Upland Group Forms To Act As Plaintiff In Suit Against Amazon Center

The Upland City Council’s April 1st 4-to-1 vote to approve Bridge Development Partners’ proposal to build a 201,096-square-foot distribution center for on-line retail giant Amazon has precipitated the creation of a nonprofit entity, dubbed Upland Community First, which is to undertake a legal challenge of the project.
The city council on Monday night is set to give what is called a second reading to that project approval. A second confirming vote of a project is a part of the protocol legally required to finalize the proponent’s entitlement to build.
The Sentinel has learned that just-formed Upland Community First is now working with an attorney to obtain a writ of mandate to prevent the project from proceeding, based upon what the group’s members consider to be inadequacies in the environmental certification for the project and improper shortcuts in the project approval.
The city allowed Bridge Development Partners to use what is referred to as a mitigated negative declaration to outline the impacts the development would have on the project site and the area surrounding it. The upshot of a mitigated negative declaration is a finding by the responsible agency with land use authority, in this case the Upland City council, that any environmental impacts from the project can be offset or mitigated by the conditions of approval for the project.
It is the contention of a number of city residents that a full-blown environmental impact report for a project of the intensity and scope of what Bridge is intent on completing is required, and that the mitigated negative declaration inadequately delineates the impacts and does not outline realistic mitigations for the onerous impacts the project entails.
There was concern that the mitigated negative declaration did not accurately account for the ecological havoc to be wrought by the truck traffic bringing merchandise into the facility and the van traffic departing from the completed warehouse to deliver the merchandise to its final users.
Moreover, the projections made in the mitigated negative declaration and its statement with regard to the number of vans – said to be fewer than 400 – to be in use at the completed project were not in keeping with the more than 1,400 parking spaces that are provided for in the project site plan. This has led some to conclude that Amazon will expand its operation well beyond the limitations outlined in the application by Bridge.
An inducement Bridge Development Partners used to convince the majority of the council to approve the application was the offering of $16 million in payments to the city to offset the lack of sales tax the completed facility will entail, since Amazon’s internet sales model eschews the charging of sales tax. Yet given the 50-year life of the lease that Bridge is to have with Amazon, it has been projected that the cost of repairing damage to city roads done by the presence of the project over that time-frame will exceed the money being put up by Bridge. There is an option for a 50-year renewal of the lease that will potentially boost the life of the project to 100 years, during which time project critics say future city residents will be burdened with a land use that will severely impact the residents’ quality of life with no return whatsoever to the community hosting it.
Additionally, some city residents are concerned that this coming Monday night Bridge is asking the city to suspend the company’s payments to the city until the city provides it with an occupancy permit on the project, a condition that was not in the development agreement when it was given first reading.
Overhanging the entire issue is that the city council is undertaking its consideration of these issues while restrictions on public gatherings because of concerns about the coronavirus outbreak are in place. This has resulted in the council holding public hearings from which the public is excluded. An increasingly vocal core of Upland residents say that items of such controversy should not be discussed and voted upon in a forum from which residents to be impacted by the project are not given an adequate opportunity to express their concerns.
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply