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Save Sundays at the Berkeley Thai Temple!

Thai Temple Members Continue Educational Outreach As Neighbors Appeal ZAB’s Approval of Temple Permit

For Immediate Release, May 14, 2009

Contact: Virada Chatikul • (510) 725–9549 • savethethaitemple@gmail.com

  

[Berkeley, CA] – On April 7, 2009, three complainants submitted an appeal of the City of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board’s (ZAB) approval of the Wat Mongkolratanaram Thai Buddhist Temple’s Broader Land Use Permit. The appeal requests that the City Council reconsider the ZAB’s 6-to-3 vote in approval of the Temple’s religious activities.

In the appeal, complainants state that the Temple’s Sunday activities are “overtly detrimental” and “constitute a chronic nuisance that negatively impacts the value of the properties immediately adjacent to the Thai Temple.” However, the appeal fails to bring new considerations that have not already been addressed by the ZAB’s findings in previous hearings.  The ZAB concluded that there were minimal traffic, noise and odor impacts to surrounding residents and that the Temple posed no detriment to the health, safety, peace, morals, comfort and general welfare of the neighborhood. Though the Temple has been practicing its religious activities for over two decades on Temple grounds, the appeal ignores the religious nature of the Sunday Food Offering and makes a blanket assertion that it is “not a religious service or accessory rite to a religious institution,” It also reiterates the complainants’ desire for the Temple to decrease the frequency of the Sunday Food Offering when the Temple has already reduced its service by fifty percent. In addition, it makes additional requests such as moving the Sunday activities to an off-site location, asking the City to repeat neighborhood impact studies already conducted and lowering the height of a proposed Buddha sanctuary whose height is already within City limitations for religious structures. The appeal suggests that the Temple’s religious practices should be curtailed, reduced, and compromised to the point that the Temple’s religious freedom is threatened.

In response, Temple members continue their public outreach campaign on the Theravada Buddhist tenet of merit-making that is practiced during the Sunday Food Offering and its centrality to Thai Buddhist teaching. The Sunday Food Offering tradition is an essential part of the Thai Buddhist religious practice of communal food sharing, giving Buddhists an opportunity to earn merit by providing their time, service, food and donations to the monks and to the Temple. The Food Offering tradition and the generous donations of its participants, also allow the Temple to sustain its facilities, host five resident monks and two visiting teachers annually, and maintain its Thai Cultural Center. Siwaraya Rochanahusdin, a Thai American who grew up at the Temple, is spearheading the efforts to save the Temple. She said, “The Temple offers an invaluable range of services to an otherwise underserved population. Discontinuing the weekly food offering would deny this community access to spiritual and educational opportunities not readily found elsewhere.”

 

A City Council hearing is slated for July 2009 where the Council will decide to  accept the appeal or reaffirm the ZAB’s decision in support of the Temple.

Wat Mongkolratanaram is located at 1911 Russell Street in Berkeley, California. For more information please contact savethethaitemple@gmail.com or call Virada Chatikul at 510.725.9549. Additional information can also be found at savethethaitemple.com and www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/zoning.

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Phra Mongkol Thep Molee

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On Sunday, March 8th, Wat Mongkolratanaram Berkeley Thai Buddhist Temple held the 100th Day Memorial Service for its Founding Abbot who passed away on December 3, 2008 at Chulalongkorn Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. He was founder and advisor for establishing temples in Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, St. Louis, Tampa, FL and Park City, Hawaii.

The service was attended by over 50 monks from across the United States from Thai Temples in Washington DC, Florida, Utah, Arizona and California. The floral kindling placed during the ceremony was taken to Thailand for Phra Mongkol Thep Molee’s cremation which took place at Wat Sutasanathepwararam in Bangkok from March 13-15, 2009.

Following prayers, food offerings and funeral rites, the Thai Cultural Center of Berkeley performed an excerpt from the Hindu epic, Ramayana, or Ramakien as it is called in Thai culture. Scenes from the tale are performed in a classical dance style known as khon, one of the highest art forms in Thai culture. The scene performed in honor of Phra Mongkol was Rama’s Pursuit of the Golden Deer and the Kidnapping of Sida by the Demon Totsakan.

Luang Pahw Mongkol, as he was commonly known, was born Poonsup Chutirath on December 4, 1927 in Bangkok, Thailand. He ordained as a novice monk when he was fourteen years old in 1942. He excelled in his studies of Buddhism, and since then, has steadily risen within the monkhood as a teacher and theologian of Buddhist practice and has served as vice abbot of Wat Suthasanathepwararam in Phra Nakorn, Bangkok. Most notably, in 1978, Luang Pahw was bestowed with the title of Phra Mongkol Thep Molee, by His Royal Highness the King, a title which he held for the remainder of his life.

For Thai and Southeast Asian communities across the United States, Phra Mongkol Thep Molee is regarded as a pioneering spiritual leader for Theravada Buddhist practitioners in this country. On May 4, 1972, he arrived in Los Angeles with a council of over 40 Buddhist missionary monks to preserve and promote Theravada Buddhist practice in the United States.

