Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Buddhist temple in Fremont’s backyard may have to be razed to the ground

Fremont-At the height of Mount Fremont, there is a temple and meditation hall with hundreds of Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes, including a 9-foot-tall bronze Buddha standing in a woman’s backyard.

But they and other buildings in the 29-acre courtyard—including “Hindu temples”, greenhouses, tree houses, double-storey huts, and residences—may have to be demolished or made major changes because the city says they were built without proper license. Now, the administrative hearing officer assigned by the city committee has agreed with the city’s opinion.

MiaoLan Lee founded her so-called 1,001 Buddhist temple near Mill Creek Road. She said that the hearing was more like the “systemic racism” she had experienced in Fremont before. She plans to appeal the decision in the Alameda County High Court.

Lee has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, claiming that the city discriminated against her because of her religion, gender, and race. She insisted that the city allows nearby owners to build buildings without a permit.

“We are very shocked by the city’s ruthless demolishing of our Buddhist temples and other protected religious buildings,” Li said in a written statement.

She said in a statement released on Friday: “Fremont officials have no problem with white men constructing buildings in violation of city rules, but if you are Asian… they will attack your religious site with dogs and police twice. “

“We will believe in the American legal system and we will appeal this ruling. The systemic racism we have experienced cannot be allowed to continue,” she added.

The city argued that some of these buildings were constructed or undergoing major renovations without permission or even plans. Some are “built without adequate structures and foundation systems” and may collapse if an earthquake occurs.

According to the hearing documents, the city’s construction officer Gary West stated that he was “shocked” by the level of unauthorized construction of Lee’s property.

Some buildings do not have proper ventilation, lighting, sanitation and insulation, and are located on or near sensitive waterways or very steep slopes, the city claimed in several notices and hearings to Li.

Lee hired a strong land use lawyer to refute these claims and prevent the city government from forcing her to demolish most of the works, including the Buddhist temple built in the old garage and the meditation hall built in the old garage. California style barn.

The buildings and floors are decorated with white marble statues-some weighing thousands of pounds more than life-size, and some small enough to be held in one hand-representing various incarnations of Buddha and enlightened spiritual leaders in Buddhism over the centuries. A huge bronze Buddha statue overlooks the main hall on a platform full of offerings.

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Tal Finney, one of Lee’s lawyers, previously described the entire facility as “a piece of cultural art”, and his client spent millions of dollars to build it.

Lee has stated that she hopes to use this property as a temple for “a small group of members” who come to worship “Buddhas, gods and goddesses” and “meditate and study… hoping to become enlightened.”

The city stated that because Li “added a complete kitchen, shower and four air-conditioning units” to the former barn, she violated the 2013 agreement with the city government that allowed the barn to remain as long as it was not used as a residential unit. .

City officials also stated that she added approximately 4,000 square feet of space to the former garage, including another residential unit with “kitchen, two bedrooms and two fully equipped bathrooms”, as well as “data ports and Mechanical equipment fixed to the outside”. wall. “

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In addition to correcting the violations in 13 areas of the property, the city also hopes that Li will completely demolish the “Hindu Temple”, a small building called a pavilion, located above some of the cement-lined pools that Li built.

According to the decision document, Lee’s lawyer stated that if Lee resolves some of the issues mentioned, the city should grant Lee permission, and the demolition should be only a “last resort”. They also claim that these structures are strong and safe, and have been evaluated by privately hired experts (including structural and geotechnical engineers).

In arguing that the city government was too aggressive towards her, Li claimed that in past disputes, it had issued a search warrant signed by judges, police, police dogs, and law enforcement officers to search her property, including her bedroom and bathroom. area.

Angela Alioto, Lee’s civil rights lawyer and former San Francisco county director, said that city officials should be “ashamed” for the way they handled the case.

“In the United States of America, we will not demolish temples,” Arioto said in a statement.

“The city government’s ruling is unreasonable and will be appealed immediately. She said that the city’s actions were “obviously biased and discriminatory” and will be included in the ongoing civil rights lawsuit.

“We believe that Ms. Li’s allegations are of no value,” the city said in a written response to Ms. Li’s allegations of discrimination and racism.

The statement added: “We are a community that celebrates our diversity, and we are proud to have one of the largest Asian populations in the Bay Area.”

The Buddhist temple in Fremont's backyard may have to be razed to the ground
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