Ramos’s Warehouse Bill On Hold Until Next Year & Perhaps Forever

It has turned out that the competing warehouse construction regulation bills brought forth by two of San Bernardino County’s legislators will be placed on hold at least until next year.
While both of the bills Assembly Bill 1748 introduced by Assemblyman James Ramos and Assembly Bill 1000, sponsored by Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes were ostensibly aimed at the same goal, they were different in tenor and in much of their substance. While each was represented as imposing heretofore nonexistent regulations on warehouse development, reform advocates considered Gómez Reyes’s version to be sincerely aimed at creating a meaningful buffer between warehouses and residents and characterized Ramos’s bill as one intended to enable developers in creating more warehouses.
Gómez Reyes’ Assembly Bill 1000 would have required 1,000 feet be maintained between new warehouses of 100,000 square feet or more and homes, apartments and other places where people congregate and spend a lot of time, such as day care centers and schools. It would have been applicable statewide.
Ramos’s AB 1748 deals with the same topic as AB 1000, that being the proximity of warehouses to living quarters, educational facilities and the like. Ramos’s version would impose a substantially less exacting limitation, however, specifically a 300-foot buffer between dwelling units or quarters or sites where large numbers of people spend hours on a daily or semi-daily basis and warehouses of 400,000 square feet or more in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.San Bernardino County is at the epicenter of warehouse development. Its 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.
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 Mayor Acquanetta Warren has been so supportive of warehouse development that she is known to those in favor of warehouse construction and those opposed to it 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. The San Bernardino City Council nearly did the same, when the five-sevenths majority vote of the council to do so fell short of the six-sevenths voter required to impose such a moratorium.
Both Ramos and Gómez Reyes reacted to their circumstance with their respective bills. Ramos’s version was far friendlier to corporations, developers, landowners, real estate speculators, investors and businesses than was Gómez Reyes’s attempt at legislation. Members of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, noting that AB 1000 put a higher priority on protecting the interest of common citizens than did AB 1748, endorsed Gómez Reyes’s bill over Ramos’s. That was not enough, however.
Ramos, who is independently wealthy and has a political support network consisting of other members of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians of which he is a member who are willing to make hefty political donations to other elected officials including members of the legislature, was able to outmaneuver Gómez Reyes in the competition to have his bill considered by the Assembly.
In April, the Assembly Local Government Committee took up dual consideration of AB 1000 and AB 1748. The committee could have sent both ahead in the lower house’s deliberative process.
The Assembly Local Government Committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Cecilia M. Aguiar-Curry, generally concerns itself with evaluating legislation pertaining to land use, maintaining and setting up local jurisdictions, general plan processes pertaining to development, governance of special districts, local governance finance, special taxes, state mandates, the Subdivision Map Act and infrastructure financing districts, along with other issues. Its vice chair is Assemblywoman Diane Dixon, a Republican and the former Mayor of Newport Beach. The committee has one other Republican, Marie Waldron and five other Democrats – Lori Wilson, Robert Rivas, Blanca Pacheco, Tasha Boerner and Ramos. Ultimately, the committee allowed AB 1748 to progress to consideration by the full Assembly and 86ed AB 1000.
It thus seemed that Ramos was set to prevail in the contest of competing warehouse regulation codification.
The California Legislature, however, has a June 2 deadline, for the first passage of a bill within the legislative house it originates in. If that deadline is met, then the bill will be passed to the other house – in this case the California State Senate – for passage there in its original form or adjustment in some manner before it is returned to the Assembly for second passage in identical form to what was passed in the State Senate. With a logjam of other bills being considered in the Assembly this year, May ended and then the first two days of June have now elapsed with Assembly Bill 1748 having been voted upon. Thus, it has no prospect of becoming law this year, but will most likely be taken up for consideration in 2024.
There is a possibility that the delay will result in Assembly Bill 1000 making its way to the full Assembly and Assembly Bill 1748 being consigned to the dustbin.
Overlooked in April when Assembly Bill 1000 seemingly vanquished Assembly Bill 1748 were what a growing number of both Gómez Reyes’s and Ramos’s constituents say are some irregularities in Assembly Bill 1748 and Ramos’s sponsorship of it.
The San Manuel Tribe owns warehouses and property slated for uses as warehouses in the area around Highland and San Bernardino, including ones that are proximate to homes and businesses closer than the 1,000-foot distance specified in Assemblywoman Gómez Reyes’ Assembly Bill 1000. One of those warehouses encompasses 1.1 million square feet.
Ramos has a pattern, some San Bernardino County residents have observed, of authoring, introducing or sponsoring legislation and otherwise taking action in his capacity as a state legislator which benefits himself, either directly or indirectly, as a member of the San Manuel Indian Tribe. With regard to other action by Ramos, they have lodged complaints with the with the Special Committee on Legislative Ethics and its chief counsel, Adam Silver. At present, the Sentinel is informed, another complaint is being readied, this one extending to Assembly Bill 1748. If, indeed, that complaint finds traction, Assembly Bill 1748 may need to be withdrawn. Without any other competing warehouse construction regulation legislation on the 2024 legislative calendar, Gómez Reyes’s AB 1000 might advance in its place.
“I was disappointed that AB 1000 did not receive enough votes in April to pass out of the Assembly Local Government Committee,” Gómez Reyes said, “but I am hopeful now that next year I will be able to work on it again next year as a two-year bill.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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