Bizarre Land-Use Fight Pits Neighbors against Monk

The Buddhist monk—quiet, diminutive Master Thich Duc Huy—settled into San Jose’s Evergreen hillside amid a cluster of fruit trees and rows of white lion statues in August 2011. He moved into one portable and set up a temple in another, adorning the sloped lot just beyond the city proper with flags, shrines and tented canopies for religious assemblies.

“It seemed peaceful,” says Kimberlee Lu, the soft-spoken treasurer of Master Huy’s Canh Thai Temple. “But everything changed a month later.”

Neighbors, who initially welcomed the newcomer, went on the offensive once the temple began drawing crowds to the 1.8-acre site. An influx of cars and the occasional tour bus began to arrive on weekends and holidays for temple services. The monk’s drumming and chanting, neighbors said, would echo across the cloistered hilltop community. Cafeteria-style vegetarian meals would draw upward of 100 people, with their attendant traffic, chatter and litter.

It wasn’t long before Santa Clara County, which requires permits for public assembly, began fielding complaints of a rogue monk in the east unincorporated hills. It took years of warnings, fines and ultimately—this past September—a court injunction to stop the gatherings and clear the site of illegal structures.

Now, the land lies empty except for a smattering of debris, a white statue, a rubber tire, an office chair and a few potted palms. Master Huy’s application to build a two-story, 7,000-square-foot temple won approval from the county Planning Commission last August. But the temple's record of legal violations prompted neighbors to appeal that decision, prolonging a bizarre and contentious land-use battle that pits a secluded corner of San Jose against a hermetic holy man and his flock.

Master Huy1

Master Thic Duc Huy leading a religious service.

Opponents accuse Master Huy of witchcraft, adultery and even violence. They say the temple’s history of breaking the law and the monk’s alleged personal scandals should disqualify the project from county approval.

“This monk has done sexual escapades that would make Jimmy Swaggart blush,” says Mark Cao, who lives a short walk away from the temple and has become one of the Master Huy’s fiercest critics. “But more importantly, he has taken advantage of vulnerable people, financially and otherwise.”

Temple members, on the other hand, say they’ve been harassed and intimidated for mostly inadvertent violations of local zoning laws while their leader’s reputation has been smeared.

During one community meeting, which ended with police escorting out a couple detractors, the temple’s architect broke down in the middle of his presentation. Another time, according to Lu, a neighbor floored his Toyota Tundra back and forth by the property during a noise study to skew the results. The temple ordered a second evaluation, costing the nonprofit another several thousand dollars.

“I have been scared for my safety,” Lu says, wringing her hands. “We have been bullied many times.”

Temple members tried to avoid this, she says. They held an introductory meeting with the community upon Master Huy’s arrival to establish rapport. At first, people would wave at the monk, who would respond with a dimpled smile or a thumbs-up. But in a matter of months, tensions erupted in physical confrontations and simmered into mutual suspicion.

“They put us under constant surveillance,” Lu says. “Always taking pictures, taking notes, calling police.”

The dispute took a personal turn in early 2013. Some neighbors said they found a letter in their mailboxes penned in Vietnamese by a woman who claimed to be the monk’s estranged wife.

The letter’s author, Lan-Anh Tran, said the man they knew as Master Huy married her under his legal name, Tuan Van Nguyen. Indeed, a marriage certificate indicates that she married a Tuan Nguyen in February 2006. Two years after the nuptials, she continued, the monk lost his job at another temple—possibly because someone learned of his forbidden marriage.

In 2008, Master Huy went on to found the Canh Thai Temple, headquartered at the time out of a small home on Florence Way in central San Jose. It was around this time, the missive alleged, that he began secretly dating a young widow after providing funeral services for her husband.

“By the end of 2009 when [Master Huy] already obtained his green card and wanted to divorce me, he informed me he had fallen in love with another,” she wrote, according to a translation of her letter. “I was very disappointed and angry. I made big jealousy scenes at the temple, at [the widow’s] store and at her home in the hopes of getting back my lover, but [Master Huy] had no love left, so eventually, I had to accept the divorce.”

The day after Christmas in 2009, Tran said she went “to pick a jealousy fight” with the monk, who allegedly choked her and went to jail on a charge of domestic violence. Hoping to expose her husband as a hypocrite in violation of his purported asceticism, she asked the monk’s landlord to walk her through the home she once shared with him.

“I took the landlord to [Master Huy’s] room to witness: half-eaten meat pizza, an open bottle of Heineken, and a container of pornographic DVD’s,” she wrote. “I also retrieved intimate pictures of [the monk and his mistress] from his camera and later distributed them to the followers who had been supporting him … so they would know the hidden face of this lustful Master Thich Duc Huy.”

Records confirm that the San Jose Police Department dispatched officers to the same Florence Way address that night. “The suspect choked the victim’s throat with one hand and covered her mouth with the other to prevent her from screaming,” according to the police report. The District Attorney filed but dropped a charge of domestic battery against her ex-husband, whom she claims is the same Master Huy of the Canh Thai Temple.

Lu, who volunteered as treasurer soon after the temple’s founding, dismisses the allegations as character assassination. “Master Huy is very humble,” she says, visibly frustrated. “We are here to help the community, to help the elderly and to focus on getting a permanent place, a formal place to continue his work.”

