks.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a Sufi and live two blocks from the site of the new building. I have absolutely no problem with their proposal, and nothing but positive things to say about the Sufi community. As other posters have mentioned, they make great neighbors, and they have provided a valuable service for decades through their unique private school/preschool. The new building/landscaping can only enhance Boulevard Way - an area with lots of apartment buildings, minimal landscaping, industrial looking stores, etc.
I will say that the privacy of the Sufi community has led some of my neighbors to feel that they are a 'cult'. Those comments express a lot of fear and misunderstanding. Perhaps the Sufis are private out of consideration for others - perhaps other religious groups have something to learn from them.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:43 here - the former student of the Meher Schools ...

I just wanted to add that it's true what another poster said about honesty. The Sufis I know well wouldn't even fib on their taxes or call in sick to work if they weren't. There are very few "rules" for them, but I believe being 100% honest is one of them.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:39

Ok, first - agreeing to stipulate that you reviewed the SOS website and did not find the word cult on it, and second, agreeing that indvs here should not be confused with the SOS group,

let's then talk about what IS on the SOS site:

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.

There are many of these nonsense comments made on the SOS site, but two are just so ridiculous it's worth showing why I've spent time on figuring out exactly what is going on here.

In my opinion, folks who do not think clearly should not be allowed to go unchecked if claiming to represent my interests at the county level:

Here is the first reason: One complaint SOS makes is that the building will interfere with enjoying summer nights because the domes are "270' above sea level" - well SO WHAT! If a person is looking at the stars while standing at ~240' above sea level, then how asinine is it to make a claim that the whole sky will be blotted out by something being 270' above sea level - i.e. is only ~33 high in the highest spot? IT's VERY ASININE.

The second reason they should NOT be allowed to represent my interests to the county:

SOS makes a silly claim that there will be 3,400 dump trucks - that is just totally fabricated using the smallest sized dump truck available on the market. It might be more like 1/3 the number of that and guess what? Sufis say they know that period of time will be a nuisance - but that they will try to work with neighbors to make it a manageable time.

So, people should be called on their bigotry. This is 2009 people.

From: not a Sufi, but thinking more fondly of them day by day.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:56 re the Tree Growth

The Sufis, in the first SCA community meeting about the project(there will be at least 3 of those), FULLY AND OPENLY ADMITTED that it will take 3-4 years before the trees they plan to plant provide the level of coverage depicted in the drawings.

They also said they are buying trees that are already somewhat grown, but not too grown, so that they get the right kind of growth rate to hit the 3-4 year mark.

So, there's no misleading going on about the trees - you perhaps just weren't at that meeting to know the specifics?

Anonymous said...

Soccer Mom, I can not thank you enough for bringing this issue to the attention of the media. Many comments from readers seem to be missing the point: THIS IS A LAND USE ISSUE. The development is way to big for the proposed site. That is why the County would have to grant the developer, Sufism Reoiented, a height variance and a parking variance in order for it to be built as it has been proposed. Neighbors are not saying a sanctuary shouldn't be built. They are saying build one that fits within the constraints of the site. Just because a structure is being constructed for religous purposes does NOT mean it has a free pass to massively overbuild on it's site. A sanctuary built on this particular propety, without being granted a height variance and a parking variance, would likely be less than a 1/3 of the size Sufism Reoriented is demanding. Bottom line: the proposed development does not fit the site. Sufism Reoriented being great neighbors, or threatening to move out of the neighborhood, or the prinicpal of the Meher school declaring they will have to close the school, DOES NOT make their proposal fit the site.
Concerned Saranap resident and previous supporter of the sanctuary until given the facts about the size.

Anonymous said...

A friend forwarded me a link to this blog this morning because we sent our son to White Pony and the Meher School. The Sufis, those nice, neat, clean, private people you are all referring to, are just like everyone else only better. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have found the Meher School. Our son was treated with love and respect. He experienced a million little and big joyful moments during his time there, as did we. We have kept our Meher School friends even though we are no longer there, a testament to the spirit of community at the school. (We are not Sufis.) Our later experiences in the Lafayette public school system were atrocious by comparison.

This blog strikes me as an educated person's bigotry disguised as a NIMBY protest. Soccer Mom and her supporters sound scared of something that won't serve them personally (like a library or a soccer field), they are not involved in (Sufism), and can't or won't understand because it is different from them. A cult is in the eye of the beholder. I am surprised to see so much intolerance in these comments, even from people who don't live in the area. These comments lead me to believe that a Sufi sanctuary of any size is desperately needed in our area. As evidenced by this blog and comments, there is definitely not enough love, tolerance, understanding and kindness to go around. Instead of blogging about people and things you know nothing about, go work in a soup kitchen today. Volunteer to visit a shut-in. Do something nice for a friend or family member. Or try to just live and let live.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:51

If SOS had just thought it a landuse issue, why all the other crap on their website for the last 4 months? Because of the months of bad-mouthing and name-calling by the SOS, it’s simply disingenuous for SOS and any one who supports them to just say that it has “always been about land use”.

That’s simply not true and their website proves it. Most people I know feel SOS resorted to the “land use” argument only after becoming educated that it was the argument that held the best shot at stopping the project.

From the beginning, the verbal discussions were always about not liking the design (it not being “like other churches”), can’t it be another color (“like other churches”), having to see it from their backyards (which will go away with the trees).

This is just a NIMBY issue – trying to now camouflage opposition as a general problem of “land use” is an obvious sleight of hand to those who attended the first SCA community meeting on the Sufism project.

Truth is: the Sufis have done a design that architecturally fits on that lot, they can show that traffic won't be a problem, and the county has set a clear and inarguable precedence by approving SOS leader Curtis Trenor's height exceeding house on the lot next door.

The county will not be fooled, believe me. I used to work for the county and I have a sense of how the county sees community disputes. The “land use” argument will be seen for what it is: the last available excuse a group of bigoted neighbors has found to try to stop a building style they just do not like.

Also, and you should know this, given your educated instruction about the situation, land use, even as described by SOS, simply won’t beat out the RLUPA law.

Y'all should just give up. You already lost the second RLUPA was signed into law.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:23 wrote:

"Also, and you should know this, given your educated instruction about the situation, land use, even as described by SOS, simply won’t beat out the RLUPA law.

Y'all should just give up. You already lost the second RLUPA was signed into law."

This and other references to RLUPA in responses in this Blog should read what RLUPA actually protects instead of using it as "A church cannot be prevented from building anything they want on a piece of land." See

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry you are so misinformed. This IS a land use issue. Always has been always will be. And it's one that over 700 residents of Saranap will NOT walk away from. You can talk RUPLA all you like. That doesn't make the building fit within the site's set guidelines. It is WAY TOO big and that's a concrete fact and one which the County is questioning. Opposition to this oversized proposed development will not go away. It will only increase. I suggest SR come up with a proposal that fits the site.

Anonymous said...

FYI comments from architect and landscape companies.

Anonymous said...

Please excuse my previous mispelling of RLUPA. Also, FYI RLUPA allows for places of relgious worship to be built on R10single family housing lots. Everyone who has taken the time to get educated on this development knows that. However, RLUPA status does not provide, and I'll repeat my term, 'a free pass' to build beyond the site's limitations.

Anonymous said...

12:45 and 12:51

Well, maybe I am not fully informed, but it's clear that you are not fully informed either.

The County already places great importance on RLUPA. Re: the El Sobrante Sikh temple that is seeking just about the same amount of additional space and having some neighborhood opposition - as follows from a published report of their process:

begin quote:

"The (CCC Planning) commission also requested a briefing on the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act of 2000; a reference to the Act is included in a supplemental report from the county staff.

Congress, in passing the law, found that "the right to assemble for worship is at the very core of the free exercise of religion," according to a synopsis on the Web site of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.

"Religious assemblies cannot function without a physical space adequate to their needs and consistent with their theological requirements," the synopsis reads. "The right to build, buy, or rent such a space is an indispensable adjunct of the core First Amendment right to assemble for religious purposes."

In general, the Act prohibits zoning and other land-use rules that place an unreasonable burden on religious institutions, especially "new, small and unfamiliar ones."

end quote

So, I think SOS needs to become more familiar with RLUPA adn perhaps stop wasting everyone's time on this thing. By the way, the fact that SOS wants to waste my taxes on having the county beat this thing to death is not very cool either - given what is known about RLUPA.

Again, given that info above, most religious groups, I think, would have the full expectation of winning any kind of lawsuit, especially if they'd done as much work as the Sufis have already done to address issues and fit the building onto the site.

A few months of dirt is not enough to shove off the RLUPA requirements. If they satisfy the traffic issue - again, not legit argument for stopping them. The height issue is totally mute as far as I can tell. It's not as though cutting down 6 maybe heritage oaks is like cutting down 10' wide redwoods - -

So the 700 people you cite are just going to have to get used to the idea that the Federal government felt bigotry needed an extra kick in the butt, and put enough teeth into the thing so that small groups like Sufism Reoriented would not be bullied by distortion producing groups like SOS or people like you, if indeed you are not one and the same.

Anonymous said...

"Truth is: the Sufis have done a design that architecturally fits on that lot, they can show that traffic won't be a problem, and the county has set a clear and inarguable precedence by approving SOS leader Curtis Trenor's height exceeding house on the lot next door."


Anonymous said...

