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Islamic center to test expansion plan during Ramadan

members have already addressed traffic and parking issues

A plan to expand the San Ramon Valley Islamic Center will get its first test during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The San Ramon Planning Commission Tuesday night agreed to the trial run, with staff preparing a temporary use permit to allow an increase from a maximum 325 person occupancy to 541 person occupancy for prayer services on Friday afternoons beginning July 29.

Ultimately, the center would like to expand to permanently. It's purchased a building for $1.2 million purchase and done $400,000 in renovations. However, a study paid for by the SRVIC showed some problems with traffic getting to and from the center on Fridays.

Representatives from the group told San Ramon planners they're already addressing those issues.

The traffic study showed the left turn lane to get into the center at 2232 Camino Ramon can back traffic up and create a safety hazard.

Faraz Sattar, a member of the center, said people who attend the services on Fridays – which are as important to Muslims as Sunday services are to Christians – are being educated about the dangers and asked to take alternate ways in.

Parking, another potential problem, is also being addressed. Sattar said members from the center have already contacted their neighbors; when one complained about parking in spaces, the center began placing cones out to block members from parking there. Carpooling, with preferential parking for vehicles with three or more people is being set up and the center is also considering shuttle service.

"We try to stay squeaky clean in our relations with our neighbors," Sattar told the commission. Because of that, he said, the center has received 100 percent approval from other tenants in the park.

Another potential problem is people looking to make a left turn onto Camino Ramon. While the planning commission would consider installing a sign banning left turns around the time of the Friday service, Sattar said the center is already asking members to seek other ways to leave to keep traffic from backing up.

The SRVIC began with about 32 families in 1992. Since then, as the overall population of San Ramon has doubled to about 72,000, the center has grown to more than 400 members.

"I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the city of San Ramon," to continue its history of diversity, said Bill Clarkson, who attended the planning commission meeting to back the expansion, which he said will help make San Ramon "a destination city for people of all faiths."

After Ramadan, the expansion will go back to the commission for its recommendation to City Council. While a successful trial run doesn't guarantee a positive recommendation, Chairwoman Donna Kerger said the Ramadan test "can be an excellent opportunity for us... it gives everyone a trial run."

The expansion would require a public hearing before approval.

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