Starting In May

The City of Fontana and its city council in particular were blasted for their use of Orwellian language recently as they sought to avoid the negative connotations associated with the intensive warehouse development that has occurred in the city over the past decade-and-a-half.

In the time since Acquanetta Warren was elected Fontana mayor in 2010, the city has been so aggressive in building warehouses that she has come to be known by those who both oppose and favor warehouse development as “Warehouse Warren.” Fontana’s favoring of that land use has occurred in the larger context of a general accommodation of logistics facilities within the Inland Empire and San Bernardino County, located as they are along the 10, 210 and 215 freeways and the Union Pacific/Santa Fe/Burlington Northern railroad line. Indeed, Southern California involves large port facilities in San Pedro and Long Beach that land massive amounts of merchandise from manufacturers in Asia brought across the Pacific Ocean by ship.
There is more than 940 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. At present among cities in San Bernardino County, Fontana stands behind only Ontario in terms of warehouse space. Fontana is followed by Chino, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Redlands and Rialto.

Fontana, led by Warren, is gunning to surpass Ontario in this regard. Citing Fontana’s location, she says her city is a logical host for warehouses and distribution centers. She has argued that given the largely blue collar populace of Fontana and the consideration that approaching 30 percent of the parents of children attending Fontana schools either do not speak, or lack proficiency in, the English language, the best that can be done for a significant percentage of those who graduate from or drop out of Fontana’s high schools is to provide them with jobs such as those available in warehouses, which do not demand skilled laborers. Between 2016 and 2021, Fontana approved more than 30 warehouses totaling approximately 16 million square feet in southern Fontana alone.
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 Fontana in particular, an increasingly vocal element of the community has decried the relatively poor pay and benefits provided to those who work in the logistics facilities, and the degree to which warehouse operators not only exploit those who work there but victimize nearby residents with their use of 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 the face of that, Warren maintained that the building of warehouses constitutes easy “economic advancement” for the Fontana community, which allows those with capital to acquire or tie up property and quickly convert the land into warehouses consisting of tilt-up buildings, thereby generating fast money and investment in the local economy.
In 2021, with the city council composed exactly as it is now, the city council voted 4-1, with Sandoval being the lone dissenting vote, in favor of placing a 206,000-square-foot warehouse on the north side of Jurupa Hills High School at the corner of Slover and Oleander avenues. After word reached California Attorney General Rob Bonta about that action, he sued Fontana over its affinity for warehouses.
As part of an effort to appease those objecting to the proliferation of warehousing in the city, Warren and her council allies adopted the so-called Industrial Commerce Center Sustainability Standards Ordinance, which city officials said offered an assurance logistics facilities to be built in the city in the future would meet or exceed “all federal and state environmental standards for warehouses and freight operations.” The city settled the suit brought by Bonta with an agreement that it would apply greater regulation of the construction of logistics facilities in the city of 214,307.
Environmentalists and community activists, however, saw what Warren and her cohorts were doing as merely engaging in lip service and a cynical manipulation of their governmental authority to continue to cater to the real estate industry, land speculators and developers that were heavily investing in Warren’s political career and her political machine. They decried the fashion in which she and the ruling council coalition she controlled nonchalantly imposed more warehouses on the neighborhoods at the city’s south end.

In an effort to silence her critics or at least reduce their volume and stridency, Warren and the city she heads have sought to avoid the use of the term warehouse.

This became evident on April 9, when the city council took up consideration of what previously were referred to as warehouses. On the council’s agenda were three general plan amendments, two of which pertained to the construction of what the city euphemistically referred to as two separate “industrial commerce center buildings.” The other general plan amendment involved a residential project.

One of the proposals, by the applicant MIG, Inc.,  was for to construct a 355,995-square-foot warehouse building the Citrus and Boyle Industrial Commerce Center on 15.8 gross acres located north of Slover Avenue, south of Boyle Avenue, and east of Citrus Avenue at the southern end of the city.

MIG sought a general plan amendment, zone change, tentative parcel map and design review to proceed with the proposal.

Labor unions representing construction workers supported the proposal. They made sure to refer to it as a commerce center.

Two local residents residing near the project site complained about not being provided with timely notification of the proposal.

The council supported the project, which its supporters said would replace existing hazards and blight in the area, including abandoned buildings and boarded-up homes, which are beset with homeless squatters and crime.

Further approval was given to Chase Partners’ proposed Fontana Business Center 3, located on the east side of Juniper Avenue and south of Santa Ana Avenue, also in southern Fontana.

The project required the granting of a general plan amendment, zone change, specific plan amendment, tentative parcel map, and administrative site plan to construct a 33,585-square-foot industrial commerce building on a 1.6 acre-site.

There was no opposition to the project.

With Councilman Jesse Sandoval absent, the council voted 4-to-0 to approve both of the warehouse projects and the residential undertaking, the Monte Vista subdivision, which will entail 53 single-family residential units between Poplar Avenue and Catawba Avenue, south of Orchid Avenue.

During the evening’s discussion of the “industrial commerce center buildings,” the term warehouse was not used.

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