Anon 1:10 wrote:

'In general, the Act prohibits zoning and other land-use rules that place an unreasonable burden on religious institutions, especially "new, small and unfamiliar ones."'

That's true. What's important here is what an "unreasonable burden" is and is not. Application of Contra Costa County zoning and variance requirements is not an "unusual burden" in the case of the Sufism Reoriented sanctuary project.

Here's another quote from the RLUPA statute:

"(b) Discrimination and exclusion
(1) Equal terms
No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that treats a religious assembly or institution on less than equal terms with a nonreligious assembly or institution."

So Sufism Reoriented is bound by exactly the same terms as would an apartment, condominium, or single family home development that is also allowed by R10 zoning, which is how the land for this project is zoned.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:05

Let's be clear:

If Sufism Reoriented felt it had a "free pass" as you put it, they simply would not have spent so much time on those items that might have mitigated against moving forward on the project. They are just not that dumb - they are all educated and considerate people.

I think you will find that there might be a couple of minor changes asked for by the county to the Sufis, in part so that they can say to the SOS, "see, we listened to you"...

but MAKE NO MISTAKE - the county and the Board of Supervisors, including Gayle Uilkema - will do whatever it takes to avoid an RLUPA lawsuit.

Anonymous said...


the operative words in your citation are "less than", not "equal to" - if it had said "equal to", then your conclusion would be correct.

Anonymous said...

The SOS say it is too big for the site, yet the surface building is only 20,000 square feet-and round, so it recedes in every viewing direction--even the roof. The unseen part is just that...unseen, and under a garden and lawn parking area.

They say there isn't enough parking, yet two years of implementing and proving a Traffic Demand Management (TDM) plan, deemed a model of such a plan by the county, proves that is simply ignorant of the facts.

So, Sufis contend it isn't too big, and it has enough parking, and the SOS describes it as a giant gorilla crammed in a monkey cage...[again with the monkeys!]. The county will ultimately decide whose facts are correct. No amount of saying it isn't so, will make it otherwise.

I don't even think RLUPA will come into play, as they have all their facts in alignment with requirements for approval. As someone said, the Planning Commissioners and Board of Supervisors have heard all these arguments on every other fearful NIMBY protested project.

These officials are smart people and careful public servants, and I believe they know the score. I say we let the "professionals" decide, and stop trying to holler over the fence about it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:42 wrote "They also said they are buying trees that are already somewhat grown, but not too grown, so that they get the right kind of growth rate to hit the 3-4 year mark."

Exactly what kind of trees will grow to shield a 33.5' tall structure within a "3-4 year mark"? The architectural renderings (paintings) on the Sufism Reoriented website show the trees taller than the 33.5' central dome. That's going to take many more years than the "3-4" Anon 11:42 claims.

Anonymous said...

RLUPA smupla all you want. RLUPA is of no concern to the opposition. Funny how people in support keep bringing religion into the equation??? The facts are: Parking variance will be required. Making a pledge to walk holds no weight. The building is grossly underproviding parking. That will NOT fly. Nor will a height variance. To the person who mentioned the height of a neighboring home, the arguement has nothing to do with how high the stucture is from the ground up. It is the complete height of the structure. Which happens to be 54'h and in turn would enable the building to hold well over 1,000 people. The facts can not be disputed.

Anonymous said...

"The Sufis, those nice, neat, clean, private people you are all referring to, are just like everyone else only better."

Gee, should we all bow down to the supremacy of the Sufis now?

"Our later experiences in the Lafayette public school system were atrocious by comparison."

Yeah, the Acalanes school district is terrible. Who in their right mind would want to send their kids there?! Have you seen the test scores? Horrible! And the gang problem there is out of control too, right?

Anonymous said...


Please retreat and take your ignorance with you. While this thread is not about school districts, don't forget that Acalanes' students brought guns and bombs to school.

Also Lafayette School District is a separate entity from Acalanes Union High School District. Just in case you didn't know....

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just read the SOS website and some of these blog postings.

What a bunch of hate-filled bigots.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:26 wrote "the operative words in your citation are "less than", not "equal to" - if it had said "equal to", then your conclusion would be correct."

The words in the statute are clear: "not less than equal to" does NOT mean "less than" it means that they have to be no more than equal to, i.e. they can't be more restrictive than what whould be required by others.

Anonymous said...

re: trees - they only have to be as high as would preclude someone in a car or house's angle of viewing from veiling the buildings, and that is very possible even at 8' tall or 10' tall. But you comments are exactly what people find appalling: inferring that the trees would have to be 33' tall to effect the veiling - it's distortion

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:45

Parking Variance: look, if most live close and walk, the parking variance is quite reasonable and denying it would liekly put undue burden on the Sufis per RLUPA.

Height Variance - I am not sure the county will see it as a 54' building for the purposes of a height variance - by a reasonable person, the building is 33' high at a peak and 17' high on average.

The Sufis only have about 350 members and the fire dept can establish the number of people allowed, so that's a kind of "whatever!" thing you've raised about the 1,000 people - more fear mongering, as far as I can tell.

but - let's talk about why you are focusing on the number 54' - is it not true that next door neighbor and established Sufi name-caller Mr. Trenor's 35' height variance is a BIG problem for the SOS position in this matter?

If this opposition is not about bigotry and not wanting something to be dome shaped and white, where exactly was the SOS when the Trenors applied for their permit?

That house just went up in the past couple years! You all were around to complain about that - but did you?

Well, perhaps it's because Mr. Trenor's roof is slanted and wooden in color when he submitted his permit such that no big stink was made. Certainly no one resigned from the SCA over it.

Is his lot big enough to support a house that big? hmmm... did the Sufis oppose it even though now that house looms largely over the proposed sanctuary property? hmmm....

So if this is about “appropriate land use in the Saranap” - as has been claimed loudly today - then one could easily argue that the Trenors should NOT AT ALL been allowed the height variance - because - guess what - his volume above the height variance is greater than that of the Sufis' visible area requiring the variance (i.e. just the top of the main dome).

But SOS figured this out, didn't you all? You figured out that Trenor's height variance is a HUGE problem for you in terms of precedent setting, so you've focused in on the 54' total as an attempt to distort the issue.

The county people just are not as stupid as you all think they could be - they know they set the precedent with the Trenor house and they know you are scheming for a way to get this thing turned down any way you can.

so perhaps the SOS strategy is to focus on the 54' issue and hope no one noticed that you are being biased against the Sufis but had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to say about the Trenor house variance, at least as far as anyone I know is aware of.

Well, guess what, WE HAVE NOTICED ! ! ! ! !

I only hope that the Sufis understand that many of their neighbors see exactly what they are up against:

a bunch of hypocritical bigots who think it's fine for themselves to have variances but somehow it's just not okay for a well regarded church to be given variances... somehow, if given to the Sufis, SOS-types seem to think that a variance becomes "special treatment". I think not.

so, does it “just not fit in” if it's white and not wooden like Mr. Trenor's?

so, does it “just not fit in” because it's not slant roofed like Mr. Trenor's?

I rest my case.

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous. I repeat for the last time: the opposition is strong and will continue to grow. And the opposition is valid. What's right for the greater good of the neighborhood will prevail. Clearly Sufism Reoriented is not interested in working with the community on coming up with a reasonable developement that fits the site. Therrefore, I'm signing off and will see you at the hearings in a year or two or three!

Anonymous said...

hmmmm... signing off without responding to the 54' issue... could that have touched a nerve perhaps?

Will anyone at SOS defend Mr. Trenor's height variance being allowed on such a small lot?

I went past the Trenor home again today just to be sure I had my thinking cleear on it. The Trenors have a very little front yard and probably 10' of back yard by all accounts. The house covers 3/4 of the property. Its variance extends the entire width of the house.

Again - exactly WHERE were the SOS members then?

But, let's be honest here: if the silence persists, should it really be any kind of surprise given the kind of remarks on the SOS site?

maybe not - I'm hoping one of them will let us know what the SOS explanation is about how they can oppose the Sufi site while having said nothing about the Trenor house.

21stCenturyMom said...

I have lived in the Saranap area for 20 years and, dare I say, some of my best friends are Sufis? Well they are. I sent my daughter to the White Pony for pre-school (the pre-school arm of the Mehr school) and it was wonderful. Warm, nurturing, loving - just lovely.

When this project was first proposed I was all for it. My initial thought was that if that land had but 1 sanctuary on it then it would not be adulterated by some craptastic, zero lot line development of 2 story houses. We win!

That was before I learned of the size of this sanctuary. I'm mostly having an arithmetic problem. How can a parish of 350 worshipers possibly need 66,000 sq ft of space? That's bigger than the WC library, a facility designed to accommodate a population of 65,000 people.

How can a 66,000 sq ft. sanctuary only need 72 parking spaces? I have to admit that the Sufi community has done a fabulous job of paring down the number of cars that go to the standard Friday night "services" (for lack of a better word and I don't know what word they use). There was a time when there were cars all over the place on Friday night and the community did such a great job of solving that problem that I thought they stopped having their Friday night meetings. Sufi's in general live close to their place of worship. However - 66,000 sq. ft???? It seems only reasonable to assume that that amount of space is intended to serve a larger community and I am therefore suspicious.

