Suit filed to block Oakley development

Mike Taugher

An environmental group has sued again to block Oakley’s plan to allow up to 5,600 houses and apartments in an area that is below sea level.

The legal filing, delivered late Thursday to Contra Costa Superior Court in Martinez, seeks to block Oakley’s move to clear the way for the development on Hotchkiss Tract because the city does not plan to offset the loss of more than 800 acres of farmland.

The Greenbelt Alliance also considers development in the floodplain to be inappropriate.

“It gives the region a second opportunity to look at whether this is really what it wants to be building,” said Carey Knecht, the group’s policy director.

“The whole state has trouble maintaining infrastructure,” Knecht said. “It’s not the best place to be putting housing.”

The Greenbelt Alliance sued in 2006 to invalidate the environmental report for the city’s East Cypress Corridor Specific Plan, which would add thousands of houses to an area behind levees that already has several hundred houses on it. The lawsuit forced the city to re-evaluate air quality issues and the loss of farmland.

That re-evaluation found that 828 acres of “important farmland” would be lost to development but that the city has no ability to offset that loss. The Oakley City Council will have to decide whether it agrees with that conclusion.

“We believe we’ve addressed the issues appropriately,” assistant city manager Chris Advertisement Thorsen said.

Thorsen said he had not seen the Greenbelt Alliance‘s petition.

The East Cypress development plan would put houses below sea level in an area near water. Part of the development plan calls for improving the levee system.

“It’s the city’s belief we’ve addressed the issues with the levees,” Thorsen said.

With the supplemental environmental re-evaluation, the city is asking for a court order that would allow the plan to move forward.

The Greenbelt Alliance petition seeks to block that by forcing the city to offset the loss of farmland.

Thorsen said that although new construction has slowed, the city wants to be ready to move forward when the economy turns around.

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