By Mark Gutglueck
The tactics employed this week by a self-styled Latino community activist in an effort to prevent the intensification of a street vending regulation ordinance put into place by the Fontana City Council last month backfired, giving Mayor Acquanetta Warren a pretext to hold the vote on the matter behind closed doors without the public present on Tuesday night. Beyond that, the circumstance allowed Warren and the council to adjourn the remaining portion of the meeting to the following morning, in which the approval of four controversial warehouse projects were considered and given approval, preventing the substantial number of other community activists who were in place to take part in the originally scheduled public hearings from bringing their input to bear in potentially derailing those developments.
On October 10, the Fontana City Council gave unanimous approval to an ordinance restricting sidewalk/street vendors from operating without a city business license and requiring vendors selling food to have permits issued by the county health department, while further authorizing city police or code enforcement officers and agents employed by the city to confiscate vendor’s goods, merchandise or food if it was not removed from private or public property within a half-hour of notice to do so or having been left unattended. The council also approved a companion action approving a $598,224 contract with Pleasanton-based 4Leaf Inc. to enforce the vendor regulation ordinance, including making the warnings to desist, issuance of citations and confiscation of vendor carts and merchandise.
For an ordinance to become effective and take on the force of law, it must be given initial approval, what in municipal parlance is referred to as a first reading, followed by a second vote of approval, known as the second reading. 30 days after the second reading, an ordinance goes into effect.
The hiring of 4Leaf Inc., which is to allow the stern measures of the ordinance to be applied without involving the city’s police officers or code enforcement division employees, was intended to impress on street vendors that the city means business and is determined to crack down on unlicensed street/sidewalk vending.
There was little public reaction or protest to the ordinance on its first reading. Two weeks later, however, at its second reading on October 24, both the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and the coterie surrounding Edin Alex Enamorado organized a mass show of disapproval of the enforcement action relating to street vending the City of Fontana is about to embark on. In addition to his claimed role as a street vendor protector, Enamorado is an Hispanic social issue advocate and a professed advocate for the fair treatment of those he refers to as Mexicanos.
Enamorado and the coalition rallied close to 120 people to attend the meeting in what was an ultimately futile effort to dissuade the council from giving the ordinance its final confirmation.
As the protesters converged on Fontana City Hall the evening of October 24 and the city council was preparing to consider public input prior to the hearing, Mayor Acquanetta Warren noted that there were “over 30” members of the public wishing to address the council. She obtained the consent of her council colleagues to reduce the normal three-minute speaking limit to one minute.
Margo Alducin, an immigrant from Mexico who has lived in Fontana for more than 20 years, was critical of the council earmarking “$600,000 of our taxpayer money to harass hardworking street vendors. The community here today feels that this money would be better spent on providing training for our local vendors in providing them with the legal assistance needed to fill out the proper forms.”
Joaquin Castillejos decried the ordinance as one that was criminalizing street vendors.
Jennifer Cardenas, Juvenal Estrada, Alex Mendez and Jose Guerra said that because of the street vending regulation ordinance the city’s body politic was going to vote the council and Mayor Warren in particular out of office.
Crystal Calvillo and Carolina Rodriquez characterized the ordinance as an obstruction to the economic freedom and aspirations of Latino families.
Xochitl Gonzalez, Alexis Teodoro and Olga Estrada positively contrasted street and sidewalk food vendors with restaurants.
Evan Webb said the ordinance was racist.
Victor Pareda suggested that the city should use the money being expended on enforcement to assist street vendors in getting permits.
Veronica Roman and Digna Orozco sized the ordinance up as discriminatory.
Yeni Ruiz, a street vendor, said she had made considerable investments in her business.
Derrick Hernandez, Andrea Gonzalez and two women identified only as Tania and Patty D objected to the characterization of sidewalk vendors as criminals.
Jocelyn Sida suggested that non-brick and mortar businesses are the wave of the future.
Kristen Aguas said the ordinance would increase homelessness.
Carina Carillo said it was unrealistic to expect the city’s sidewalk vendors to “go legitimate.”
Jose Rosales said that the homeless in the city constituted a greater threat to Fontana than street vendors.
Blanca Olivares said Fontana was embarrassing itself by spending $600,000 on street vendor enforcement.
Estie Ruiz complained that the council was misprioritizing its authority in acting to shut down sidewalk vendors.
Ivana Ruiz said street vendors are worthy of respect.
Edin Alex Enamorado, said, “The mayor talks down illegal migration and that we need to learn English. The U.S. does not have an official language. English originated in Europe. As a black person you should know what is law does not mean it is morally right. Slavery was legal at some point. In Fontana, there is no MEHKO [microenterprise home kitchen operation permitting regime] nor ability to have a restaurant from home, the microenterprise home kitchen, even though the county allows it. And no lunch trucks are allowed in Fontana. SB972 [Senate Bill 972] specifically states only health officials can enforce the retail food code, not a private company from Pleasanton for half a million dollars. Democrats are blue. Republicans are red. Yet, none of them give a damn about you. They lock us up in cages. They don’t give work permits. And if you work for yourself, they still give us shit. Land of the Free? Dumb! And when you finally realize that it’s not, it’ll have you looking like the smart one. We deserve a chance. So, you’ll shove me down because my skin is brown, so you can cut us out of the soil. Imagine! Telling us to go back to where we came from when we are literally standing in the land of our ancestors is like telling a fish to return to the ocean while it’s already swimming in it. Somebody didn’t do their history homework. Set us free! Let us be! Take off the lay! And fuck your taxes.”