As for the trees and the dirt and the mess of construction - I'm genuinely concerned. It seems a daunting task to haul away that much dirt and I have to wonder what displacing that much earth will do to the surrounding area. I'd love to hear an engineer's take on that issue. I'm also wondering if they've done an underground survey. The developers that built the high priced condos on California had to cope with an underground creek on that property and it was not an easy problem to solve.

This is not a simple project and will have a huge impact on the area. As I understand it the Boulevard Way will need to be re-shaped around that corner. An historic house is going to be leveled. Tress are going to be removed. Dust and dirt will abound for months.

I'd like to see people keep an open mind, not resort to name calling and be perfectly honest at all times. The residents of this area deserve that - Sufi and non-Sufi alike.

Anonymous said...

4:45 excellent post and can respect your concerns, and no matter what there will be disruption and dirt - but I want to ask you one compound question:

Have you ever felt the Sufis had lied to you in all the time you have known them?

If not, then why would you think they would lie to you about not increasing the numbers, or in them saying they need that much room to house all of their activities?

I hope that you could ask some of your Sufi friends to see if they can get you some time with someone from Sufism Reoriented who could answer some of those questions for you in a less hostile setting than the meetings have been.

Though I doubt they are going to budge much on the design as applied for, I think you would find more expansive answers about why they feel they need that much space.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Lots of anonymous comments here, and most of them sound like SoccerMom fueling the fire as an anon.

Anonymous said...

sadly, Soccer Mom deserves the last comment, regardless of whether or not it is tuly her doing it. Actually, I was thinking Curtis Trenor himself was a good candidate for being SOS poster of the day... that person sure bailed once the Trenor issue surfaced cleanly.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:43 here again - the former student of the Meher Schools ...

If you look on their website you can get answers to a lot of these questions. As to why they need all that space they say ( ...

The size of the sanctuary itself was determined by a formal "program of requirements" that analyzed the separate activities of our organization and assigned each activity an appropriate space.

In the process of designing the new sanctuary, we were careful to consider its size in relation to the neighborhood. This consideration contributed to our decision to put our much-needed office space, choral rehearsal studios, and work rooms underground.

A building of the size we propose, two-thirds of which is underground, is needed to house all of our activities in one location. Many activities are now dispersed throughout the neighborhood, at The Meher Schools, and in members' homes. Our numerous activities require:

1. Administrative offices
2. Publishing and book distribution offices, including book storage
3. Film library and processing area to mail films of classes to interested groups
4. Video-audio and musical studios, to film and produce filmed versions of regular classes and special programs
5. Reading and reference library for class materials, spiritual literature, and reference volumes
6. Film/audiotape, historical documents, art storage, and other archives
7. Technical room to support worship and classes in the Prayer Hall
8. Spiritual bookstore open to the public consisting of a selection of world spiritual literature and related films and audiotapes
9. Classrooms for children (Sunday school), youth, newer members, along with Introductory Classes
10. Kitchen for special events or benefit dinners, for example, the Meher Schools' graduation dinner
11. Informal multi-purpose area for dinners, bazaars, spiritual readings, and plays
12. Chorus rehearsal studio
13. Chorus sectional and voice/music studios
14. Toilet facilities
15. Vestibule and coat room.

They do a LOT more than just have church services on Sunday mornings, it appears.

Anonymous said...

6:50 Thanks for that list - helps me make the point I am about to make. [I'm the person who wrote the first lengthy response (attended 5-6 events over past few years).]

ok, so this is the deal - #11 on that list regarding the plays is why I think they legitimately planned for that much space. If you don't believe me, you can go to the bookstore located at the Meher School and buy or maybe even rent the following DVD: "A Garland of Egos"

I found it hilarious by the way, even if you don't get all of their beliefs, it's pretty "accessible" - they make plenty of fun at themselves too. But, my point is that what is totally clear is that the actors on the "stage" are totally cramped. They could not have staged it any other way than have the folks sit on a line of chairs. You can see how close the audience is too.

Anyone who has been to theater will likely see how clever they are with the space they have, but it no less takes away the issue that they could use far more room to tell the story.

So that's why I think they want a relatively large informal multipurpose area in the downstairs - they probably can not really do many plays or concerts "in the round" upstairs, and my best guess is that no one's going to be allowed to walk on that gold thing in the middle of the upstairs floor.

21stCenturyMom said...

One of the things that really, really bothers me about the comments in this forum is the hyperbole. I never used the word 'lie'. That's a strong word. I said I was suspicious that they needed that much space for such a small group. "Lie" is your word, not mine.

Now that yet another anonymous person has posted a list of what the space is needed for I have my answer. Thank you 6:50 - that was helpful.

Anonymous said...

7:22 21st C Mom:

You are right, you did not use the word lie. I did, but it was not to infer that you had.

I simply hoped, that had you felt the Sufis had not been straight with you, that you consider reaching out a bit to get some answers that make sense to you.

I still hope for that.

Anonymous said...

someone asked where does the money come from?
The Cheesecake Factory owner David Overton, a 30+ year member of sufism reoriented!

Anonymous said...

well -

all the more reason to imbibe at the Cheesecake Factory if you ask me - the Dr Jim's Coffee is to die for... woooo-eee, especially if you substitute Bailey's for the Grand Marnier.

Oh my god people - does it matter where anyone gets their money as long as it's not illegal?

Anonymous said...

I asked someone where the last Cheescake Factory had been opened, before WC. They opened in Modesto! That's right...take that WC! Second to Modesto. I recommend the Weight Management dinners. Dieting can be fun at the Cheesecake Factory. Go as many times as you can, as many times of day as you can, for as long as you can, and eat as many different things as you possibly can! Apologies to John Wesley.

Anonymous said...

oh how hilarious - make me laugh!

the Cheesecake Factory diet consists of taking half of it home

Anonymous said...

It amazes me that almost all of the information people seek is right on the Sufism Reoriented website. All this information is the same as what has been shared with neighbors in the Saranap (and beyond).

Yet people persist in saying "when will you answer our questions?"

I say...go inform yourselves with the clear, accurate, and helpful info available to you every second of every day.

But, I guess you can't see the trees for whining about the forest!

Anonymous said...

no - the trees are all they CAN see and complain about... pathos

Anonymous said...

You're right! But the SOS will ultimately take a bathos on this whole thing!

21stCenturyMom said...

7:13 if this plan goes through there be no trees to see - only saplings for several years.

Anonymous said...

lucky saplings!

my understanding is that the trees will be older than saplings

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that perhaps some SOS neighbors might not be so thrilled with what the leaders of SOS have been saying, particularly since other people have been elevating some facts.

Notably, I think most "on the fence" folks probably have been very interested about things like:

How many trucks really will it take? Since there really will be FAR FAR fewer trucks than claimed by SOS, then the digging part won't take as long as SOS also claimed by any meansure.

But, also - there is also this huge underlying notion that it's okay to tell the Sufis what to do with their land that I don't think people have really spent enough time thinking about.

Someone put this post on a later blog about Sufis/SOS that Soccer Mom posted. Not sure people are checking out all 3 blogs that Soccer Mom has now posted so here it is.

The poster says "'s the thing:

RLUPIA allows churches to build with designs that match their faith symbols, not YOUR idea of beauty.

As to most of your other comments: neighbohoods since time began, have been upset by dust and noise. It used to be called progress.

I am guessing that if someone told you how to landscape your yard or how design an addition to your house, you might just have a HUGE problem with that...

but somehow, it seems okay to you to tell a religious group (protected by first amendment) how you think they should design their building and grounds. Not only that, you think it is okay on aesthetic reasons - you sy so yourself - so it is not about "land use" in your case.

Perhaps you and the SOS think it is okay to do this since you are in a group and being in a group helps you think your thinking is right; you sit there and tell each other - "yes you are RIGHT!"

Well, a gang of rapists thinks they "are right" in some perverted way too when they tell themselves they are entitled to enforce their will on a victim.

I think we can all easily see that a gang of rapists is misguided in their desire for control, and quite a few of us non-Sufi neighbors can see that the SOS is misguided in their clear desire for control.

Hope this helps!"

Yeah, the person was kind of harsh, but they make a serious point here that I think neighbors should really consider.

If SOS gets its way and can tell the Sufis what to do, then WHO IS NEXT? What happens if Curtis Trenor or Brian Killian do not think you should get your variance?

Well, they'll have already established themselves via SOS as a group the county listens to - would YOU really want to be on the OTHER side of SOS?

Please just think about this some more.

21stCenturyMom said...

Once again an anonymous poster has engaged in outrageous hyperbole. Comparing people who are concerned about a huge project in their neighborhood to rapists? Really?

How about we stick to the topic and NOT engage in name calling, hyperbole, and general ugliness? It really does nothing to advance the debate - it just serves to upset people and leave them feeling justified in hitting back.

I hope the SOS people can rise above this sort of behavior and stick with the facts and the real issues.

Dear Soccer Mom - have you considered not allowing anonymous comments? It would do a lot to elevate the level of discourse in these comments.

Soccer Mom said...

Dear 21stCenturyMom,
Funny you should bring up my decision to allow anonymous comments on this blog. I was thinking just this morning about doing a post about anonymous comments, and my reasons for allowing them.

I understand your concerns. I have heard such concerns expressed before, not so far on my blog but in other contexts. I do have my reasons, which might be similar to other blogs and news websites.

Unfortunately, I'm at my day job right now, so I can't go into my reasons right now. But I'm glad you mentioned it, and I will.

