A nonprofit environmental watchdog group is asking a judge to prevent one of the largest crematoriums on the West Coast from taking root in East Oakland.

Communities for a Better Environment filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court, charging that Oakland city planners erred in handing out a permit for a crematorium without a public hearing.

Stewart Enterprises got a permit in May 2012 to build a facility capable of burning more than 3,000 bodies a year.

The City Council quickly moved to block the project, citing concerns about mercury and other toxins emitted by crematoriums. However, an Alameda Superior Court judge ruled recently that Oakland could not apply new regulations to the Stewart project because the company already had a permit.

The nonprofit group's lawsuit aims to invalidate that ruling by showing that city acted illegally in giving Stewart the permit to build a crematorium at 9850 Kitty Lane near the Oakland airport.

"The city Planning Department made a mistake and Stewart is trying to capitalize on that mistake," said Roger Lin, staff attorney for the group.

Lin pointed to the city's original 1935 zoning laws which required a public hearing before approval of facilities "intended for ... preparation of the human dead ... before burial."

Representatives for Stewart could not be reached Wednesday. The city attorney's office said it had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit.



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