Ana Gonzalez, Alicia Sanchez and Margo Alducin decried the use of nearly $600,000 to enforce the ordinance.
Elizabeth Sena said the council was out of step with the community in seeking to ban street vendors.
A speaker identified only as Toxico 2024 said the city’s focus on street vendors was misplaced.
An individual identified as Alex Enamorado, not to be confused with Edin Alex Enamorado, characterized owners of brick and mortar businesses in Fontana complaining about unfair competition from street vendors as white racist capitalist crybabies.
Claudia Cuevas, speaking in Spanish, said the city was ignoring a large element of the community that identifies with the street vendors.
Twice during the October 24 hearing, disturbances among the crowd in attendance resulted in Warren stopping the proceedings and clearing the room. On the first occasion, at least three individuals specified by Warren were banned from returning when the council reconvened. On the second occasion, after Luis Ojeda, a Mexican immigrant with a recycling business in Fontana who has been instrumental in getting San Bernardino, where he ran for city council, to embrace street food vendors, was interrupted and lambasted repeatedly by a member of the audience as he sought to explain why he thought the immigrant community should welcome the city’s licensing of sidewalk vendors, Warren intervened, directing that one of the dissenters be removed from the meeting chamber. As Warren sought to return to conducting the hearing, the crowd grew unruly. Members of the audience could be heard bellowing at Warren, “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you, Acquanetta!” At that point the hearing was suspended, and the public was removed from the meeting chamber. No one other than the council, city staff and the press were allowed to return when the council reconvened, at which point the council unanimously voted to confirm the sidewalk vending regulation ordinance.
Some three dozen of those expelled from the meeting huddled briefly in the City Hall parking lot, whereupon, led by Edin Enamorado, they drove northward to congregate around Warren’s home, located in the 14200 block of Lauramore Court. Enamorado, armed with a bullhorn, began to exhort the crowd and regale the neighborhood with accounts of what a racist community Fontana is. A small contingent of police arrived to monitor the situation, including one undercover police officer who milled through the crowd, but was identified as a policeman when someone spotted the walkie-talkie in his back pocket. Periodically, those present took up a chant of “Fuck Fontana Fuck Fontana P.D. Fuck Aquanetta Warren Fuck Fontana Fuck Fontana P.D. Fuck Acquanetta Warren Fuck Fontana Fuck Fontana P.D. Fuck Aquanetta Warren Fuck Fontana Fuck Fontana P.D. Fuck Acquanetta Warren.”
When Warren arrived home, driving her Mercedes Benz at a time approaching 11 p.m., the crowd reacted sharply, but Warren was able to get into her home unscathed.
Shortly thereafter, a police vehicle made its way down the street, blaring a statement that activity on the street had been declared an unlawful assembly and those who did not leave would be subject to arrest.
A short time later, a SWAT van rolled onto Lauramore Court. No fewer than 7 officers emerged from the van. Officers identified Enamorado from among the crowd and effectuated his arrest and that of one of his associates, referred to as his bodyguard, for disturbing the peace at 11:26 p.m. Thereafter, the SWAT team, with nine officers walking abreast, ushered the crowd off of Lauramore Court.
Enamorado, who had been remanded into the custody of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, was cite released at 8:48 a.m. on the morning of October 25.
An admitted “gangbanger” in his youth who ran the streets of Cudahy where he was raised and established himself as a convicted felon, Enamarado claims to have turned his life around by becoming a political operative for progressive causes and an advocate for the downtrodden, in particular the Latino downtrodden, in Southern California. Now 35, he proudly proclaims that he was the California coordinator of the Bernie Sanders campaign for president in 2020 and he remains the project director for Casitas Media, a Los Angeles-based political consulting firm.
Of late, Enamarado has taken up the cause of street vendors, and he has used his peculiar brand of activism on their behalf in an effort to stand off anyone – including politicians, police, code enforcement, competing owners of traditional restaurants or everyday citizens – seeking to regulate them, enforce any existing laws pertaining to them, question whether a particular street vendor or street vendors in general are plying their trade without being properly registered or licensed and anyone who confronts them in any way at all. It is Enamarado’s contention that street vendors should be able to operate freely and without regulation and that any laws that local municipalities or agencies seek to apply to them are unjust, morally indefensible and racist.
As a social justice crusader, Enamorado engages in a form of street activism and politicking that, ostensibly at least, shares Casitas Media’s goals of ensuring equality, protecting civil rights, providing universal healthcare, reducing environmental hazards and damage while holding government accountable to the people. His approach, however, involves tactics that are far afield from utilizing multilingual direct mail, communications, digital distribution and both local and mass media to shape opinion and influence elections and instead consists of real time physical confrontation. His formula in that regard has as its ingredients equal parts of a presumption of moral superiority, making accusations of racism, profanity, rapid fire questions and assertions without giving his interlocutor an opportunity to respond or otherwise immediately dismissing any response made, browbeating, insults and threats. In such circumstances, the intent is not to achieve an exchange of information or views but rather to relentlessly intimidate, provoke and generate more heat than light. Key elements of Enamarado’s tactics are being surrounded by a physically intimidating support network, the use of surprise, verbal domination and videography to capture indelible moving sound images of the individual being confronted, which in many, though not all, cases will result in an untoward or intemperate remark or reaction. Routinely, videos of these confrontations are uploaded onto social media platforms Enamarado controls. Some of those depict an individual being confronted or in other cases bystanders to the protests Enamarado’s group has mounted growing impatient at being blocked or hemmed in or harangued and then reacting, whereupon the subject is ganged up upon and physically assaulted by those present.
