The Norman Transcript


January 4, 2013

Temple doesn’t always inspire peaceful reactions

LOS ANGELES — The sound of chanting echoed through the makeshift temple, to the slow steady pulse of a drum.

Forty-nine days had passed since Jonathan Van’s uncle had died in Vietnam, and he and his family gathered at Tinh Xa Giac Ly in Westminster, chanting so that his spirit might find its path. The puffs of incense dancing in the air would serve as the vehicle to carry his spirit to the next life, according to Buddhist tradition.

The relatives knelt on the floor of the two-car garage, high heels and sandals scattered outside on the driveway, as other loved ones spilled out to the patio, reciting from yellow songbooks.

The sound, for Van, calmed his own spirit.

“For me the chanting is very soothing,” Van said. “Relieves stress.”

Less so for some of the neighbors, however.

The temple sits among the suburban tract homes at Titus Street and Hazard Avenue, just steps from Little Saigon, converted about 26 years ago from a typical family home to a house of worship.

The sound of the chanting and the unfamiliar smells and rituals are an unwelcome intrusion to some in the neighborhood in the heart of Orange County, the traffic an inconvenience.

Officials said misunderstandings between the start-up temples and residents who find their neighborhoods transformed are an ongoing issue in the Asian communities that sprawl across Westminster, Garden Grove and Santa Ana.

Rita Leon and her brother Rudy Lastra live across the street from Tinh Xa Giac Ly and say their conflicts with the temple’s worshippers have almost turned physical.

And traffic generated by visitors, they said, has turned their residential street into a bustling thoroughfare.

“It’s like the 405 Freeway on a Monday at rush hour,” Lastra said.

Temple organizers also clashed with the city, which after receiving numerous complaints from residents cited them for code violations involving outdoor cooking equipment as well as gas, electrical and plumbing lines, said Art Bashmakian, Westminster’s planning manager.

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