I trust that most people posting on this blog are intelligent, thoughtful people. For the most part, that's what I've found in the posts, notably in these threads about the sanctuary project.

Sometimes people get emotional and express themselves pretty forcefully, and they use hyperbole, even in a way that you and others find offensive. On the other side, Sufism members have been essentially labeled as cultists, a word that can have a negative connotation.

I try to read all comments and will remove anything that crosses a line into libel, obscenity, or directly accuses a named individual of misconduct or criminal activity--without there being proof of misconduct or a crime.

I also hope people will alert me to a comment that they think crosses the line.

Anonymous said...

Yes, ditto Let's stick to the facts. Sufism Reoriented application turned into the County:

66,0000 sq ft. of floor space
37 toilets
350 members
54'h *34' above ground, 20' below
*72 parking spots - don't have the parking specs right in front of me but none the less parking for this development is grossly under parking requirements.

HIEGHT VARIANCE will be required
PARKING VARIANCE will be required

FACT: Trenor house did NOT require any variances. It was built within within all set guidines.

FACT: RLUPA doesn't factor in to opposing the size of this building

Anonymous said...

I think this issue bears repeating - Woke me up.

"If SOS gets its way and can tell the Sufis what to do, then WHO IS NEXT? What happens if Curtis Trenor or Brian Killian do not think you should get your variance?

Well, they'll have already established themselves via SOS as a group the county listens to - would YOU really want to be on the OTHER side of SOS?"

I was leaning over the fence about it and did let the SOS guys count me in their numbers, but I am really rethinking this and am close to giving them a call to tell them to take my name and my family's names off their website.

I am absolutely not interested in being seen as part of a group that calls the Sufis names - like 10 year old bullies.

I think those of us on the fence acted too rashly when jumping over to the SOS side and letting them use our names like that.

Anonymous said...

I am following the debate regarding Sufism Reoriented's sanctuary project with interest. Although the SOS web site states that they do not wish to challenge Sufism Reoriented's “core values and motivations,” I would like you all to know that you are dealing with a cult (in the pejorative sense) that really ought not to be trusted. This I know from direct and *devastating* personal experience.

Some of Sufism Reoriented’s literature claims that they are ‘chartered’ by Meher Baba, but they lost that charter some years ago when their psychologically-manipulative methods were exposed to Meher Baba’s disciples in India. It is true that many of these people are in fact quite nice and sincere in their beliefs. But their leaders are illegitimate.

I say this to you not to cause these want-to-be 'sufis' trouble, but to help you deal with a devious bunch of dangerous characters. I am a respected figure in my field (I am a Professor of Philosophy at a university in Canada), and I know what I am talking about.

Anonymous said...

Make that SOS' 725 minus two families! Mea culpa my Sufi neighbors. No, I don't like the idea of the noise or the size, but I more don't like the distorted way my SOS bretheren painted the Sufis in our meeting a couple weeks ago and on the website. It was definitely a Lord of the Flies kind of meeting.

I apologize to my Sufi and non-Sufi neighbors alike. I was told that SOS will be claiming increased number of members no matter as time goes on, so that it looks like the opposition is building, even when if it is not. It's definitely a PR campaign by numbers game that SOS is doing.

There's more stuff SOS is planning, so people should stay aware.

Anonymous said...

Your comment is completely off base. People who add on to their homes, build up to 35'h, or even paint their house purple do not need variances to do so.

BUILDING WITHIN THE COUNTIES SET LIMITS DON'T REQUIRE ANY VARIANCES. Homes are free to change/be enlarged all the way to the setbacks that were provided by the County when you purchased your home.

Only when you request to build more than your setbacks allow do variances come into play. This is to ensure that inappropriate building does not take place.

Again, I think it's worth repeating: NO VARIANCES WERE REQUIRED FOR THE TRENOR HOUSE

Also I repeat: NO VARIANCES ARE required to homeowners who build within County guidlines.

The facts will prevail. This building will not get built as it has been proposed.

21stCenturyMom said...

12:29 I totally get what you are saying and I too am disgusted with the name calling. I was initially for this project and then I was against it and now I'm back on the fence. I have concerns and I will continue to address them. Just jumping back and forth isn't useful.

As far as the power of SOS goes, SOS was formerly the Saranap Homeowners Association and it kept Braddock and Logan from turning the property on Lucy Ln into an over congested blob of packed together 2 story houses. What we got instead was a reasonable development that complimented the neighborhood and provided 12 houses to the area. People bought those places at about $565,000 and some of them sold for over $1M in the height of the real estate insanity.

Opposition in and of itself is not a bad thing so let's just calm down and stay focused, please.

PS - Could eveyone please make up a pseudonym and get a fake email address to go with it? Referring to each other by the time of post is ridiculous.

21stCenturyMom said...

Dear Dr. of Philosophy from Canada,

How about you give us your name so we can check your credentials? I find your claim very hard to believe. Can you at least point us to some supporting documentation?

Anonymous said...

Sure thing:

Mark L. McPherran
Chair: Department of Philosophy
Simon Fraser University

Google all you want. But I cannot reveal the nature of my experience with these people. It is the kind of thing that lawsuits are made of.

Anonymous said...

...oh they will be right on that (removing your names)!

They claim 725 followers, but amazingly only about 380 are listed (+/- 42 per screen view x 9 + 2) on the site. Whose hiding what?

It's like the story of the two bakers across the street from each other. One baker sold rolls for 5 cents each. The other baker sold roles for 5 cents also. When one baker sold out, he marked his rolls down to 2 cents. The other baker was outraged! He said "when you are out of rolls, you can charge whatever you like!"

So it is with SOS. They really have barely half as many people as they claim. They don't list them, so they can say what they want. Now the Ship-O-Saranap is being deserted. Better send out an SOS!

When the truth comes out they will be down to only a few. First it will be a trickle, then a stream, then a river, and finally a giant Tsunami of desertion from all the falsehood and hate-speech under a thin disguise of semi-rural nonsense. I wonder if they will acknowledge the dwindling and the shrinkage? McCarthy had almost no friends left at the end either.

The light of day shines brightest on the darkest corners. And it is not a pretty picture it highlights.

Go to both websites and make up your own minds. Don't let the sheep herders walk you over a cliff in their shrill rhetoric.

Please think! The Saranap deserves, and will get, better than this. Show some backbone and call it what it really is. You know in your heart--if you attended that meeting--that this is so wrong.

Concerned Long-Term Saranap Resident

21stCenturyMom said...

Dr. Mark L. McPherran thank you for making yourself known. I appreciate that you can't share your experience but I hope you are not indicting an entire organization over the behavior of 1 or 2 individuals. In any case, it isn't really germane to the issue which, as far as I'm concerned, has to do with whether or not this building is reasonable and appropriate for my neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Dear 21st Century Mom:

No, I am "not indicting an entire organization over the behavior of 1 or 2 individuals." Just the leadership. That is germane. I have nothing more to say, then.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

21stCenturyMom - Thank you for keeping it real.

Anonymous said...

Dear 21stCenturyMom:

Real is good. Take care. MM

Anonymous said...

12:50 21st C Mom:

Thanks - I am glad to hear there are a few of us willing to state that perhaps we were wrong, even if we're not sure where we stand yet. I was a little surprised to see that another person is fully bailing on SOS too - the rhetoric there is just so uncomfortable.

Here's a sticking point for me on what you said about the Lucy Ln dev. Let's try to get to a point of fairness about what happened in our hood: The SCA really is the SHA - it never disappeared.

I have to think that the county knows this and is going to discount the SOS and the new SHA as being the shams that I have come to believe they are, from the inside out.

I am thinking of getting re-involved in the SCA, perhaps get on the board, and have the kind of honest debate that I had been told the SOS was all about.

I am also thinking of writing to the county and letting them know about the SOS agenda and how I feel they can not be trusted.

I'll tell you one reason I have come to this conclusion that I picked the wrong team is that - for the life of me - though it's clear some of the pro Sufi posters here are firends with Sufis - not once in all this dialogue have the Sufis come on line and start calling the SOS names.

Someone was right - there is a civics lesson here that shows the SOS as people that I too am ashamed of.

Anonymous said...

From: Guy Bailing on SOS (12:45)

Yep - going going gone - If I have to hear one more time what Brian and Curtis think about them I think I'm going to be sick. I almost started yelling at them at the SOS meeting.

I know I can't tell you all what they said without going ballistic, but maybe Concerned Long Term Resident is willing to give the details without going as nutso s I will... just prepare yourselves.

Anonymous said...

1:13 to Sinking Ship Poster

well it's been clear to me that they exaggerate and I sense a level of desperation whenever people have the kind of website up that SOS has up - it really is very juvenile in my opinion.

the piece that came up about the county saying they had only received 200 letters confirmed, for me, that there was some less than truthful claims being made about the SOS membership number.

Call me Old Fart

21stCenturyMom said...

I don't think either side (if you will) has cause to be proud of some of this behavior. No one has said "I'm a Sufi and you're a jerk" but there are plenty of underhanded comments from the Pro project side.

I just wish everyone would get over the name calling and the hyperbole and the snarky comments and consider the issues. This is a HUGE project and huge projects invite debate and sometimes have to be amended to make everyone happy.

Dear Bailing Out Guy - let us PLEASE NOT rehash an inflammatory meeting. I was sick and missed it but what I am trying my hardest to do is to encourage everyone to stop being inflammatory and start being rational, reasoned and polite. Please?

