By Mark Gutglueck
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors this week postponed for six weeks its final decision with regard to allowing residential property in the unincorporated county area of Bloomington to be utilized to host a 344,000-square foot warehouse.
For more than four years a confrontation has been brewing between county officials and the project applicant on one side and a significant cross section of Bloomington residents on the other, as this particular land use redesignation has the potential of being a tipping point that will lead to the eventual wholesale conversion of what was once a predominantly rural and low density residential community into an industrial district. Bloomington residents and those speaking on their behalf expressed the belief that with industrial uses already encroaching into the residential neighborhood, converting land currently zoned and reserved for residential use into industrial property will further the process of the area’s houses being rooted out one-by-one until all of the housing is replaced by warehousing and light-to-medium intensity industrial operations.
County officials went into the meeting and public hearing poised on the brink of ratifying the zone change and amending the county’s land use designation to accommodate the developer and allow the further industrialization of the land in question.
The matter ended without resolution, however, as the board of supervisors was inundated with local resident protest over the conversion of yet another residential property into a warehousing and logistics facility.
The unincorporated blue collar community of Bloomington, spread along the periphery of Fontana and Rialto and north of the Riverside County border, was historically an agricultural area with a substantial degree of modest infill residential development. The continuation of its existence as a primarily agricultural/residential zone has long been compromised by the three major transportation arterials that cross it east-west: the Santa Fe Railway line, the I-10 Freeway and Valley Boulevard. Over the last half century, what was once a largely rustic area has haphazardly absorbed what is now a jumble of commercial uses along the freeway and Valley Boulevard, many of them transportation related. South of the freeway, a hodgepodge of light and medium industrial uses, adjuncts to the rail line, have come to dot the landscape along two other east-west roads, Slover Avenue and Jurupa Avenue. What officials say are marginally non-compliant uses of residential properties proliferate in the area, such as half-acre residential properties being used for truck parking or storage of industrial equipment and machinery. Land values and retail tax revenue in the area is barely capable of defraying what virtually everyone acknowledges are inadequate services and infrastructure.
In the last decade, both Fontana and Rialto have been gripped by a warehouse building frenzy, and that contagion has spread to Bloomington, where land prices remain, relatively speaking in comparison to much of the rest of Southern California, sufficiently affordable for speculators and developers to seek to assemble large enough properties upon which to build warehouses, or light industrial buildings and foundries. In most cases, that has entailed altering the zoning on the properties, which have long specified low density housing, primarily quarter, half and full acre lots. The encroachment of the industrial uses on those neighborhoods has alarmed ever increasing numbers of the roughly 24,000 population that lives within Bloomington’s six square miles. Perceiving stepped-up efforts to set up industrial operations in Bloomington, which in any event a large number of the area’s residence consider incompatible with their residential neighborhoods, resistance to adding warehouses or any sort of industrial-related businesses to the area had begun to manifest seven or eight years ago and built to a crescendo at Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting. The Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington has found assistance in this resistance from the Jurupa Valley-based Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice as well as the Warehouse Workers Support Center. United and separately, residents and those organizations have for nearly five years made a concerted effort to persuade the entity which has land use authority in Bloomington – the county – to hold the line against warehouse construction there and not grant the zone changes and land use amendments needed by would-be warehouse developers to get approval for their projects.
Supervisor Josie Gonzales, however, has embraced the concept of facilitating virtually any improvements to the area that development interests are willing to undertake. Gonzales, who was formerly on the Fontana City Council and has been the Fifth District San Bernardino County supervisor representing east Fontana, Bloomington, Rialto, Colton and West San Bernardino since 2004, is acutely conscious that Bloomington, with its relatively modest residential property values and anemic sales tax base, generates less in both property tax and sales tax revenues than the county government must shell out to provide the area with basic services such as law enforcement efforts by the sheriff’s department, fire protection and emergency medical response by the county fire department and maintenance of the area’s streets by the county public works division. Most of the roughly 4,000 households in Bloomington live in homes that are not hooked into a sewer system but rather have septic systems. It is through development of any sort, Gonzales and her staff believe, that Bloomington can update and modernize its infrastructure and enhance the services received by its residents. The development fees to be paid by the warehouse builders and the increase in property value and therefore uprating in property tax revenue will assist in getting the languishing community off top dead center so that services can be enhanced and infrastructure improvements can be made to enable further development and improvements, Gonzales and other supporters of the warehouse development agenda in Bloomington maintain.
