Gómez Reyes Reintroduces Bill Intended To Insulate Homes From Warehouses

(March 23) Eight months after Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes pulled the plug on legislation she previously sponsored that was intended to insulate homeowners and their families from the harmful effects of the proliferation of warehouses and their encroachment into residential neighborhoods because of opposition, she has reintroduced that bill in a slightly altered form.
Assembly Bill 2840, which was authored by Gómez Reyes (Democrat-47th District) was not considered in last year’s legislative session because of what those opposed to it said were uneven elements in its makeup.
At the time Gómez Reyes withdrew the bill in July, she said she had elected to withhold it because of “concerns around maintaining the integrity of the bill after committee-proposed amendments.”
Gómez Reyes, who is the Assembly majority leader, introduced AB 2840 in March 2022. If it had 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.”
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 the law AB 1000 will create if passed, “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.
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 3,027 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 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 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.
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. Indicating last July that she believed legislative discretion was called for at that time, Gómez Reyes said last summer, “I made the difficult decision to hold AB 2840 in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.” Saying the 1,000-foot buffer between 100,000-square feet-or-larger warehouses and sensitive receptors was a common sense approach, and that she had tailored AB 2840 specifically to Riverside and San Bernardino counties, she said that the prospect that opponents of the bill would succeed in keeping from passing convinced her to “look at other opportunities to address the issue of warehousing next to sensitive receptors such as schools and homes in future legislative sessions.”
AB 1000 represents her fulfillment of that commitment.
Others, such as Fontana Chamber of Commerce President Phil Cothran, feel legislation aimed at warehouses will 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 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.”
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.”
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply