Buddhist temple co-founder files discrimination claim against City of Fremont

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- In the hills of Fremont, a decade-long battle between the city and a property owner is now out in the open for all to see.

MiaoLan Lee co-founded the Temple of 1,001 Buddhas, a private religious facility on her 29-acre property near Mission Peak.

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She claims the city wants her to tear much of it down, and that officials have resorted to using intimidation tactics, including multiple searches of her home.

"In my life, I've never had a police officer come on me, I've never had a K9 looking at me," said Lee, as she recalled her shock during one of the searches.

Lee has filed a claim with the city, alleging racial, religious, and gender discrimination. Her representation includes prominent civil rights attorney Angela Alioto, who's preparing to file a federal lawsuit in June on her behalf.

"This woman is one of the most magnificent people I have ever met," said Alioto. "She just wants to pray."

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Alioto doesn't dispute the fact that Lee constructed or remodeled several structures without first receiving the necessary permits. But she maintains that her client paid the filing fees and was given the runaround for years.

Alioto says there are also a number of other unpermitted buildings in the area.

Fremont officials told ABC7 News it was disheartening to learn that a claim was being filed against the city and said in part, "Safety is one of the highest priorities for the City and some of the violations pose a direct danger to the environment. The City has been diligently working with the property owner to remedy the violations."

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This comes after the city says it conducted a multi-agency investigation lasting several months in 2018. In response, Lee consulted with world-renowned structural engineer Dr. Kit Miyamoto, who also serves as chair of the California Seismic Safety Commission. He believes the buildings in question are safe.

"If I hadn't gone through this, I would never understand what the whole world is suffering about," said Lee. "Everyone of us suffers."

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