Gómez Reyes Pulls Plug On Legislation To Regulate Warehouse Development

Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes’ legislative effort to regulate warehouse development locally has stalled out.
Assembly Bill 2840, which was authored by Gómez Reyes (Democrat-47th District) will not be considered in this year’s legislative session because of what those opposed to it said were uneven elements in its makeup.
Gómez Reyes said she had elected to withhold the bill at this time because of “concerns around maintaining the integrity of the bill after committee-proposed amendments.”
Gómez Reyes, the Assembly majority leader, introduced AB 2840 in March. If passed in its original form, it would have required local governments, when approving new logistics projects of 100,000 square feet or more, to impose a 1,000-foot buffer between those projects and homes, schools, health care centers, playgrounds and other places especially at risk from air pollution blamed on warehouse-bound diesel trucks.
AB 2840 would also have required a “skilled and trained workforce,” as defined by the state Public Contract Code, to build warehouses. The bill also called for “local residents” to be entitled to a set percentage of jobs once the warehouse opens.
The California Chamber of Commerce and the Fontana Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill.
AB 284 “exacerbates California’s existing supply chain problems,” Adam Regele, CalChamber senior policy advocate, said publicly.
The bill ignored “California’s robust environmental laws and regulations which already redress and fully mitigate all significant impacts from warehouse development,” Regele said. California and Southern California in particular, Regele insisted, “need more warehouses to spur the economy and alleviate critical supply chain issues. Supply and distribution chains across California are a matter of vital statewide importance.”
Because of its placement on the route between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the rest of the country, which includes the 10 Freeway and the 215 Freeway as well as rail lines, the Inland Empire has seen a boom in the construction of warehouses, distribution centers and other logistics-related facilities over the past 16 years.
Gómez Reyes’ district includes Bloomington, Colton, Grand Terrace, Fontana, Muscoy, Rialto and part of San Bernardino.
There are 3,013 warehouses in San Bernardino County. In Ontario alone, there are 289 warehouses larger than 100,000 square feet. Reportedly, there are 142 warehouses in Fontana larger than 100,000 square feet.
Fontana has been so aggressive in building warehouses over the last ten years that the city’s mayor, Acquanetta Warren, is known by those who both oppose and favor warehouse development as “Warehouse Warren.” Last year, California Attorney General Rob Bonta sued Fontana over its affinity for warehouses, forcing the city into a settlement that calls for far greater regulation of the construction of logistics facilities in the city of 208,393.
In Chino there are 118 warehouses larger than 100,000 square feet, 109 larger than 100,000 square feet in Rancho Cucamonga and 75 larger than 100,000 square feet in San Bernardino. Since 2015, 26 warehouse project applications have been processed and approved by the City of San Bernardino, entailing acreage under roof of 9,598,255 square feet, or more than one-third of a square mile, translating into 220.34 acres.
After Ontario, Fontana, Chino, Rancho Cucamonga and San Bernardino, the city in San Bernardino County with the next largest number of warehouses of more than 100,000 square feet is Redlands, with 56, followed by Rialto with 47.
Increasingly, some elected officials, local residents and futurists are questioning whether warehouses constitute the highest and best use of the property available for development in the region. The glut of logistics facilities in the Inland Empire has some thinking their numbers are out of balance. In refuting the assertions of the proponents of warehouses that they constitute positive economic development, their detractors cite the relatively poor pay and benefits provided to those who work in distribution facilities, the large diesel-powered semi-trucks that are part of those operations with their unhealthy exhaust emissions, together with the bane of traffic gridlock they create.
Gómez Reyes, while acknowledging the logistics industry represents limited economic benefits to the region, maintains intensified warehouse construction carries with it environmental hazards that bring those benefits into question.
Gómez Reyes said she believes legislative discretion is called for at this time. She said she is “looking at other opportunities to address the issue of warehousing next to sensitive receptors such as schools and homes,” which she will look into “during the remainder of this legislative session, as well as in future ones.”
AB 2840 was supported by environmental groups and environmental justice organizations, including residents of Fontana who did not want more logistics centers built in their community. Nevertheless, the bill ran head on into stiff opposition from economic development advocates.
“I made the difficult decision to hold AB 2840 in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee,” Gómez Reyes said. “This legislation would have put in place a 1,000-foot buffer between 100,000-square feet-or-larger warehouses and sensitive receptors, which included schools, daycares, and homes. It was also specifically tailored to Riverside and San Bernardino counties, given the proliferation of warehouses that we’ve seen in the Inland Empire, and our dubious status as having some of the poorest air quality in the country.”
Gómez Reyes said she was grateful to those who had supported her effort in pursuing the legislation.
Nevertheless, according to a letter from Fontana Chamber of Commerce President Phil Cothran, AB 2840 would have harmed the prospect for generating more jobs locally in terms of construction, supply chain management, logistics, development and the transportation industries tied into distribution centers.
“Our area has worked hard for decades, if not centuries, to assure that Inland Southern California can produce jobs and grow businesses by supporting goods movement through rail, truck and trailer transport, the ports, and education programs that build a workforce,” Cothran wrote in a letter he sent to Reyes in May. “AB 2840 strips all local governments across California of their zoning and land use authority, ignores California’s robust environmental laws and regulations applicable to this type of development and exacerbates existing supply chain problems and rising inflation plaguing California by making it harder and more expensive to develop these types of projects.”
Cothran asserted that existing laws and regulations “already require qualifying logistics-use projects and warehouses to comply with a long list of local, state and federal environmental laws” and that AB 2840 “would stop job creation and limit our local commitment to provide for a good quality of life for all.” He said, “[E]xisting law already forces new projects or the expansion of an existing facility to undergo the most rigorous environmental analysis and mitigation measures in the country.”
In stating she would yet pursue comprehensive regulation pertaining to warehouse development, Gómez Reyes said she believed Cothran was overstating his case. She suggested there are yet gaps in the environmental regulations applied to warehouses.
“I want to be clear that my intention has never been to stop development,” she said. “We did not move forward despite an offer to put in place a moratorium on warehouse development in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties for a full year. I decided not to accept this proposed amendment of a one-year moratorium because I am looking for true solutions for those most harmed. I know we can find that solution and ensure our families in the Inland Empire are protected.”

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