Despite heavy opposition from some local residents, environmental groups, and state and municipal elected officials, the Fontana City Council approved on March 12 a huge industrial business park to be built in the southeastern corner of the city.
After a two-hour discussion period, the City Council voted 3-1 to side with the applicant in changing the zoning designation from residential to light industrial, thereby allowing the controversial West Valley Logistics Center to move forward.
Mayor Acquanetta Warren and Councilmembers Jesse Armendarez and Phillip Cothran voted in favor of the project, and Councilmember Jesse Sandoval cast the no vote. Councilmember John Roberts recused himself because he owns property next to where the project will be located.
The West Valley Logistics Center would include seven high cube warehouses for a total space of 3.4 million square feet. It borders the unincorporated county area of Bloomington on the east and the city of Jurupa Valley on the south.
Warren acknowledged the concerns that were voiced by some residents, but said that the project is good for Fontana and the entire region because it will bring in thousands of local jobs.
"We care about how our community looks and we care about the people who live in our community," Warren said.
Armendarez said: “Every vote I take, I do it thinking about the future of Fontana. We do listen to you; you may not like my decision, but we do listen."
Cothran said he supports bringing jobs to Fontana and that the sites that have already been built in the area house manufacturing jobs which benefit the entire community.
The project was strongly supported by several members of Hod Carriers and Laborers Local 783, based in San Bernardino, who expressed confidence that the West Valley Logistics Center would produce good paying jobs that are located close to their homes. The union includes about 200 members who live in Fontana.
Project applicants said the site will create about 4,000 construction jobs during an 18- to 24-month period, and an additional 2,000 jobs once the warehouses are running.
Sandoval argued that those are temporary jobs, and most of the warehouse jobs are low-paying positions managed in great part by staffing agencies.
Sandoval also expressed concern about the future of nearby property owners and school sites, which could see a reduction in the student population, and could be heavily impacted by noise, traffic and pollution created by the warehouses.
The West Valley Logistics Center will be built on a site originally planned for a residential project that would have created 1,154 homes, an elementary school and private and joint-use recreational facilities, said the staff report.
Ericka Flores, an organizer with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), said the zoning change will cause public hazards due to heavy traffic and health risks due to more pollution.
Andrea Vidaurre, a policy analyst at CCAEJ, added that the project is irrational because it fails to provide a robust analysis of its land use compatibility.
“The West Valley Logistics Center will bring more than 6,000 vehicle trips, 2,000 of which will be diesel trucks. According to the Department of Transportation, heavy duty vehicles emit up to five times the amount of carbon monoxide per mile versus a light-duty vehicle,” said Vidaurre in a letter opposing the project. “The project will certainly help to worsen the pre-existing pollution in the bordering communities of Bloomington, Fontana, and Jurupa Valley by adding approximately 2,000 more vehicle trips daily."
An opposition letter signed by Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes, Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez, and State Sen. Connie Leyva claimed that this project’s vicinity to sensitive communities will negatively impact the quality of life of residents throughout the region through increased air pollution, noise and traffic congestion.
“The Fontana Planning Commission staff recommended denying the West Valley Logistics Center as the environmental analysis shows that it have significant and unavoidable impacts on traffic and air quality. Given the environmental injustices faced by this community, we request that the City of Fontana reconsider this project,” read the letter.
In fact, earlier this year staff recommended that the Planning Commission deny construction of this project; however, the commission approved it and forwarded it to the City Council with the recommendation that it should not be approved until street improvements consistent with mitigation measures have been agreed to by various jurisdictions.
Representatives from San Bernardino County, Bloomington and Jurupa Valley voiced their opposition to the project. The applicant and county have met several times, but no agreement has been reached regarding the required mitigation identified in the final environmental report.
"We want to work with everyone," said Warren, who said that the city is putting conditions on the project that will benefit the residents who live in the area.
"We want to be good neighbors to our brothers and sisters in Bloomington," she added.
Several warehouses have been built in Fontana in recent years. Warren said that many residents are pleased with the warehouses, but some residents disagree.