In the face of overwhelming resident opposition, the Fontana City Council on Tuesday March 12 approved a massive warehousing and industrial business park project at the southeastern corner of the city.
The West Valley Logistics Center is to entail seven high cube warehouses for a total space of 3.4 million square feet, to be built within the West Valley Logistics Center Specific Plan Project Area, bounded on the north by a Southern California Edison (SCE) Utility Corridor, on the west by the Jurupa Hills, on the south by residential properties within the City of Jurupa Valley, and on the east by residential uses within Bloomington.
The project applicant, Red Rock Development, obtained a recommendation on the project from the planning commission on January 15 by a vote of 4-to-1, with Commissioner Laura Vasquez dissenting. The commission majority ran counter to planning staff’s call for the project to be rejected.
This Tuesday, Michael Morris, speaking on behalf of Red Rock, sought to stir up excitement for the project. “This project,” Morris said, “when approved and the first building permit is issued will start a series of payments to the City of Fontana that will total to $19 million to the city’s general fund for off-site parking improvements and other municipal needs. Development impact fees paid at the permit stage will be in excess of 14 million [dollars] paid to the city of Fontana, school fees in excess of 2 million [dollars] will be paid to the Colton Unified School District, even though the project will not directly generate students that will impact the school district. The property tax assessment at complete build-out will be in excess of $475 million, and based on the city’s 21.7 percent to the city the fire district and parks will total more than one million [dollars] annually. The permanent jobs created will be in excess of 2,000, another 4,000 jobs related to construction and another 2,000 related to infrastructure construction. The permanent jobs will be listed in the logistics trade and logistics supply chains.”
Morris continued, “The economic output impact both direct and indirect and induced will be more than 740 million [dollars] generated through construction, building construction and operation to Fontana, San Bernardino County and the regional economy.”
The vast majority of the public weighing in with regard to the project at the hearing were far less enthusiastic, with only a few members of local construction unions offering any encouragement to the council to approve the project.
Tomasa Manlove said, “I do not want a warehouse in our Beautiful Bloomington Hills. We already have enough warehouses that have recently been put on Cedar Avenue, about three of them. We don’t need another one, especially in those hills. It will decrease the value of our houses, of our property.”
Shiraz Tangri, an attorney with the law firm of Meyers Nave representing the County of San Bernardino, said, “We ask the city to deny the project at this point in time. The county has expressed its concerns about environmental impacts on multiple occasions over the past five years. We appreciate the city’s efforts to try to meet with the county to discuss these issues, but at this time the final environmental impact report for the project does not address the county’s fundamental concerns about this new industrial facility. The county’s primary concern is that the project’s traffic, air quality, noise and drainage impacts will unduly burden county facilities. The project’s extensive truck traffic will adversely impact county residents, including those in the Bloomington community. Beyond that, the final environmental impact report does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act’s fundamental requirements to disclose, analyze and mitigate the many impacts this massive logistics facility will create on the environment. The project description is vague and inconsistent. It’s unclear exactly what specific uses will be developed or who the users will be, what hours the center will operate, how the construction will be phased, whether hazardous materials will be transported and used on the site, and what off-site improvements should ultimately be required for the project. The environmental impact report underestimates the truck traffic generation.”
Gary Grossich, a Colton planning commissioner and the chair of the Bloomington Municipal Advisory Council, said, “This project proposes to run 100 percent of its traffic through Bloomington. I spoke with your staff and was told there are currently 60,000 trips a day over the large already-improved Sierra interchange. The 2019 estimate for the Cedar Interchange with this project is almost 65,000 trips on an interchange designed for 41,000 daily trips. The 65,000 trips do not include this proposed project and may not even include the 2.2 million square feet of warehouses Rialto is building on our border at the old El Riveno Country Club. I would point out that almost 75 Bloomington residentially-zoned properties along Locust would need to be purchased by the developers who have no eminent domain rights. Moreover, purchase of these properties to allow 2,000 diesel trucks to travel up and down Locust would cause an impact to the residential neighborhoods that cannot be mitigated. Along with that, the county would end up being responsible for the cost of continuing future maintenance to wear and tear from all the trucking. Locust is currently a lightly-traveled street. Even with the proposed mitigation, the existing conditions will not improve. They will worsen. Mitigation measures are used to alleviate impacts, not to be used as a justification to cause other negative impacts that cannot be mitigated. Approving this project would most likely result in the entire Locust corridor being forced to be rezoned to industrial instead of its current residential zoning. Bottom line, the residents of Bloomington have the sole right to make decisions regarding the future of Bloomington. Bloomington continues to suffer negative traffic impacts from industrial projects located on our borders from both Rialto and Fontana, along with massive amounts of illegal trucking operations, many of which are directly related to our neighboring cities’ projects. These illegal trucking operations are operating next to our schools and in the middle of our residential neighborhoods. Bloomington cannot continue to carry the traffic burden of neighboring cities’ projects while our community suffers from the negative impacts.”
Residents of the area told the council that one of the oldest trees on record, one that outlived the Ice Age, is located in the Jurupa Hills. Its existence is threatened by the project, they said.
Bloomington and Jurupa Hills residents said that the project would have minimal impact on Fontana, and that all of impact would be imposed on neighboring community.
