This extraordinary view–frequently photographed by park lovers–is just one of many casualties of the proposed expansion project.

Judge Evelio Grillo has issued his final ruling in our lawsuit, stating that the Zoo’s current expansion plan into Knowland Park is merely a modification of the 1998 Amended Master Plan project.   Sometimes in the court of law it’s possible to find that up is down and black is white.  Such is the case here.  Our attorneys – Shute, Mihaly, & Weinberger – argued eloquently that the Zoo’s plan, which adds a veterinary hospital and an aerial gondola, quadruples the size of the Interpretive Center, and includes other major changes that were detailed in our briefs, results in a new project.  In the end, the court disagreed, and the accompanying photos show who loses as a result of the court’s decision.

Mountain lions use the chaparral as a critical corridor for hunting, hiding, and safe passage–the corridor will be closed off by the perimeter fence.

The locally rare Bristly leptosiphon will be literally “tossed to the wolves” when it’s fenced in with them in the wolf enclosure.

We knew from the start that the case was challenging to win because of the 1998 Memorandum of Understanding issue which we discussed in our “Bait and Switch” article.  But essentially, this ruling suggests that any developer can propose a low-impact, modest project, then obtain a lower level environmental approval, avoiding a full Environmental Impact Report, and then – with the collusion of a pro-development city government – dramatically ramp up the project while NEVER completing a full EIR – even on public parkland.  A full EIR would have required the consideration of alternatives which the Zoo avidly sought to avoid.  This is a terrible interpretation of the California Environmental Quality Act.  We are currently discussing an appeal with our attorneys.

Up to 75 % of the extremely rare Brittleleaf manzanita maritime chaparral will be removed in order to make the Interpretive Center “firesafe.”

The project is a long way from being built.  The Zoo must first get permits from the California Department of Fish and Game and the US Fish and Wildlife Service since the project would sit smack in the middle of core habitat for the Alameda whipsnake, a species protected by both the federal and state Endangered Species Acts.  It would also destroy maritime chaparral and native bunchgrass prairie, two plant communities deemed rare by the California Department of Fish and Game.  As a result, CDFG has recommended moving the Interpretive Center away from the chaparral and suggests that the project footprint could be further reduced by locating other facilities within the current Zoo footprint.

In addition, while the Zoo will not publish the financing plan for this project, it appears they are talking with local politicians to tap local public funds to construct the proposed multi-million dollar gondola and other building and road construction in the highlands of Knowland Park.

EBCNPS and the greater Knowland Park Coalition are of course disappointed by this ruling, but our passion for protecting the precious natural resources at Knowland Park remains unwavering.  Please visit www.saveknowland.org for updates on our ongoing work to protect this wonderful parkland for the plants, animals and humans of Oakland to enjoy.

A press release by EBCNPS and the Friends of Knowland Park regarding this issue can be found here:  Knowland Park Coalition Press Release 06_20_12

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