Lu says she began to volunteer for the Canh Thai Temple seven years ago. Her 101-year-old grandfather died days before Chinese New Year, making it impossible to find a cleric to conduct his funeral services.

“Master Huy was already busy, but he did make the time to help my family,” she says. “I wanted to repay him for that kindness.”

Like Lu, Master Huy has tried to shrug off the rumors and declined comment on allegations raised about both his personal life and the temple’s land-use violations. As far as the court order and county fines, however, Lu says the whole ordeal has been a learning experience

“When we bought this piece of land, we did not know that there were so many regulations,” she admits. “We tried to do it right, but we are not experts."


Neighbors said the Canh Thai Temple erected "magic" mirrors on the edge of the property. The temple said they were simply there to scare away birds of prey.

Opponents have raised these rumors at public meetings and invoked others in their 55-page appeal.

In what must have been one of the more peculiar Planning Commission hearings in recent memory, commissioner Kathy Schmidt on Aug. 27 asked Lu about a row of circular “magic mirrors with incantations written on them to conjure evil spirits” toward a neighbor’s home. Lu said the mirrors were placed not to put a hex on anyone, but to scare predatory birds away from kittens, chickens and the temple garden.

“So you’re trying to protect your vegetable garden?” Schmidt asked.

“And the kittens,” Lu replied, eliciting chuckles from the dais.

County Planning and Development director Kirk Girard shakes his head and smiles when asked about the supposedly magic mirrors and other outlandish hearsay.

“I do my best to tune that out,” he says. “I have to look at this project, at any project, with blinders on.”

He gives the temple’s critics credit for documenting the violations and making their case in a thorough appeal. But the rest, from a bureaucratic view, is a non-issue.

“The neighbors thought that this record of past violations, the fact that the temple continued to operate without a permit, was a character reference,” Girard explains. “But it’s not our job to make a character judgment. What we look for is whether the conditions of the permit have been met."

Reid Lerner, the temple's architect, says the opposition has been petty, xenophobic and anti-religious. When Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory hired him 20 years ago to design a $10 billion nuclear fusion facility, he says, the community pushback was firm but rational.

"Not so in this case," he says of the Canh Thai Temple. "In my 40 years as an architect, I have never see this level of anger over a project, and I don’t see it as being warranted."

Lerner says he often sees backlash on religious projects and expected at least some level of criticism. But he says his clients have a project that meets the letter of the law and includes nothing remotely controversial. Part of the reason the temple's members haven't fought back is because of their religious principles, he adds.

“These people aren’t trying to make money on this," Lerner says. "They just want to get together and pray.”

The appeal to overturn the Planning Commission’s approval of the Canh Thai Temple comes before the county Board of Supervisors on Feb. 9. Girard’s staff has recommended upholding the commission’s decision.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


    • I was raised as a Vietnamese Buddhist. I respect the religion, but I find Thich Duc Huy’s practices bizarre. It’s this monk’s peculiar practice of Buddhism that raises eyebrows — not fears, and certainly not phobia.

    • Robert,
      With all due respect, I take personal offense to your inference (as well as Reid Lerner’s quote in the article) that we are ‘anti-religious’ or ‘xenophobic’ in opposing the proposed Canh Thai Temple. This is simply FALSE. Our Evergreen neighborhood is highly diversified in regards to ethnicities and religions, something we take great pride in. In fact, several of my friends and neighbors who oppose the Temple happen to be Vietnamese Buddhists themselves.

      You may be interested to know that 42 of my neighbors and I met with your cousin, Supervisor Dave Cortese the other night (Jan.19) at a neighbor’s home for a community outreach meeting to discuss this very issue. We respect Dave as an outstanding leader, he’s clearly well versed in many of our Evergreen land-use and community concerns, and has studied this proposed temple issue for several years. Dave does not consider my neighbors who oppose this temple to be xenophobes or anti-religious.

      In Nov. 2000, Measure K was approved by an overwhelming 80% of San Jose voters, establishing boundaries for the Greenbelt. The zoning for this temple site is “Rural” and “Residential”. This is a land-use (rather MIS-use) issue: the temple location, building size (7,000SF) and congregation size is simply inappropriate for the site (1.5 acres).

      Neither can the damaging impact to our environment be ignored. I doubt you (or anyone!) would welcome into their neighborhood huge diesel tour buses transporting hundreds of members to and from an event, numerous porto-potties visible (with raw-sewage often overflowing into the ground), illegal outdoor cooking facilities serving full meals for hundreds of attendees … not to mention excessive overflow street parking and non-stop loudspeaker music/chanting noise disrupting our neighborhood well past 11pm.

      During our Jan.19th meeting, Supervisor Cortese agreed with our experience that the Canh Thai Temple has *not* behaved as “good neighbors” normally would, especially if as a church, they were making an honest effort to integrate with, and gain respect from the neighborhood.

      Words are one thing, but pictures and ‘live action’ tell the real story. I invite you to view this short YouTube video, and see for yourself what we have experienced these past 4 years:

      • I watched the video, looks like a bunch of nice, church going folks. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if they opened up shop next door. I’d probably just go over there, hang out on weekends, talk to the monk and eat free food.