Over the last two years or so, Enamarado has taken his show on the road to various locations throughout Southern California, including Los Angeles, Pomona, Upland, Riverside, Santa Ana, Long Beach, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Woodland Hills, Huntington Park, Victorville, San Bernardino and Moorpark.
Enamarado was again on hand when the Fontana City Council on Tuesday, November 14 met in its regularly scheduled meeting. Among the items on the agenda were several issues of import to the Latino community. The first of those was scheduled to be voted upon as part of the consent calendar, a group of items packaged together because they were deemed routine and non-controversial. That item was an augmentation to the sidewalk vendor regulation ordinance passed last month, one that pertained to specifying an impound fee of $232 to be borne by any sidewalk vendor intent on recovering the items seized as part of an enforcement action involving the ordinance that is to go into effect on November 23.
As was the case at the October 24 meeting, on Tuesday night there were well over 100 people present in the chamber gallery and approaching 30 of those had signed up with the city clerk to offer remarks with regard to the items on the consent calendar, virtually all of which were related to the sidewalk vendor regulation issue.
There were other significant items on the agenda for Tuesday night, substantive ones which were not on the consent calendar. One of those was a vote to move the council meetings from its normal time at 7 p.m. until 2 p.m. Additionally, the council was slated to consider proposals for one huge warehouse and three smaller warehouses, an apartment complex and two land use designation changes.
As had been the case on October 24, with the assonance of the remainder of the council, Mayor Warren reduced the public speaking time with regard to the consent calendar items from the normal three minutes to one minute.
As it would turn out, just as had occurred on October 24, because of disruptions by audience members, Warren suspended the proceedings twice, and the second time, the public was banned from the meeting chambers entirely.
While the forum lasted, Enamorado and his acolytes in attendance made their presence known, putting into practice many or even all of the street tactics used in October, indeed applying them even more intensely. Warren and other city officials, based on their experience with the October 24 meeting, were ready for those disruptions and had many police officers at the ready and ultimately used them, arresting seven members of the crowd for disturbing the peace.
In his remarks to the council, Enamarado was in classic form.
“I love all the gaslighting that you’ve been doing, Acquanetta,” Enamorado began. “You say that people didn’t show up to get permits. First of all, taco stands don’t have access to permits. Those permits do not exist. Second of all, there’s several lunch trucks that have all their permits. But guess what: The City of Fontana does not allow them. Why? Why? And the reason that we are here, let’s not forget, it was because of your racist comments, Acquanetta. And also, this is not being fiscally responsible to hire a private company for $600,000 in less than six months to do supposedly what the health officials only can do because Senate Bill 972 specifically states that only health officials can enforce the retail food code. That is why we are here. We are here because of your racist comments and your fascism. Now you want to switch the meeting to 2 p.m. when people are at work? What is that about, Acquanetta? What are you so afraid of? And then you said the people protesting outside your house were not from Fontana? More than half of them were from Fontana. So, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
An unknown number of those in attendance coordinated their remarks with Enamorado. One phase of that coordination was an effort to discredit the statements made in support of the sidewalk vending regulation ordinance and the impound fee by a cross section of the city’s Hispanic business owners.
There are in Fontana over six dozen brick and mortar Latino-owned businesses that are in some form of competition with sidewalk and street vendors. At the October 24 and November 14 meetings, some of those, including Amanda Morales, representing the Fontana Chamber of Commerce and Gina Lopez, the owner of a flower shop in the city spoke in support of the regulations. A spokesman for the Latino Small Business Alliance endorsed the crackdown on sidewalk vendors and the imposition of the impound fee on November 14. In a pointed reference to Enamorado, he said, “We are standing up tonight because we absolutely will not let people from outside our county tell us what we know is best for our city.”
Daniel Vasquez, who is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Fontana, said, “It is crucial that we understand the significance of living in a society governed by laws and the importance of upholding those laws for the benefit of all.” He acknowledged the sentiment many had toward supporting those who make their living as street vendors, but said, “It is essential to recognize that our laws are in place to ensure fairness, safety and equal opportunity for all members of our community, including business owners. Laws and regulations are in place to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of both consumers and vendors. Licensing requirements ensure that vendors meet certain standards such as food safety regulations and product quality control. By disregarding these rules, we jeopardize the health and safety of our community.”
Stacy Ramos, in inveighing against the imposition of the $232 impound fee, asserted that the gist of Senate Bill 946, which was codified as Government Code section 51038, authorizes an administration fee, but suggests one of $100. “It says nothing about impound fees,” Ramos stated.
Lorraine Enriquez asked for the city to hold off on enforcing the ordinance until an educational program in both Spanish and English is conducted. “Once they understand the ordinance, they are more likely to comply,” Enriquez said of vendors. “As business owners, they would most likely prefer to avoid the impound fees. You might want to consider a warning first and on the second violation, then you can impose a fee. This is a more humane way to handle sidewalk vendors and you may have more success with your program.”
A very young girl named Abbie Amesquita who was put up to it by her parents spoke, saying, “I love the street vendors and Acquanetta is stupid.”
Support for the ordinance and impound fee by Latinos, coupled with the consideration that three-fifths of the council that unanimously passed the ordinance in October qualify as minorities, as Warren is African American and councilmen Jesse Sandoval and Pete Garcia are Hispanic, undercut the contention that there is racist intent in the regulations. To offset that, Enamorado vectored a woman, identified only by her first name, JoJo, to put Warren and the council in its place.
