Judge Rejects Elements of Newark’s plans to pave over Bay wetlands

Should a bayside city work to help expand the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, restoring more than 550 acres of Bay wetlands and habitat? Or should they forever destroy that opportunity by filling in the area with an 18-hole golf course and nearly 500 single family houses?

That’s the question we posed over a year ago, when the City of Newark was producing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the ecologically critical “Area 4,” one of the largest areas of restorable, undeveloped baylands in the South Bay.

area-4-landscape-shot
The proposed development of “Area 4” in Newark. Decades ago, this area was healthy tidal marsh, and could be again. But the City of Newark is continuing plans to pave Area 4 and build hundreds of houses and an 18-hole golf course. Photo Credit: Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge.

Last month, thanks to years of hard work by the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge and its lawsuit challenging the City’s environmental analysis, Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo found that the City of Newark failed to adequately describe project impacts.

In his ruling, Judge Grillo called the omission of certain impacts a “material deficiency” of the EIR.

“The public cannot participate meaningfully in the environmental evaluation unless the city discloses clearly what aspects of the evaluation the city is intending to address in full.”

In the coming months, the City of Newark will release a revised EIR, and the fight to prevent these historic Baylands from being developed will continue.  We want to thank the Citizens Committee for its continued leadership, as well as the thousands of Bay Area residents and Save The Bay members who took time to submit comments on the project.

Until then, here is a reminder of the reasons why “Area 4” is so special, and why your ongoing support of this and other fights to prevent development in the Bay are so important:

  • The 1999 Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Project, the scientific roadmap for the restoration of the Bay shoreline, identifies Area 4 as being uniquely situated for the restoration of both tidal marsh and adjacent upland transition zones, two habitats critical to the health of the Bay
  • Area 4 is host to approximately a dozen special status species –including the endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse – and it is directly adjacent to Mowry Slough, a primary breeding ground for San Francisco Bay harbor seals
  • The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board says “large expanses of undeveloped uplands immediately adjacent to tidal sloughs are extremely rare in the south and central San Francisco Bay” and “Area 4 represents a rare opportunity to … provide an area for tidal marsh species to move up slope in response to sea level rise”
  • Similarly, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says “this wetland is an integral component of the San Francisco Bay ecosystem,” and “critically important to waterfowl and shorebirds.”

3 thoughts on “Judge Rejects Elements of Newark’s plans to pave over Bay wetlands

  1. Why not get a permanent injunction against Newark if the area is designated as critical?

    How about buying it off?

    Has this information posted in newspapers that serve Newark?

  2. Thanks for your comment, Srihari.

    The Mercury News had a great story discussing the recent ruling. You can read it here: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_27178602/court-ruling-nullifies-newarks-environmental-report-developing-areas

    You should also take a look at the excellent OpEd published in the same newspaper by Dan Ondrasek, a member of the Friends of Coyote Hills, discussing the Newark project and other issues related to wetlands: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_27229472/dan-ondrasek-wetlands-can-protect-silicon-valley-from

    Lastly, while acquisition by a parks or open space entity would certainly prevent future development, the same problems exist in Newark that we’ve been dealing with for years across the Bay in Redwood City. In both cases, developers have refused to sell restorable baylands and continued to pursue reckless shoreline development. Thus far, we’ve been able to prove them wrong by fighting against these wrong-headed proposals to pave the bay.

  3. Update: As of March 26, 2015, the City of Newark has approved a revised environmental impact review for this project. Read more.

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