        Maybe after I befriended them, I’d tell them, “Hey it’s a little loud over here, could we do something about it?” Being versed in live sound production for 13 years, I’d have them replace their very large, probably 1000watt + loudspeakers with multiple smaller 100 watt studio monitors.

        • Robert, I’m glad to hear that you have watched the video. Much of what you see is indication of county ordinance being ignored and violated by the temple. The temple has incurred many fines over the years for violations, many of them repeat violations from Santa Clara County. Representatives from the county and Law Enforcement have spoken with the monk and the violations continued over the years.

          Neighbors have spoken with the monk over the years but again to no avail.

          We are talking about land use and respect. This lot is in a green belt area zoned for residential use only but will be put to use for EVERYTHING but residential use. The monk has repeatedly failed to respect the laws mandated by Santa Clara County and hence has not only broken the law but has failed to respect the integrity and rights of the surrounding neighbors.

          Perhaps there is a 1.5 acre lot next to you where a 7000 sq ft building can be built along with a parking lot that will accommodate dozens of cars and several buses at any one time and large noisy gatherings can occur into the wee hours of the morning on a regular basis complete with porta-potties, loud music and speeches. It would be nice for you to have a weekend hangout, eat for free, use a porta-potty, and discuss sound systems with the monk. Be careful what you wish for…….

        • Robert,
          Yes, they DO look “…like a bunch of nice, church going folks” as you note above. The majority are elderly, likely vulnerable, and most likely are required to pay for all the ‘services’ they are getting with their hard-earned *cash* or life savings, for all the ‘services’ they are getting. How convenient for them, that the Temple leaders deal strictly in cash and donations. But that is another story…

          Our concern and opposition is with the Thic Duc Huy, the leader of this temple, and his history of NON-COMPLIANCE with county codes re: building permits, noise, traffic, land-use and excessive number of members attending their public assemblies. You have no idea how many times our neighbors have asked for the loudspeaker music+noise levels to go down. Even 4 blocks away, I could hear loud noise/music/chanting late into the evenings. We’ve *documented* 140+ violations in a span of 3+ years with SC County. When a large public assembly starts mid-morning, and LOUD noise/music/chants are heard well past 11:00pm-midnight, even you must admit, that is unreasonable. When un-permitted cooking facilities are used, and porto-potties overflow into the ground, are we expected to look the other way?

          Who knows, the County *may* at some point, collect some part of the $100K in fines that are overdue to them by the temple owner. But as noted before, two adjacent property owners lost significant dollar value of their homes while attempting to sell (directly related to the the Temple’s NON-COMPLIANCE with regards to noise, large public assemblies, trash, porto-potties, traffic congestion, etc. One neighbor lost 30% of his property value ($500K) when he finally sold. We DO know this: the County *may*eventually collect their overdue fine $$, but our neighbors and will never be able to collect on their loss/damages. If that was YOU, how would you feel?

          At the Aug.27, 2015 Hearing, Planning Commissioner Schmidt stated, “…This is a difficult situation and it’s very hard with this *history* of non-compliance. The applicant has talked about being a good neighbor. I don’t think they have been a good neighbor.”

          Check out the attendance records that have been documented. We are NOT talking about “40 people” here – but several HUNDREDS on repeated occasions:

          You mentioned you may visit the Temple this weekend, maybe have a meal with the monk, eat free food, etc. The 1.5 acre land is unoccupied at this time. Since our Appeal filed in Sept.2015, the temple folks FINALLY (after multiple requests by the County) removed their UN-permitted structures, 2mobile homes, cooking trailers, trash, toilets, etc. In 2011, BEFORE the monk bought this property, a rural SINGLE-family residential home was there (in compliance with the zoning Rural-Residential). That is the *intended* use and legal zoning for this property. We are speaking up in protest against any OTHER large commercial, inappropriate use – other than what was originally intended.

    • Your reply kind of reminds me of casual comments people would make when things don’t really effect them or hurt them. What would you do if you were in the shoes of this neighborhood? What would you suggest them to act? BE SILENT AND PASSIVE?

      Critical, and logical people would vocally voice their concerns in a logical way. The action of this neighborhood was actually acknowledged and praised by Debra Cauble, Planning Commissioner at the public hearing on August 27, 2014.

      Here is the exerpt from the transcription of the August 27, 2014 hearing: “…..And I have heard public testimony against religious institutions that offended me and where it felt to me like the neighbors opposed it because of, you know, who [are] you people coming into our neighborhood and that kind of thing. And I will say that I didn’t hear that from this neighborhood, which I appreciate. “

      • N. Doan,
        Thank you, I agree with your comments. Unless one lives here and has experienced the numerous negative impacts from the proposed Canh Thai Temple on this neighborhood for these these past 3-4 years, it’s easy for outsiders to oversimplify and dismiss our legitimate concerns. In addition to your point, we strongly feel we CANNOT simply stand by passively while the Greenbelt land and borderline (approved in Nov.2000 by 80% of San Jose voters with Measure K) is being compromised and damaged by public assemblies that are clearly *not*complying with “low intensity usage” or scale.

