Richmond mosque remains closed, leaders hope to reopen soon
on February 17, 2014
Leaders of a Richmond mosque are finalizing plans to repair numerous fire code violations and hope to soon reopen at least one room for daily prayer.
It’s been over a month since Richmond fire officials plastered a red-tag at the entrance of the Masjid Noor mosque, giving the religious leaders a long list of safety violations that must be repaired before the building can be reopened.
Inspectors found that portions of the building, located at 1330 Cutting Blvd., lacked sheetrock and heat, and had caved-in ceilings, mold and exposed electrical wiring. City officials said they worried about the danger of a fire quickly spreading.
“There is progress being made and there is a strong desire to get back in the building,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director for the Council on American Islamic Relations San Francisco chapter.
“They have been in that building since the late ‘90s so for them this was really sudden. It’s a really important place to many, where a lot of community happens,” she said.
Mosque leaders have set up a tent on the property for daily prayer.
Despite the building’s fire hazards, the mosque’s closure sparked backlash from religious leaders and concerned residents. Some questioned if the city was mistreating the congregation. Councilman Corky Boozé called a special council meeting to discuss the issue after receiving inquiries from the mosque leaders.
“This isn’t about politics its about a place to pray,” Boozé said.
Leaders of the Richmond mosque declined comment for this story.
The criticism has since quieted after city officials hosted several meetings to work through the issue. A section of the building can reopen once violations are repaired, as the renovations continue on the rest of the building.
“It wasn’t about religion, it’s a building that was inhabitable,” said Terry Harris, Richmond’s fire marshal. “The good part now is the leaders of this mosque understand now what their responsibility is to protect themselves and the people that visit there,” he said.
The city’s inspection was prompted after a city employee saw members of the mosque exiting the building, which many thought was vacant. Mosque leaders purchased the former Kaiser Hospital property in the late 1990s.
The building was once a field hospital at the Kaiser Shipyards, established by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, who also launched Kaiser Permanente, the managed healthcare consortium. It’s eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, Councilman Tom Butt said.
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