Buddhist Temple Takes on Fremont Over Unpermitted Buildings

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The co-founder of a Buddhist temple in the Fremont hills is now threatening to sue the city for religious, gender and racial discrimination. She claims the city is unfairly forcing her to demolish much of her private religious facility.

Fremont said the temple's co-founder has been building on her property for years without proper permits.

"Why are they doing that to me? It's because I am Asian, a religious woman and they don't want a temple here," said Miaolan Lee, temple co-founder.

Lee owns 29 acres off Mill Creek Road in the Fremont foothills where she co-founded the private Temple of 1001 Buddhas. Her attorney said the city now wants her to demolish her main temple hall - a Hindu God house - and four other structures.

The city said the requests are due to Lee building without needed permits for years.

"After an investigation that lasted several months and included multiple inspections with other government agencies, including the state water board and Alameda County Environmental Health, the city determined multiple buildings had been constructed without building permits and in violation of city zoning regulations," the City of Fremont said in a statement.

Lee's legal team, however, claim their client repeatedly tried to get permits.

"Our client began permitting in 2011-2014 and has been trying to get permits ever since," said Tal Finney, Lee's attorney. "And the city has been obstructionist about granting permits."

Attorney Angela Alioto said she has taken the first steps to file a federal civil rights lawsuits against Fremont "because she is an Asian, who is a religious woman building a temple to Buddha -- she is being discriminated against."

City officials will hold a hearing on May 18 to discuss whether to move forward with the order to demolish the structures.

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