        I have one minor (typo) correction regarding your statement: The quoted statement by Planning Commissioner Debra Cauble was made on Aug.27, 2015 (not 2014). For anyone interested in hearing the complete audio transcript file of the Aug.27, 2015 Planning Commission Hearing, it is available here: (top of the list).

      • What would you do if you were in the shoes of this neighborhood?

        Actually, that is my old neighborhood. Until folks like you demanded the city “BUILD MOAR HOUSING!” and forced us farmers out. You and your ilk ruined the tranquility of Evergreen long before these monks came.

        So keep your entitled attitude in check ok?

        • Robert, we know of two neighbors who support this operator. That’s two — and both of them have a business relationship with the operator — and, actually, *zero* neighbors who vouched publicly for them on August 27th, 2015 before the Planning Commission. Since you feel strongly about it, I invite you to become better informed and then vouch for them on February 9th. The fact that you *lived* in this neighborhood doesn’t mean you will be affected by their demeanor.

          The next-door neighbor at 2542 Klein Rd got his property value pounded to the ground, to the tune of half a mil of devaluation, because this operator piled tons of wood trash leaning against the property fence for more than four months while he was trying to sell. Robert, do you know why this corporation *finally* decided to remove their junk after so many months? Because County Code Enforcement said they’d be fined $1000 per day if they did not. I agree with you that the churchgoers look like nice people in the video. I’m just not sure the operator is a nice churchgoer.

        • Again, apply your advice “Keep your entitled attitude in check” to yourself. First of all, HOW were you “farmers” forced out of this neighborhood? WHO made the policy, granted permits or allowed developments? Probably at that time, you had a chance to raise your voices and concerns but you preferred “BE SILENT AND PASSIVE”.

          Secondly, your reply here is irrelevant to this news article. Don’t lash out your frustration to the wrong group. You have missed your boat when you had your chance.

          However, thanks to your reply, this neighborhood learns a very valuable lesson: DON’T GIVE UP ANY CHANCE TO RAISE CONCERNS. And that is what this neighborhood is doing.


          • Do you want a history lesson on how the farmers were forced out?

            It started during the AP Hamand age of annexation. AP was the old city manager during our housing boom. Rumor was he’d buy up a parcel of land, and the following week would introduce an annexing bill into city hall, followed up by a zoning bill.

            Now at this time we didn’t have this thing called “Internet” so if you wanted to follow what was going on at city hall, you’d have to be there daily. Nobody has time for that after working a 20 hour shift bringing in the fruit.

            As swaths of land were annexed, their zoning was changed, most of the time under the radar.

            Years later the city / county would use a variety of tactics to force farmers out. A lot of us just pumped water out of the creek for irrigation (something still practiced by farmers in California everywhere along the aquaduct) City came along and said, “No, you may not do that.. You have to BUY water from us!”

            City also worked in partnership behind the scenes with other agencies. Our Cherry and Prune orchards bordered the creek next to Evergreen college. SCCWD forced eminent domain 20 feet on each side of the creek, taking a sizeable amount of land for themselves.

            Also there was a time San Jose was *not* a sanctuary city. SJPD routinely worked with immigration during this period to deport undocumented residents. The migratory farm workers we used to rely on were no longer welcome to come bring in the crop, and with all the new housing, could not afford to live here. Our workforces were quickly dried up.

            Now were we vocal? Yes, very.. City hall told us “You can’t stop progress.” A mantra chanted time and time again.

            You guys complain about the “Busses” Did it ever occur to you that they’re trying to reduce their impact on the neighborhood? From what I hear, folks are parking at one of the shopping centers on white and bussing up there, reducing the number of cars being parked in the neighborhood.

          • Robert,
            Thanks again for the San Jose history under your view and experience. How about the SJ history before your generation, and the generation before yours, and so on and so forth? And the history of California? That leads to my point of reminding you to apply advice to yourself: “KEEP YOUR ENTITLED ATTITUDE IN CHECK”.

            Your accusation ” Until folks like you demanded the city “BUILD MOAR HOUSING!” and forced us farmers out” pointed to the wrong crowd: neighbors in a neighborhood have been disturbed by a “new neighbor” who does not possess a decency of a civilized neighbor.

            When you were excited to tell us the SJ history under your view and experience, you indirectly answered my other question ” WHO made the policy, granted permits or allowed developments?”. You acknowledged the wrong-doing parties in your comments such as ” the city / county would use a variety of tactics to force farmers out “,”City also worked in partnership behind the scenes with other agencies”, “the AP Hamand age of annexation. AP was the old city manager during our housing boom”, “… swaths of land were annexed….under the radar”.


            Do you know why people need to know the history? TO AVOID REPEATING THE MISTAKES.

            You knew and experienced very well the same pain and frustration this neighborhood is going through. A nice, unselfish, and constructive person would encourage and commend this neighborhood to carry out the torch of ” RAISING CONCERNS AND MAKING PUBLIC VOICE HEARD” to the city and county officials. When you proudly claimed “Actually, that is my old neighborhood”, I thought you would help this neighborhood to stop the wrong doings. Instead, you casually laughed at them ” Lots of people pissing and moaning about a religion they had no familiarity with, so they feared it.” .