Anonymous said...

Guy Bailing:

21st C Mom - who put you in charge?

I understand you don't want inflamation, but this things already got hemmerhoids!

I think that the people who did not go to the SOS meeting should get a clue about those who are claiming to rep them - I'm just too pissed to do it myself.

Anonymous said...

Bailing Guy -

ok, so I'll pick up this piece of the argument regarding the Trenor house.

Ok, so it did not require a height variance - that does not change the fact that it is TALLER than the Sufi building... so if the argument is that the Sufi dome is too high/big - then the Trenor house is too big too.

21stCenturyMom said...

Bailing Guy - nobody put me in charge. I'm not in charge. I'm just hoping we can get past wanting to stomp our feet and point our fingers and move toward defining the issues and dealing with them. If you think being pissed off and gnashing your teeth is a better approach then go right ahead.

I have a hard time paying attention to obstreperous people who act angry and pick fights and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. I think there's an old addage about flies and honey that comes in to play here.

Anonymous said...

12:29 - First Guy to Leave

to follow up to Guy Bailing - right, exactly, to the point of the whole reason why I want to go.

Brian and Rasmussen - they all know the Trenor height is a big issue. What's hypocritical is that Curtis Trenor thinks he has much of any standing at all to criticize the Sufi domes on it being a "too big land use issue" thing at all. His house is "butt-ugly" if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

Guy Bailing to First Guy:

ok, so, man, wasn't that a ridiculous meeting?

Guy Bailing to 21st C Mom:

ok, so, it's not that I want to cause more hostile talk - in fact, the reason I don't think I should list out what they are planning is cuz I will be TOOOOO hostile - which is why I asked LT Resident that maybe he or she could do it - they were pretty even worded in their last post. Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

From First Guy:

I'd like to help out on the SOS meeting details but I can not AT ALL be even tempered about it either. I did not sleep for a week after that and my wife hates me when I have insomnia, so I risk a lack of affection if I go there.

Anonymous said...

From First Guy:

ok, I've been honest so far so I'm going to be a man and admit it: I just don't want to be the one to list out all the crappola they have been saying and planning.

Even though I am definitely more afraid of losing my wife's attention, I have to say that the level of these guys' anger kind of scares me - - as in, some mailboxes of Sufis seem to have been vandalized when an SOS leader's box connected to theirs was not.

They are already going to know I am bailing on the SOS group - I still have reservations about the Sufi project, but I'm done with the SOS rep'ing me and mine. So, I'm not comfortable doing something here that might cause my wife and kids some social grief.

Sorry Guy Bailing, but not gonna be me... can you honestly say that part of the reason you don't want to post the details is because you are concerned they might find out it was you?

Anonymous said...

From "Old Fart":

Someone said: "FACT: RLUPA doesn't factor in to opposing the size of this building"

Thanks to Soccer Mom for posting the RLUPIA statute because RLUPIA appears in fact to factor into the size issue and the whole issue, as follows:

"Religious assemblies, especially, new, small, or unfamiliar ones, may be illegally discriminated against on the face of zoning codes and also in the highly individualized and discretionary processes of land use regulation"

I read "zoning codes" as, at minimum, addressing size. In fact, it seems to me that parking and height variances are exactly what is covered under zoning codes, is that not so?

"New, small, or unfamiliar" yep - sounds like the Sufis here in WC - so RLUPIA seems to precisely apply to our little n'hood squabbling.

and the language about not "illegally discriminating" seems entirely relevant to the how the county shall conduct the approval process.

I think anyone, on either side, who thinks that this RLUPIA law will not apply, is simply not reading the law all that clearly.

from an Old Fart

Anonymous said...

If the mail boxes that you are referring to are the ones that have been spattered with red paint you can't pin that dirty deed on an SOS member.That was done by some teenage girls in the neighborhood two years ago.So why don't you get your facts straight before you start mouthing off about something you know nothing about? Talk about scary.. it's people like you that we all have to be afraid of. Stick to the subject:Inappropriate land use.

Anonymous said...

From Old Fart:

Someone just posted:

"Stick to the subject: Inappropriate land use."

I'm not who this was directed to, but I think anyone can post what they want. So that makes me want to respond and ask:

1) Is the topic really just inappropriate land use? I do not think so. The range of topics is appropriate given that we are responding to a blog that covered a large number of topics.

2) How do you know it was girls two years ago? Don't know what mailboxes you are talking about, but if you know who did the "dirty deed", then why is the paint still on the mailboxes?

In my day, those parents would have been expected to make those girls scrub the paint off the mailboxes. Did that happen?

3) Since it's clear that you understand that one of the boxes was not painted on, how does one explain that only Sufis boxes appear to have been impacted? Weren't the Sufis already making the neighborhood rounds about the project at that point?

It's not hard to see how someone could think that such apparently pointed vandalism is related to the conflict - do you see how that could happen?

Personally, I also would not be willing to list what happened in the SOS meeting if I were also going to tell them that I want my name off their website - particularly if the response of that poster is the kind of response I'd get.

good, common sense, if you ask me.

Old Fart.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of groups out there. As I explained to a county official recently, there was the original Saranap Homeowners Association (SHA). By the way, it was revitalized by a woman who was a Sufi, after languishing for years. She spearheaded the group opposing the large houses on Lucy Lane.

Next they changed the name to Saranap Community Association (SCA) when it became politically incorrect to exclude renters/duplex/condo owners. Only thing is, they never sent their once-a-year newsletter to any of those new folks. Clear where their heads were.

Then, when the leadership opposed the Sufism Reoriented project--before even receiving the plans--and then were overwhelmingly defeated in a write-in election, freely held (after they postponed it several times), they resigned in a huff. They couldn't stomach continuing if they couldn't ramrod their own ideas anymore. So, the SCA simply continues without them. They ran to be in favor of stuff and do things. They are still there.

Then the old group formed a new group called Protect-Saranap with website and everything (P-S). Then it morphed into Save Our Saranap (SOS) and became a hate blog. Try typing in Protect-Saranap...takes you to SOS. Many of the old regime are listed as members. Clearly in a snit.

Next they took the old Saranap website (they wouldn't give up the site when they quit, along with the bank account, telephone, mail box keys, records, files, etc), and changed the name to the Saranap Neighborhood Alliance (SNA). They were like little two year olds (NO, that's my toy!). By the way, they owed back taxes to 2006! No wonder they wouldn't give up the check register. I hope you haven't given them any money! The new SCA is cleaning all that up for them.

Now they have changed the name again to Saranap Homeowners Organization (SHO). Once again back to "just" the homeowners (let's exclude all those pesky apartment/condo/duplex/business people). All about exclusion these folks.

So, where are we? They can't make up their minds about a name or who's in charge. Kind of like they can't decide what to oppose about the project they're against. Is it too big, too nice, too tall, too white, too much gardens for their taste, not enough, too intergalactic, too visible, has a too high wall (?which is it?), etc. etc.

So, the many headed hydra goes by:
Saranap Neighborhood Alliance
Save Our Saranap
Saranap Homeowners Organization far!

I'd say the leaders are squabbling amongst themselves, and have spawned opposition opposition groups. Oh, and the rest of us need not apply for leadership roles...they got that covered, no thanks. Just let us leeeeed you. Step right up and we will put this nose ring in place. Won't hurt a bit. You might feel a little pinch (yea, that's your self-respect going out the door).

In the meantime, the new SCA is still alive and continuing along. They are doing application reviews for commercial, office, institutional and residential projects for the Saranap, with qualified people doing them, starting and maintaining clothing exchanges, and senior services, and generally carrying on with the work...the hard work...of trying to bring people together as a community--by good things, not divisive things!

Sure, it must seem more fun to make people out to be villains! Vote them off the island! But it rings a little hollow in the end doesn't it? You decide. Which group would you want your son or daughter to say proudly to friends they were a member of? We help people. We hate people.

You have choices to make. Take courage from some of those who've been on the inside here and made them...on THEIR OWN.

Anonymous said...


yep - though you are in a bit of a huff yourself, I am familiar with all of that info too about the old SCA folks keeping everything and not handing it off to the new board.

What you did not say, but anyone who has been on a Board knows is - that an org is a legal being, and that Bd members have a fiduciary role, and that what you talking about is covered under "loss prevention" insurance a.k.a. as "fenced goods".

They legally resigned - that meant they no longer had fiduciary control over any of the property of the organization - because it is the organization's property, not the board members' property.

This includes the SCA website. They still have not handed over the SCA's website to the SCA's legally elected board. I feel they should. Just renaming the website on the top does not change the fact that it was the orgnization's website.

ALSO - and this is the abhorrent thing - they apparently refused to give the real SCA back the mailing list, so the real SCA has had to recreate the mailing list as well as they can.

The mailing list is still the SCA's legal property - the old board members claim to have "lost it" immediately after the SCA annual vote.

but come on' I can only think that the SOS has everyone on their mailing list.

In fact - this brings up a great idea - if you suddenly last year did not receive your usual SCA mail, please consider letting the legally elected SCA board know:

Saranap Community Association
P.O. Box 2506
Walnut Creek, CA 94595-0506
946-9185 (voicemail)

Anonymous said...

