HAYWARD -- A planned parking garage and new student dorms at Cal State East Bay have been put on hold by a judge who ruled that the university failed to address such repercussions as increased traffic and fire services being stretched thin.
The university planned to begin construction of a five-story, 1,100-space parking garage off Harder Road and four new dormitory buildings to house 600 students south of current campus housing in the Hayward hills.
After university trustees approved the environmental review of the new developments last year, a joint lawsuit by community and neighborhood groups and the city of Hayward was filed on the grounds that the school was doing little to quell adverse effects of the expansion.
"We were basically pointing out problems, and they refused to address them," said Stuart Flashman, an attorney representing the community and neighborhood groups. "We were brushed aside."
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch agreed that their complaint was valid.
In an Oct. 28 ruling, he said Cal State East Bay failed to adequately evaluate the effects on fire and emergency services, traffic, air quality and nearby Garin Regional Park, nor did it look at possible mass transit-based alternatives to the parking garage.
The ruling will block construction until such matters are addressed.
Michael Lawson, Hayward's city attorney, said that with regards to public safety, the university offered
"They acknowledged that it would have significant impacts but did not identify how to deal with them," he said. "That could be paying for a new fire station or a mitigation fee to cover the cost and then staffing it -- that's not unusual for universities that are hosted by cities."
Lawson said that the university is like any other developer and is obliged to take measures to address problems stemming from such an expansion.
"That's also true for traffic," he said.
Sherman Lewis of the Hayward Area Planning Association, a nonprofit group involved in the suit, said that it is critical for the university to consider options other than a huge parking garage.
"When the campus developed its master plan, one goal was to have sustainable transportation policies," he said. "But policies that involve building parking structures are the exact opposite."
Lewis said he would like to see analysis of a mass-transit system that would shuttle students between BART and the campus in a timely fashion, but he is not holding his breath.
"This was a legal victory with no policy progress," he said. "The campus is not changing how it thinks in order to solve the problem. "... It could be hypocrisy, it could be ignorance. My belief is that it's due to ignorance and a certain amount of arrogance, an inability to realize that they need to learn something."
A Cal State East Bay spokeswoman said school officials are meeting with legal counsel and still considering their options.
That could be an appeal of the ruling, compliance with the decision, or possibly meeting with the city and other involved parties to come up with an agreeable plan, Lawson said.