            On the side note, what do you know about a religion, especially in this case “Buddhism”?
            “Treat others with kindness and respect.” religion is the religion of all the religion. This diverse neighborhood has been trying very hard to educate a religious person like this head monk the “Treat others with kindness and respect.” religion.

            This neighborhood does not fear any religion because they are practicing the region of all the religions.

    • Your assumption that people’s objections to the building of the gurdwara on Quimby Road in San Jose were based on a religion are false. People in the area value the open space and quiet compared to other areas of San Jose. The gurdwara purchased “40 acres of pristine hillside” as described in the San Jose Mercury. This land was directly across Quimby Road from a neighborhood. The families in this neighborhood objected to the size of the project and feared the noise and traffic that would accompany this development. This seems to reflect your own objections and resentment that the farmers “were forced out” due to the demand for housing as stated by you below. I think it’s safe to assume these farming landowners sold their land at a price they agreed to rather than the City using imminent domain. These objections are NOT about religion – the issue is LAND USE and it’s impact on the homeowners and families around them.
      The Canh Thai Temple purchased a single family residence in a very quiet neighborhood zoned Rural Residential and then demolished the house without permits. They constructed temporary facilities to begin their operation, again, without permits. Then they hired tour buses to bring people to their location and stated they planned to use tour buses on a regular basis. Why should any neighborhood of single family residences be required to tolerate this kind of violation of the peace and quiet they have enjoyed (in fact the very reason they purchased their home in this neighborhood). I think it’s reasonable and proper for homeowners to object to this violation of their neighborhood and seek all legal means possible to protect the peace and tranquility they have always enjoyed. Picture yourself having tour buses bringing 100 people to a facility next to your house that used to be a single family residence. Oh, you also should know that your new neighbor will be having events at least 3 times per year where they will have rows of Porta-Potties because their septic system cannot handle the load. This 1.5 acre site is simply too small for the use being proposed, Our County Planning Commission thinks the neighbors should enjoy this change.
      It’s interesting to hear people say this is NIMBY when they would never agree to this scenario developing where their neighbor’s house used to stand.
      It is important for everyone to understand that the Canh Thai Temple is not unfamiliar with our County Codes and how our development processes work. They have experts providing guidance. I met their Attorney and their Architect when they had to appear in Superior Court in January 2015 when the Santa Clara County Planning Commission brought suit against them AFTER 4 years of continuing code violations and simply ignoring the law.
      My concern is why did it take so long?

  1. If the temple meets the requirement of a permit, then there is no problem. Sounds like monk didn’t care about neighbors in regards to traffic, noise, etc. Neighbors are a bit NIMBY, but I understand their concerns (traffic, noise, monk’s disregard getting permits, etc). The mirror thing is laughable, who cares about mirrors with supposed curse?

    • It is not about the MIRROR but it is about the attitude and the action of a neighbor toward another neighbor. It was a “laughable” act committed by a “supposed respected religious” head monk who was supposed to be a role model for his followers. With a leader like him, how could the neighborhood not worry about the impact a new comer might do to the neighborhood where they have been living here for a long time?

      This leads to your second point of “NIMBY”. It is not about NIMBY. Public notice and hearing processes are parts of the permit application. These processes allow the neighborhood and neighbors their legitimate rights to raise doubts and concerns because they have the first hand experience, and would have to deal with a such “ridiculous” neighbor like that on a regular basis. That defines democracy in our country.

      A permit is required because the county is concerned about how the land is used. The neighborhood raised concerns are understandable because they concern not only how the land is used but also how the operator of the land uses and operates the land. With a head monk of the proposed temple acted ridiculously like you pointed out here, the neighborhood definitely has the right to raise their concerns.

  2. The Toyota pick up truck drove back and forth skew the noise study result. How in the world that The Planing Commissioners approved the large heavy tour buses passing the noise level in this neighborhood. ……if everything start with legal ways, who can make the entire Neighborhood facing in this difficulty battle

  3. If you had to listen to music and chants blaring morning until midnight over loud speakers during their festivals that permeates the interior of my home then you would be more sympathetic to the opposing neighborhood. I am not Buddhist so I could care less if Monk chases women, but I do care if the peace and tranquility of my home is destroyed with numerous calls to police to stop the noise. Maybe planning committee would like to have music and chants blared into their homes and consider it as meeting the letter of the law. This temple brings in huge tour buses of people with no cooking or toilet facilities and this is a rural setting with narrow roads. Not the best spot for such huge crowds of people.

  4. I wonder if the planing commissioners would consider putting in a biker bar and strip club to balance out the neighborhood?

  5. Ohhh Reid Lerner, I don’t want to make you cry again but you just played the race card, and I cannot give you a pass on that one. I’ll try to be sensitive to you, BUT each and every one of my neighbors resents being called “xenophobic” by you folks: consultants who are out to milk every penny from a Greenbelt property. In 2014 we sat there feeling bad that we made you sob like a little girl in public, but then 12 months later, after your victory before the Planning Commission, you were opening laughing and doing so much slaps to each others’ backsides that one of the neighbors actually said “Oh for Chrissakes, get a room and act your age!”