A friend just sent me this link. I'm not a Sufi and not into being friends with religious people but:

SAY WHAT !?!?!?!?
are you @$#%@#$% kidding me?!

well, that explains a LOT about what happened to my SCA mail.... it just did not make sense how the SOS group got my info so fast!

Are you talking about Dennis? I'm realizing you must be... Oh my god - Dennis has been spouting over and over and over about how the Sufis took the SCA over and how it was he and the other old board members who were the ethical ones - can you guys prove this stuff that you are saying?

something smells people! Who can I call at the SCA to find out if this is true?

Anonymous said...

All the contact info is there. Send someone an email, or make a call. I'm sure someone would be happy to call you back. They called me back.

By the way. You may not know they also canceled the meeting in August, and then wouldn't let the new elected board members be seated in September, so their first meeting was in October. The election was originally supposed to be held in May. So these folks basically wiggled an extra 4 months of un-elected "service." And then "lost" everything. So they are either incompetent, or sneaky. You decide.

Grew a Backbone

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. When you talked to them at SCA, what did they say?

Also, who postponed the meeting? I am a little confused on that - are you saying Dennis et al postponed the new ones having a meeting until October? How could they even do that? Did they hold stuff hostage or something?

Now I think I'm really getting pissed off... sorry but this is a really different set of factoids than I've been told for about 9 months... and not that I've been bad mouthing Sufis a lot, but it makes me feel like a total EFFING idiot for the times I did should this really be what Dennis and those guys did.

Anonymous said...

Guy Bailing to First Guy and Old Fart and maybe 21st C Mom -

ok, maybe it's a little true that I do not want to deal with the wrath of Brian, Dennis, Curtis or the Rasmussens, but honestly, I'm just way too angry about being mislead to be able to not fly off the bleepin' handle.

Anonymous said...

You know...some wild birds, in an effort to get noticed by a mate, puff themselves up really big, and dance around waving their wings a lot.

All they really want is just some love!


I don't think these people are too scary. They are just people. So are you, so am I.

So, where's the love? SOS or SCA...not rocket science is it.

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned about these jokers might do next. Too much of a coincidence that KPIX5 showed up at the same moment they arrived with signs on blvd way.

What other wacky schemes do they have planned. I think anyone who knows should let someone at Sufism Reoriented know.

Level the playing field I say. I don't think they can win a fair fight.

Anonymous said...


I hate to call you naive, but it's clear you were likely not present at the first SCA - sponsored meeting to discuss the Sufism Reoriented site...

there was like, no, none, nada love in the room - basically some threats were made by people opposed

Anonymous said...

I guess that's what First Guy and Guy Bailing are referring to: that some stuff has been planned that is not above board. Neither of them are willing to lay whatever it might be out there.

I agree: if anyone knows of any illegal or threatening behavior that is planned towards the Sufis, I think that Sufism Reoriented should be told of it and NOW!

21stCenturyMom said...

Here are some links:




Sufism Reoriented New Sanctuary site -

Go forth and read, consider, attend the meetings you want to attend, avoid the meetings you don't want to attend, express yourself, get involved in your community as an informed citizen. That's what living in a free society is all about!

Anonymous said...

21st C Mom: sounds good if you are a house owner - but you can't go to SHO meetings unless you are a houseowner - think that might be true for SOS as well, so your advice, while probably well intentioned, does not really permit one to become a fully educated citizen unless you own a house here in the Saranap.

Anonymous said...


I was there, and one moment stands out.

I remember a wonderful woman standing up and saying she was not from this country originally, that there was essentially only one choice of religion, almost mandated by the state, where she came from.

She went on to say how happy she was to live here where people have the freedom to worship as they wish. That the Sufis had helped make her children what they were today (they went to the Meher School). She was grateful for them being in the neighborhood. She was was I.

It was like "from the mouths of babes." This woman from another place, valued her freedoms and gave a civics lesson to a room full of Americans who took these things for granted!

When people began to get shrill, others stood up and told them they were being un-American, and that wasn't the way we did things here. She had helped them find their civic courage.

I was proud of them, and glad I lived someplace where these kind of people realized lines had been crossed, and stood up to the old boy bullies of our neighborhood.

Well, they seem to be back with some new spots, and some shiny new websites, and a few sophomoric tricks. Make no mistake, they are the same ones you saw in July with a new coat of paint.

Consider whether you will stand up, or whether you will not.

Anonymous said...


Oh, I didn't know. I thought they all had open meetings--where anyone could come--like the Saranap Community Association.

Maybe people should only come to the open meetings where people are welcome whatever their economic class and wherever they happen to live in the Saranap.

Anonymous said...

so - is someone going to have the guts to tell the rest of us what has been planned at the SOS meeting?

or will we have to wait 9 months to learn of it - just like we've apparently had to wait for rel info about what happened with Dennis and the old SCA board?

I would appreciate a straightforward presentation of what was said in general and what unpleasantries were planned so that the rest of us can know that if we agree to go to an SOS sponsored demonstration, no weird crap will happen and we won't become accomplices to anything untoward.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the time frame for the ultimate decision? When will we find out whether or not the project will be allowed? Is there going to be a public hearing or will there just be a decision made by the county?

Anonymous said...

You can see the description of all the many steps in the process at:

They are between Step 1 (July 3, 2007), and Step 2.

These were presented at the second of three Community Meetings, to provide a forum for public input, held by the Saranap Community Association.

A third meeting has been promised as soon as the CEQA Initial Study is published.

Anonymous said...

How many people were at this meeting of the SOS, when was it, where was it, how were people invited (no notices went around)?

Who leads the group? Do they have officers, were they elected? How are decisions made? What committees do they have?

What are the things people were so crazed by that they are apparently afraid to even mention. Probably that's what they want to make people afraid to do anything.

Most of these posters are pretty savy. Let us in on the scoop. It's one thing to have jumping children with a sign daddy gave them to hold, it is another to infringe on people's rights.

Help us out here.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how no one identifying themself as a Sufi member has posted on this board.

Oh, I guess they are in happy Sufi world. They are above it because they are so full of integrity and sweetness and good thoughts about the world, and nestling "in a glade of trees" and following their murshida into some idyllic fantasy of their own specialness.

Interesting how many people commenting call themselves "friends" of the Sufis or identify themselves as disgrunted members of SOS. How convenient. They express themselves like people--Sufis--who really have a stake in this issue.
Or like Sufi leaders, whose ego and glory depends on whether this monstrosity gets built.

We don't know, do we? We don't know if those pro-Sufi, pro-big white Spaceship pods are the Sufis themselves. And we don't really know about the motives of the Saranap Community Association, which to me reads like a front organization for Sufism Reoriented.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, Sufis don't, and probably never will, get into any kind of debate about something like this.

I have a Sufi friend who is fairly open. She does not at all applaud my interest in supporting the Center, though one might think she would since it will benefit her personally.

In fact, other than once, this topic has not been discussed at all. Why you might ask? and I did ask this of my friend. The answer was this:

Sufis are taught to be accepting of opposition - that God is as real in the person who opposes as in the person who supports. They simply have faith that the situation will resolve as God intends.

So, that is why, in my understanding of things, that no Sufi is ever going to post any comment.

Anonymous said...

Dear Old Fart,
The Sufis weren't making rounds of the neighborhood until 2008 after they realized that the word got out about their plans for their new sanctuary. Just because the vandalism of the mailboxes occurred around the same time that you say the Sufis were making rounds doesn't mean that the two are related. Yes... I guess I can see how one could put the two incidences together but I also think that was an irresponsible statement to make without substantial proof.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:21 p.m.:

"I have a Sufi friend..."

"So, that is why, in MY UNDERSTANDING OF THINGS, that no Sufi is ever going to post any comment."

Written just like a Sufi...I have heard just the same sort of phrasing come out of the mouth of a Sufi, who was trying to act like she wasn't, when I knew she was.

Your "understanding" of Sufism, and that expressed by other Sufi "friends" seems to be pretty knowledgeable about what Sufis believe or don't, and their mode of practice.

They are posting on this board. Their "friends" can deny it all they want, but it's pretty apparent, especially since their "friends" seem to have taken a pretty rabid interest in getting the Sufi word out.

Anonymous said...

6:04 - Well, I do have a Sufi friend, and so you mean that if a person who posts has a Sufi friend that they are also Sufis - or - have been "put up to it" to write post after post in support?

First, I can tell you that Sufis do not consider me a Sufi. You are accusing me of just that and so my 1st amendment loving self just cries out for some understanding here.

Yes, I know a good bit about the Sufis, and in part it's because I had considered becoming one at one time a long time ago. The Meher Baba guy was just not for me it turns out.

Look, no Sufi even knows I have been this involved in blogging about this situation - my sense is that a fairly long and embarrassing pause would occur if they did know.

So no one has put me up to anything. All I am doing is, as a neighbor, asking people to take a step back and REALLY THINK about what they are doing - - and I am NOT the only one asking folks to do that (21st C Mom, for one).

As many, MANY people have posted here, the Sufis have lived QUIETLY in the neighborhood for decades. Even at the SCA meeting I attended in Nov, Sufis did not yell or berate their neighbors - they just pretty much stood there and "took it". They have avoided publicity and debates just like this one for years to do what they arguably do better than most: service.

Coming out of their proverbial shell I think has proven to have some growing pains for them. From what I know, and you are right in that I know more than the average bear Boo Boo, they probably see this as an opportunity for learning.

