MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — An open space agency has voted to thwart plans by a group of elderly nuns who want to build a monastery on a pristine ridge overlooking the ocean.
Before a packed public hearing, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District voted to take the first step toward seizing the nuns' land through eminent domain.
The crowd included nuns and several priests. Dozens of people wore badges reading, "Yes for Convent on Kings Mountain."
A lawyer for the Russian Convent of Our Lady of Vladimir called the district's opposition "outrageous."
Authorities in Russia and China had seized the nuns' land three times before they fled to the United States to escape persecution 50 years ago, attorney Colleen Doherty said.
The cloistered Russian nuns, who now live in San Francisco, say they simply want a quiet place to contemplate. They envisioned a chapel topped by an onion dome that would be visible for miles.
The district board approved a resolution of necessity, the first step toward declaring eminent domain.
The nuns' 284 acres sit in the pristine Kings Mountains hills in San Mateo County. As a compromise, the nuns have offered to preserve 90% of the land as open space and use 3% for construction.
The district, which has offered almost $1 million for the land, is concerned that the monastery might threaten the wildlife habitat and beauty of the ridgeline, district spokesman Malcolm Smith said.