A group of Bay Area environmental and community organizations has sued the city of Richmond, claiming last month’s approval of the mixed-use Campus Bay Project violates state environmental quality standards and ignores science on rising sea levels.

The suit was filed last Wednesday in Contra Costa County Superior Court to challenge the project, which would include between 2,000 and 4,000 houses on 90 acres on Richmond’s southern waterfront just east of the Marina Bay residential development and UC Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station and northwest of Point Isabel.

The land is also a toxic waste cleanup site. The lawsuit contends more than 100 types of hazardous compounds remain in the soils beneath the site, including arsenic, barium, copper, lead, mercury, PCBs, volatile organic compounds, radioactive materials and trichloroethylene.

In September 2018, the Richmond City Council endorsed a cleanup of the Campus Bay site to the “highest residential standard.” The suit claims that, in November 2019, after developer HRP Campus Bay Property LLC promised some $22 million in “community benefits” to local groups, the council then voted to change the scope of the cleanup to allow more than 98 percent of the carcinogens on the site to be left there, beneath the proposed high-density housing.

A site map for the Campus Bay Project. (Image courtesy of city of Richmond)

Critics of the project say the toxic substances underground could leak into the surrounding properties and into San Francisco Bay.

The City Council approved the project on Dec. 15.

“Because of the hazards remaining in place, no onsite pre-schools, K-12 schools, or health or senior care facilities will be allowed,” according to a statement from the environmental groups released Tuesday. “Yet, everyone who lives there will be at risk by living on a toxic site while the health and environmental impacts worsen as sea level rises.”

Plans for the Campus Bay project include residential and mixed-use buildings ranging from three to eight stories; about 50,000 square feet of retail, business and service uses (including a 20,000-square-foot neighborhood grocery store), and about 31 acres of parks and open space, including a new trailhead, with parking and restrooms, for users of the San Francisco Bay Trail, which runs along the shoreline there.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt on Tuesday said he had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it. He did say, however, that the Campus Bay Project will have to secure more permits for construction to begin, including design review, and that the permitting process could take “many months” to play out.

He also said he trusts the state Department of Toxic Substances Control’s remediation plan is suitable.