But what is also true is this: there have been so many concerns posted here that SOS-aligned folks have simply not repsonded to, being raised by people who really do not at all “talk like Sufis” but who are supportive of FREEDOM of RELIGION.

Many have not "sounded" like any Sufi I know and, quite candidly, I find it impossible to believe that any Sufi put their friends up to this. It’s simply just NOT done.

What IS clear to me is NO responses have been posted regarding these questions:

> what happened at the SOS meeting that has several feeling there may be cause for wide-spread concern?

> what happened to the SCA's property and what let the old board think they could do what they did after resigning?

> why vandalized Sufi mailboxes still are painted red when the one attached is still untouched?

> why has no one stated that Guy Bailing is wrong about the Trenor house height as being the reason the height variance WILL be granted?

Instead of answering any of those questions, the focus from SOS-aligned people is to now attack the people who are courageously posting in the face of what at times seems almost like an angry mob.

Look, I know that if I belonged to a group being accused of ANY of the things listed above, I would totally come out and defend my group's honor, so to speak.

But instead - there is total silence in these matters… and, as one poster put it: we who are your neighbors HAVE NOTICED ! ! !

Do you not realize that by not answering some of these questions you are now being seen as a potential threat to the entire community?

Not to sound fearing mongering, but as someone else wrote: “If SOS gets its way and can tell the Sufis what to do, then WHO IS NEXT?”

This I think is the core question facing all of us who live here, Sufi or not, whether you agree with the Sufi building or not.

Anonymous said...

I think people say "I'm not a Sufi" so that people get it that there really is good and (after all this discussion) growing support by non-Sufis for the project.

Anonymous said...

From First Guy:

Well red-mailbox vandalism protector person, please let's get it straight.

I said: "some mailboxes of Sufis seem to have been vandalized when an SOS leader's box connected to theirs was not"

the wording was "SEEM TO", not "was". It would have been irresponsible to use the word "was" but I did not.

However, it was not a leap and still is not a leap to think that the two are related - particularly since still no one has scrubbed the paint off!

It should be no surprise, given this exchange, why I am leaving the SOS group.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 9:32, from Another Old Fart

Been sitting on the sidelines here, but I'd like to add one more thing to the list of unanswered issues:

One poster detailed out a list of insults and name-calling from the SOS website.

After reading that list, I went to the SOS site to see for myself and I agree that the flying monkey reference is clear enough to be inferring that the Murshida of Sufism is an evil witch.

No one from SOS has refuted this astute and pointed observation. Why not?

Well folks, coming from a geezer, let's be honest now: SOS is becoming an embarrassment.

My daughter is against this development, but the more I know, the more I feel she is uninformed and will regret the long term consequences of joining up with Dennis and his ilk.

I vote with my feet... maybe some others are now itching to distance themselves - maybe there's room for an "opposed but accessible mature adults" group or "OBAMA" for short.

thinking I got too much retirement time on my hands!

Anonymous said...

From the Sufism Website, on a page in their New Sanctuary section titled "Thoughts on Opposition" (

A certain degree of opposition to any change is natural. When new buildings or structures are being planned, no matter their location, it is expected that there will be those who oppose it, and for a wide variety of personal reasons. That can be documented historically whether the structure in question is the Golden Gate Bridge, the Vietnam Memorial, a Frank Lloyd Wright House in small town America, or a neighborhood place of worship. History also shows us that once completed, in nearly every case these new structures become universally loved and viewed with pride by their communities as representing what is most beautiful and unique about the area in which they were built.

From the very beginning of our sanctuary project we were aware that there would be some opposition. We also understood that it was important to reach out to our neighbors with as much information and personal contact as we could to allow them to express their concerns and, in turn, allow us to understand and incorporate where possible changes that might meet those concerns. A number of design and landscaping changes to the new sanctuary have resulted from this helpful collaboration.

Still, there are now, and will likely remain, a small core group of individuals who oppose our new sanctuary project. We are committed to continuing to work with neighbors in partnership, providing as much accurate information about the project and Sufism Reoriented as we can, in as many ways as we can. But we do not expect that everyone will welcome our new sanctuary at its proposed site in the Saranap.

What we do hope is that regardless of their views, we can continue to work together in friendship and with respect, sharing our lives harmoniously in service to this special neighborhood we all love.

Anonymous said...

I lived in the Saranap Community for over 20 years. One of my close friends from high school is a sufi as well as a dear member of my family. I am one who has no issues with cultural and religious diversity. However, what I do not understand is how the sufi's can think that building such a monstro"city" in a quaint neighborhood is anything but offensive to others in that community. Is there an I in we. Didn't think so.

In my opinion, this issue has nothing to do with beliefs or religion, rather a group of individuals (some very wealthy individuals) combining incomes to build something that does not belong in or to the larger community, but to themselves. Talk about self serving in the name of religion. Their disregard for that community disgusts me and makes me question their core values, or lack there of. It just goes to show money can get you everywhere. I wouldn't be suprised if Donald Trump will be at their grand opening. I hope someone warns him not to drink the coolade.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:00 - please see Anon 9:50 - I don't think they are clueless about the points you make at all.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:00 said "I hope someone warns him not to drink the coolade"

Really? You're actually comparing them to Jonestown now??? Wow.

Anonymous said...

When religious freedom triumphs in this matter, it will be such a b-u-r-n to the SOS folks.

Anonymous said...

"monstro 'city'..."??

The proposed single surface building--in two acres of garden and lawn--will be about the same size as the existing building in square footage. Except only 1-story tall, averaging 17 feet in height. That's right 17 feet. Last time I watched Godzilla, he was just a tad larger.

No one in the opposition group calls the existing (3-story) church a "monstro city." In fact, they say "why can't you just stay in that building."

Guess what, people no longer live in log cabins either, and we no longer have child labor (except for protesting). Lots has changed that "Americans" in their prior ignorance once found acceptable: slavery, racism, religious bigotry, red-lining, and american concentration camps (OK, got that one wrong).

The proponents of this new church structure (not a new group) have waited long enough. They have done all that can be done with an old run-down ethnic social hall and restaurant. Their activities are now restricted due to a lack of space and elbow room. Their activities are scattered over the Saranap in private homes & offices (probably next door to you).

Regular people have sacrificed for decades to raise the funds to build a church for themselves. They have added an invitation to a garden open to all for quiet contemplation. When their neighbors say things like..."go build it elsewhere, you people aren't like us" [and I've heard people say exactly this], they miss an important point about American religious values and freedoms that is unique to the United States--in the whole world.

If a Presbyterian congregation builds a church, they recognize it isn't for the Catholic or the Jew, or even the Lutheran. It is just for them. They are pleased when someone visits, but they have no expectation that the Lutheran or Jew will "join-up." Nor, are they trying for that. But you know what...they are allowed to build a non-ranch style Presbyterian Church anyway! It makes us stronger as a nation and a people.

The "ghetto-ization" of religious groups is just what RILUOA tries to combat. And as I have followed these two blog dialogues, it is clear it is not only needed, but I'm thankful those protections exist! Check basic info out for yourself about it. Go to Wikipedia, and search RILUPA: the way, I first googled RILUPA, and the first thing that came up was Guess what the illustration was: a tall white church, with about a 4-5 story steeple. Believe it or not, most religious structures in the US are white, by a fair margin.

Anonymous said...

10:17 - I'm in favor of the Sufi development, but I really think the small hit and run kind of comments like that are NOT helpful to exposing the situation for what it is: NIMBY religious bigotry.

I am not out to b-u-r-n the SOS group. I don't feel most pro-Sufi bldg people are either. I just strongly disagree with their tactics and their small mindedness.

I have also come to feel, via the blog, that they are disingenuous about really seeking another design, since they have not at all responded to the request put forth here that they offer up some alternative design ideas. It's still: "just not that one! it's too big! Trenor house is taller, but we're not going to respond to that..."

Anonymous said...

Hope I didn't confuse anyone...the Fed initial thing confuses me too. it should be:

RLUIPA - Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (2000)

Anonymous said...

to Another Old Fart:

OBAMA! - hahahahah, laughing my young fart butt off...

Anonymous said...

O.S.T.R.I.C.H.: Opposing STRuctures of Institutional CHurches

R.A.N.C.H.: Radical Area New Church Haters

D.O.M.E.S.: Decidedly Opposed Minor Edgy Society

Let's have more groups. Everyone could be president of one!

Anonymous said...

From Old Fart - Over in Blog II, someone wrote about the SOS:

"Why would the Sufis ever sit down around a table--anymore--with this kind of group and "negotiate" as if there was something to talk about. I was told they have had multiple meetings with the "leadership" of these groups. With both the old SCA officers who quit, and also with neighbors on more than one occasion. They have held two meetings for the neighbors at their own center, and attended and presented at two public Community Meetings hosted by the new SCA.

As a result, they have modified the layout of the parking lot, the lighting, the fountain was changed to a reflecting pool, they changed and added to the landscaping, and they have modified the enclosure wall along Blvd Wy.

I heard Curtis Trenor said "I'd be just fine with it, if you put the whole thing under ground." So apparently, Mr. Trenor isn't at all concerned about the size of it, he just doesn't want to look at it, and wants to have a nice park with bambi and thumper frolicking o'er the required wall next to his "massive 35'" craftsman ski-chalet (what no protest over it not being ranch style??). He's the definition of NIMBY. He's got his, now everyone ELSE must toe the line and suck it up.