Four years ago, the JM Realty Group partially assembled property it needed to undertake the construction of another warehouse by tying up or obtaining options to buy some 17 acres of land located on the south side of Slover Avenue, between Laurel Avenue and Locust Avenue in Bloomington. The land was zoned, in the county’s land use vernacular, “Bloomington Single Residential,” meaning it could be developed to a maximum density of two single family units per acre. JM. Realty’s intention was to establish a warehouse of well over 300,000 square feet on the property. To do that it would need to have the zoning changed to what the county calls “Bloomington Community Industrial.” Once its intention was declared, however, resistance involving the Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington, the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice and the Warehouse Workers Support Center manifested. It took four years for the project to come before the board of supervisors this week, what many consider a true test case about the future of Bloomington. Asserting that residential and industrial uses in such close proximity to one another are incompatible, a multitude of residents maintain that if the county consents to changing the zoning from residential to industrial, the board will essentially be setting the Bloomington district on a trajectory that will ultimately result in one by one all of the residential properties being converted to industrial use.
According to the staff report prepared by Terri Rahhal, the director of the county’s Land Use Services Department, for the board prior to the meeting, her department had reviewed the application and was recommending that the board of supervisors grant JM Realty Group, Inc. the applied-for general plan amendment and conditional use permit, certify the final environmental impact report, and adopt the supporting facts and findings her department had come up with relating to the project. Rahhal said among those findings was that the project would have environmental impacts that could not be overcome or mitigated, but that the project should proceed because there were overriding considerations that she said made the project worth pursuing despite the untoward environmental impacts. In this way, she said, for the project to proceed the board would need to make a finding confirming those overriding considerations.
According to Rahhal, the overriding considerations were that benefits of the project warranted its approval despite its significant impacts. Those benefits included the creation of up to 290 new jobs, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by providing local jobs, the generation of an estimated $5.9 million in cumulative property tax revenue through 2029, the enhancement of community aesthetics with roadway improvements and landscaping, and the payment of an estimated $185,000 in local school fees in 2019. To ensure that those environmental impacts did not prove too threatening to the health and wellbeing of the nearby residents, Rahhal said the board should mandate the adoption of a mitigation monitoring and reporting program for the project. The board would also need to ratify a county general plan amendment and a zone change on the 17.34-acre property from Bloomington Single Residential to Bloomington Community Industrial to allow the construction of a 344,000 square foot. “High Cube” warehouse facility.
At Tuesday morning’s meeting during the hearing for the project, Rahhal was asked about the proliferation of warehouses in Bloomington.
“It’s not a significant percentage because they’re primarily located here on Slover Avenue and there’s one project site that was recently approved at Cedar and Jurupa Avenue,” Rahhal said, stating that in that portion of Bloomington “to the north side of the freeway… there are no logistics facilities. So, it’s in a low percentage range, less than 10 percent.”
Rahhal indicated that industrial uses are invasively making inroads into the yet largely residential community, slowly transforming the current character of the neighborhood. She said there is “a lot of low density” and “single family tracts of half acre lots” in the area but that there is “north and west [of the proposed project site] already community industrial use designation property” and the property to be changed from residential zoning to industrial is “surrounded by 1.2 million square feet of light industrial.”