“It’s funny how you start your fuckin’ meeting talking about how you want people to talk, right, yet you don’t turn around and fuckin’ listen to them,” JoJo said. “You want to fuckin’ intimidate people with all this fuckin’ shit that you’re over here putting us outside, thinking we’re not going to show our fuckin’ face, like we’re fuckin’ scared of you. We ain’t fuckin’ scared of you, bitch. We ain’t fuckin’ scared of anything. You want to do it, go ahead, put whatever fuckin’ little taxes, bring your fuckin’ little people over here, call and put little fuckin’ things on line, so call your fuckin’ supposedly Latino fuckin’ small businesses, when all these motherfuckers are basically white. Where the fuck are the fuckin’ Latinos, right here? Nowhere. Just like you. Fuckin’ sellout. Coconut, that’s what you are. That’s what they are. Just like you. Just like you, because you don’t even stand up for your fuckin’ people. You’re racist against your own fuckin’ people. You should be standing with us, instead of fuckin’ going against us, because you’re just as oppressed as we are. And before you tell me my time’s up, my time’s already up, bitch.”
It was shortly after JoJo made her comments that the entire meeting devolved into chaos, with individuals from the audience shouting “Fuck you” toward the council dais. Thereupon, the council chamber was cleared and when the council reconvened, the public-at-large was gone and only the council, city staff, a few police officers and members of the press remained. In short order, the council took up the consent calendar. Councilman Sandoval offered the sole vote against the item pertaining to the approval of the impound fee and another item relating to the declaration of city-owned property located at 8425 Cypress Avenue as surplus, such that those two issues were approved on a 4-to-1 vote, and the rest of the consent calendar was passed unanimously.
The council than took up the issue of moving its meetings from a start time of 7 p.m. to 2 p.m.
The repeated disruptions and threatening atmosphere that existed during that night’s meeting and the previous meeting, which enveloped citizens in attendance, the council members and city employees justified that change, city officials said.
“In light of all the disruption we’ve had and also concern about the safety of the participants of our meetings, the council had expressed interest in taking a look at the start of the council [meeting] time,” City Manager Matt Ballantyne said in introducing the item. “This isn’t uncommon for larger agencies such as ours. It would also provide a safer environment.”
Again, with Sandoval dissenting, the item passed 4-to-1.
With a number of items on the meeting agenda yet remaining to be considered, the council adjourned for the evening until 7:30 a.m. the following morning, Wednesday November 15.
Meanwhile, just as had been the case on October 24 after the public had been barred from the council chamber while the council was yet in session, Enamorado and his cohorts headed north to 14200 block of Lauramore Court to gather outside Warren’s home and await her arrival to make a further show of protest and disapproval of the sidewalk vending regulation ordinance. A contingent of police officers were dispatched there that night, and one person was arrested at that location for engaging in a violation of Penal Code 407, an unlawful assembly,
An abiding issue of even greater controversy in Fontana than the regulation of street vendors has been the proliferation of warehouses that has occurred throughout Warren’s tenure as mayor. So accommodating of warehouses is she that she has been known since shortly after her election to the mayoral post in 2010 by her admirers and detractors alike as “Warehouse Warren.”
Warren considers warehouses to be positive attributes to the community, as virtually anyone who can acquire or tie up property can then quickly convert the land into warehouses, consisting of tilt-up buildings, thereby making fast money. This offers “economic advancement,” she figures, because those warehouses offer ready employment to a good portion of Fontana’s largely unskilled workforce. Since she was elected mayor, Warren has consistently been able to keep a ruling coalition involving at least two other members of the city council intact, and thereby approve warehouse after warehouse in the city.
There is a contingent of local residents and futurists who have questioned whether warehouses constitute the highest and best use of the property available for development in the city and dispute Warren’s contention that they constitute positive economic development, citing the relatively poor pay and benefits provided to those who work in logistics 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.
Two local women, Ana Gonzalez, the executive director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, and Elizabeth Sena, the founder of the South Fontana Concerned Citizens Coalition, for years fought valiantly but futilely against Warren’s pro-warehouse orientation. Warren was constantly able to outmaneuver them and their allies, taking money from warehouse developer after warehouse developer in the form of donations to her political war chest and then using a good portion of that money as loans or straight-across campaign donations to members of her ruling council coalition to induce them to support further warehouse development.
Earlier this year, however, Gonzalez and Sena scored a breakthrough victory, one of seemingly historic proportion, when through their own lobbying effort and their sparking of parallel protest, they convinced two of the members of Warren’s ruling coalition – Councilman John Roberts and Councilman Pete Garcia – to break with the mayor and vote against approving a three-warehouse development package on 29.4 acres between Citrus and Oleander avenues, north of Santa Ana Avenue, and south of Jurupa Hills High School. At least three votes were needed to approve rezoning the property in question from residential to industrial and then grant Newport Beach-based developer Acacia Real Estate Group an entitlement to build three industrial commerce center buildings totaling 540,849 square feet on that land. On July 5, Roberts and Garcia made an unprecedented shift, voting with Councilman Sandoval to prevent the proposal from proceeding.
This week, however, Warren had prevailed upon city staff to bring forth a slightly revamped proposal of the project, christened the Citrus/Oleander Industrial Commerce Center Project. The footprint of the property to be built upon remained precisely the same, at 29.4 acres, as did the plan to construct three warehouse buildings. The square-footage, however, was to drop by 8,745 square feet to 532,104 square feet.
