Reyes & Ramos Author Competing Warehouse Regulation And Setback Bills

That two competing bills aimed at regulating the proliferation of warehouses have originated from Democratic Assembly members representing adjoining Inland Empire districts perhaps should be but is not really surprising, given the seriousness with which an ever-larger segment of the community views the logistics industry.
As a consequence of San Bernardino County’s location adjacent to Los Angeles County, home to the massive port facilities in San Pedro and Long Beach, where between 400 million tons and 700 million tons of cargo brought in by ship from Asia have been offloaded annually over each of the last five years, an endless parade of merchandise travels through San Bernardino County, making it America’s major logistics hub.
Often before those goods make their way to their secondary, tertiary, quaternary or ultimate destinations, they are reposited into warehouses where a determination of where they are to be transported is made.
In this atmosphere, warehouse developers, the owners of property to be converted to warehousing, land speculators and anyone involved in the construction of warehouses can make a lot of money. There is at least 930 million square feet of warehousing in San Bernardino and Riverside counties at present, with more being built.
There are 3,031 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.
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.
Fontana has been so aggressive in building warehouses over the last dozen years that the city’s mayor, Acquanetta Warren, is known by those who both oppose and favor warehouse development as “Warehouse Warren.” In 2021, 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.
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.
In 2021 and 2022, the cities of Colton, Chino and Redlands imposed a temporary moratorium on the further construction of warehouses in their jurisdictions and the San Bernardino City Council by a five-sevenths majority very nearly did the same in June 2021. That effort to declare a moratorium on further warehouse construction, within the county’s largest city fell through because to impose a moratorium on any specific type of building, California law requires that such a ban be passed by a four-fifths vote of a governmental entity’s legislative body. In San Bernardino, where the mayor is not empowered to vote, that means that six of the seven members of the council had to sign off on the moratorium.
Last year, Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes (Democrat-San Bernardino) authored and introduced legislation, Assembly Bill 2840, which was intended to insulate homeowners and their families from the harmful effects of the encroachment of warehouses into residential neighborhoods.
Assembly Bill 2840 ran into a buzz saw of opposition, however.
The California Chamber of Commerce and the Fontana Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill.
AB 2840 “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.”
Fontana Chamber of Commerce President Phil Cothran said any legislation aimed at warehouses and Assembly Bill 2840 in particular would harm 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 Gómez Reyes last year. “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.”
Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, Gómez Reyes pulled the plug on Assembly Bill 2840, resolving to back up and regroup before coming at the issue in a way calculated to succeed, utilizing the same concepts in a bill in a slightly altered form. She withdrew Assembly Bill 2840 in July 2022, without it being taken up in last year’s legislative session. Gómez Reyes said she had elected to withhold it because of “concerns around maintaining the integrity of the bill after committee-proposed amendments.”
Indicating 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. That is not to say that there is no need for warehousing, she said, but, she insisted, the environmental excesses that typified warehouses in the past could no longer be tolerated. “I want to be clear that my intention has never been to stop development,” she said.
This month, saying “Warehouse growth in the Inland Empire and beyond shows no signs of slowing,” Gómez Reyes introduced AB 1000, which she dubbed “the Good Neighbor Policy.”
She said AB “addresses the planning and construction of new logistics centers across California. The bill would permit local governments to approve construction of large warehouses and logistics centers of over 100,000 square feet when they are 1,000 feet from sensitive receptors such as schools, homes and daycares. Local governments would also be able to approve construction of these facilities as close as 750 feet from a sensitive receptor when specific mitigation measures are followed to reduce negative community impacts.”
According to Gómez Reyes, “The development of industrial facilities should not come at the detriment of the health, wellness and quality of life of the community. AB 1000 proposes a fair approach that will not only protect communities, but also offer a chance for a project to show its commitment to being a good neighbor. The status quo is not working for many of our most vulnerable residents and we must find a better way to manage these large projects in order to move California forward.”
Under AB 1000, mitigation measures that would allow a project to be within 750 feet of a project include standards related to zero-emission energy, zero-emission vehicles, transportation infrastructure and operation requirements such as a commitment to reducing truck idling in adjacent neighborhoods.
In the meantime, working parallel and slightly at odds with Gómez Reyes was Assemblyman James Ramos (Democrat-Highland), who crafted Assembly Bill 1748.
As a “special statute,” Assembly Bill 1748 is applicable in particular to warehouses of 400,000 square feet or greater already constructed or to be constructed in the future in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, prohibiting the county governments therein “and any of the cities within those counties from approving the development or expansion of any qualifying logistics use, as defined, that is adjacent to sensitive receptors, as defined, unless the local agency imposes a minimum setback on the qualifying logistics use of 300 feet or follows an industrial guideline framework, as specified.”
The statute defines sensitive receptors as residences, private homes, apartments, condominium units, group homes, dormitory units, retirement homes, shelters, schools, preschools, prekindergartens, schools maintaining kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, licensed daycare facilities, health care facilities, hospitals, medical clinics, community clinics, medical centers, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, hospices, convalescent facilities, live-in housing, community centers, established community places of worship, public playgrounds, public recreation fields, public or recreation centers.
The bill states, “A local agency shall not approve the development or expansion of any qualifying logistics use that is adjacent to a sensitive receptor unless the local agency does either of the following:
(1) Imposes a minimum setback on the qualifying logistics use of 300 feet from the building’s loading docks measured from the property line of any sensitive receptor to the nearest dock door using a direct straight-line method.