The council first established Wat Los Angeles in 1975 where Luang Pahw Mongkol served as abbot before he and three additional monks relocated to the Bay Area in 1978 to establish Wat Mongkolratanaram in its original location in a home in South San Francisco, and subsequently, at its current Berkeley site in 1983.

The 1970’s were a time of political unrest in Southeast Asian countries and led to the relocation of many Thai, Lao and Cambodian immigrants and refugees to the United States. His leadership was integral to the cohesion and preservation of religious and cultural traditions of our communities as we established roots in the U.S.

In his own words, Luang Pahw has emphasized that, “Religion, education and culture have worked hand in hand since ancient times. Once there is a temple, there must be a school. Once there is a school that teaches Thai language, Thai children must also learn arts and culture – so they will never forget [their roots]. This is at the heart of our Buddhist missionary work.”

Luang Paw Mongkol resided at Wat Mongkolratanaram in Berkeley until the year 2000. Since then, his declining health forced him to spend the majority of his time in Thailand, returning to the United States for special events. Phra Mongkol Thep Molee passed away on December 3, 2008 at the age of 81 at Chulalongkorn Hospital in Bangkok.

His leadership and dedication will be remembered through the temples he established their ongoing service to their communities.

ZAB offers Preliminary Approval!!!

On February  12, 2009 the Zoning Adjustment Board voted in favor of the Thai temple 8 yes to 1 no.  Though the board has given the temple its approval for the project, it is NOT the final approval. The final approval will come after the conditions recommended from the city to the ZAB have clarified. The major points of contention that temple had was in part due to the vagueness of the language. The language is being revised under the direction of the ZAB with recommendations, modifications, and removal of some conditions. At the next hearing, the board will vote to give the project final approval based upon the revisions to the conditions.

The first part of this journey is almost at an end.

The complainants will have the right to appeal, however, that appeal process cannot begin until after the ZAB gives its final approval. Once that approval is final, the complainants will have 2 weeks from the time everything is processed. That normally takes 2 to 3 days after the vote. If the complainants appeal, the case will be heard in front of the Berkeley City Council.

From the entire team, we want to thank each and every one of you for your heart felt support. It was your belief in our cause and our team that gave us the energy to work hard over the course of the past 10 months.

Please continue to visit this site for future updates on the status of the final approval.

ZAB offers Preliminary Approval!

First off, Thank you for all the letters that you’ve sent in, friends you’ve told, e-mails you sent, and your support! The support we’ve received from everyone realized its impact tonight.

The board voted on preliminary approval. There will be one more ZAB meeting to agree on finalized conditions. The motion was voted on and Passed pending these conditions.

We are very pleased with the outcome and will be at the next one to hear the final conditions. That being said, there is still the possibility of an appeal which should be noted.

The main thing that needs to happen now is start the healing process.

Read the rest of this entry »

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HEARING IS TODAY 2-12-2009 @ 7PM

  • If you are driving, you should get there early to look for parking space

Zoning Board Hearing - Reminder!!!

For all those interested in attending the hearing, the time and location is listed below.

Time and Date: Thursday Feb. 12 @ 7PM

Location:

Zoning Adjustment Board Hearing in Berkeley
Old Berkeley City Hall
2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

zap-poster-final

WALL STREET JOURNAL COVERS THE THAI TEMPLE!!!

On February 10th, 2009 the Wall Street Journal newspaper published an article with video coverage about the Berkeley Thai Temple. You can click the link below to read the article on the Wall Street Journal website.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123422026431565295.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

Cheer on the Thai Cultural Center at This Year’s Chinese New Year Parade!

 

Float building in its infancy - watch the parade for the finished product!

Float building in its infancy - watch the parade for the finished product!

Kinnaree dancers in the 2008 parade

Kinnaree dancers in the 2008 parade

 

The Thai Cultural Center of Wat Mongkolratanaram will be making its second appearance in San Francisco’s Annual Chinese New Year Parade on Saturday, February 7th! Show your support by coming out to watch the parade in downtown San Francisco or enjoy the show live on KTVU Channel 2 or KTSF Channel 26 from 6-8pm.

This year, the Thai Cultural Center will be featuring the four regions of Thailand in their procession along with the first US-based Northeastern Pohng Lahng folk ensemble!

You might ask, “Isn’t Thai New Year’s in April?” Though its a little too early for the water fights of Songkran, the cultural center loves supporting the Bay Area Asian community in this wonderful celebration and San Francisco tradition as well as the opportunity to showcase Thai performing arts to such a large audience.

See you Saturday night!

ZAB HEARING is OFFICIAL - 02-12-2009

The site of the hearing is at this location:

Zoning Adjustment Board Hearing in Berkeley
Old Berkeley City Hall
2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
2-12-2009 @ 7PM

Article in East Bay Express / Zoning Board Date!

We’ve another article written by East Bay Express which covered the issue regarding Sunday Services!

East Bay Express
We also have an update for the hearing date, which is set for February 12th at the Zoning Board Meeting. We hope to see you there!

The rally continues to spread the word for the Thai Temple in Berkeley.

We graciously appreciate all the support we’ve received from everyone from social organizations, individuals, and concerned residences.

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