One of the most beautiful and authentic Hindu temples in the United States is in the midst of a swirling controversy over its expansion plans. Situated in 12 acres in Livermore, the temple, also called theHindu Community and Cultural Center (HCCC) came under vocal opposition from its neighbors when it announced plans to build on up to 63,000 sq. feet of its acreage.

Worried about the impact of the expansion on traffic and noise levels, neighbors banded into a group called Friends of Arrowhead and approached the city with their concerns. Though the city’s planning commission had approved the temple’s plans, the HCCC decided to scale back to a much more modest plan that takes into account all the concerns brought forward by the neighbors.

On April 16 2010, the board of the HCCC invited members of the media to take note of the revised plan and all the efforts that have been made to comply with objections to the expansion.

“At this point plans have been reduced to such an extent that it is no longer an expansion but an enhancement,” says Srinivas Pyda, one of the Steering Committee members, and others at the Center echo this sentiment. The 63,000 sq. feet plan has been reduced to around 30,000 sq. feet, of which a large segment is converting the trailers housing the administrative offices currently to a pukka building, and moving the site of the kitchen to a corner where neighbors are not likely to be affected by noise and odor.

Other plans include converting the dirt parking lot immediately adjoining the temple into a paved lot, built according to green principles.

The new plans, made with input from the temple’s neighbors, do appear to take into account and resolve many of their concerns. The main objection has been the possible increase in traffic to the temple, and the Master Plan Committee members are quick to point out that the temple itself is going to remain unchanged in size—the expansion is only in the community meeting area and creation of new storage. A traffic analysis done by independent authorities confirms that the new development is unlikely to impact existing traffic in any significant manner. It is true that there are certain days of the year when the traffic is particularly busy and the neighbors do face some inconvenience, but as Chairman Sudanagunta points out, the temple existed before the houses were developed around it, and new home-owners surely could have expected some impact of having a large and popular temple in the vicinity.

The committee members also point out that by law they are allowed to develop up to 40% of their land, whereas current plans only build up about 13%. If the land had been used for residential development instead, the impact on traffic would have been much more.

After the HCCC’s concessions, the opposition has dwindled to about 80 individuals from a neighbor population of around 600. A city council meeting on May 10th plans to allow debate about the temple.
If you have enjoyed visiting the temple in the past and would be happy to see the temple facilities improved, do show your support by attending the May 10th meeting at City Hall, Livermore.

Details as follows:

Temple Master Plan Appeal  Hearing.,
On Monday , May 10th 2010.@ 6.30pm Sharp.,
@ Livermore City Council Chambers.,
    3575 Pacific Avenue,
    Livermore,CA: 94550.

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 35-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...