Rahhal offered a defense of putting the warehouse project into an area where there is a significant degree of long-established residential development. The property upon which the warehouse project is proposed lies within what Rahhal termed a “boundary zone” between residential and industrial properties. If the asked-for zone change, general plan amendment and conditional use permit were granted, she said, having “single family one-half acre lot sizes” next to a “warehouse project” was “consistent with being next to an industrial zone.” Rahhal said the truck traffic into the warehouse facility would be directed away from where the existing houses were, such that the “noise and traffic” would be vectored toward “Interstate 10” rather than in proximity to the houses. She noted the nearby presence of “rail lines.” She said JM Realty was going to landscape the project in such a way that there would be a “400-foot buffer between the houses and the warehouse.”
Relatively late in her presentation, Rahhal made reference to Bloomington High School. “One of the surrounding uses is Bloomington High School,” she said, acknowledging she “failed to mention that.” Still, Rahhal asserted, the ingress and egress to the facility would “keep truck activity on Slover [Avenue] and away from Bloomington High School. Clearly there are a lot of different land uses existing in this area in the boundary zone between industrial and residential uses.” Yet having the warehouse in the place it is planned for will be of some benefit, she said.
“In many ways putting a warehouse facility in this location creates a better [situation] than leaving the property vacant,” she said, creating a “landscape buffer,” as the large building will block sound. She suggested a warehouse is compatible with its surroundings as a buffer shielding the neighborhood and high school from intense truck traffic on Slover Avenue.
While Rahhal asserted onerous elements of the project had been greatly minimized, she acknowledged there were features of the development that would impose some degree of risk on the nearby residents.
“This was reviewed over a couple of years now,” Rahhal said. “The initial review of the project resulted in a determination an environmental impact report should be prepared. That process began in earnest in the beginning of 2017. In December 2017 it was completed and distributed for public review.” The report, she said, made a “full analysis of air quality impacts” during both the construction and operational phases of the project. This analysis dealt with what the diminished air quality would do to “sensitive receptors,” meaning anyone who might experience asthma or breathing problems, including residents and high school students.
The county received comment letters submitted in response to the report, Rahhal said, and that input was incorporated into the specifications in the mitigation monitoring and reporting program for the project as well as the mitigation measures suggested as part of the project approval.
Rahhal admitted the adequacy of the mitigation measures and the project’s impact upon air quality and traffic circulation in the area were “controversial” considerations.
Some of those problems were offset by certain features of the project, she said. “Air quality issues are partially mitigated by the project design itself, by existing regulations that are already in place and also by measures that were imposed on the project in condition of approval and mitigation measures in the environmental impact report,” she said.
One of those mitigation measures, she said, would be the county’s insistence that the warehouse facility have an electrical charging system so that refrigerator trucks, using diesel fuel, would not be continually idling while docked at the facility. Moreover, she said, the emissions of diesel trucks in general are being reduced by regulations imposed by the California Air Quality Resources Board. Those regulations, she said, “are actually reducing the emissions of diesel engines” and “additional standards” are being implemented on an ongoing basis. “In 2023 it is anticipate the entire [fleet of large vehicles] buses or trucks [will transition to] alternative fuel or clean diesel fuel,” she said. She added that “Traffic on this project is limited pretty much to Slover Avenue.”
JM Realty would further offset the negatives to the neighborhood the project entails by making, Rahhal said, “a partial contribution to pay for a [traffic] signal at Slover Avenue and Linden [through] $626,000 in contributions to a regional traffic mitigation fee.”
Rahhal said some “impacts would remain significant even with the implementation of the mitigation measures. Those will be certain impacts to air quality and traffic.”
The project, Rahhal conceded is in “conflict with the regional air quality management plan for the South Coast Basin,” in that it would result in “a cumulative significant net increase of …criteria pollutant[s] in a non-attainment area.” These related to ozone and particulate matter, she said. “We’re a non-attainment region for air quality in this basin,” she noted, acknowledging that the area is already out of compliance with the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s emissions standards, and the addition of the project will virtually assure the region will continue to be out of compliance with the Regional Air Quality Board’s goals.
