Thai Temple Brunch Dispute Returns to Zoning Board

February 11, 2009

Author: Riya Bhattacharjee

Source: The Buddhist Channel/The Berkeley Daily Planet,7770,0,0,1,0

The nearly year-long zoning battle over Sunday brunch at the Berkeley Thai Temple may finally come to an end Thursday when members request a permit modification from the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board that would allow the temple to sell food weekly instead of only three times annually. This proposal has sparked much opposition from a group of neighbors.

Last April, when members of Wat Mangolakaratam—as the temple is formally known—approached city officials to construct a Buddhist pagoda on its premises at 1911 Russell St., some neighbors criticized the institution for running a commercial restaurant in the guise of a religious assembly.

Complaining that the Sunday festivities, which sometimes started as early as 5 a.m. but have now been pushed back to 8 a.m., were hampering their quality of life by bringing noise, trash, odor and congestion to the area, the neighbor group demanded that the event be shut down or at least moved to an alternative location.

Temple supporters defended the brunch service by explaining that taking donations from the public in exchange for food was an ancient custom in Thai culture—one that helped Buddhist monks to earn their living and funded Sunday school and performing arts on the building’s premises for those who otherwise would never be able to afford them.

See also: Buddhism, Zoning