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VALLEY NEIGHBORS FIGHT HINDU TEMPLE'S PLANS.

Byline: James Nash Staff Writer

RESEDA - Efforts by the San Fernando Valley's largest Hindu congregation to expand its temple have hit a wall of opposition from neighbors, who say the site is woefully short on parking and will bring too much traffic to the residential area.

Residents near the Valley Hindu Temple, on Roscoe Boulevard near Rhea Avenue, are fighting the temple's plans to expand the sanctuary by 1,400 square feet and convert an adjacent house into a priest's residence. The debate will go before the South Valley Area Planning Commission on Thursday.

Nearby residents formed an association to oppose what they call a ``nightmare'' if the temple near the Northridge-Reseda border expands without sufficient parking to accommodate the cars of new worshippers. The neighbors say they're not opposed to Hindus, just to having their neighborhood overrun by moving and parked cars during religious services and events.

``We've spent thousands of hours trying to defend ourselves,'' resident Diana Rollins said. ``We've never said pack up and go away. We're only saying comply with the same laws and regulations that everyone else in a residential area has to comply with.''

Valley Hindu Temple Vice President Bal K. Sarat said leaders of the 200- member congregation wanted to retrofit a 1960s building to modern requirements, with a new kitchen, improved bathrooms and a multipurpose hall for cultural programs. The expansion will accommodate as many as 100 new worshippers, Sarat said, dismissing concerns that the expansion would overwhelm surrounding residential areas.

``Our purpose in expanding this was for the Hindu community in the Valley,'' Sarat said. ``It is not that 1,000 people are going to come ... (Opponents are) taking this out of proportion.''

City planners have concluded that the project is compatible with its surroundings, noting that the current proposal is smaller than earlier versions.

Sarat said his is the largest Hindu congregation in the Valley, but is dwarfed by a Hindu temple in Malibu. There were 37 Hindu congregations in Los Angeles County in 2000, according to the American Religion Data Archive.

The Reseda temple has 32 parking spaces, according to city documents. In 2003, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety cited the temple for not having the 63 parking spaces required.

The proposed expansion would double the number of parking spaces, but still leave the temple below the city-required 144 parking spaces. As a compromise, the temple leaders have agreed to lease 92 parking spaces on Reseda Boulevard near the sanctuary.

Even with additional parking, some neighbors fear that traffic and noise will detract from the character of the area.

``This is to take place on a postage stamp in the middle of a residential area in the San Fernando Valley,'' said Jim Reithoffer. ``We're just aghast that something like this could happen.''

James Nash, (213) 978-0390

james.nash(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

photo, map

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The Valley Hindu Temple currently has a congregation of 200, and leaders hope to accommodate up to 100 new members.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer

Map:

Proposed temple
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 21, 2004
Words:507
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