In addition, the council was to consider another warehouse complex, the Poplar South Distribution Center Project, a gargantuan industrial commerce center complex of 490,565 square feet on 18.8 acres located west of Catawba Avenue, east of Poplar Avenue and north and south of Rose Avenue proposed by Seefried Industrial Properties. Additionally, the council was to take up a 24-unit apartment project on two parcels totaling 0.9 gross acres on the east side of Banana Avenue about 270 feet south of Foothill Boulevard and further consider two other significant land use decisions relating to future development. One of those was referred to as the Merrill Land Use Redesignation, which entailed amending the general plan land use designation of about 6.4 acres of land located north of Merrill Avenue between Alder and Laurel avenues. No development was proposed currently as part of that action. The other was called the Arrow and Tokay Land Use Redesignation, amending the land use designation of about 25 acres of land located on the southwest corner of Arrow Boulevard and Tokay Avenue. There is no pending development on that property.
On November 14, Gonzalez and Sena had once again marshaled their forces, formulating arguments to be presented against both the Citrus/Oleander Industrial Commerce Center Project and the Poplar South Distribution Center Project and inspiring a considerable contingent of concerned community members to stand with them in attendance at the meeting and present the best and most persuasive argument they could to again, they hoped, convince Roberts and Garcia to one again side with Sandoval against Warren and Councilman Phil Cothran Jr with regard to the four warehouses.
The November 14 meeting however, had not progressed even as far as the voting on the consent calendar, indeed not far enough to allow several people who had intended to hold forth during the public comments portion of the meeting to speak, let alone get to the public hearings scheduled after the consent calendar vote which included the presentation, public input, debate and votes relating to the warehouse projects, when the public was excluded from the meeting chamber. The hearing on the warehouse projects was moved to early the following morning, at which the point city officials, supported by an even larger police presence than the night before, were once again allowing members of the public into the hearing chambers. Nevertheless, the sizable contingent of city residents in place Tuesday night to at the very least try to block the warehouse projects were no longer available on Wednesday morning, consumed by work commitments or having to see their children or grandchildren off to school. While there was some resident turnout at the adjourned November 15 morning meeting so the warehouse projects were not considered entirely in a vacuum, the impressive presence of residents including high school students who had been prepared Tuesday night to lay out every rationale they could against the warehouses, including that the three included in the Citrus/Oleander Industrial Commerce Center Project package lie within the shadow of Jurupa Hills High School, i.e., literally contiguous to the high School campus, were not there.
Enamarado was among the fewer than ten members of the public who showed up for the start of the adjourned meeting at 7:30 a.m.
Mayor Warren initially indicated that all five matters remaining on the agenda would be dealt with collectively with consecutive presentations, hearings for each item to include public comments, with the votes on each to take place near the close of the meeting.
Jennifer Cardenas used the comment period relating to the apartment project at Foothill and Banana Avenue to reference the change of the zoning on the property in question from single family residential to multiple family residential to allow the apartments to be constructed and then segued into assailing the council for what she called “a warehouse crisis. One of the things you are very well known for, and by you I mean all of you on city council, is ensuring that we have warehouses. This shouldn’t be a reason for you to allow multiple warehouses to come to our city. I really want you to ask questions before you start rezoning and allowing developers to come into our city. How is the street going to look like for us when we already have traffic, where you are already going to allow these trucks to pass through our streets? How are you going to ensure that our kids can walk to school when you build things like this? What is the route to the schools that these buildings are going to lead to? Before you just start approving things, please be more considerate at the position you are holding right now and ensure that you ask the questions for us who live here and how we are going to be impacted. It seems really easy for you to just vote and not really consider the public. You made this meeting at 7 o’clock in the morning. I am privileged enough to be able to come here before I have to go to work. My community doesn’t have that privilege. My community’s getting their kids ready because it takes at least half an hour to drive to one of those schools. They have multiple children and now they have to wait for all the trucks on Jurupa and Cedar and Jurupa Valley to drop off their children and you made this meeting at 7 o’clock when the families that are impacted can’t even be here. It’s really shameful that you don’t consider the people who live in your city.”
Enamorado took up where he left off previously the night before when he used the three minutes allotted for addressing issues pertaining to the Banana Avenue/Foothill Boulevard apartment complex to tear into Warren.
“I personally believe that Mayor Warren should not be allowed to continue to take bribes and kickbacks,” he began. “We all know what happened in 2019 with City Manager Ken Hunt, the bad reputation that you have and who you have become. You basically became whoever you thought you were trying to keep the community safe from. You are a sellout and you should not be allowed to continue to accept backdoor deals.”
Enamorado said he and his group had requested to see Mayor Warren’s emails. He then zeroed in on Warren by alluding to “what happened last night outside your house,” referencing, it seemed, the arrest of one of his associates and the police department’s move to curtail the demonstration.
“There is no ordinance here in the City of Fontana that you can’t protest outside a city official’s house,” Enamorado asserted.
He then took issue with Warren having been raised in Los Angeles.
