The Islamic Society of Santa Barbara (ISSB) is one step closer to getting its Goleta community center — the first permanent place of worship for Muslims in the county — after the city’s Planning Commission voted unanimously Monday night to pass the project along to the Goleta City Council. The 4-0 vote (Commissioner Meg West wasn’t present) came as a sigh of relief for the project’s proponents — dozens of whom attended the meeting to voice their support — who have been waiting for the mosque since the developers filed an application in 2003. Approximately 30 people — including ISSB members, area religious leaders, and locals unconnected to the project — argued the community center’s case to the commissioners, lauding the number of other houses of worship in town while lamenting the lack of a designated space for the Muslim community, which currently meets at the Goleta Valley Community Center.
“It’s so beautiful that one city can be so diverse and inclusive,” said the daughter of ISSB cofounder Mukhtar Khan, Dalia Khan, who began to cry during her speech. “But why are the Muslims left out? The Muslims in this city have the right to a place to worship.” Mukhtar Khan, referencing the mosque’s components, said, “This project fits the land, and this center fits our city.”
After undergoing several iterations over its years of planning, the project — slotted for the corner of Los Carneros Road and Calle Real — would be a two-story building just under 10,000 square feet, featuring a prayer area as well as a dining room, library, and lecture hall. The 42 parking spots attracted the most criticism — a few Goleta residents who live nearby worried that number was unrealistically low and that visitors would park on the street. Concerns about the sounds from bells and calls to prayer (which the developers said aren’t part of the ISSB’s plans) were raised by a few people. According to city staff, the center is not expected to have substantial effects on mountain views or traffic. The City Council will have the final say at a date to be determined.