Mayor Acquanetta Warren responded to an outpour of opposition to ongoing warehouse development in a letter to the editor on Nov. 27, 2020.
Unsurprisingly, she failed to meaningfully respond to residents' growing concerns about building warehouses next to our homes and our children's schools, as well as the harmful environmental impacts that are exacerbating in the city of Fontana, surrounding communities, and damaging our children's health.
In her response, Mayor Warren affirmed to the community that she has opted for a "status-quo" approach to economic investment and advancement opportunities, even though residents want and have demanded better.
Mayor Warren stated that "warehousing and logistics operations in our city provide nearly 12,000 jobs," but, as always, she fails to cite sources and the average salary. Per indeed, an average warehouse worker earns $33,028 annually, which is $13.54 an hour and $4,875 in overtime.
Fontanans deserve good jobs that pay livable wages, allowing our families to afford to live in this city. Instead, residents are now working longer and further away from their families while unable to afford a Fontana home that is on average $452,093 (Zillow) or rent a 794 sq. ft. apartment at $1,376 (RentCafe). Unfortunately, this forces people in need into settling for low-wage, overburdened, and under-protected jobs, such as warehouses generally provide. This cycle only makes developers and corporations wealthier while keeping frontline communities barely surviving and struggling to breathe clean air.
Additionally, Mayor Warren listed "maintaining a healthy community" and promoting "racial equity" as a priority for the city. She failed to refute that even a small increase in chronic exposure to particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) significantly increases COVID-19 death rates, according to a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study.
Moreover, the top two cities for COVID-19 cases and deaths are San Bernardino and Fontana. Both cities have a majority Hispanic/Latino population, 66 percent, 69 percent, and 13.4 percent and 8.6 percent respective Black population. This fact is critical as Black and Brown communities have disproportionately higher mortality rates, statistically speaking. Considering Fontana is a widespread risk community per California's newly enacted regional stay-at-home order, and San Bernardino County is in the most restrictive purple tier, Mayor Warren's actions are nothing short of irresponsible.
Someone who advocates for additional pollution is subjecting Fontana families to environmental racism and violence, considering Fontana has reported 17,743 COVID-19 cases and 136 deaths (as of Dec. 16). Most notably, and COVID-19 aside, preliminary research published on June 23, 2020, in the Science of the Total Environment tells us, "long-term exposure to PM2.5 develops a chronic inflammatory stimulus, especially in children and unhealthy populations, while a short-term PM2.5 exposure may also increase susceptibility to infections, because the particulate pollution damages human airways, potentially facilitating viral infections.
Here are the cases of children per school district that are within Fontana sphere of influence (as of Dec. 15):
• Colton Joint Unified (1,163)
• Chaffey Joint Union (2,563)
• Etiwanda (509)
• Fontana Unified (1,873)
• Rialto Unified (1,306)
One thing is clear, Fontana residents have banded together to develop a grander vision for Fontana free from industry, harmful pollutants and focused on building a better Fontana for future generations.
Fontana families are taking their community back from outside developers and special interests; I believe they deserve a say in the design of their backyards and their futures, period.
Kareem Gongora, MA
Member, California State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners
Member, San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools (SBCSS) Committee on School District Organization, Fifth District