“You’re from South-Central [Los Angeles]. You’re not even from Fontana, Mayor Warren. Why didn’t you run for L.A. City Council District 9? It’s not racist enough for you? Why didn’t you? That’s where you’re from. You’re not from Fontana. You’re from South-Central L.A. Why didn’t you stay in L.A. and run for L.A. City Council? Why? Because you’re a Republican. You’re a Trump supporter. You’re a sellout. You stand no chance in winning an L.A. City Council race. It’s too much for you. City of Fontana is low hanging fruit for you. That’s why you’ve been here for the past 20 years. I hope you had fun last night, arresting people for simply walking in yesterday, illegally kidnapping them. And you know the DA – they’re not going to file these charges. They’re going to fucking laugh. There is no ordinance where you can’t protest. That is our First Amendment right. You violated the Bane Act. You violated the Ralph Act. You violated our right to protest, our right to congregate. There was no violence whatsoever. Yesterday you snatched a mother by her neck. That was Fontana PD and that was caught on video and I’m glad everything was caught on video. Just wait for the mutherfuckin’ lawsuits. Crooks right here: City of Fontana City P.D.”
Enamorado alleged that the police department or its members were “taking drugs inside the West Valley Detention Center.”
When Enamorado told Warren, “Yesterday, your neighbor across the street pulled out a gun on us, cocked it back…,” City Attorney Ruben Duran broke in and instructed Enamorado to keep his
comments related to the project.
Enamorado said, “She is not allowed to continue to accept developers into this city because of her history of accepting bribes and what happened with Ken Hunt, the city manager, and how you paid him off to stay quiet.”
Speaking with regard to the Poplar South Distribution Center Project, Liz Ramos said, “I’m a resident of Fontana up very early this morning because we were kicked out of the meeting yesterday. So, I want to speak against this item. I cannot be the only one in the City of Fontana who is getting really tired of bringing these warehouses into here. We have an overabundance of warehouses in the City of Fontana. We have over upward of 30 percent that are empty. We have a whole row of warehouses that just went up right off of Sierra that are sitting empty. I don’t understand why we keep building these warehouses for them to sit empty. We are poisoning the air for the citizens of Fontana with particles that cause increased rates of asthma. We need affordable housing in Fontana and the constant rezoning of residential areas to put in warehouses has now caused a housing shortage in the City of Fontana and actually what I would want to question is if are we out of compliance with the state housing element due to them because we keep rezoning and we keep changing our general plan, which is what is submitted to the state to be approved as the housing element. It would be nice if the rest of the community could come and speak about this but having the meeting at 7 a.m. makes it a little difficult for folks who are dropping their kids off and have to get to work. It’s imperative that the citizens of Fontana can actually have access to give feedback to the city council.”
Ana Gonzalez asserted, “The city council continues to poison our community, especially the South Fontana residents.”
Gonzalez said she was speaking on behalf of Center of Community Action and Environmental Justice and “all of the Fontana residents that could not be here today because of [the suspension of the previous evening’s meeting] and because they are a working-class community.”
She said the conversion of residential property to industrial zoning to accommodate warehouses was depriving the city of affordable housing.
“You are perpetrating more homelessness,” she said. “You continue to bring particulate matter to this community, creating more cancer, asthma diabetes and all of those illnesses. What’s really killing our community is these warehouses that are bringing these diesel dead zones to our community, not the street vendors.”
Claudia Cuevas, speaking in Spanish, said it was sad to see what had happened during the meeting the previous evening. She said warehouses were bringing a lot of traffic and accidents to Fontana’s streets along with sickness to the city’s children. She said she had encountered a traffic jam on the freeway to get to that morning’s meeting that delayed her a half hour and a lot of trucks were on the streets, which were damaged from the heavy truck traffic in the city.
When Cuevas complained the council was disregarding her, Enamorado from the audience began to reproach the council for doing so, at which point Warren vectored police officers to deal with him. The police removed him from the chambers and arrested him.
Cuevas said the city did not need rich people to come to the city to build warehouses or rich people to come through the city with their trucks.
Jennifer Cardenas said that people in the community are on ventilators because of the saturation of air-polluting warehouses in the city. “My community is directly impacted by everything that you have done,” she said. She said she had been prevented by the police from coming into the city council chamber while she was wearing a mask, which she said was necessitated by the polluted air in the city. She said the poor air quality in Fontana is a direct result of the proliferation of warehouses, “Black and brown communities are directly impacted way more severely than any other communities, especially when we’re front-line communities and… right now you’re trying to bring another warehouse,” she said. “You’re not even asking questions. It’s so embarrassing that you represent us. There’s no question about how it is going to impact families. There’s no questions about how it is going to impact the kids that are here. The asthma that we see in kids today is so severe. These kids are like canaries for us for the industry that you brought. It is really difficult that I have to try to contain my emotions to speak to you because you made this meeting in a way that denied my entire community the ability to even show up to tell you that you’re impacting the kids.”
Joaquin Castillejos said, “It’s a shame that we have to be here at 7:30 after being kicked out of a meeting last night and being denied our opportunity to speak and give our comments when we should have and denied our rights, while behind closed doors you all decided to change the meetings to 2 p.m., causing even more of an obstacle for so many community members who are hard-working working class people [who] will now have to take a day off or have someone else pick up their kids from school to be able to go to a meeting that they should have already been able to come and have access to as residents of this community. It is really sad to see the remnants of what was existent in South Fontana now being completely wiped out. I had the chance a few months ago to talk to one of the residents who lived on Rose [Avenue, proximate to the Poplar South Distribution Center Project]. The story she gave me was heartbreaking. The dreams and the vision that they had for their lives was taken away by a city that saw their community as land to be exploited for warehousing for industrial purposes. That community used to be surrounded by more rural uses. There used to be more residential area around. Now it looks like it has been completely destroyed and taken away. I can’t even imagine the impacts that community has been facing ever since the changes have been happening when this area was converted into industrial land. There’s not much that we can do. The area’s already all industrial, but what we can do is ask for community benefit agreements for everyone who lives in the surrounding area and those who have been impacted. You allow these warehouses to come in time after time without any type of consideration for the people who are around and for the community that is being impacted. Every warehouse being added is adding more and more to the amount of pollution and the amount of truck traffic that is being placed on top of the south Fontana community that is already burdened with thousands of truck trips a day and thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide and particulate matter daily. These impacts should be mitigated and if we have the right community benefit agreements it will give back to the community that they should have that they already deserve.”
