The Trump administration's zero-tolerance for anyone crossing the border illegally has also become policy for a Jewish religious center's use of its backyard for outdoor activities in Pleasanton.
In a 4-1 vote June 27, the city's Planning Commission affirmed an earlier regulation barring the Chabad of the Tri-Valley from holding outdoor daycare sessions on its landscaped backyard and limiting all other Chabad outdoor activities to no more than 15 a year.
The ruling came at the end of a 3-1/2-hour public hearing where Chabad's backyard neighbors Michael and Darlene Miller prevailed in their longtime protest over excessive noise from those using the building at 3370 Hopyard Road, which Chabad bought last year from Pleasanton Masons for $2.5 million.
"We have a petition with 25 neighbors' signatures (from Valley Trails) asking that no outside activities should be allowed at the Chabad," Darlene Miller told planners. "Remember, noise does not distinguish the Masons from the Chabad. Noise is noise. It's detrimental."
Not only did the commission rule that Chabad must move daycare activities to a smaller patio area on the west side of its building, but it also continued a conditional use requirement imposed when the Masons occupied the building that windows facing north toward the Millers' property on Bryce Canyon Court must be kept closed at all times and the one door leading out to that backyard can be used only in emergencies. At one time, the Masons had French doors there for use during their backyard parties.
The Planning Commission's zero tolerance for outdoor noise from a religious institution in Pleasanton is unprecedented. It could affect how other daycare centers operate here or even the tolerance in the future for outdoor services and social events by churches and synagogues.
Even Ellen Clark of the city's planning staff acknowledged that Chabad's is the only religious-affiliated daycare center regulated on its outdoor uses of its property. Her survey of daycares operated by Trinity Lutheran, Valley Community, St. Mary & St. John Coptic Orthodox, Harvest Valley and Ridgeview Hope churches and Beth Emek Synagogue showed no restrictions. Yet planners ruled Chabad can allow its children outside on the side yard only between 10:30 a.m. to noon and from 3-4 p.m., and then only 25 of its 48 enrollees at a time.
St. Clare's Episcopal Church, which shares a parking lot with Chabad, has no outdoor activity restrictions either for its daycare/preschool or church functions.
Commissioners mulled for an agonizing hour while 150 people waited in the City Council chamber for their decision, which only Commissioner Greg O'Connor opposed. Forty of them spoke at the hearing, with most urging planners to cancel all of the Masonic Lodge-era restrictions that now affect Chabad.
"I'm concerned that these rules will apply to other religions (in Pleasanton) and affect outdoor activities for children," said one speaker. "I'm concerned about Christians not being able to practice their religion," said another. "The Millers talk about wild screaming, but they may have been speaking about another playground somewhere else. It was not the Chabad playground because children there are very well behaved," said another.
"Chabad is not prepared to relinquish one-third of its property with no uses allowed at all," said Chabad's attorney James G. Schwartz. "No other houses of worship (in Pleasanton) have such draconian measures."
It's likely that Chabad or the Millers will appeal the Planning Commission's decision to the City Council, as happened once before. If so, let's hope the council will scuttle this unwarranted zero tolerance for noise that bars a Pleasanton religious institution from rightfully using its property for outdoor children's and occasional religious activities.