Escondido panel OKs planned Hare Krishna temple

San Diego Union-Tribune, May 25, 2000
By Nina Kim

ESCONDIDO -- The Hare Krishnas may have cleared one hurdle with the Planning Commission's approval of a proposed temple.

But residents living near the north Escondido site are considering an appeal to the City Council, so the battle could be far from over.

"We're going to discuss the possibility next week," said Andrea Doud, a temple opponent who lives in the Rocky Point Ranch development. "I am disappointed because I still think there remains the issue of, 'Is this street adequate?' But I am pleased with some of the concessions on aesthetics and uses."

An appeal would have to be filed by June 2. The council would then consider the project in midsummer.

After the 4-3 vote late Tuesday night, at a meeting packed with supporters and opponents, the Hare Krishnas said they felt they were one step closer to their 10-year quest to build a traditional Hindu-style temple in the county. Commissioners Darol Caster, Karen Allgeier, Rick Paul and Bruce Quick voted in favor of the project.

The Hare Krishnas have proposed a 32,000-square-foot cultural center, with a parish, two Hindu-style temples, a 7,200-square-foot dormitory for monks and four single-family homes on 24 acres.

In March, the city's Design Review Board rejected the plan because of its "scale and mass" and concerns about traffic.

Tuesday night, the planning commissioners all agreed that the proposed temple was beautifully designed and would have ample landscaping.

The main issue was traffic. Commissioners Ed Gallo, Ruben Torres and Jim Di Luca, who voted against the plan, said they were concerned about traffic on Rincon Avenue, a dead-end street.

"There is not a church in this town that compares with this. I have no problems with the mass," Gallo said. "The only thing we cannot change is that road. I have an issue with that."

A traffic study for the temple found that there would be only minor increases in traffic on Rincon Avenue, during worship hours on the weekends. The temple is not likely to contribute to the peak hours of traffic in the neighborhood, city engineers said.

The Hare Krishnas plan to widen the street to 42 feet, and add sidewalks from their property west to Conway Avenue.

Other projects proposed on Rincon Avenue -- a 223-home subdivision called Brookside and an Elks lodge -- were included in the traffic study. It concluded that traffic on the street would not reach an unacceptable level until 2020.

But many residents cited increased traffic as the reason they opposed the project.

"The traffic hazards are very real," said Linda Buck, who lives on Briarwood Place. "The importance of the (temple's) rose garden will not make a difference to the grieving families if someone is killed."

Caster and other commissioners said they were willing to rely on the results of the traffic study. "We need to rely on the experts we hire," Caster said.

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