“With traffic, there are some impacts that will not be mitigated on the opening day of the project, meaning there are significant improvements to the Cedar I-10 interchange that are not under the control of the project applicant,” Rahhal said. Those impacts will be alleviated in 2021 with the completion of the interchange improvements.
Rahhal said the board providing the statement of overriding considerations was called for since “the benefits of the project would [justify] the lead agency to approve the project despite those impacts. In this case there are certain overriding considerations or benefits of constructing and operating the project and some additional benefits that are offered on a voluntary basis by this applicant in offering a memorandum of understanding with the county.”
Rahhal noted that the City of Rialto had taken issue with the approval of the project and had written a letter asserting that the noticing of the project consideration was defective, and requested that approval of the project be delayed.
“Staff is unsure of the reasoning for submitting this letter,” Rahhal said. “We leave it to the board to address whether that city’s request to postpone a decision on this project should be honored.”
Principal County Counsel Bart Brizee acknowledged “There is a technical defect [in the noticing].”
Christine Donahue from Michael Baker International, the company that prepared the environmental impact report on the project, said while there would be an increase in emissions on Slover “where you already have, essentially, an emissions corridor… we don’t find that there would be a significant health risk. That does not equal no health risk, just like it does not equal no emissions. The Air Quality Management District understands that if you are going to have growth in a society you’re going to continue to have emissions. But we establish standards by which we can continue to ratchet down emissions in the environment.”
During the public hearing, a degree of tension was evinced between the representatives of differing labor groups. The unions representing construction workers and some construction workers themselves, who stood to be paid union scale wages in excess of $20 per hour for work on the project, expressed support of the project. Representatives of warehouse workers and some warehouse workers voiced opposition to the project.
Speaking in Spanish, Alejandrina Lopez told the board that she was an 11-year warehouse worker. “Working so much time in this industry, I can say these jobs are not of quality or good jobs,” she said through an interpreter. Because warehouses do not have safety and health insurance for their employees, Lopez said, the workers are “not well paid [enough] to care for themselves or support a family.”
Nancy Hernandez, speaking in Spanish, took aim at Supervisor Josie Gonzales, accusing her of “deception. Many of our representatives are not representing our necessities. They don’t care about the kids. They don’t care about senior citizens who must walk in streets that have no sidewalks. They want our vote but don’t back us up.” She told the board to “step into our shoes so you can comprehend us better. Warehouses are out of order in residential areas in places that are detrimental to the residents. They are constructing too many warehouses apart from to the one they are trying to approve now.”
Thomas Ruiz, a representative of the Laborers International Union said that criticism of the project as one that would only offer good paying positions to construction workers on a short term basis and that the warehouse workers would be underpaid was misplaced. “Temporary jobs… give these men a career in construction,” he said. “These type of projects keep people in the trades.” He said the project would enhance Bloomington’s “tax base,” making it possible “to pay for this stuff [i.e., public services]. Not only are they providing good quality jobs in the construction industry, they’re also willing to participate in funding other infrastructure projects or other things within the community. If we continue in this county as a no-build county and to not allow development in this county, there’s not much services we can provide to our residents or members who live in this area. We need to look at projects like this that offer a stimulus to the area.”
Diana Champion, a member of Local Laborers 783, said, “I’m here today to voice my support of this logistic center project. It is clear by investing in this logistics facility that you are investing in the community. You are providing employment for working class people in Bloomington.”
William Loving, another construction workers union member, said “This would be good for the community. It will provide more improvements to the infrastructure of this community.” He said he could get a job there. “I have to travel two or three hours back and forth” to work at present, he said.
Willie Stephens, another member of Local Laborers Union 783, echoed Loving’s sentiments. “This project could allow me and others a local job with the opportunity of spending less time on the road and provide me with more time with my family and loved ones and not be stuck in traffic,” he said.
