Now plans for the first mosque to be built in Palo Alto, at 998 San Antonio Road, are finally ready for review. They are scheduled to be presented by the Anjuman-e-Jamali Muslim group to the city's Architectural Review Board Thursday. The preliminary feedback session is expected to start at 8:30 a.m.
The 10,122-square-foot building would contain a 40-foot mosque with a roughly 60-foot minaret, adjacent to a two-story community center and parking structure, according to Matt Johnson, one of the designers from Barton Architect.
The center would also house an apartment for the imam and one for visiting imams, architect John Barton said.
The new mosque would blend contemporary and ancient styles, he said.
Current plans depict a beige structure of modern cement blocks arranged in subtle, graduated patterns.
The entrance is surrounded by an intricately carved grille that recalls traditional design but topped by a sleek steel awning.
Above is a row of pointed-arch, clerestory windows. The roof is ringed by a parapet stamped with geometric stapes.
The minaret — a decorative element, from which calls to prayer would not be issued — has two set-back levels and a domed top.
Inside the mosque, passages from the Koran will adorn the wall in Kufic script, Johnson said.
The shorter community center is less ornate, with simple wood slats planned for the sides, and semi-screened parking, he added.
Religious rules determined the mosque's placement on the site. Mosques must face Mecca and cars mustn't be driven behind them, the designer said.
The mosque's side, a wall of tall windows, faces an offshoot of San Antonio Road behind a pre-existing wall of vegetation, he said.
Architects strove to meld a variety of styles, according to Muslim community leader Esmail Essabhoy.
"The style of so many mosques, from Egypt, from London, something from India, Iraq — all those have been blended," he said.
The plans come from the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Islam, a group that includes about 80 families on the Peninsula, Essabhoy said.
The sect is based out of India — hence the local group's back-and-forth communication to get approval from the religious authority there.
The new mosque will be a home for a community that has spent a decade bouncing between temporary spaces, searching for a site to build a permanent worship hall.
"We were hopping around from place to place. ... It was tough," Essabhoy said. Meeting at community centers and other churches, the group was at the mercy of others' schedules and availability. It was hard to organize events without dependable headquarters, he said.
The new space will free the group to control its own schedule.
"It will be convenient. Any time we want to have a prayer meeting done we can do it at our beck and call."
The search for a mosque has taken nearly a decade because the worshippers needed to find a site zoned for church use, Essabhoy explained.
After looking from Los Gatos to Mountain View — including a Los Altos site later abandoned when the group realized neighbors were unlikely to approve an expansion — they found the Palo Alto site about four years ago, he said.
The religious community purchased the former church for $1.6 million. One family will pay to demolish the church and build the whole project, Essabhoy said, adding the family wants to be anonymous and would rather not disclose the cost now.
The mosque will be open to all Muslims, the representative said.
"Anybody is welcome."
The mosque will be Palo Alto's second. The Jamil Masjid mosque operates at 427 California Ave. adjacent to Jamil Oriental Carpets. That proximity keeps with a Middle Eastern tradition of businesses opening up extra space to prayer, according to Adam Jamil, son of the mosque's late founder, Mohammad Mazhar Jamil.
According to a 2001 count of mosques by the federal government, California has more than any other state, with 227 mosques at the time. New York clocked in second with 140.
Palo Alto has no official count of how many Muslims — or members of other religions — live in the city, according to Senior Planner Roland Rivera. About 250,000 live in the Bay Area, according to the San Francisco Bay Area Council on American-Islamic Relations.