City of Fontana

The City of Fontana has reached a settlement with California Attorney General Rob Bonta regarding a warehouse project in southern Fontana.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta on April 18 announced a settlement with the City of Fontana in regard to a controversial warehouse project located next to Jurupa Hills High School.

After the project had been approved by the City Council, Bonta filed a lawsuit last summer.  The settlement will now allow the project to move forward, but with more strict conditions.

Bonta said the settlement, which will have ramifications throughout the state, is designed to protect vulnerable communities from pollution associated with industrial development.

The settlement, once entered by the court, will resolve allegations that the City of Fontana violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in approving the Slover and Oleander warehouse project in southern Fontana.

Developer Duke Realty will be required to adopt substantial mitigation measures to minimize the impacts of the project to the surrounding community.

“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. Because when we build, we must build responsibly.

"Most importantly, the impacts of this settlement are not limited to mitigating the impacts of a single project. As a result of our lawsuit, the City of Fontana has adopted the most stringent environmental standards in California for new warehouse projects. This ordinance should serve as a model for other local governments across the state to build upon. We must ensure that future development does not repeat past mistakes."

During a press conference, Bonta praised Mary Ann Ruiz, chair of the Sierra Club San Gorgonio Chapter, and Elizabeth Sena, an activist from Fontana, for their determination in seeking environmental justice.

"For over a decade, Sierra Club volunteers have been challenging warehouse developments throughout San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, resulting in mitigations and community benefits, including three previous lawsuits in Fontana,” said Ruiz. “The difference this time was the voice of the community, led by Liz Sena and South Fontana Concerned Citizens Coalition, gaining the attention of Attorney General Bonta. We appreciate the partnership and leadership of the AG's office in reaching this agreement to improve the project and set a standard for all future projects in Fontana.”

Sena said she was disappointed that the project will be allowed to proceed, but still was grateful for Bonta's interest in the issue.

“For years, Fontana residents have voiced their concerns regarding the rise of air pollution associated with the increase of warehouse development but have been disregarded,” said Sena. “And for this reason, the South Fontana Concerned Citizens Coalition recognizes Attorney General Bonta’s leadership and partnership in filing a lawsuit against the City of Fontana. The settlement is the first of its kind, and will help protect us by minimizing the impact of future warehouses surrounding our community, where our families live, learn, and work.”

Over the past five years, Fontana has approved several dozen warehouses totaling about 16 million square feet in southern Fontana alone.

The Slover and Oleander warehouse is a 205,000 square-foot project that is located in a low-income neighborhood that suffers from some of the highest pollution levels in all of California, Bonta said.

On July 23, 2021, Bonta filed a lawsuit against Fontana challenging its approval of this project. Bonta argued that the city’s limited environmental review of the project and its failure to appropriately analyze, disclose, and mitigate the project’s environmental impacts violated CEQA. The Sierra Club separately filed a lawsuit, and the April 18 settlement resolves both cases.

Bonta said the settlement required the City of Fontana to adopt the most stringent warehouse ordinance in the state, with dozens of new requirements for warehouse projects in its jurisdiction. These include site designs to keep trucks away from sensitive sites such as schools, hospitals, and day cares, promotion of zero-emission vehicles for on-site operations, landscaped buffers, installation of solar panels to meet 100 percent of energy needs for larger warehouse projects, and use of environmentally friendly building materials.

The ordinance also includes a number of provisions to boost economic development and protect the health and safety of construction laborers, warehouse workers, and truckers, Bonta said.

The settlement also requires Duke Realty to implement new measures to mitigate the Slover and Oleander warehouse project’s environmental impacts on the surrounding community. Mitigation measures include design changes and other protections for nearby residents, reduced emissions from equipment used during construction and operation, solar power, and more.

Duke Realty will also establish a $210,000 community benefit fund that will be used to enhance landscaping buffers at Jurupa Hills High School and to purchase and distribute a five-year supply of high quality air filters to up to 1,750 households in the surrounding community.

In addition, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has announced a process to revise its CEQA guidance for analyzing cumulative air quality impacts. Bonta's lawsuit challenged Fontana’s reliance on SCAQMD’s existing guidance in its approval of the Slover and Oleander project. SCAQMD staff have proposed a new approach for new guidance that would consider existing burdens associated with nearby pollution sources and, where warranted, quantify for the first time cumulative air quality impacts and the effects on human health. Not only would this approach address flaws in its current guidance, it would also consider the impacts of concentrating polluting land uses, like warehouse projects, in disadvantaged areas, thereby encouraging local governments to site future projects in areas where they will have the least impact on human health, Bonta said.

In response to the settlement, the City of Fontana released this statement:

"Air quality and responsible development have long been a priority of the Fontana City Council. In September 2021, the Council commissioned a thorough Air Quality analysis. Following the science, Council adopted the Industrial Commerce Center Sustainability Standards Ordinance, which is one of the most environmentally stringent in California and ensures that all industrial development within the city exceeds all federal and state environmental standards for warehouses and freight operations."

“We are in agreement with Attorney General Bonta -- this ordinance should serve as a model for other local governments across the State. We are proud to be leading the way once again,” said Mayor Acquanetta Warren.

 

 

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