    There are *many* Vietnamese Buddhists in my neighborhood who oppose this development because the operators have been negligent neighbors who have *harmed* us. Are these Vietnamese Buddhists xenophobic, self-hating and anti-religious? Mr. Lerner, please be sensitive!

  6. I am also a Buddhist in this neighborhood and I know exactly why my neighbors oppose this project. Fist if all, it doesn’t fit in the community, it changes the character of the area, and it creates too much nuisance to the surrounding neighbors.
    Kimberlee Lu was a very poor Lady!!!!! Plus she is a business woman. She signed the appliaction. She spoke on behalf of tbe temple at all time. She supported the monk to place the incantation mirrors facing to Neighbor ‘s house to scare the birds and cats away!!!!!!!. She said she and her fellow tried to follow the law but they are not expert. Yes, they are not expert to follow the law, but they are expert to break The law. They pick on any tiny loop hole to sneak out. The county sent them letter to cease the outdoor garhering, they pushed all visitors inside the illegal mobile home. The county attained the court order to stop them from using the illegal mobile home for any reason then they pushed people back to the outdoor chanting again. The court granted order to stop completely institutional use in this property in January 2015, February 2015 they still gather people to celebrate Chinese New Year of 2015 . They pushed neighbors into the position of being unexpected police officers for more than 4 years to get them back to the right track. For more than 4 year repeating violations, is that long enough to prove that they are experts to break the law?

  7. Green zone?
    This look nothing like a green zone use to me. No electric cars, goats, windmills or solar cells.
    Leaking sewage OMG!

  8. I find it interesting the Reid Lerner can be so naive and make this statement ““These people aren’t trying to make money on this,” “They just want to get together and pray.” Or maybe (most likely) he is not naive and knows the truth on how these monks make money. Of course that is what he is going to say. Lerner wants to build this structure for his own financial gain. These monks are as bad as the crooks on Wall Street. They rake you in and suck every penny out of you in the name of religion. Elder people are brain washed but because they willingly hand over their life saving’s, there is no crime. Most of their victims are old, uneducated and vulnerable.

  9. Robert Michael Cortese,
    I rarely agree with you but your description today of the city take over of agricultural land is spot on and well framed.
    Not that anyone needs a bad neighbor screwing life up.
    Now if I could just get San Jose to fly there planes someplace other than over my house!

    • Thanks Empty. I was the last of the Cortese’s raised on a ranch, and more or less was there to watch the final years of farming decline. Some other interesting side notes on this.

      In 84′ my grandfather died, which prompted a legal battle that ensued for 14 years between his descendants (my grandmother, father and uncles) and the other side of the family.

      Around ’87 courts granted my grandmother 1/4 of the properties.

      In regards to the SCCWD and eminent domain… My uncle Vince sat on the very water board that voted for that project. There was a lot of speculation in our branch of the family that that flood control project was nothing more than politically driven motivation to punish us.

      Going back to my original point though… These people lambasting this church claiming “RUINED TRANQUILITY!” yet from my viewpoint as a member of one of the original farming families of the area, it’s all hypocrisy. I would much rather have my nice, quiet orchards back.

      Somewhere there’s a video of old man Cottle talking about the encroachment of the city. I gotta find it and post it, man had a lot of wisdom. He knew he couldn’t stop the city, and that old way of life was being phased out. He just accepted it. These folks need to do the same.

      • Robert Michael Cortese, is there no monastic misbehavior that you wouldn’t be an apologist for? Do you have any limits as an apologist, and if so, what are they?

        By the way, thanks for the detailed history lesson and the tutorial on How to Win Friends and Influence People.

        • Hi Mark.

          I’ve already explained my position twice. In order to answer any further questions, I will require you to either validate, or invalidate my responses. I guess in courtroom terminology, I’m treating you as a hostile witness. So I’ll boil it down to simple questions.

          Do you “Agree” or “Disagree” that your area was more tranquil as orchards?

          Do you “Agree” or “Disagree” that the city forced us farmers out?

          Do you “Agree” or “Disagree” that it’s the city’s job to progress our growth forward even when faced with protesting neighbors?

          Now if you didn’t agree to any of these, please write a detailed explanation on why. If you disagreed on question 3, then please tell me why you should receive special exception over the farmers when it comes to what gets built in the neighborhood. I”m really curious to know why you think your rights trumped our when it happened to us.

          • Robert, every land use decision is a fact-based investigation. If you are not willing to delve into the current facts of the case, then your mulling are interesting to only a small number of individuals.

            You assume that my neighbors and I are reactionaries, which simply is not the case. We are arguing current facts against current criteria. In fact, in a sense, we and the Planning Department are on the same page, even though we differ with Planning on legal interpretations. I’m afraid it is you, Robert, who is causing most everybody shrug off your tangents.

          • I’m willing to delve into it. I’m planning a trip to the temple this weekend to see if it’s truly as raucous as you and the other 2 people here posting say it is. Hoping I get to meet the monk, chat with a bit.

