NORCO, Calif. (Diya TV) — A Southern California city has rejected proposed plans for building a cultural Hindu center partly because officials say the large, domed building doesn’t fit in with its Old West-style motif.
The decision, made last month by the city of Norco, has not sit well with some of the local Indian-American population, who have gone as far to label the move as discrimination.
Norco city officials say the town has branded itself as “Horsetown USA” to preserve its rural feel and draw much-needed investments in equestrian facilities. The proposed cultural center is just too big for the small lot it was to be built on, and doesn’t match the rest of the city’s architecture, they added.
Dr. Krupali Tejura, a radiation oncologist who grew up in nearby Corona and works at an area hospital, got involved in the debate because she was offended by those who argued the center didn’t fit.
“How does a community or a city decide it doesn’t fit in with their lifestyle? How far does this go?” she asked.
Mayor Kevin Bash rejected that notion.
“We turn down a lot of businesses. If they don’t want to have a Western theme, guess what? They don’t get built,” he said, adding there were drainage concerns with the design.
A town of 26,000, its residents are tucked along the suburbs south and east of Los Angeles — while still modest, a growing Indian-American population in the area, at the moment, it accounts for just one percent of the four-county area. However, census data reflects the community has grown in Riverside County — where Norco is located — and there is a Sikh temple in Norco inside a grange hall-turned-church and a Hindu temple in the neighboring county, and Indian movies are shown at a Corona theater.
Manu Patolia, the man who proposed the project, said he is willing to scrap the domes and revamp the design of the 25,000-square-foot Swaminarayan Gurukul center, which would host Indian language classes for children and yoga for the community at large.
“I went around and took some pictures in Norco, and I showed them: Please tell us which one is the Western one that we can follow,” Patolia said.
Bonnie Slager, president of the Norco Horsemen’s Association, has nine horses and a rooster on the lot where she lives. The retired accounting professor said the Hindu community is welcome but a big domed building with potential drainage problems is not.
“Not that things have to look like a Western fort,” Slager said. “We just really don’t want things that are all glass and metal and look kind of like something from Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.”