(2) Follows an industrial guideline framework, good neighbor policy, or sustainability ordinance adopted by the local agency, which, in its discretion, adequately balances siting qualifying logistics uses next to sensitive receptors.”
While building industry advocates are not in favor of either bill, they nonetheless consider Ramos’s version to be a far more reasonable set of limitations on the scope of warehouses to be built.
Conversely, environmentalists and community activists consider Ramos’s Assembly Bill 1748 to represent a “fall back” and inferior version of Gómez Reyes introduced AB 1000.
Late this morning and early this afternoon, picketers and others waiving signs and placards were on hand near the front approaches to Assemblyman Ramos’s San Bernardino office. They said they were there to make clear their views about not only the inadequacy of the legislation he had introduced but illustrate that the bill he is sponsoring is actually a counterproductive effort to undercut what they said was a more sincere legislative agenda on Gómez Reyes’s part.
Ramos’s bill provides sensitive receptors with an inadequate margin of insulation from the harmful effects of warehousing, they said. They contrasted the 1,000-foot separation offered in Gómez Reyes’s Assembly Bill 1000 to the 300-foot buffer Ramos is proposing, calling the latter “meager [and] anemic.”
Ramos’s Assembly Bill 1748 would be applicable only to warehouses that are 400,000 square feet or more in size, and would extend only to those in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It leaves open the possibility that a differing set of regulations could be applied to smaller warehouses or warehouses outside of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Nevertheless, by setting the regulation bar low on warehouses of that size, the likelihood that more exacting standards could be imposed on smaller warehouses is diminished.
Some environmentalists suggested that what Ramos was doing was creating a scenario in which less stringent regulations would attain with warehouses in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, making the region more of a magnet for such uses than it already is.
While neither Ramos nor Gómez Reyes was willing to make any direct comment about the other’s bill or the relative merits of the legislation they are proposing, there is an unmistakable tension between the two, who in a very real sense are in competition with one another for, if not control over, a major leadership role in the Democratic Party in California.
Both can lay claim to being the primary San Bernardino County or Inland Empire Democrat in Sacramento at present.
Gómez Reyes is the the Assembly majority leader. With the change in California’s term limit law that went into place with the state’s legislators elected in 2012 onward, politicians are no longer limited to six years or three terms in the Assembly and eight years or two terms in the California Senate. Instead, legislators are limited to 12 years as a lawmaker in California, meaning a member of the Assembly can remain 12 years or six terms in the lower house if he or she so chooses and the voters are indulgent of that person’s continuing tenure in office. Similarly, a state senator can remain in that capacity for three four-year terms.
Gómez Reyes was first elected to the Assembly in 2016 and is thus eligible to remain in the legislature, consecutively based upon her ability to be reelected, through 2028. As majority leader, she is line behind Assistant Speaker Pro Tem Stephanie Nguyen, Speaker Pro Tem Christopher Ward and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon as the fourth highest ranking Democrat in the Assembly. While she is likely to be handily reelected in 2024 and 2026 if she were to seek to remain in the Assembly and would have an outside chance of acceding to the position of Assembly speaker before she retires, she is forgoing that opportunity and will instead run for the State Senate in 2024. She has a better than fair prospect of succeeding in that ambition, which would make her the senior state legislator in the region during her final four years in office, perhaps even giving her the opportunity to become the president pro tem of the California Senate, the de facto leader of that body, which is otherwise headed by the lieutenant governor who serves as the ex officio president of the State Senate. Despite being a lame duck at that point, she would nevertheless stand as an undisputed heavyweight within not only the party but state government in general.
Meanwhile, Ramos, who was first elected in 2018 and can serve through 2030, is the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, a powerful legislative post. He is likely to move into a Democrat leadership position in the Assembly, potentially replacing Gómez Reyes, perhaps as early as next year and more likely by 2024, putting him on a trajectory to be considered a candidate for Assembly speaker before he retires, which would make him the first Native American to hold that post.
There are subtle differences between Ramos and Gómez Reyes.
While both are celebrated as advocates for the downtrodden, Gómez Reyes as an activist lawyer before she was elected to the Assembly and Ramos as the chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians before he initiated his public career as a politician with his services on the San Bernardino Community College District Board of Trustees followed by his successful 2012 campaign for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, Ramos has ascended to a far higher rung economically than Gómez Reyes. A multimillionaire as a member of the tribe, which runs a fabulously lucrative casino in Highland, he reportedly makes $18,000 per day in gaming revenue. This has sensitized him to the “plight” of other wealthy individuals in the State of California. Thus, he is more sympathetic to large scale businessmen, such as developers and operators of warehouses, than are most other members of the Democratic Party in California.
Viewed from this perspective, the competition between the legislation sponsored by Ramos vs. that brought forth by Gómez Reyes is understandable on a more comprehensive basis.
According to Ramos, AB 1748 will protect residents from the untoward impacts of warehouse development while allowing investors promoting economic development to see a reasonable return on their money.
“AB 1748 is a balanced approach to warehouse siting by allowing local jurisdictions to develop policies for their communities or follow the model set out last year after vigorous debate and hard won compromise,” he said. “It addresses the need to mitigate vital health concerns important to all of us while protecting critical product supply chains around the globe, nation and state.”
Overly aggressive curbs on the logistics industry carry with them the potential of wreaking devastation on the community as a whole, he said.
“We saw what happens when ports and other transportation hubs are stalled for products such as baby formula, medicine, food products and building materials are held up.”
Mark Gutglueck

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