Elizabeth Sena told the council “You guys continually fail the south side of the city again and again because you think that is the only place you can approve warehouses. There are negative cumulative impacts that are happening in the south end. To this council that doesn’t seem to matter. I have a headache because of the chaos that you guys created last night. How embarrassing to have to call your developer friends and [say] ‘You all have to come over at 7 o’clock in the morning because we could not keep our house in order because of this nonsense that we keep having. I’m one of those who had to take my kids early in the morning to school and had to deal with the crazy traffic. But you guys don’t have to experience that, right? Because you guys have other people to do that for you. I’m assuming some of you guys are parents. But you guys don’t have to take your kids and drop them off every day to school and deal with all of this stuff that we in the south have to deal with, right, because your guys’ communities are not inundated with warehouses like mine are. It’s a shame and its upsetting because our children are the ones that are being impacted and all you guys can think about is the profits your little city is going to make. Does it matter that we are chronically being exposed to these emissions? Does it matter that we are chronically having to deal with negative health impacts? It doesn’t. It is so disappointing because as a city council, you guys are supposed to represent the rest of your community, not just a part of it, not just the north side, not just the side you guys live on.”
It seemed that Warren was less than certain that the council majority would go along with the reconsideration of the three warehouses to be built near the high school, and against and the expectation of City Attorney Duran, she split the issues relating to Merrill Land Use Redesignation – Banana Avenue North Apartments Poplar South Distribution Center Project into one set of hearings and then had the council vote on them, while holding two separate hearings and conducting two votes on the Arrow and Tokay Land Use Redesignation and Acacia Real Estate Group’s three warehouse proposal. With the transition to the hearing on the Arrow and Tokay Land Use Redesignation, Warren tested the waters with her colleagues, reducing the three-minute public comment time to one minute. When the council acceded to that reduction, she carried the one-minute comment time limitation over to the hearing for Acacia Real Estate Group’s revamped proposal to construct three warehouses adjacent to Jurupa Hills High School. The council further acceded to that limitation.
The staff presentation for Acacia’s single application for the trio of projects spelled out that it was to entail a general plan amendment changing the land use designation and zoning on the 29.4-acre site from allowing planned community residential and multiple-family residential development to general industrial development under the auspices of the city’s Southwest Industrial Park Specific Plan, referred to by its acronym SWIP. According to city staff, the project had been altered from that presented to the city council earlier this year and voted down in July in that the buildings had been modified with a slight reduction in size, the routing of the truck traffic into and out of the facilities had been altered and there were to be more substantial barriers – referred to as buffers – between the warehouses and the high school.
Claudia Cuevas in Spanish told the council that they were “not listening to what we are saying. You are not listening to the community. You are not listening to our anguish as a community. You are listening to the people who are bringing in the money. The traffic will affect both Jurupa Hills High School and Fontana High School. There are a lot of trucks surrounding students driving to school. Diesel exhaust is bad.”
Elizabeth Sena said the way the residential property next to the school was being converted to industrially zoned land to be subsumed into the Southwest Industrial Park Specific Plan was “another example of how the city creates its own rules to play by as it continues to expand SWIP east each time, to your guy’s convenience.”
Sena said that the construction of further warehousing was inimical to the interest of the community, particularly while more than 40 percent of the city’s warehouses are out of compliance with the Air Quality Management District’s rule relating to indirect sources of air pollution.
“If that land is already zoned residential, build houses on it,” Sena said. “Don’t rezone it.”
Jennifer Cardenas said the city was “literally impacting children daily by having these warehouses.”
Stacy Ramos told the city council, “I am definitely opposed to this project. I have a huge concern about a warehouse being built right next to a high school. The situation is you have idling trucks. Trucks are going to idle, so that means you have the emissions that’s going to affect the kids as they are in their sports and everything outside.”
Ramos took issue with the consideration that Acacia has not specified tenants for any of the buildings.
“The fact that we don’t know what’s going to go in there is really troubling because we don’t know how to accurately account for the traffic and what could be idling and what could not be idling,” she said.
Joaquin Castillejos again addressed the council.
“This project will put into endangerment the community that is surrounding the area and the students who are going to school, parents who are dropping them off,” Castillejos said. “This will increase the traffic, increase the truck pollution in an area that has already been burdened by dozens of warehouses surrounding it, a warehouse already on the northern part of the school. Adding three warehouses to the south will only convert this area to industrial, even though the surrounding area is different zoning. Just converting one area into industrial is already converting the rest of the area to industrial zoning.”
