NEWARK, California. – The Sanctuary Citizens’ Completion Committee and Biodiversity Center appealed today to contest approval of the Sanctuary West housing estate to fill restorable wetlands in San Francisco Bay and build 469 luxury units in a Federal Emergency Flood Zone Management Agency.
The groups said the city of Newark failed to investigate the environmental damage of filling recoverable bay wetlands next to a national conservation area. The threat of rapidly rising sea levels makes it imperative to protect key wetland “migration routes” so that endangered species and other wildlife can persuade the highlands to survive.
The Newark City’s environmental review for the California Environmental Quality Act project was flawed, according to the groups. The dramatically increased projections for sea level rise in recent years or the contribution of development to the loss of bay wetlands and wildlife habitat have not been taken into account.
“As sea levels rise rapidly,” said lawyer Stuart Flashman, who represents the plaintiff’s citizens’ committee to complete the refuge, “the bay’s wetlands and wildlife are at risk of drowning and communities are at increasing risk of flooding.” Unfortunately, the court misunderstood this new information and made this appeal necessary. “
“Saving these wetlands and adjacent highlands could be the last chance for endangered animals like the salt marsh harvest mouse to survive,” said Lisa Belenky, a senior lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The impact of the current plan to build towering man-made islands for luxury housing that will only put residents in a dangerous flood zone has never been properly studied. We hope that the court will agree that development cannot continue without an additional environmental assessment. “
“As cities in the area grapple with sea level rise adjustment,” said Jana Sokale, Newark resident and longtime leader of the Refuge Completion Committee, “Newark City Council is missing our best opportunity to protect.” Residents, San Francisco Bay, and the many species that depend on wetlands. We deserve that the impact of this Baylands Fill development project be fully considered. “
The judicial process is Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge et al. City of Newark. The appeal is in response to a December 24 ruling by Alameda County’s Supreme Court Justice Frank Roesch denying the group’s lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act. The complaint was filed today in the 1st District Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The proposed “Sanctuary West” development would import 1.67 million cubic feet of filler material (over 100,000 truckloads) to build 469 luxury units on an undeveloped 559 acre coastal Newark site called Area 4. The site consists of the historic, restorable San Francisco Bay Wetlands and is the former home of the Whistling Wings and Pintail Duck Clubs. The site is entirely within a FEMA flood zone, which is pumped annually to prevent flooding and is expected to be completely inundated by sea level rise.
The development has been widely criticized by environmentalists, housing lawyers and climate experts. Over a dozen environmental groups have called the project “the epitome of the kind of development that shouldn’t be” in the area and advocated that the area be protected, restored and incorporated into the adjacent Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
In addition to approval from the City of Newark, developers require approvals from numerous regional, state, and federal agencies, including the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.
In January, five conservation organizations launched a Save Newark Wetlands petition campaign calling on the BCDC and the Water Board to exercise their full powers to protect Newark Area 4 while the developer seeks potential agency approvals. To date, the petition has collected more than 5,000 signatures.