I think the Sufis have turned that rock over enough times with these people. They are beyond unreasonable."

Old Fart says: well said.

Anonymous said...


"I hope someone warns him not to drink the coolade."

ok, so this exactly is why people are starting to sound a little concerned about the tempers of the SOS - besides being embarrassed by the fear-spewing crap.

Anonymous said...

Guy Bailing
Old Fart
First Guy
Another Old Fart

With former members leaving SOS, and some just leaving AND too scared to say so, because they are afraid of the leaders of the group (now...who made that crack about the KoolAid? ask yourself who's acting like the dictator here), in the new SOS math, they must be down to a few kids and a handful of adults in the group by now.

Dennis, Brian, Curtis, Marve...turn out the lights when you've "left the building."

Anonymous said...

This is going way overboard with too much thinking with regard to the mail box issue. I can only respond to the painted mail boxes. I hope this can put it to rest.Two years ago when the vandalism occurred several mail boxes were painted with red paint. Two of the attached Sufi mail boxes were painted and one non-Sufi box was also painted the other non-Sufi box was left untouched. I would like to add that five other non-Sufi mail boxes and the trees and street were also painted. Since that time in the last year a tree has been t-ped, a Non-Sufi
neighbor's mail box has been turned around and mail has been taken from the box. I don't know why people with painted boxes chose not to remove the paint. all of the above mail boxes mentioned, to this day still have paint on them. As to the girls that were responsible for the vandalism they were seen but were not caught to be questioned. Several non-Sufi cars along the street have also been keyed or broken into. And lets not forget the burglaries. Maybe the SOS members can be blamed for that too.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the red-paint is a red herring, but not fishy.

Vandalism, TP'ing, car-keying, near accidents, too much dirt removed, too big a hole (now they are nostalgic for the dirt!), it's like nailing jellyfish to a wall! Just another day in paradise.

Frankly, I think we NEED a church , 'cuz neighbors aren't being all that neighborly here in the 'Nap.

Semi-rural doesn't seem to be cutting it anymore. We need more civilization not less! Reminds me of a quote I read once.

When someone asked Mahatma Gandhi what do you think of Western Civilization, he promptly replied: "It would be a good idea!"

Anonymous said...

My theory is, at some point in the not to distant future, the Trenors will offer their house to sale to the Sufis, the Sufis will figure out a way to buy it, and leave the rest of the SOS members wondering what happened... this may also be what the Rasmussens try too...

it's of the "if you can't beat them, get paid to leave" school of manipulation.

Anonymous said...

2:30 - well you sure know a lot about vandalism - keep a journal?

seriously though, I think First Guy was just giving an example of what about the emotional level of certain SOS folks is of concern to him - I'm sure he could have just as easily pointed to the nasty name calling on the SOS website.

yep 2:47 I agree - the neighborhood needs some "civilizing".

Anonymous said...

2:30 - boy, that sounds like a dangerous road to live on - all that thievery and violence to inanimate objects...

maybe you should start a group called "Save our Street"!

Anonymous said...


You may be correct about the idea of a sale being proposed by these owners. However, I think they may be surprised to find there is a large silence when they sit by their telephone.

I think that ship sailed. I believe they may have an over inflated idea about both the value of their land, and anyone's interest in making them happy.

...are those tumbleweeds blowing past on Warren Road?

Anonymous said...

From 8:44 AM aka Have a Sufi Friend but Not a Sufi:

So, while the Sufis have their Friday night event, I decided to post a bit in part to clearly demonstrate that I am not a Sufi - but mostly it is because I have more to say.

11:07 said: "No one in the opposition group calls the existing (3-story) church a "monstro city." In fact, they say "why can't you just stay in that building."

ok, so that's an utterly remarkable call out. Someone really said that? - isn't the current one like 45' or 50' tall? if so, that goes to show that SOS is clearly being biased about color and shape.

Anonymous said...

Me - of the Have a Sufi Friend, posting while Sufis are in Friday services - again:

5:28 said:

"You may be correct about the idea of a sale being proposed by these owners (Trenor and/or Rasmussen). However, I think they may be surprised to find there is a large silence when they sit by their telephone.

I think that ship sailed. I believe they may have an over inflated idea about both the value of their land, and anyone's interest in making them happy."

- - -

I think that the Sufis might find it's just easier to buy them out, but I agree that there will be little if any "premium for location".

That's not to say that the Ritchie building will reduce the price of homes because it's legit for the Sufis to say it will help the neighborhood longterm, but get prepared anyway neighborhood - the 5 year mortgage re-sets will drop the prices 30-50% around here anyway just like they have everywhere else - this is not a fictional fairy land around here either re: land value, no matter what pipe dream the area has been sucking on.

That all said, I think the first SOS member to that trough will do the best in terms of getting something close to asking price. The rest (all 2 or 3 that may be the most interested) may get a much lower than wished for price, if the Sufis are even at all interested in buying.

The thing is this:

> the likelihood of it being approved pretty much "as is" say is rather high, let's assume 75%+
> if so, and the SOS'ers finally feel that they just can't stand looking at it - then Rasmussen and/or Trenor would have to disclose the coming building when trying to sell their place
> they would then likely be asked if that is why they are really selling - to get away from the Sufis - well, they could lie I suppose, but more likely they'd have to drop the price - maybe not by a lot, but something that egotistically hurts.

Anonymous said...

Sufis are sneaky...they could be posing as non-sufis blogging on this website. A lot of the content you read could possibly be Sufis trying to sway you to turn against SOS!

Anonymous said...

Well, in response to that piece of hooo-eee:

SOS'ers are sneaky - they could be posing as non-Sufis people saying hit and run things to see if they can get non-Sufis to start acting like SOS'ers have been for 9 months.

Anonymous said...

Also -

Sufis are in an event on Friday nights, so they most certainly are not doing it right now!

SOS'ers I guess could be anyplace, excluding non-house owners and writing more stuff to infer that the Sufi leader is less than human.

Anonymous said...

from Have a Sufi Friend:

Look, the Sufis do not have to sneak on to this website to expose the SOS'ers for what they are. I myself believe that they are not doing that.

The SOS folks are their own worst enemy and it has been their behavior that has been observable and documented, on and off line.

Anonymous said...

I actually feel bad for the Sufis who are not in leadership....They are brainwashed into giving Sufism Reoriented all their money, their home, & their retirement. What a racket that is!! I wonder how they convinced all those people to hand over everything?

Anonymous said...

From Have A Sufi Friend

ok, 8:51: now that language is basically saying "the Sufis are a cult" and that is just out and out wrong.

No Sufi I know has given any retirement money to Sufism Reoriented. Sufis manage their own money and do NOT give it all to the church. In fact, Sufis are only allowed to give "surplus" money to anything.

Again, it helps that I looked into becoming a Sufi, so I know this for a FACT.

Anonymous said...

Remember.... they are sneaky! SSSHHH!

Anonymous said...

Sneaky is as sneaky does!

The Sufis have laid out everything clearly on their website - no sneakiness there.

The Sufis were not the ones who withheld property from the new SCA board. Perhaps illegal sneakiness there.

I could go on for hours... but everyone who's been reading (and not forgetting) already know that it's the SOS-aligned folks who have a lot of explaining to do in terms of how their leaders have behaved.

Anonymous said...

I think you might be as brainwashed as they are!

Anonymous said...

From Have a Sufi Friend:

I am not brainwashed at all - remember, I decided not to become a Sufi, though for faith reasons, not organizational reasons.

My main thing is FREEDOM of RELIGION and the protection thereof. If they were protected devil worshippers who had been the same kind of good neighbors the Sufis have always been, I would be going to bat for them too.

I'm the same person who clearly stated that the Sufis did not do the PR/communication very well in my first post. If I were brainwashed, I would not have said that at all.

Anonymous said...

From Have a Sufi Friend:

Sufis are not brainwashed - perhaps, as someone said, they are more private than the average person - but private does not mean cult or brainwashed

Anonymous said...

From Another Old Fart

It's nearly past my bedtime but I just can't help but think that the SOS person here tonight has a screw loose.

No offense strongly intended but SOS guy: Have you looked in the mirror lately? Everything so far that you have said about the Sufis seems to me is more appropriate to be said about you and your narrow-minded bigoted group.

G'night says another old fart

Anonymous said...

8:40...I know you are but what am I?

Ahhh...that felt really good.

Come on you two (or is it really just one 13 year old kid in Pacheco writing all this stuff?) grow the heck up.

Actions speak louder than any of this. These Sufis walk the walk and don't just talk about stuff.

Anonymous said...

I think I actually know a 13 year old who lives in Pacheco and he would have been bored with this already.

Anonymous said...

well, as the initial energy of this discussion seems to be wearing off, all I can say is that I am personally grateful for all the information that has been surfaced about the dispute.

I really hope that people take a hard look at the precedent that will be set should SOS be able to get their way - you just might be next, depending on the whims of the SOS leaders.

Also, I would hope that more light is shed on the SCA board transition, that perhaps some folks will actually post what they find out about that so we, as a community, can get a sense of whether or not laws may have been broken. To me, this is a rather serious thing.

Having worked at the county, I think that the county people will not be able to officially include this blog in their decision making, so if you learned anything here you feel they should know of, I think it probably needs to be re-told to them by letter or phone call.

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