Federal lawsuit over proposed Lomita Islamic center settled
The Justice Department has settled a lawsuit against Lomita that stemmed from an application that was denied in 2010 to build a new mosque in the city -- an action that was praised Monday by members of the local Islamic community.
The Islamic Center of the South Bay had sought to build a two-story mosque on the property to replace several aging structures that had been used for prayer and community services.
But the City Council voted 4 to 0 to deny the application, citing concerns by neighbors regarding increased traffic on the site at Walnut Street near Pacific Coast Highway. The vote came despite a city study that concluded the project would improve traffic flow to adjacent streets.
The denial prompted a lawsuit by the Los Angeles Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and a civil rights law firm, which alleged that the city had discriminated against the Islamic Center.
The Justice Department began investigating and later filed its own lawsuit against the city. The settlement, which was announced last week, resolves the lawsuits and was welcomed Monday by members of the Islamic community.
"The constitutional right to religious freedom inherently includes the ability of a religious community to gather in an adequate setting for worship and camaraderie," said Ameena Qazi, lead staff attorney in Los Angeles for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The Justice Department said the settlement must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. As part of the settlement, the city has agreed to expedite the Islamic Center's application, federal officials said in a statement.
— Robert J. Lopez
Photo: The proposed Islamic center in Lomita. Credit: Shakil Patel and Associates