OAKLAND -- A Superior Court judge has finalized his ruling in a lawsuit filed against the East Bay Regional Park District regarding plans to renovate Albany Beach.
Judge Evilio Grillo had previously entered a tentative ruling granting in part the writ of mandate requested by a group called Sustainability, Parks, Recycling and Wildlife Defense Fund (SPRAWLDEF). The final ruling was issued on May 14.
SPRAWLDEF had challenged California Environmental Quality Act certification of the project environmental impact report, arguing that the park district had failed to give an accurate account of the current use of the beach as a play and recreation area for unleashed dogs.
Dogs are required to be on-leash at Albany Beach, as well as all state beaches. However, the rules are generally not enforced. The EIR only noted that some dogs are off-leash at the beach and didn't distinguish between the environmental impacts of on- and off-leash dogs.
SPRAWLDEF had also argued that impacts of nonmotorized watercraft on eel grass at the beach weren't properly discussed in the EIR. Judge Grillo ruled against SPRAWLDEF on that point.
"The deficiencies in the EIR are limited to the description and disclosure of the off-leash dog baseline and the related resulting failures to evaluate adequately both whether the Project as projected to be used by the public and their dogs will have a significant impact on the environment and the effectiveness of any mitigation measures concerning use by dogs," Judge Grillo wrote.
The ruling orders the district to void its resolution certifying the EIR "to the extent it approves the EIR's description and disclosure of the off-leash baseline and any related analysis of both whether the project as projected to be used by the public and their dogs will have a significant impact on the environment and the effectiveness of any mitigation measures concerning use by dogs."
Grillo also ruled the district must suspend all renovation work beyond the first phase, which includes trail improvements and the stabilization of the shoreline to stop erosion. First, he wrote, the district must "complete the EIR process and bring the EIR into compliance with CEQA."