Redlands Extends Moratorium On Warehouse Construction One Year

On Tuesday, the Redlands City Council voted unanimously to extend the moratorium on warehouse development it has in place for another year.
Two factors played a part in the decision: The tendency among some San Bernardino County cities to eschew further warehouse development while many of their neighboring cities are in a warehouse development frenzy and the efforts being made by the State of California to promote residential rather than industrial and commercial development.
There is more than 930 million square feet of warehousing in San Bernardino and Riverside counties at present, with more being built. That includes 3,034 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 failed because the five sevenths margin of passage was less than the four-fifths vote of a governmental entity’s legislative body that is required under California law t impose building moratoria.
In recent years, as home prices have escalated, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of homeless people in many areas of California. Under the leadership of the immediate past California governor, Jerry Brown, and current Governor Gavin Newsom, the California legislature had pushed and continues to push to limit in large measure the land use authority of local jurisdictions such as cities and counties and instead impose residence-building mandates to address a perceived housing shortage throughout the Golden State.
The governor and the legislature, through Government Code §65580, are now requiring each municipality in the state to assist in alleviating the homelessness crisis by complying with an assessment of housing needs throughout the state carried out by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Collated into a document given the title Regional Housing Needs Allocation, those figures provide the basis of the mandates that state officials impose on all jurisdictions, including cities and unincorporated county areas in California, demands that those entities include in their general plans and zoning codes an accommodation of the number of dwelling units specified in the assessment, meaning each city must allow the construction of at least the number of homes the state says is its share of the burden to meet housing demand statewide.
Under the Regional Housing Needs Allocation figures drawn up by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, San Bernardino County must accommodate the construction of 138,110 new homes between the end of 2021 and the end of 2028, including 35,667 intended for very-low-income homebuyers; 21,903 for low-income homebuyers; 24,140 for moderate-income homebuyers and 56,400 for above moderate-income homebuyers.
The City of Redlands’ share of the houses to be built during that span is 3,507.
There is a sizable contingent of Redlands residents who are resistant to packing more homes into the city’s existing residential zones. At present there are 15 properties around Redlands that are zoned for light industrial or semi-industiral use, which is compatible with the development of warehouses.
City officials, seeking to comply with the state mandates but at the same time not alienate a significant portion of Redlands’ citizenry, has entertained the concept of converting the land now being reserved for industrial or warehouse use to residential property, such that the homes to be built there will go a good distance toward meeting the state housing mandates.
That was part of the rationale for declaring the warehouse moratorium last year. It was thought that staff could use the timeout created by the moratorium to look at the ins and outs of transforming at least some of the industrial properties in the city into residentially-zoned properties. Whatever progress was made in that regard, however, was insufficient to undertake the zone change processes. Moreover, it may prove difficult to sell city residents on changing some of those areas now zoned for industrial use into residential subdivisions, as a good cross section of the public in Redlands is against the intensification of land use, which might occur if the industrially-zoned properties are declared open for multifamily or apartment development.
The entire council, which had declared a 45-day moratorium on warehouse development in June of last year and then extended that ban to a full year less than two months later, on May 16 voted to double the length of the current moratorium until June next year.
Council members, noting the perceived need for more housing and responding to city staff’s recommendation that at least for the time being the city hold off on any further warehouse projects in the city’s commercial industrial district, said the moratorium extension would allow the city to explore its options in earnest.
The commercial industrial district is a subcomponent of the Redlands East Valley Corridor, where city officials have suggested much of the housing that needs to be built to meet the state’s housing mandates under the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process should be constructed.
At the same time, city officials are pushing forward with updating the Redlands’ Housing Element.
A housing element is a plan, adopted by a local jurisdiction such as a city, town or county, which includes the goals, policies and programs that direct decision-making around housing.
-Mark Gutglueck

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