ALBANY -- A trial will be held Thursday in Alameda Superior Court regarding the Environmental Impact Report of proposed changes at Albany Beach. The lawsuit was filed by an environmental group called Sustainability, Parks, Recycling and Wildlife Legal Defense Fund (SPRAWLDEF) against the East Bay Regional Park District under the California Environmental Quality Act.
The trial will be held at 1:30 p.m. before Judge Evelio Grillo in the Federal Building, second floor, 201 13th St. in Oakland.
The suit concerns plans to clean up Albany Beach as well as the "Neck" and Bay Trail areas. It is separate from plans to turn the Albany Bulb over to the regional park district.
Plans include cleaning up concrete rubble in the area, rebuilding the bank to prevent erosion, and making the trail accessible to people with disabilities.
On the beach, the dune and wetland areas will be restored and expanded, the restroom will be replaced and a 20-car parking lot will be constructed. A bicycle rack will be installed and a launch site for nonmotorized watercraft will be constructed.
Fencing will be installed to protect plantings, dunes and wetland areas from both people and dogs, according to the plans.
Much of SPRAWLDEFs objections concern whether the project's environmental report addressed the need to mitigate the impact of off leash dogs. Currently, dogs are required to be on leash at the beach, but dog owners violate the law constantly and there is little evidence of any enforcement. SPRAWLDEF contends that the EIR needs to address this fact as part of a CEQA-mandated description of the existing situation. The EIR does not distinguish between unleashed and leashed dogs.
"Unleashed dogs in a public park are an entirely different beast from dogs on leashes," reads SPRAWLDEF's filing. "An unleashed dog approaching a person in a wheelchair at the District's new park creates a completely different interaction than that of a leashed dog being walked by. Unleashed dog packs running past children create a very different safety risk than a leashed dog. When one owner lets a dog off its leash, all others see it as allowed."
The filing also states that "The District should be required to describe the true extent of the current unleashed dog presence at the Albany Beach, the potential for it getting worse with opening of the beach trail and easier access, and enforcement against unleashed violators," the filing adds.
The park district contends that the "EIR recognized that both leashed and unleashed dogs currently use the site," according to its filing.
It also states, "the EIR assumed some owners would continue to unleash their dogs. Thus, it analyzed whether off-leash dogs along with leashed dogs, could potentially impact sand dunes, wetlands, water quality, birds, and other users of the park. Because the project incorporates several measures that will reduce both the concentration of dogs at and the impacts of dogs on the Project site, the EIR concluded that dogs will not result in any significant environmental impacts."
SPRAWLDEF also argues that allowing windsurfers to access the beach will harm offshore eelgrass. The EBRPD argues it retained a firm to study the project consequences and has proposed mitigation for any potential impacts.