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Temple in the Hood
House of worship doesn't always inspire peaceful reactions
The issue of homes being converted to places of worship has not arisen a great deal in the Yuba-Sutter area, according to spokesmen for planning agencies in Yuba and Sutter counties.
“We’ve had a couple of occasions where groups have started up and we received complaints from neighbors,” said Doug Libby, a Sutter County planner. “When we contacted them they came in and went through the permit process.”
One incident several years ago involved a group who wanted to locate a Sikh temple in a rural residential area southwest of Yuba City. Planning commissioners turned down the request, but later approved a permit for the group on South George Washington Boulevard. Supervisors later overturned the permit, but a court later overturned the supervisors’ decision and the permit was issued.
“We haven’t really had any issues come up in Yuba County,” said Russ Brown, spokesman for the county.
Brown said county ordinances allow it to be addressed if a problem develops.
Officials in Yuba City and Marysville were unavailable.
By Larry Badger,Appeal-Democrat
LOS ANGELES – The sound of chanting echoed through the makeshift temple, to the slow steady pulse of a drum.
Forty-nine days had passed since Jonathan Van’s uncle had died in Vietnam, and he and his family gathered at Tinh Xa Giac Ly in Westminster, chanting so that his spirit might find its path. The puffs of incense dancing in the air would serve as the vehicle to carry his spirit to the next life, according to Buddhist tradition.
The relatives knelt on the floor of the two-car garage, high heels and sandals scattered outside on the driveway, as other loved ones spilled out to the patio, reciting from yellow songbooks.
The sound, for Van, calmed his own spirit.
“For me the chanting is very soothing,” Van said. “Relieves stress.”
Less so for some of the neighbors, however.
The temple sits among the suburban tract homes at Titus Street and Hazard Avenue, just steps from Little Saigon, converted about 26 years ago from a typical family home to a house of worship.
The sound of the chanting and the unfamiliar smells and rituals are an unwelcome intrusion to some in the neighborhood in the heart of Orange County, the traffic an inconvenience.
Officials said misunderstandings between the start-up temples and residents who find their neighborhoods transformed are an ongoing issue in the Asian communities that sprawl across Westminster, Garden Grove and Santa Ana.
Rita Leon and her brother Rudy Lastra live across the street from Tinh Xa Giac Ly and say their conflicts with the temple’s worshippers have almost turned physical.
And traffic generated by visitors, they said, has turned their residential street into a bustling thoroughfare.
“It’s like the 405 Freeway on a Monday at rush hour,” Lastra said.
Temple organizers also clashed with the city, which after receiving numerous complaints from residents cited them for code violations involving outdoor cooking equipment as well as gas, electrical and plumbing lines, said Art Bashmakian, Westminster’s planning manager.
The temple’s leader, the Most Venerable Thich Giac Si, said he is mindful of his neighbors’ concerns and reminds visitors to park outside the neighborhood to reduce the number of cars streaming along the residential streets.
“Whatever they like to say or express to us, we like to listen,” he said.
For the recent gathering, Van’s relatives came from as far as North Hollywood and West Covina to visit the temple to participate in the final day of prayer for his uncle’s spirit, 49 days being the period a spirit needs to find its new life, according to Buddhist tradition.
The next time the family will pray for their uncle will be at the one-year anniversary of his death.
In addition to hosting ceremonies for the dead, Van said the temple gives back too – donating clothes and vegetarian food to the homeless and helping with construction of water wells in Vietnam. The temple also sends money to 120 handicapped people in Vietnam, Thich Giac Si said.