Sky Allen, a fellow with the Warehouse Workers Resource Center, said that the support of the project being expressed by the construction workers union did not reflect “the reality of the work” at the facility once it will be completed and that enthusiasm for the project by those who would profit during the construction phase was “shortsighted. Median wages have declined [among warehouse workers]. Warehouse jobs pay less than they were in 2006. Think long term, what that means for the workers. Think big picture, not just the construction,” she said.
Andrea Vidaurre said the warehouse will “attract hundreds of diesel trucks daily to a community already overburdened by pollution, traffic and industrial oversaturation.” The warehouse and its pollution-spewing vehicles would be, Vidaurre said, “placed dangerously close to sensitive receptors.” She called the project “poor planning. How is it possible that a project that brings in giant big rigs that emit black soot in the air are approved right next to schools and right behind homes? How is it you put families and kids in danger to that much exposure? This is complete negligence on your behalf. Approve a project like this behind your home and tell me how compatible it is. If we do not start setting boundaries and limitations to industrial development in places they don’t belong, you will solely be responsible for the intended and unintended consequences of your approvals.”
Veroniza Alvarado with the Warehouse Workers Resource Center said working in warehouses is dangerous work with lax safety standards. “The conditions in the warehousing [industry] are horrific. The reason these things exist is because the industry has gone rogue and the enforcement frankly does not work. The workers within these facilities are breathing this air, breathing these toxins, breathing all of this harm that is being driven into the community, while warehouses are sitting empty around the community that can be easily filled. Unionized carpenters and construction workers would do well, but that is not shared by those working in the warehouses after they are built.”
Hilda Cabral, a teacher at Bloomington High, said “I will be subjected to all of the pollution from those trucks. Teachers are not against truckers. We’re not against construction workers. Were not against warehouses. We’re against having them next door to us. How many of you here would be happy having your child have to go to school across the street from a warehouse? How about your grandchildren? These jobs that you are talking about, do they have health insurance that will pay for a respiratory therapist for your children? Will they pay for the nursing home? The pollution from these vehicles causes cognitive processing deficiencies. They contribute to aggressive behavior in children. They affect the focus that children can have.”
Daisy Chisholm said, “I have lived in Bloomington for 29 years. Warehouses have never improved the economy of Bloomington. We need businesses other than warehouses. We are not against warehouses. We are not against workers. We are not against trucks. But please, put them in their proper place.”
Enrique Jaime told the board, “My neighbors, my family and I are against the rezoning because it is so close to our houses and to Bloomington High School. The traffic is so heavy, to rezone it will bring more cars and trailers to the already congested area.”
Roger Morrell said, “Our community is already overburdened with pollution and our children and residents need to preserve the quality of life.”
Alma Morrell said, “The development we are seeing comes in the form of industry, which comes at the cost of our children’s health.” She said the project was a “terrible idea. More high cube warehouses will not only further clog up the roads but also compromise the health and safety of Colton Joint Unified School District families.”
Karen Coleman told the board, “It shouldn’t be this hard for citizens to come and beg for what they have already paid for. Elected officials are elected by citizens of their geographical area. They are not elected to represent or fight for large corporations or logistics companies. Why are we so eager to fill up every piece of bare land in the Inland Empire? When we buy our property, it already has a zoning. It’s usually residential if there are already homes in that area. Who decides if a warehouse [developer] can come from Orange County where land is already too expensive for them to build there? So, they’ll come out here in Hicksville and build their warehouses and then leave, get in their Mercedes and drive through the parking lot, while the rest of us live here for 60 years. Sixty years of watching your community turn into a manufacturing hub. Does that sound like home? Does that sound like some place you want to raise your children and your grandchildren? Have any of you met with the people from this area? Have you been to their beautifully designed back yards that look like they come out of some sort of magazine? And now they are going to have a three-story building 70 feet from their wall that will obstruct all of life for them. Honest to God, there is bare land in Southern California. It doesn’t have to be in peoples’ back yards. You all have families. Why would you add to our most unhealthy air in the nation?”
