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Shiva-Vishnu Temple seeks OK for expansion

Leaders address neighbors' concerns at press conference

Neighbors of the Hindu Community and Cultural Center and its traditional Shiva-Vishnu Temple in Livermore are appealing that city's Planning Commission approval given in February for additions and renovations.

The hearing is on the Livermore City Council agenda for next Monday.

Original expansion plans called for an additional 63,000 square feet on the 4-acre site on Arrowhead Avenue, said center leaders at a press conference held April 16. In response to neighbors' concerns, plans have been scaled down to 30,000 square feet, which would develop 13 percent of the land, they said.

The existing buildings are a total of 18,300 square feet, with the temple, a multipurpose building with a small kitchen, and a temporary office in a portable trailer.

"We have no storage and no proper bathrooms," said Nagaraja Rao, chairman of the master plan committee. "We are trying to address these problems."

Complaints from the neighbors include traffic, noise and odors, and dust caused by cars parking in an unpaved section of the land. More than 150 neighbors showed up to the February Planning Commission meeting to protest the development, according to news reports, and 16 people signed a recent petition.

The temple itself is not expanding. The master plan calls for a new multipurpose building plus enlarging the kitchen area and moving it to the south side of the assembly hall, away from neighbors on Goldenrod Drive.

The kitchen is necessary to prepare food that is blessed by the priests and eaten by the worshippers, an integral part of their religion, explained temple president Dr. Pyda Srinivas.

"People are standing outside and eating," he remarked. "If we put them inside we won't have noise to the neighborhood."

The current facility was built in 1986, about 10 years before the neighboring houses, and leaders pointed out that the buildings are small due to inadequate funds at the time.

Plans also include a permanent office.

"This would take it us out of the trailer office, which is an eyesore to the neighborhood," explained Rao.

The Shiva-Vishnu Temple serves devotees from as far as the peninsula on the west and to Tracy on the east. Rao noted that enhancing the facility will not bring any more worshippers to the site, and added that the local Hindu population has been reduced since 2005. He also said very few people visit the temple on a daily basis although three or four feast days per year draw thousands of people.

"Jan. 1 is the maximum number of visitors," he said. "Everyone wants to say hello to God."

Another 4-acre parcel owned by the center across the street is used for overflow parking.

"Our biggest need is our lack of infrastructure," said Srinivas. "We don't have proper indoor space."

Plans include a wall on the north side of the grounds to act as a buffer for the noise for neighbors on Goldenrod Drive.

"We want to accommodate the neighbors," said Srinivas. "We want to work with them."

The new master plan also calls for paving a parking lot and adding landscaping adjacent to neighbors on the south on Treeflower Drive.

The Hindu center paid for two traffic studies, said center chairman Dr. Peraiah Sudanagunta, which showed that houses on its acreage theoretically would generate 150 vehicles each day.

"On less than 10 occasions per year do we exceed that count," he said.

The speakers noted that addressing neighbors' concerns has cost them more than $2 million. Moving the kitchen will cost $1 million, while the new paved, landscaped parking lot will be an additional $1.8 million. The total cost of the project is estimated at $5 million.

"We need basic structures for dignity and honor," said Srinivas. "We are enhancing not expanding."

The City Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m., next Monday at 3575 Pacific Ave. in Livermore.

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