The last time we reported on this story a year ago, The Apollo Crematorium on Horton’s move to East Oakland was being blocked by an emergency ordinance filed by Oakland City Council Member Larry Reid. The Neptune Society who runs the Crematorium has since filed a lawsuit against the City of Oakland arguing that the additional requirement of the conditional use permit was unnecessary and violated the company’s legal rights. In a later court filing, the city said the property’s fate is still unsettled because Stewart Enterprises (who owns the Neptune Society) has not applied for a conditional use permit.
The Neptune Society of Northern California began the process of moving its bustling crematory business that it’s operated in Emeryville since the 70’s to a Kitty Lane Warehouse in East Oakland in 2011. The space is already zoned for crematorium, according to communications from the Oakland City Attorney office. Neptune officials said a desire to modernize its facilities, plus the City of Emeryville’s decision to allow residential housing, including the Bayside Park Senior Community and Icon Luxury Apartments, prompted the company to try to relocate to Oakland. A group of East Oakland Environmentalist and community advocates expressed concerns that pollution from the facility would threaten the air quality of a nearby neighborhood.
The biggest pollution offender is elemental mercury vaporized from dental fillings in the cremation process. It is harmless if touched or swallowed, but can cause lung problems, brain damage or death if inhaled in small amounts over time, according to the National Institutes of Health. Mercury emissions in cremations are becoming less of an issue though, because fewer people are getting dental fillings made of silver amalgam, which contains some mercury. Silver amalgam in fillings has declined in use since the 1970s. Proponents of the move argue that the insignificant amount of particulate matter emitted by its natural-gas-powered incinerators at the new facility would be trumped by the presence of the adjacent Highway 880. There are no schools or residents within 1000 feet.
The cremation industry is a not often talked about but a nonetheless important and necessary component of our growing population. Today, 75 percent of bodies are cremated, compared to 40 percent in the 1980s. A big component of this trend is cost. A basic cremation starts at $1,000 while a “traditional” burial can be upwards of $10,000 when you factor in a deluxe casket, services, transportation and a plot of land. 600 of the estimated 3000 cremation’s performed last year by Neptune were the deceased of Oakland families, many who opt to observe the cremation process and benefit from the facilities being nearby. “These services are needed in the community; they have to be performed somewhere,” says Mike Miller, senior vice president of Stewart Enterprises.
The two parties are scheduled to meet on May 23 in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland to see if they can talk through their differences and avoid going to trial. The council’s moratorium is set to expire on May 10. | More on OaklandNorth.net →