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Inland Empire Residents Battle Warehouse Growth in Courts

By: Manny Otiko, IVN

For better or worse, the Inland Empire (IE) is known as a warehouse hub. According to a Reuters story, there are so many warehouses here you can see them from space. Online retailing giant Amazon has 10 warehouses across the Inland Empire. This includes cities such as Moreno Valley, Fontana, San Bernardino, and Ontario. In addition, several cities have multiple Amazon warehouses. According to Reuters, the sprawl includes 1.6 billion square feet of space. 

And the warehouse market is still hot. According to news reports, a warehouse in Moreno Valley which was built last year recently resold for a profit of about $50 million. 

But there is a downside to the warehousing boom. Cities in the Inland Empire have some of the dirtiest air in the entire country. According to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report, San Bernardino and Riverside counties ranked first and second respectively in ozone pollution.

 Also, residents have to deal with huge trucks running up and down their streets at all times of the day. 

And there’s also the visual blight. Many residents moved to the IE to have views of the mountains. Those views are now blocked by huge warehouses. 

Inland Empire residents are beginning to fight back against warehousing. For example, in Moreno Valley, residents have protested a huge warehouse development project planned by the city. 

And they are taking the fight to the courts. 

According to a lawsuit filed by a local chapter of the Sierra Club, the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act in approving its 2021 General Plan. 

The lawsuit states “the environmental impact also failed to adequately disclose all mitigating the projects potential due to create inequality for city residents throughout the South Coast Air Basin. Even though the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) disclosure that the city is already burdened by air pollution, and that the project would only worsen pollution the city, the EIR includes no mitigation measures to address those foreseeable environment impacts.” 

State Attorney General Rob Bonta has also joined the fight against the Moreno Valley project. 

“Moreno Valley should be working to address existing environmental inequities in the city’s western region. Instead, its 2040 General Plan exacerbates them,” said Bonta in a press release. “Communities in Moreno Valley experience some of the highest levels of air pollution in the state. We’re intervening today so that those communities do not continue to bear the brunt of poor land use decisions that site warehouses outside their doors. At the California Department of Justice, we’re fighting day in and day out for communities who live at the intersection of poverty and pollution. Economic development and environmental justice are not mutually exclusive, and we’re committed to helping local governments find a sustainable path forward.”  

Earlier in the year, Bonta won a settlement against the city of Fontana. Bonta’s lawsuit claimed the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act in approving the Slover and Oleander warehouse project. 

According to a press release, the city of Fontana adopted an ordinance that requires more stringent environmental standards in future warehouse projects. 

“For years, warehouse development in Fontana went unchecked, and it’s our most vulnerable communities that have paid the price,” said Bonta. “South Fontana residents shouldn’t have to choose between economic opportunity and clean air. They deserve both. Today’s settlement demonstrates how innovative solutions can be used to address environmental injustices, without hindering development.”

The Inland Valley News coverage of local news in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California. 

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