Thomas Rocha of Bloomington said, “This project would not only eliminate our horse trails and our foothills, but it would destroy my community of Bloomington. Personally, like hundreds of others, I am tired of this game that you and the county keep playing on our lives. You send out notices, you ask for our opinions on certain projects, you go to numerous hearings, developers with their fancy suits show up and tell you how good this project is for our community, using fabricated numbers all based on speculation. They bring in union workers here to fill the seats and tell us how much they need these jobs close to their house. Believe me, I’m all for unions – I’ve been a union member for 40 years. As a shop steward we build up communities, we don’t tear them down. One thing we taught, being a shop steward, is union rights and human rights go hand-in-hand. The basic human right that every man woman and child has is to work, play and raise their children in a clean and toxic-free environment. The environmental groups are here with hard, proven facts. They tell you how harmful these projects are and all the negative impacts they are going to have on our lives, to our communities. They [the city council and county supervisors] give the community members five minutes to speak. They come up there and spill their heart out to you guys. You act like you’re listening. You look at them. You act concerned. But you don’t really care. You’re not even paying attention right now. When does this stop? We have enough vacant warehouses in the Inland Empire. When is enough enough? Put our union bothers and sisters to work. Let them build houses. We need houses. We have a housing shortage. The developers and you guys always talk about income. But one thing you never talk about is the outcome. The income you guys bring [from building warehouses] isn’t enough to get you out of your mother’s house, to pay utilities and to pay rent. Let’s talk about the outcome. The end results, the way this all turns out, are the consequences we face for your irresponsible land use decisions that you continue to make. None of you on this board or the planning commission or the developers will have to face or raise your children in this outcome. Our children will suffer being overburdened with particulate matter, getting asthma and stunting their lung growth. Our elderly, like me, will suffer with chronic ill health. It will shorten our life span. Our roads, our quality of life, and our air quality will be forever changed.”
Jim Hosmanek said, “With the added trucks we’re going to have more congestion. We’ll bring in some businesses that will probably be automated. You’re losing jobs there. I’m old. I wanna get out of here and move to Arizona because California’s expensive and I can’t afford it. My military benefits don’t pay that much. I’m older and I really don’t like kids, they irritate me, because I’m old. They’re the greatest thing in the world, but they just get on my nerves. I’m glad my kids have grown up. They’ve gone to school, they’re educated, but they’re gone. I don’t have grandkids. The traffic is gonna increase. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t have the road rage. I wave to people when I piss them off because I’m the old guy driving down the road and I drive real slow and I don’t really care because I really don’t have any place to be. My biggest deal is driving past the schools. How many schools do we have in that general area? They have a lot of schools in that area and these kids walk right in the middle of the street. One of these days – mark my words – one of these days… one of these days some kid is going to get killed. One kid is one kid too many to get killed when a big-ass truck for some stupid ass like me, speeding by because I can’t get somewhere and I kill a kid, a trucker kills a kid, somebody kills somebody. Mark my words.”
Members of San Bernardino-based Hod Carriers and Laborers Local 783 supported the project, saying it would provide jobs that are proximate to where they live.
Ericka Flores, with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, said the zoning change being granted for the project will precipitated future health risk escalations for nearby residents.
Andrea Vidaurre, a policy analyst at Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, characterized the project as irrational.
“The West Valley Logistics Center will bring more than 6,000 vehicle trips, 2,000 of which will be diesel trucks,” said Vidaure. Heavy duty vehicles emit up to five times the amount of carbon monoxide per mile versus a light-duty vehicle. The project will certainly help to worsen the pre-existing pollution in the bordering communities of Bloomington, Fontana, and Jurupa Valley.”
The West Valley Logistics Center, to be built on a site originally planned for a 1,154-home residential project an elementary school and private and joint-use recreational facilities, required a zone change for approval.
Assemblymembers Eloise Gomez Reyes and Freddie Rodriguez and State Senator Connie Leyva signed a letter of opposition which asserted the project’s vicinity to sensitive communities will trash the quality of life of residents throughout the region through increased air pollution, noise and traffic congestion.
“The Fontana Planning Commission staff recommended denying the West Valley Logistics Center as the environmental analysis shows that it have significant and unavoidable impacts on traffic and air quality. Given the environmental injustices faced by this community, we request that the City of Fontana reconsider this project,” according to the letter.
Project applicants said the site will create about 4,000 construction jobs during an 18- to 24-month period, and an additional 2,000 jobs once the warehouses are running.
Councilmember Jesse Sandoval, before casting the lone no vote against the project, said the call of union members for the project to be approved did not move him because the decent paying work to be generated consisted of temporary jobs, and most of the warehouse jobs were poor paying positions provided through staffing agencies.
Sandoval said nearby homes and schools would be impacted by noise, traffic and pollution created by the warehouses.
Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who has earned the sobriquet “Warehouse Warren” because of her practice of accepting massive scale political donations from warehouse developers and supporting their projects, said the concerns voiced by those in opposition to the project could be overlooked because the the project is good for Fontana and will result in the addition of thousands of local jobs.
In response to suggestions that the eventual tenants at the project site were unknown, she asked Morris if those who would occupy the buildings had been determined. Morris told her that what he is engaged in is “called speculative building because the tenant is not yet known.” That did not dim Warren’s enthusiasm for the project. She pressed him for an indication that the buildings would not be used simply as warehouses but rather for manufacturing operations. Morris was not able to make that commitment, but indicated that some manufacturers might take up operation there. “W certainly hope so.”
Warren was not able to count on her longstanding council ally, John Roberts to back her in supporting the project because he owns property in the area and did not vote because of a potential conflict of interest.
Councilmembers Jesse Armendarez and Phillip Cothran, who are members of her political machine, came through for her.
They declared that a so-called decision of “overriding consideration” offset any downside of the project relating to incompatible land use in that the potential for job creation was too valuable to pass up.
Armendarez, perhaps self-conscious about what Rocha had said about feigning interest in the sentiment of the public and then voting in an opposite direction, said: “We do listen to you. You may not like my decision, but we do listen.”
Cothran, in a statement that was scripted for him by Warren and her advisors, said he supports bringing jobs to Fontana through more warehousing. He said manufacturing jobs will benefit the entire community.
The project was approved by a 3-to-1 margin.