The Communities for a Better Environment—an Oakland-based nonprofit environmental watchdog group—filed a lawsuit in the Alameda County Superior Court on Monday, in an effort to halt the establishment of a new crematorium in East Oakland.
The group is concerned about the toxins that will be released into the air by the crematorium, alleging that East Oakland is already polluted enough thanks to its proximity to major freeways and the Oakland airport.
“We’re in the midst of more toxic pollution here because we’re a disenfranchised community,” Maxine Oliver-Benson, a resident of East Oakland said to the SF Gate. “Our families’ health is not being taken seriously and we don’t want the dead to kill the living.”
Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that a 1935 zoning law requires a public hearing prior to the approval of any facility that prepares human bodies “before burial.”
In May 2012, Stewart Enterprises secured a permit for the relocation of its Emeryville-based Neptune Society crematorium to a location near the airport in East Oakland. The new facility plans to incinerate over 3,000 bodies each year and is located in an area of the city dominated by warehouses, truck yards and parking lots. The act of cremation was deemed “light industry activity” by the Oakland Planning Department and the permit was approved without a hitch—or a public hearing.
Reverend Daniel Buford of the Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland has been involved in the process.
“East Oakland is basically a dumping ground for the worst ideas in the city anyone can come up with,” Buford said in an interview with the SF Gate. “We can’t seem to catch a break.”
The City Council has responded to the controversy over the past year by working hamper and halt the construction of the facility. According to the SF Gate, just “days after Oakland approved the permit for the crematorium the city passed a strict emergency law to regulate crematoriums and told Neptune to back off.”
Neptune answered with a lawsuit and won.
Since plans to resume construction are once again underway, the Communities for a Better Environment hopes their latest suit will gain traction.