            Also as far as his “Porn” collection.. I thought “Masturbation” was something that was deemed OK by Buddhism? Taken from “Wikipedia”

            Masturbation (sukkavissaṭṭhi) is the act of stimulating one’s own sexual organs (sambādha) to the stage of orgasm (adhikavega). In the Kāma Sūtra male masturbation is called “seizing the lion” (siṃhākāranta). Some people during the Buddha’s time believed that masturbation could have a therapeutic effect on the mind and the body (Vin. III, 109), although the Buddha disagreed with this. According to the Vinaya, it is an offence of some seriousness for monks or nuns to masturbate (Vin. III, 111) although the Buddha gave no guidance on this matter to lay people. However, Buddhism could agree with contemporary medical opinion that masturbation is a normal expression of the sexual drive and is physically and psychologically harmless, as long as it does not become a preoccupation or a substitute for ordinary sexual relations. Guilt and self-disgust about masturbating is certainly more harmful than masturbation itself.

            — Shravasti Dhammika[5]

            I’m not even Buddhist and I know this. Why would any Buddhist be shocked their monk has porn? How come you don’t know this about your own religion?

          • Robert, this visual of the monk “choking his chicken” is something I didn’t need. Furthermore, the monk’s marriages and eating meat pizza and alleged domestic battery and so on are all part of the human interest story. They are not all that relevant to the land use matter.

            Here is what is relevant:

            1. What are the limits beyond which a rural residential plot in the Greenbelt (which San Jose City designates as Open Hillside) should not be developed?

            2. Ms. Kimberlee Lu says she had about 140 public assemblies between 2011 to 2015 because she didn’t know all the rules. What’s so hard about “Get a permit first, dear, before you bring on the masses!” ?

            3. Picture a bank giving a mortgage loan to people with a 500 FICO score. This bank reasons, “Well, they are putting 50% downpayment. So we’re just going to come out just fine when they default.” This is an exact analogy to giving a permit at this late time to the Canh Thai Temple. Well, okay, there is one little difference. The County may levy fines and property liens at will, thereby recouping every red dime of damage to them. But we are supposed to ignore the damages to real people in Evergreen.

            Everybody at County has been saying: Evergreen citizen, rest assured we will shut them down at the first hint of any future damage they cause. But this is what we have been hearing since 2011, and I already pointed to $500,000 in damage we witnessed on October 23, 2015 that happened simply because the Temple refused to take away their bleeping tons of bleeping trash. My neighbor Jose will never ever hear a bleeping word of bleeping sorry from anybody at County.

        Since you are “a member of one of the original farming families of the area”, and ‘I was the last of the Cortese’s raised on a ranch”, you think you are entitled to label this neighborhood “it’s all hipocrisy?”.

        Again, you blame the wrong doing to the wrong party.

        According to the wikipedia, hipocrisy is ” the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, esp. with respect to religious and moral beliefs; hence in general sense, dissimulation, pretense, sham. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another.[1] In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.

        That is exactly what this neighborhood is trying to expose the HIPOCRISY OF THE HEAD MONK THICH DUC HUY ( the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, esp. with respect to religious and moral beliefs).

  10. Gloria Ballard of MH Engineering is conspicuously missing from this article, despite having been tagged by Metro. Ms. Ballard at the Planning Commission hearing claimed that the Evergreen neighbors are the problem, not the operators. She said that this Temple’s record of violations is similar to many other permit applicants out there, with the only difference being that these neighbors are “extremely organized.”

    And here is her curt tone to Ms. Kimberlee Lu when the communication is private:

    So please do not be fooled, nobody respects rogues — not even Ms. Ballard.

  11. Robert,

    You wrote “”I’m willing to delve into it. I’m planning a trip to the temple this weekend…’

    I suggest: Save your trip to the temple this weekend. Spend this time wisely to study the case very well before making comments and make false accusations.

    You wrote:”….to see if it’s truly as raucous as you and the other 2 people here posting say it is’

    I suggest: study the case well then make intelligent, relevant and logic comments publicly. Don’t let your EGO to blacken the “Cortese” name. Take Mark Cao’s advice :” CUT YOUR LOSSES”.

    You wrote: “…Hoping I get to meet the monk, chat with a bit.'”

    I have a request: let this neighborhood know the monk’s hide-out.

    • Don’t let your EGO to blacken the “Cortese” name.

      If you think the Cortese’s are all knights in shining armor, you’re either ignorant or delusional. but OK. Let’s stick to laws and facts. CSJ zoning for the parcel in question.

      So it certainly falls outside of the scope of CSJ, looks to be more unincorporated area. Let’s see if we can dig into county zoning maps. AHH here we go.

      It’s RR zoned. Rural Residential.

      So under 2.20.010 it says;

      RR Rural Residential. The purpose of the Rural Residential district, also
      known as the RR district, is to permit rural residential development in certain
      limited unincorporated areas of the county designated by the general plan.
      Residential, agricultural and open space uses are the primary uses intended within
      the district. Agriculture-related uses that are not permitted by right may also be
      permitted through the applicable discretionary review process if deemed
      compatible with residential uses. Commercial, industrial and institutional uses
      may be established only where they are sized to be local-serving in nature. This
      district is meant to apply to all parcels designated Rural Residential in the general
      Note that § 2.20.080 applies to this district.