Warren was triumphant. Sandoval, who has consistently been the single personage on the council since he was first elected in 2012 to consistently stand in opposition to warehouse construction, found himself isolated as he endeavored to explore reasons against approving Acacia Real Estate Group’s proposal. He pressed staff on whether approving the project would compromise the city’s commitment to keep Santa Ana Avenue as a non-truck route and then questioned whether continuing to restrict Santa Ana Avenue from bearing truck traffic with the three warehouses in place would then entail hazardous truck traffic backups on Oleander and Citrus avenues. When that brought a response indicating no such problems were anticipated, he contradicted that contention, saying he drove that area frequently and that it was his observation a dangerous situation would ensue with the advent of the warehouses. Sandoval sought clarification on why it was that the three projects were being resubmitted for consideration following the council’s July decision to reject them. He was told that the buildings were “modified [and] shifted, the truck drive hours were shifted” and that the buffer between the warehouses and the school was intensified. Whatever the changes, Sandoval inquired whether the project yet stood as a “warehouse next to a school.” The staff response was an acknowledgement that was the case.
Nevertheless, Warren was able to persist with a redo of the July vote and succeed in peeling Garcia and Roberts away from the stand they had taken little more than four months before in large measure because of the assistance Enamorado and his crew provided her.
The confluence of the item relating to the impound fee and the votes/public hearings on the seven land use items, including the four warehouse projects on the same agenda was a calculated and precisely calibrated ploy on the mayor’s part. That the impound fee item appeared on the same agenda to be resolved at the same meeting was not accidental. Based on what had occurred on October 24, Warren knew that Enamorado and his compañeros would again be present at the November 12 meeting if it dealt with any further or accompanying aspect of the sidewalk vendor regulation ordinance. Just as Warren anticipated, those forces arrayed against the warehouse projects embraced the presence of Enamorado and his disciples, perceiving them as added numbers in support of their cause. True to form, when the Enamarados engaged in their patented accusations of racism, use of profanity, extreme disrespect of authority, disruptive activity, threats and intimidation of those expressing an opposite viewpoint, topped with pointed personal attacks, it made it easy for Warren to stake a claim to the moral high ground and corral any wayward members of her coalition and influence them to stay the course in supporting the path to economic expansion that has been the foundation of her pro-logistics facility policy for the last 13 years.
Somewhat belatedly, several of those involved in the anti-warehouse coalition came to recognize that the impromptu association they had forged with Enamorado and his vatos and vecinas was counterproductive. Three women addressing the council considered it necessary to make the point that the Hispanic community in Fontana is peaceful, tranquil and non-threatening. The application of Enamarado’s aggressive tactics provided the rationale for Warren, Cothran, Roberts and Garcia to discount such assertions and the logic accompanying it.
If there had been any prospect that Sandoval could maintain his hold on the improbable alliance he had assembled in July involving Roberts and Garcia to block Acacia Real Estate Group’s three warehouses next to Jurupa Hills High School, it came to an end right there. Enamorado’s gambit of mounting a second protest in the neighborhood immediately surrounding Warren’s home, replete with bullhorns at 10 p.m. was icing on the cake, garnering for the mayor even further sympathy from her council colleagues. That was all she needed to return Roberts and Garcia to the reservation and keep them there.
For the record, the imposition of the $232 impound fee on vendors seeking to have their merchandise returned passed by a vote of 4-to-1, with Warren, Roberts, Cothran and Garcia prevailing and Sandoval dissenting; approval of the Merril Land Use Redesignation passed by a vote of 4-to-1, with Warren, Roberts, Cothran and Garcia prevailing and Sandoval dissenting; the apartment complex project at Foothill Blvd. and Banana Avenue passed unanimously; approval of the Poplar South Distribution Center Project passed by a vote of 4-to-1, with Warren, Roberts, Cothran and Garcia prevailing and Sandoval dissenting; approval of the Arrow and Tokay Land Use Redesignation passed by a vote of 4-to-1, with Warren, Roberts, Cothran and Garcia prevailing and Sandoval dissenting; and the vote to approve the zone change on the 29.4 acres adjacent to Jurupa Hills High School from residential to general industrial zoning and approve the three warehouses on that property passed by a vote of 4-to-1, with Warren, Roberts, Cothran and Garcia prevailing and Sandoval dissenting.
Over the years, many have questioned or openly wondered at Warren’s defiance of the odds and staying power, from her appointment to the city council in 2002, to her election to the same position in 2004 and reelection in 2008, her election as mayor in 2010, and reelection as mayor in 2014, 2018 and 2022, her remaining in office as a Republican leader of a GOP coalition in sea of Democrats through one challenge and adversity after another. The simple truth, to the chagrin of hundreds, indeed thousands of her own constituents and those who have futilely over the years hoped for or worked directly or indirectly toward her demise is she is a damn good politician, and at her best and most creative while under fire.
Warren’s skill as a politician in control has never been more in evidence than in her clash with the overmatched activist Enamorado and those who had the misfortune to join forces with him over the last month. The scorecard at the end of their battle – extending to the original sidewalk vendor regulation ordinance, the hiring of 4Leaf Inc., the addition of the impound fee provision to the ordinance, the land use redesignation on Arrow and Tokay, the land use redesignation on Merrill, the approval of the conversion of single family residential land into an apartment complex at Banana and Foothill, the approval of the Poplar warehouse and the approval of all three warehouses next to Jurupa Hills High School – stands at Warren, her team and their allies: 9 Enamarado, his team and their allies: 0.
Warren was able to take all the resentment, anger, vitriol and hate along with all the shots, cheap and legitimate, true and false and with a series of political jiu-jitsu moves, shift all the force against her into momentum in favor of her positions.
By Mark Gutglueck