Claire Harrington decried the destruction of the equestrian properties in Bloomington. “You destroyed it with all of your housing and warehousing you’ve put in this area,” she said.
Crandolyn Smith said, “I will be living within 70 feet [of the warehouse property]. I already watch the big trucks go up and down Laurel and I see and stop for the big trucks going up and down Locust.”
Laura Blumberg said, “I don’t want to have a big warehouse in my front yard. We enjoy a lovely view and that’s the way I would like it to stay. There are plenty of warehouses around as we drive around that say “For Lease.” There’s all these warehouses that don’t have tenants. You say this warehouse is going to provide income. How do you know? You don’t even know who the tenant is going to be.”
Graciela Larlos said, “You state in the environmental impact report that you cannot mitigate air quality and traffic impacts. [It comes down to] environmental impacts vs. overriding benefits. The only overriding benefits we should talk about is the health of the residents, the health of the students, the children. That should be the only benefit we should talk about. The health of your constituents should be your number one priority.”
Ericka Flores, of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, said, “In looking at potential growth in Bloomington, look beyond a warehouse. We want responsible land use decisions. We believe that a warehouse being built less than 70 feet away from homes is a complete injustice and irresponsible act toward this community.” She accused Rahhal of being disingenuous in saying the warehouse was 1,000 feet away from the high school. “It is 528 feet away, from property line to property line. I urge you to walk the premises. These jobs are being promised. There is nothing that tells us these are going to be good paying jobs.”
Hakan Johnson, of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, said the issue was being framed as a “choice of growth” vs. no growth. He called that a “false choice. We don’t have to build warehouses. That’s not the only option. We don’t have to put all our eggs in the logistics basket. That is irresponsible planning.” He said “shortsightedness” infused the embracing of the warehouse industry in that “automation” was very likely to displace the jobs that will be featured at such facilities.
Kim Rocha said the Bloomington area was pockmarked with “illegal parking lots,” which the county had “failed to shut down.” She said the county planning commission’s recommendation for the project to be approved should be disregarded, since the planning commission had turned a “deaf ear to our concerns.”
Ana Carlos said, “I don’t believe it is ethical and I believe it is an environmental injustice that developers are allowed to enter our neighborhoods. None of the neighbors want these industrial buildings in our neighborhood. If we follow the county plan, they should not be allowed. There’s a place for these industrial buildings… in industrial zones.”
Shawnika Johnson, with Innovative Planning and speaking on behalf of the City of Rialto, said “The City of Rialto opposes the construction of the proposed warehouse. Where the warehouse is located in the County of San Bernardino the traffic from the proposed use will have an impact on transit corridors in Rialto, particularly along the Slover Corridor to Cedar Avenue and the Cedar Avenue Interchange at the I-10 Freeway. The project is subject to the City of Rialto’s traffic impact fees to fund infrastructure improvements. The board should note that the public hearing notice for the project makes no mention of the type of California Environmental Quality Act document that will be or has been prepared as required by law, and where copies of the document may be obtained. Moreover, the site consists of five lots, and the notice makes no mention of a parcel map, lot merger or other document to consolidate those lots. The public hearing notice is inadequate. The project should be renoticed in accordance with state and local law. Since San Bernardino County made no demonstrable attempt to meet with City of Rialto officials to discuss the direct impacts of this project, Rialto requests a continuation of the public hearing for 21 calendar days or until such time the impacts of this project on Rialto are delineated and included as mitigation measures in the California Environmental Quality Act document.”
Noemi Garcia said, “This project is going to bring a lot of traffic into a residential zone and a lot of air pollution.” Of warehouse jobs, she said, “These types of new jobs are not the type of employment our youth seek.”
