On May 13, in yet another arrogant ruling, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stopped the development of the Blue Rock Country Club project on Walpert Ridge in Hayward, Calif. -- and ruined plans to begin building Hayward's first new elementary school in 40 years. Ditto a golf course and 614 new homes. The court was unmoved by a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Hayward Unified School District, which begged the bench to not stop the project, lest it jeopardize $8.5 million in state school-bond construction funding.
Thanks to the 9th Circuit, Hayward children can remain in temporary classrooms. They are hostage to environmentalists and activist Sherman Lewis, who decries "car-ism" (also known as driving) and building new homes and "elite" golf courses in the foothills. Armed with federal Endangered Species Act protections for the California red-legged frog and the Alameda whipsnake, they were able to scuttle grading for the development, which was supposed to begin last week.
They succeeded, even though developer Steve Miller had agreed to a number of mitigations to protect frog and snake habitat. He built four ponds to replace cattle ponds used by the red-legged frogs and agreed to remove any bullfrogs twice a year. He hired specialists to trap snakes so that they can be released where they won't be hurt when the grading starts -- if the grading starts.
In the middle of the links, Miller set aside 200 acres of open space -- which he laughingly refers to as Blue Rock's "200-acre snake-dating service area."
The Blue Rock project has been in the works for more than two decades. Originally, it was planned to include 2,400 homes, then 1,250 homes. Then, it was 650 homes. In the last round of negotiations with federal biologists, the number was reduced to 614 homes, plus the golf course and school.
Attorney Greg Loarie, of the environmentally friendly group Earthjustice, won the 9th Circuit stay. He noted Thursday that much of the project's downsizing occurred before Earthjustice began litigating against the project.
Developers, Loarie said, "don't care about these snakes and frogs, but I certainly do, and (fellow plaintiffs) Lewis and the Center for Biological Diversity in Oakland do, too." OK, but with 4.1 million acres in the state designated as protected for the red-legged frogs, there should be some wiggle room here.