HAYWARD — The neighborhood surrounding Gading Road always has been known for its row of Christian churches, most of them built in the 1950s and 1960s to accommodate the rapid growth of nearby housing tracts.

But it has never seen the likes of a minaret before.

That could change now that a group of Fijian Muslims wants to build a domed mosque, capped with four minarets, on a narrow slice of land north of Glassbrook Elementary School.

Mohammed Khan, a longtime Hayward resident who owns the land and is president of the group, said he has spent years raising money and looking for the right spot to establish a local place to worship.

"We really need a place locally," said Khan, who regularly crosses the Bay with his family to attend a mosque in South San Francisco.

But neighbors are looking warily at the proposal, and several say they believe the mosque will decrease residential property values in their central Hayward neighborhood.

Khan introduced himself, his religious practices and his cultural and ethnic background Monday to a group of about 20 people who live near the property.

But he received a chilly reception when he began to show details of the planned 15,000-square-foot facility.

"Whoever drives down Ventura (Avenue) will see that," complained one resident, describing how visitors might react upon seeing the towering minarets. "This is going to be at the expense of a lot of us people who put a lot of equity in our homes."

The resident later declined to give his name, as did some others who are adamantly opposed to the mosque. A woman who answered the phone Tuesday at the Hayward-Seventh Day Adventist Church, next to Khan's property, said the mosque is "not going to happen" and hung up on the reporter who asked about it.

Most others said it was not the mosque, but its size and placement with which they have a problem.

"My opinion initially was fine, so what," said Jeff Cook, who lives directly behind the property and is a trustee of the Hayward Unified School District. "We've got a bunch of churches on Gading, including my own."

But Cook, speaking at the meeting Monday, said the size of the proposed two-story mosque was a problem and would detract from the value of the neighborhood.

Eric Jacobsen, the San Mateo-based architect designing the mosque, said he is trying his best to address those neighborhood concerns that he agrees are legitimate. He is looking at shrinking the size of the building to make room for more parking spots.

Jacobsen, who has never designed a mosque before and is not Muslim, said he worked more than several months with Khan to design something that reflects traditional and classic forms in Islamic architecture.

"There are commonalities in how you deal with houses of God," said Jacobsen, who has built several Bay Area churches. "A lot of it translates quite well."

Mosque proponents point to the eight religious institutions that already line the Gading Road-Patrick Avenue corridor, a one-mile stretch of roadway between Harder and Tennyson roads. Opponents, however, say that most of those churches were built on larger lots than Khan's narrow property, slightly less than an acre.

The eight existing churches in the area are all built on lots ranging from one acre to about three, according to city records.

"I think the architect did a wonderful job, but they're packing too much into the property," said Gary Milner, a resident of Ventura Avenue for 32 years. "It's huge."

Khan said the congregation currently has about 60 members, although it could grow once the mosque is built. The two-story building would include a basement banquet hall and a small residence for the group's imam, or religious leader.

The facility wouldn't be the first mosque in Hayward — the city already has several religious institutions and schools serving different ethnic and religious groups that practice various forms of Islam. The most visible of those is the Afghan community's Abu Bakr Siddiq Mosque on Mission Boulevard, one of Hayward's biggest places of worship.

Although some Fijians began migrating to San Francisco many decades ago, the local immigrant population exploded following political turmoil in the South Pacific archipelago in the 1980s. Not all local Fijians are Muslim, but most are Indian, descendants of indentured laborers who left the subcontinent to work on the Fiji islands beginning in the late 19th century.

Khan, who has lived in Hayward for

17 years, said his small community has yearned for a local religious center for many years.

A different group of Fijian-Muslims, the Alameda Muslim Alliance, tried and failed to build a mosque in the Jackson Triangle neighborhood of Hayward several years ago. At the time, city officials sided with neighbors who opposed the project, arguing the mosque would not fit into the surrounding residential neighborhood.