‘Landslide’ threat to gurdwara expansion plan
A plan to expand a noted Sikh temple in California is facing an uphill struggle – for fears that more development would cause a downhill disaster.
The striking El Sobrante Gurdwara Shaib bestrides a hill overlooking the Eastshore freeway 25 miles north of San Francisco and there have been hopes for its expansion for several years.
However planners have received representations about the possibility that the work could cause landslides.
Pastor Ted Goslen, of Hillcrest Baptist Church, which is located next to the temple in Hillcrest Road, is concerned that further development could undermine the stability of the hillside.
He says there is historic evidence that the ground beneath the two buildings is unstable.
Expansion to 90,000 square feet would allow the Sikh congregation, which serves the San Francisco Bay Area, to introduce a community center, performing arts theatre and a parking garage.
But the possibility of geological problems will have to be examined says the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, who will re-consider the application at a future date.
The hlltop Gurdwara came into existence in the late 1970s. Its unusual architecture and dominant position has made it one of the local visitor attractions, offering a wonderful view of the El Sobrante Valley and the San Pablo Bay.
Representatives of the international SikhSangat organisation who visited it three years ago said that out of 130 or more temples that they had visited in the US and Canada it had the most beautiful location.
“Standing on its verandah, one can see the main street below, snaking its way through the town, and the valley beyond the street. Further, you see the open sea, with all the sea-going traffic. When the clouds come rolling over the valley and the low hills beyond, it is difficult to recall a more beautiful sight. It is difficult to tear oneself away from such a heavenly view,” they wrote.
They continued: “The prominent Gurdwara building and the tall Nishan Sahib with a fluttering saffron flag with the sign of the Khanda on it makes an emphatic statement of the Sikh presence in this small town.
“Unlike in most other towns where the Gurdwaras can be missed, in El Sobrante no one can miss it. This house of Guru Nanak can be seen from everywhere.
“From the main road a small motor road rises very steeply up the hill to reach the Gurdwara. As we subsequently experienced, one round trip on foot from Gurdwara to the main street and back gave a person enough exercise for the day. The very steep walk, uphill to the Gurdwara, leads to panting and gasping for the breath.
They added: “The El Sobrante Gurdwara has expanded very fast. In the beginning there was a small Diwan hall with a smaller langar hall by its side. Subsequently, a magnificent new structure was raised which housed the big, spacious Diwan hall with a number of rooms on the higher floor, opening to the gallery, which run around it.
“On another side there are quarters for the permanent staff. At the back, a large room is used as the sukhasan room for Maharaj ji. The old building has been converted totally into langar hall, kitchen and store.”
The story of the planning setback has been covered by the KCBS news radio station. Click here to listen to the item: KCBS’ Dave Padilla Reports (Allow a minute for loading).
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