And by reconsider they mean approve a new mosque…or face another DOJ
shakedown lawsuit. via Lomita to reconsider mosque’s plans under terms of lawsuit settlement – The Daily Breeze.
Lomita will reconsider a mosque’s rejected redevelopment plans as part of a settlement agreement with the Islamic center and the federal government.
The Department of Justice launched a civil rights probe in 2011 into whether Lomita officials violated federal law in rejecting the plans the previous year by the Islamic Center of the South Bay. Five months after the investigation began, the mosque filed a lawsuit alleging its plans were rejected because of religious discrimination.
The Justice Department has since concluded there was no evidence city officials were guilty of religious discrimination, City Attorney Christi Hogin said.
However, federal officials do believe the city’s denial created “a substantial burden on the exercise of religion,” a violation of federal law. A substantial burden exists when a denial results in over-crowding or other effects that hamper the conduct of religious practices.
Mosque officials have said previously their lack of prayer space violates Islamic principles.
So the Justice Department signaled its intention to file a lawsuit on that basis against Lomita, which denies the allegations.
The settlement puts on hold both lawsuits while the city reconsiders the redevelopment plan, which was originally rejected because of parking and traffic circulation concerns, Hogin said.
The city was actually in discussions with the mosque to tweak the project when it was “blindsided” by the lawsuit, she said. And since then the mosque has purchased another piece of property on Appian Way that is likely to allay most of the traffic concerns anyway, Hogin said.
Although the city believes it would prevail in the lawsuits, spending the money on legal fees would not solve anything since the mosque would still own the property and the issue would remain unresolved.
“This is not a dispute that can be meaningfully resolved in a court, which is why I think the settlement is the best outcome for everybody,” Hogin said. “We don’t need to spend $250,000 (on legal fees) to reach the point where we are at right now.”
Mosque representatives also sounded hopeful the settlement will lead to a resolution of the long-standing controversy.
“We are encouraged by this agreement and hopeful that the Islamic Center will soon have a beautiful new mosque for its congregants,” said Pasadena attorney Anne Richardson.
Essentially, the process will begin anew, Hogin said.
“There will be a complete do-over, but for a different project, and everyone will have a chance to come down and tell us what is right and what is wrong with the project,” she said.
The city has also revamped its Municipal Code that eliminated “special regulations imposed only on religious facilities” to comply with a 2011 court ruling that said places of worship must be treated the same as auditoriums, clubs and other places people gather.
The Department of Justice reserves the right to reinstate the case if the development application is not resolved by the end of the year.
Update: Not only will they reconsider, they will EXPEDITE:
(CN) – In a settlement with the Justice Department, the city of Lomita agreed to expedite an Islamic center’s application to build a mosque.
As we told you previously, the DOJ claims to have just stumbled upon this mosque that was rejected, DOJ investigating L.A. suburb for rejecting mosque expansion and Holder’s DOJ investigating city officials after mosque denial:
…when Justice Department officials read a May 2010 Los Angeles Times blog post which reported that members of the Mosque felt discriminated against, they decided to launch their investigation…
The Islamic Center of South Bay sued Lomita last year after the city denied it permission to turn eight aging houses into a single building on a 1½-acre lot.
The City Council cited concerns about traffic and parking, but the Islamic Center claimed the city bowed to pressure from residents who opposed the mosque.
The Islamic Center said in its lawsuit that the City Council’s denial would leave its property “resembling a refugee camp rather than a religious institution.”
Up to 200 congregants were using 80-year-old houses without basic amenities, the center said in its complaint. The Justice Department weighed in on Friday, suing Lomita for violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Uncle Sam claims that the state of the buildings prevent the community from being able to congregate and worship together.
That sounds like a violation of city zoning and health codes. Why weren’t they enforced? Prosecuted? Are they above the law?
The city’s denial of the application had no “compelling governmental interest” and placed a “substantial burden on the religious exercise of the Islamic Center and its members,” the Department of Justice said in its complaint.
Also Friday, the Justice Department filed a proposed settlement of the lawsuit, which is pending court approval.
In the 16-page settlement, Lomita agrees to fast-track a renewed application for the mosque.
City officials who make land-use decisions will also receive training on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
Lomita attorney Christi Hogin told Courthouse News that the center had been part of Lomita’s community for 25 years, and that from the city’s point of view the dispute was about “traffic and parking.”
“The city treated Islamic Center of South Bay the same as it would any developer of property in Lomita,” Hogin said, calling the dispute a “tempest in a teapot.”
“This is a story about a disappointed developer. It’s not a story about a religious land use that’s been frustrated,” she added. Hogin denied that the council had been swayed by opponents of the mosque when it voted 4-0 against the center. That vote came after a recommendation from the Planning Commission to approve the new mosque, according to the Justice Department’s complaint.
“It’s quite a feat to read the mind of a politician,” Hogin said. “It was really just a denial based on the objective standards of the [land use] code.”
In Spanish, Lomita means “little knoll.”
Big mosque on little knoll.
As noted above the city did absolutely NOTHING wrong. Yet they are being forced to reconsider the mosque plans and the future is not hard to predict here.
Maybe Geert Wilders is onto something with his new website.