California Attorney General Sues Fontana To End Warehouse Oversaturation

The California Attorney General’s Office today took civil action against the City of Fontana in an effort to stem the oversaturation of the 217,237 population community with warehouses.
Targeted in the lawsuit filed by California Attorney General is the latest warehouse to be approved in the 43.97-square mile city.
On April 20, 2021, the Fontana City Council entrusted to that city’s planning commission land use authority to consider a proposal by Michael Weber and his Irvine-based company, Duke Realty, to consolidate seven parcels into a single parcel of approximately 8.61 acres at the southwest corner of Slover Avenue and Oleander Avenue upon which a proposed 205,949-square foot warehouse was to be built. The warehouse is intended to feature 22 truck docks, 40 truck parking spaces, and 95 standard parking spaces.
The planning commission approved that project, signing off on the construction of the warehouse, its design review and its tentative parcel map, whereupon Elizabeth Sena, a Fontana resident, appealed that project approval to the Fontana City Council.
The city council heard that appeal on June 22.
Fontana’s political leadership has embraced warehouse development as a means of economic development, to the point that Fontana’s mayor since 2010, Acquanetta Warren, is known by the sobriquet “Warehouse Warren.”
On June 22, Warren and her three allies on the council, John Roberts, Phil Cothran, Jr. and Peter Garcia, were able to sidestep the opposition that Sena raised, and the voices of protest that joined with hers, consisting of Carlos Tinoc, Tina Tinoc, Sunny Renteria, Julian Rambila, Julia Avina, Gabriela Mendez, Brian Culdy, Rosa Culdy, Yolanda Rivera, Jasmine Cunningham, Veronica Perez, Eddie Lopez, Ben Vasquez, Paul Salazar, Debrah Seldon, Cynthia Gonzalez, Alejandra Collazo, Andrew Noriega, Annelle Torres, Rebecca Gonzalez and Jose Valdez.
The council, in a 4-to-1 vote, with Warren, Roberts, Cothran and Garcia prevailing and Councilman Jesse Sandoval dissenting, denied the appeal, upholding the planning commission’s decision to let Weber/Duke Realty proceed with the project.
In filing his lawsuit today against the City of Fontana, California Attorney General Rob Bonta challenged the approval of the Slover and Oleander warehouse project, noting the project site shares a border with a public high school and that it is located in one of the most polluted areas in the state.
“Under the California Environmental Quality Act, the City of Fontana is required to implement all feasible mitigation measures to reduce harmful air pollution and other significant environmental impacts of the Slover and Oleander Warehouse project,” Bonta said.
In the lawsuit, Bonta argues that the city’s limited environmental review of the project and its failure to appropriately analyze, disclose, and mitigate the project’s environmental impacts violates the California Environmental Quality Act.
“Plain and simple: Everyone has the right to breathe clean air where they live and where they work,” Bonta said. “As attorney general, I have a responsibility to enforce the state’s environmental laws, and as the people’s attorney, I am committed to standing up for communities who live at the intersection of poverty and pollution. Fontana residents shouldn’t have to choose between economic development and clean air. They deserve both. Unfortunately, the City of Fontana cut corners when it approved the Slover and Oleander Warehouse Project. We’re going to court today to compel the city to go back and take a hard look at the environmental impacts of this project – and do all it can to mitigate the potential harms to local residents and workers – before moving forward.”
Bonta continued, “The Slover and Oleander Warehouse Project will be constructed in a low-income south Fontana neighborhood that suffers from some of the highest pollution levels in all of California. Over 20 warehouses have already been built within a mile of the project site, in an area that encompasses two public high schools and serves as home to hundreds of Californians. Collectively, these warehouses generate thousands of daily heavy-duty diesel truck trips. As a result, local residents and workers suffer from some of the highest exposures statewide to fine particulate matter, which are inhalable microscopic particles that travel deep into human lungs and are linked to increased risk of premature death, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and asthma attacks. They are also heavily exposed to ozone and toxic chemicals that can cause a wide array of other concerning health problems.”
The warehouse will worsen conditions in the area, Bonta said, saying it “is expected to generate approximately 114 daily truck trips and 272 daily passenger car trips during the project’s round-the-clock operations. In addition, one quarter of the warehouse space is equipped for cold storage, a use that attracts highly-polluting trucks with auxiliary diesel engines needed for refrigeration. Despite this, the City of Fontana concludes that the project will not have significant environmental impacts and omits mitigation measures such as exceeding green building efficiency standards or using low-emission construction equipment that would reduce the pollution burden to local residents and create additional jobs and improve on-site worker safety.”
In the lawsuit, Bonta maintains the City of Fontana violated the California Environmental Quality Act in its approval of the Slover and Oleander warehouse project by failing to prepare an environmental impact report despite substantial evidence that the project will have significant environmental impacts, and that the city did not disclose the existence of dozens of other industrial warehouses in the area. The city further did not disclose, Bonta asserts, that the city has approved and is planning additional warehouse developments within blocks of the project and it did not account for those nearby warehouses in its cumulative air quality analysis.
In approving the project the city did not ensure that all significant environmental impacts of the project will be mitigated, Bonta claims.
Mayor Warren said that in approving the warehouse project in question, “I think we have taken every effort legally to keep people safe. This project met all the necessary environmental standards. It is going to create jobs. These environmentalists need to get out of the way and quit standing in the way of economic development.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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