Elisa Garcia said, “By deciding in favor of this warehouse you are disregarding the cries and concerns of the people and moving forward your own agenda. That lot has no business being rezoned. It was zoned residential for a reason. It is close to a high school and a mixed use neighborhood. It makes no sense.”
Roxanne Gracia, speaking on behalf of Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes, told the board, “This proposed project will have a negative impact on families. Consider the impact on a homeowner.” She said the project will endanger the lung health of those living near it. She said Reyes opposes the rezoning and the project.
Eric Nilsson, a professor of economics at Cal State San Bernardino, said the county was participating in a conflict of interest by relying upon documentation provided by the developer as the basis for making a declaration of overriding considerations.
“The economic development impact report provided by the developer that formed the basis for this decision to build this warehouse isn’t appropriate,” Nilsson said. “The rationale for your statement of overriding concerns comes from an implausible estimate of the economic impacts.” He said the document utilized an “unexplained methodology. It is a mistake to use their [JM Realty’s] economic and fiscal impact report to guide decisions that affect the residents of San Bernardino County.”
Shaun Martinez, who represented the Teamsters, the same union representing county employees, said he wouldn’t want the warehouse 70 feet from his backyard. “The Teamsters commend everyone to put warehouses in places that make sense,” he said.
Allen Hernandez said, “I think there is a lot more that can be done other than building another warehouse.”
Sandra Medina said, “If this board keeps approving warehouses this close to residences and this close to seniors and schools, then this board is taking the position that these lives do not matter. The contaminated air from these warehouses will cause irreparable harm to the health and wellbeing of those living around them.”
Gary Grossich, a member of the Bloomington Municipal Advisory Council which advises the county with regard to local issues, is also a member of the Colton Planning Commission. He said, “The Bloomington Municipal Advisory Council has studied this project for more than four years and unanimously supports it. The project is located on a heavily travelled industrial corridor where cars and trucks routinely travel in excess of 50 miles per hours. Both Rialto and Fontana already have warehouses on this industrial corridor. The property is directly across the street from two existing warehouses and the Union Pacific rail yard. The property on the south side of Slover directly to the west is already zoned industrial and closer to Bloomington High School, and if a warehouse was proposed on that land it would be permitted by right. You hear the alternative: put 27 homes 50 feet from two existing warehouses. Quite frankly, as a planning commissioner, I’m surprised this property was ever zoned residential. As you know, industrial and residential developments sit side by side throughout Southern California. A good example of this is a warehouse complex in Fontana one quarter mile west of Bloomington High School on Santa Ana, where a warehouse currently exists next to older and newer residential housing tracts with no issues. Unlike many residential developments throughout Southern California, which sit on heavily traveled truck routes, no trucks form this project will be passing by the houses in question. All healthy cities have a mix of commercial, residential and industrial uses. Most cities have between 20 and 25 percent of their land zoned for industrial use. Colton has 23.9 percent currently while Rialto is at 30 percent. Bloomington has only 13 percent land zoned industrial. I ask you: If not here, where would you put a warehouse? After hearing testimony and examining the project carefully, your experts on the planning commission voted 5-0 in favor of the project. I’d like to remind the board of supervisors that just last month you unanimously approved a zone change from residential to industrial in Mentone within fifty feet of a high school and next to several hundred homes. Two months ago the board unanimously approved 260 high-end apartments in Redlands in an area virtually surrounded by warehouses. This project has far less impacts than either of those projects. Regarding the issue of truck traffic, I’d like to point out that by far the largest amount of truck traffic and pollution is generated by the 140 illegal trucking facilities that have been identified by county code enforcement, along with industrial projects placed on our border by Rialto and Fontana. Not one of the four permitted warehouses currently is in Bloomington. Approving this project is the right thing to do. Here’s why: The health risk assessment per Air Quality Management District guidelines determine local air quality impacts to the community are below threshold levels and the project is below the county’s greenhouse gas emissions plan. Secondly, our disadvantaged community needs more job opportunities and better services for our residents. Third, we all know the key to revitalizing our community is attracting new development, not raising taxes. On behalf of the Bloomington Municipal Advisory Council, I urge you to ignore the political noise, look at the merits and approve this project which will bring benefits to our entire community.”
