[fosc] Trib article re: Chimes Creek

nancy sidebotham nannystu at pacbell.net
Wed Jun 28 13:57:07 PDT 2006


Neighbors sue city, developer over rain runoff 
East Oakland residents near Leona Quarry say Chimes Creek is
running too high after storms 
By Josh Richman, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area 
OAKLAND — An East Oakland homeowners group filed a federal
lawsuit Tuesday against Oakland and a housing developer,
claiming housing development at Leona Quarry has caused illegal
stormwater and wastewater runoff. 
The Millsmont Homeowners Association claims the city and DeSilva
Gates Construction violated the Clean Water Act by increasing
the flow and muddiness of Chimes Creek, which runs through some
local residents' properties. 

The lawsuit also claims erosion and poor maintenance have led to
discharges of untreated wastewater from local sanitary sewer
lines into the creek — manhole covers erupting with raw sewage
during the rainy season. 

The lawsuit was posted online Tuesday, but Erica Harrold,
spokeswoman for City Attorney John Russo, said the city will not
comment until the complaint is formally served. A call to
DeSilva Gates' Dublin headquarters was not returned Tuesday. 

The association says it sued only after two years of
unsuccessful talks with the city and DeSilva Gates. 

"The volume and velocity of the creek waters during the last two
storm seasons since construction started have been the worst
we've ever seen," creekside resident Chiye Azuma said in a
statement announcing the suit. 

Neighbor Mark Brest van Kempen, also quoted in the statement,
disputed what he said are the city's assertions that this is not
a public problem. 

"Even if the creek is on private property, how can they pump
public stormwater through my backyard and then tell me they're
not responsible for the impacts?" he asked. "During this last
year alone, I have lost so much land from the storm flows, but
the city engineers refuse to admit there's a problem." 

In the statement, Azuma said homeowners have never sought to
halt Monte Vista or the Ridgemont development uphill; they just
want an enforceable plan and schedule for the city to restore
Chimes Creek's channel and fix nearby sewer lines. 

"When the project was given the green light at City Council four
years ago, we were promised that conditions would not be made
worse," he said. "My neighbors and I have spent a good part of
the last two years seeking relief from the city, and it's a
shame that we have to resort to a lawsuit to get the city to
keep its promise." 

Leona Quarry, a century-old gash in the hills above Interstate
580 at the top of Edwards Avenue, is in the process of becoming
Monte Vista: more than 400 attached, two- to three-story luxury
condominiums and townhouses starting at $635,000. 

The quarry was sought after for years by DeSilva Gates chairman
Edwin DeSilva, who is among the East Bay's most prolific
political contributors — particularly to state Senate President
Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, and Perata protgs such as Oakland
City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente. 

The City Council hastily approved Leona Quarry's redevelopment
in December 2002, but residents sued the city and the DeSilva
Group a month later, claiming they had violated state
environmental laws on habitat destruction and flooding. An
Alameda County Superior Court judge in June 2003 declared
sections of the city's environmental impact report flawed and
overturned the City Council's approval. 

Neighbors, the developer and city officials reached a settlement
by the end of 2003 to reduce the project's density and enlarge
its detention ponds to prevent flooding. The council approved
that in early 2004. 

Still, the Bay Area's Water Quality Control Board, an arm of the
state Environmental Protection Agency, in late 2004 warned
DeSilva Gates to correct runoff violations or face heavy fines.
And in December, heavy rains caused the project's stormwater
control system to fail, leading to several hours of uncontrolled
flooding, which damaged some local residents' property; city
officials say that problem has been fixed. 

The new lawsuit and other documents are available at the
homeowners' Web site, http://www.chimescreek.com.

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