      Looking at the definitions and requirements of an RR zone, it looks like it’s a dual use zone. Business or Residential. Yet for churches it says..”Churches, See religious Institutions”

      “”Religious Institutions. (Institutional) Facilities for religious worship and incidental
      accessory uses. This classification includes churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and
      similar places of worship. May also include Emergency Shelters: Small Scale, as
      ancillary uses. Excludes monasteries and convents as primary uses (see Residential–
      Communal Institutional). [Criteria/Findings § 4.10.290] “”

      So under land use, it’s allowed. Thanks for playing and don’t kiss your kids with that mouth.

      • Tell this neighborhood something they did not know.

        Please spend more time to study the case. YOU HAVE A LOT TO CATCH UP.



          Are you yelling at me? Seriously, name calling and yelling is about the worst way to win any argument. Pretty much means you lost. Don’t be sore OK?


            I definitely need to do more yelling. People just aren’t getting the message.

            Can you share with us some of your HTML tricks?

            I’m just trying to improve my communication with Rich Robinson.

          • Robert, thanks for the Reddit link. I’ll eat them for lunch if they are that ignorant. As for you and your “winning arguments,” you started off the bat knowing absolutely nothing and calling people bigots. Making enemies of hundreds of Evergreen citizens with a single broad brush seems rather foolish. But, then again, I guess it’s not as if you have ambitions of running for an elected office, so why wouldn’t you want to be a troll.

          • I don’t see an argument here. I see someone responding to a person (you) who seems to enjoy making passive-aggressive, inflammatory, antagonistic, rude and immature comments to people who are rightfully and legally trying to protect the neighborhood they live in. Just because numbers are manipulated to make a proposed project seem approvable does not necessarily mean the project is good (or right) for the existing neighborhood or should be approved.

          • @SJO


            I don’t think any amount of formatting will improve your communication with Rich. It’s not you, it’s him. Don’t worry about it.


            So I suppose you were cool with this.

            “I also retrieved intimate pictures of [the monk and his mistress] from his camera and later distributed them to the followers who had been supporting him … so they would know the hidden face of this lustful Master Thich Duc Huy.”

            Sounds like the harassment of a scorned lover to me.

            “magic mirrors with incantations written on them to conjure evil spirits”

            Hehe, that, magical mormon underwear, and zombie Cathlolic Jesus on a stick. I laugh at all religions, even my own sometimes. Magic mirrors.. Hehehe. You guys are seriously middle ages here.

  12. Despite the blatant reasonableness of the area residents’ objections, it was a certainty — due to nothing other than Huy’s ethnicity and religion, that accusations of prejudice and intolerance would quickly take center stage. This is, unfortunately, the world we’ve built for ourselves. Thus, rather than engaging in a civilized and non-destructive discussion regarding the proposed temple’s impact on the neighborhood, residents must first defend themselves against a number of insulting and potentially disenfranchising charges, none of which has been supported by evidence.

    Compare this to the environmental impact process used when the existing neighbors belong to the animal kingdom. Never is the legitimacy of the interests of the resident flora or fauna called into question: they are taken as a given, above moral or ethical doubt. It seems we’ve allowed the politics of identity to deprive ourselves the benefits of the reason and objectivity we regularly utilize when deciding the fate of wildlife.

    The situation has so devolved that even good citizens who possess the most powerful of arguments — that of maintaining the peace, quiet, and safety they themselves brought to the neighborhood, must stoop to shielding themselves from vicious character assault by citing the racial and religious makeup of their neighborhood; as if fair-minded decency is dependent upon the correct set of demographics. One wonders, were the neighborhood composed of 100% white Christians, would the United States Department of Justice already be on the scene — with their tanks and sharpshooters?

  13. Whether Master Thich Duc Huy is Vietnamese Buddhism’s equivalent of Elmer Gantry isn’t the point. The issue is one of appropriate and legal land use under the existing general plan. The fact that it has taken over four years to resolve what is a simple land use question is an appalling, and all too frequent, example of the utter failure of government bureaucracy which perpetually exalts form and process over substance. This issue could have and should have been resolved in less than one year, after an evidentiary hearing that could have and should have been conducted in two days or less. Instead, the parties on all sides of the issue have been subjected to a showing of the pathetic ineptness of local government to resolve disputes.

    • I will have to defend the Planning Department here. The Canh Thai Temple started the application process on June 1, 2012, the date of their pre-application meeting with the Planning Department. Their first application was for residential use, despite that they planned to hold religious services on site. (Please bear it mind that it has been well-documented that from about mid-2011 on, they planned to use this site for very largest Buddhist conventions of up to 800 people.)

      Throughout the many file reviews of 2012-2014, the Planning staff repeatedly requested of the CT Temple to correct both physical mistakes (like the presence of unpermitted buildings) and application mistakes. To everyone’s surprise, the Temple, even guided by the competent MH Engineering firm, responded slowly or not at all to reasonable and simple Planning Department requests.

      Thus it is not factual to lay any of the blame at the feet of the Planning Department, except for the one fault of leniency toward noncompliance. The application delays were all due to the operator-applicant’s wish to do a lot of things on a difficult, sloped piece of land; and to be perpetually noncompliant, which then made everyone else’s jobs and lives more difficult.

  14. I could show you one in Sunnyvale that’s been unresolved for 18+ years, “Never Challenge Worse” when your dealing with a government agency and an idiot.

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