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Construction of Buddhist Temple Draws Controversy in San Jose, California


The Khmer community in the Evergreen neighborhood of San Jose, California, is attempting to build a Buddhist temple. However, the proposed plans have drawn the ire of some local residents, who feel that the 1,300-square-meter structure, which will sit on a 0.75-hectare lot, will bring unwanted noise and traffic congestion to the area.

The issue came to a head in February when the San Jose Planning Commission approved the building project. Now the site proposal is with the city council, which is responsible for approving the temple’s construction and rezoning the property for public use. A vote on the issue is scheduled to take place on 28 March.

People who are opposed to the project are showing their displeasure in a number of ways. One individual who owns property along nearby Ruby Avenue has refused to sell their land, which sits in the middle of the building site, to developers. So the temple will wrap around their property on three sides.

Another local resident, Murali Pabbisetty, expressed concern that the temple would make it harder for residents to walk safely in the area, and that the cars of temple attendees would block the entrance to his cul-de-sac.

In contrast, members of the local Khmer community are enthused by the prospect of a new temple being built to serve their community.

“We want a good place to worship.” said Victor Thach, a 63-year-old San Jose resident who arrived in the United States in 1986 after leaving Vietnam. “I don’t want the next generation to look down on us and see that we haven’t done anything for three decades.” (The Mercury News)

Thach, along with other members of the congregation, currently attends services at a single-family home that was converted into a Buddhist temple in the 1990s. However, the congregation has outgrown the space, and some members have stopped attending services as a result of the overcrowding.


With the help of Lyna Lam, who heads the Khmer Buddhist Foundation, the congregants hope to build a new temple that will provide more space and add to the architectural beauty of the Evergreen community. The planned temple will provide religious services and support to the community of ethnic Cambodians in the area, many of whom came to San Jose after escaping war and bloodshed in places like Vietnam and Cambodia.

Lam described the importance of the space by stating: “A temple is really the center of the community for Cambodians. It’s not just a religion for us, we go there to support each other.” (KRON 4)

The planned temple will be located at 2,740 Ruby Avenue and will provide a home for eight monks, who will live their full time, and will include a temple sanctuary and a community center, which will have many traditional Buddhist elements. The buildings will reportedly host a maximum of 300 visitors at a time. However, the developers said they expect worship services during the week to have 20 attendees, while weekend services will probably have around 50 attendees.

In an attempt to address some of the concerns put forth by local residents, the project planners have adjusted the plans for the proposed temple. The size of the buildings has been scaled back by 25 per cent and a surface-level parking lot has been added to the design.

The developers have also offered some pushback to locals, noting that there are other multi-ethnic places of worship in the area, including the Evergreen Islamic Center and a Sikh temple.

See more

‘We want a place to worship’: San Jose Buddhist temple would be a first for the region (The Mercury News)
San Jose residents say Buddhist temple will bring traffic, noise (KRON 4)

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