Updated in October 2023. Originally published on March 8, 2023.
After multiple rounds of comments from advocates, stakeholders, and official comments from HCD reviewers, the City of Newark released an updated draft of their Housing Element, in October 2023, that does not include the site “Area 4” as a potential location for development. That successful outcome was the result of direct advocacy from organizations and residents in the region, sending a message that necessary housing cannot come at the expense of endangered and precious habitats.
Greenbelt Alliance and partners have been advocating to stop housing developments in this site called “Area 4”, such as Sanctuary West and Mowry Village, in order to protect the wetlands and both current and future Newark residents from the impacts of sea level rise. Removing the project from the Housing Element does not halt the project, but it does show that Newark may be committed to not building in areas prone to flooding in the future.
In March 2023, Newark released a draft of their Housing Element, which included the shoreline area of Area 4 (described in the document as “Sanctuary West”) in the sites inventory and proposed for hundreds of housing units. Newark Area 4 is 500-acres of undeveloped, historic baylands directly adjacent to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It contains hundreds of acres of wetlands that provide valuable habitat for wildlife, including thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl, and an important flood buffer for the community—and is not an appropriate place for development.
The proposal to develop Newark Area 4 was quick to spark a regional outcry, following decades of conservation efforts to protect and restore these wetlands as part of the Refuge. Meanwhile, the climate crisis continues to escalate, sea levels are continuing to rise, and the scientific community continues to publish comprehensive reports that project Bay water levels rising by as much as 7 feet by 2100.
The baylands are not a wise place to build housing, and developing Newark Area 4 should not be how Newark meets a significant portion of its housing requirement. The proposed development is almost entirely within a flood zone, the site is anticipated to be almost completely inundated with just 1 meter of sea level rise, and new studies show that Area 4 is also at extreme risk of groundwater rise. Environmental and housing advocates, including East Bay 4 Everyone, agree that while we need housing, this is not the place for it.
Newark needs homes of all income levels to address the housing crises and build healthy communities for families and future generations, and this Housing Element is an opportunity to plan to meet this need in a manner that is resilient to the challenges of climate change.
Learn more at Save the Newark Wetlands.
Photo by: Derell Licht (CC BY-ND 2.0)