In a decision announced yesterday, Judge Diana Becton Smith ruled that the City of Oakley did not adequately address the environmental impacts of its plan to build 4,300 houses in the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta. Greenbelt Alliance, the Bay Area’s advocate for vibrant places and open spaces, sued the City of Oakley in April 2006, arguing that the city failed to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.
“Oakley’s city leaders are allowing developers to build thousands of houses below sea level, surrounded by water. This is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Christina Wong, East Bay Field Representative for Greenbelt Alliance. “Greenbelt Alliance filed this lawsuit to get the city to address the impacts of this development. The city should take this opportunity to rethink this dangerous plan.”
The judge ruled that the City of Oakley did not adequately address the plan’s negative impacts on air quality, and on farmland and agriculture in East Contra Costa County. The judge also ruled that the city provided inadequate details to the public when relying upon earlier studies to address the impact this project would have on agriculture in the area. Greenbelt Alliance had also charged that the plan endangered residents who will be caught between new levees and old levees, where flooding will be much faster. After a new ruling in March with implications of the case, the judge asked for further briefs from Greenbelt Alliance and the city on this issue. The judge ended up ruling that the city’s impact statement on “inter-levee residents” was adequate, as well as on the Swainson’s hawk, listed by the state as a threatened species.
Greenbelt Alliance will now be requesting that the judge officially require the city to set aside approval of the specific plan and projects, and fully study the impacts this project will have on agriculture and air quality. The city has 60 days to appeal the ruling.
The controversial development plan was approved by the Oakley City Council in a packed hearing on March 13, 2006. The plan will allow the city to annex approximately 2,500 acres, including a development already approved by Contra Costa County that is now under construction. In an attempt to prevent flooding, the plan will rely on a system of new levees inside the old levees, as well as an artificial lake. The lake’s water would be pumped out into the Delta 24 hours a day to prevent flooding from inside the levees.