Israel Fuentes, a member of the Bloomington Municipal Advisory Council, said, “I am in support of this project on Slover. I think we are all taking a blind eye on what is happening in Bloomington: illegal trucks parking on properties, 130 or more. That is what is making our air quality bad. We don’t have warehouses yet.”
John Mehefko, who owns some of the land upon which the warehouse is to be built, told the board, “I sold my house five years ago. I have been living in limbo for years. I want to know: What is wrong with the board of supervisors? Why haven’t they approved this? Ray Charles could see this is a good deal. Now, since I have waited this long, the price of where I want to move has gone up. I built that house [on the property to be converted into a warehouse]. I’m 85. My house is on four levels. I want a house that is on one level. I’m in support of the project. I definitely think it is good for Bloomington. I think the whole street of Slover ought to be torn down. All them houses are falling down, all the way from Locust to Cedar. They ought to put some local commercial in there. Anyway, I’m in for it. I’m for the project, and I want to thank Josie [Gonzales] for having the guts to try to do the right thing for Bloomington.”
Alex Artiaga, the business manager of Laborers Union Local 783, said, “We support the Slover Distribution Project.” He said the local had members living “in the Bloomington area and neighboring cities Fontana, Rialto, Colton, Highland and San Bernardino, within a fifteen minute drive of this project. The Slover Distribution Center will provide much needed jobs in the area, good paying jobs that will provide healthcare and a pension for these men and women on the project. Construction projects like this keep our members, your residents, local, which translates into local spending and provides an income base for workers to rent and purchase homes in the area.”
Yassi Kavezade said, “This project is not going to be a benefit to the overall identity of our region. We need to start thinking more toward sustainable development.”
Thomas Rocha, who lives behind the proposed warehouse, brought the board’s attention to over 500 letters in opposition to the project that had been written by local residents along with a petition against the project bearing more than 1,000 signatures. He was highly critical of construction union members advocating in favor of the project, calling them “pre-paid union workers” who were selfishly fixated on what they would get out of the project in the short term, while ignoring the plight of the warehouse workers who will be exploited by the warehouse owners, as well as the long term hardship the warehouse will impose on nearby residents. To them, he said the project “will give you three to six months of work vs. negative impact to me and my family for the rest of our lives. I, too, am a union worker. I’m a shop steward for a strong union, going on 40 years. We never slept with the enemy nor do we swim in dirty water. We built up communities. We didn’t tear them down. We’ll never be proud to build a non-union facility or a modern day sweat shop.”
Rocha then set his sights on the board of supervisors.
“Supervisor Gonzales, this is not your first relationship with the union,” he said. “You were in collusion with the same group to build a 675,000 [square foot warehouse] next to Zimmerman and Crestmore Schools.” He accused the project developer of attempting to bribe him, and said in promoting the project the developer and county were using fabricated numbers based on speculation. “We are not your sacrificial lamb, Josie. It comes down to this: Today, you five supervisors get to act like God. You get to let us live with our current respectable quality of life, or you condemn us to a slow death. It’s in your hands. You let us live or you let us die.”
Adam Booker, a member of the construction union, called for compromise. “You can’t always say ‘no.’ You can’t always say ‘yes,’” he said.
After a brief discussion in which the indications were that the board was leaning, with the possible exception of Supervisor James Ramos, toward approving the project, on a motion by Supervisor Curt Hagman seconded by Josie Gonzales, the board continued the hearing to the board meeting scheduled for Tuesday September 25.
By Mark Gutglueck