RICHMOND -- City officials and leaders of a local mosque have a plan for fixing fire and other safety hazards at the building and reopening some of its rooms for worship.
"We have a path forward," Councilman Tom Butt said after Tuesday's special council meeting, which was called by Councilman Corky Boozé. "They will work up some plans and do some work, and we should reach a solution."
The Masjid Noor mosque, housed in a World War II-era former Kaiser field hospital at 1330 Cutting Blvd., was closed days after a Dec. 31 inspection by Richmond fire Marshal Terry Harris. The inspection and closure sparked outcry from at least one Bay Area Muslim leader and drew nationwide attention to the city from Muslim leaders who wanted to ensure that the mosque was not mistreated.
"I got a lot of phone calls and emails," Harris said.
Harris made a surprise visit after a colleague spotted people going in and out of the building, which city officials thought was vacant.
"Most of the building had no Sheetrock, which is key for stopping the spread of fire," Harris said. "There were cooking appliances in the hallway; it was unsafe."
Harris added that mosque members were "very cooperative."
Mosque leaders thanked the council Tuesday for its concern and vowed to submit plans to fix the problems. The council agreed that a small portion of the building could be reopened in the coming weeks or months, after fire code violations are fixed, while the rest of the building undergoes extensive work.
Reports of the mosque's possible closure drew attention from Muslim leaders throughout the country, Masjid Noor officials said, adding that they were confident they could resolve the concerns amicably at the local level.
The friendly tone indicated eased tensions since Jan. 7, when Saadi Nasim, a community outreach coordinator at Al Sabeel mosque in San Francisco, sent an email to the City Council and Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, saying, "First and foremost, freedom of religion is guaranteed by our constitution. I am confused how and why a religious (center) could be shut down."
Nasim's letter drew a response from Councilman Nat Bates, who warned his colleagues: "Being punitive toward a religious group ... is asking for nothing but problems with perhaps national negative publicity."
The former Kaiser field hospital was built for shipyard workers and their families in the 1940s and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The building was sold to the mosque by Kaiser in the late 1990s, Butt said.
Several meetings between civic and religious leaders followed the Dec. 31 inspection, leading to an agreement to resolve the issues, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said.
"We can work together to find a resolution that addresses safety and spiritual needs," McLaughlin said.
City staff members said they would provide the council regular updates about the progress of work at the mosque.
The mosque has been off limits since Jan. 9. No firm timetable was set for when the indoor prayer area would be reopened.