PITTSBURG -- A proposal to give a ceremonial name to part of Crestview Drive to honor one of the deceased founders of a Sikh temple on that street isn't sitting well with some temple members.
Three residents and several local politicians want Pittsburg officials to rename a portion of the street fronting the Shri Guru Ravidass Temple to honor Lahori Ram, an Indian immigrant who became a prominent real estate investor, was active in the Pittsburg community and served on several state boards, including the Transportation Commission and Economic Development Commission.
If the street must be renamed, several temple members said they would prefer it be changed to Gurudwara Road in honor of the Hindi word for temple.
"If the city wants to respect that person, there are so many other ways," said Om Parkash Balley, one of the few remaining original founders of the temple.
When it opened in 1984, it was the first Shri Guru Ravidass Temple in North America. Temple members are now in the process of building a new temple at the Crestview Drive location.
"We are not against Mr. Lahori Ram or anybody else," said Balley, adding that "irrespective of his personal accomplishments," renaming the street for Ram would be akin to "equating the person and the prophet at the same level" and not in accordance with Sikh religious principles.
Word of the proposal came to light only "through the grapevine" and not through official city channels or the proponents, temple member Debho Bains said.
The proposal was submitted to city officials in September by Ram's sons, Jack and Paul Ram.
Paul Ram said though his father was a Burlingame resident when he died in January 2009 and never lived in Pittsburg, he had ties to Pittsburg through his involvement with the temple, where local government officials have often met with temple members to hear about their community concerns.
"It's going to be an honorary thing, to honor my father and his contributions to the city of Pittsburg," Paul Ram said.
He said the three residents who wrote letters in support of the ceremonial renaming go to the temple, but Balley says they are not temple members. State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D- Stockton, also wrote letters in support.
About 250 of the more than 1,000 people who go to the Pittsburg temple have signed the petition against the naming proposal, said Balley, who, along with Sohan Singh, another temple founder, is spearheading the opposition.
"We would rather have Gurudwara than the Lahori Ram name or leave it alone if they want," said Harbans Kalu, a Concord resident who attends the Pittsburg temple.
City policy allows for the ceremonial renaming of streets after residents and nonresidents. A ceremonial renaming of a street involves the placement of decorative ceremonial street signs under the regular street name. Signage costs are reimbursed by the proponents. No changes are made to existing mailing addresses.
The city's Land Use Subcommittee endorsed the proposal in October.
The proposal was before the City Council at its Nov. 18 meeting and will be before the City Council at another meeting, whose date has yet to be determined, for further consideration.
"The city is hopeful that the group will find a resolution that meets the needs of all members of the temple," City Manager Joe Sbranti said.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/eastcounty_girl.