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California Bill to Restrict Warehouse Development Fails

BY SCOTT DONALD, CMI, IRVINE, JUNE 2022

Proposed legislation aimed at limiting where new warehouse developments can be built in California’s Inland Empire is dead.

 

The measure, that opponents called an anti-warehouse bill, passed a third and final reading in the California Assembly. It failed to advance out of committee in the State Senate.

 

Assembly Bill 2840

 

AB 2840 required the County of Riverside, the County of San Bernardino, and any of the cities within those counties to impose a 1,000 foot buffer zone between new logistics projects of 100,000 square feet or more and homes, schools, playgrounds, healthcare centers, churches and other places especially at risk from air pollution created by diesel trucks. By imposing new requirements on local agencies, the bill would have imposed a state-mandated local program.

 

The legislation also required applicants seeking to develop logistics properties to develop a written construction careers agreement that specifies both of the following:

 

a) All construction work, repairs and renovations for the qualifying logistics use project will be performed by a skilled and trained workforce, as defined in the Public Contracts Code.

 

b) A set percentage of jobs created by projects will go to local residents.

 

Support

 

The California Nurses Association supported the legislation, explaining that "Warehousing activities, including the transport and storage of goods, results in large amounts of pollution, specifically Nitrous Oxide (NOx) and Carbon Dioxide emissions. In the south coast region, the goods movement is associated with 52% of all NOx emissions, and the energy consumption needed to operate a warehouse result in a considerable amount of CO2 emissions.”

 

“These pollution-producing warehouses are disproportionately located in low-income and minority neighborhoods; where the proximity of diesel trucks and warehousing activities threatens the health, safety, and overall quality of life to the communities living and working near busy roads and logistics facilities."

 

Opposition

 

The California Chamber of Commerce wrote in opposition, "AB 2840 is an extreme policy that casts aside The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), one of the most protective environmental laws in the nation, and all other environmental laws and regulations in California that ensure responsible development, in favor of a wholesale development ban.”

 

“Existing laws and regulations already require qualifying logistics use projects and warehouses to comply with a plethora of applicable local, state, and federal environmental laws, such as the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, CARB and Regional AQMD rules and regulations, uniform building codes, fire codes, and of course CEQA, which ensures any potential impacts like increased traffic, noise or air impacts are fully disclosed and mitigated."

 

Other Cities Chime In

 

Warehouse moratoriums have come up for vote at numerous cities across the Inland Empire. In Redlands, the City Council voted this month to approve an urgency ordinance that temporarily bans non-housing projects in a part of the city zoned for warehouse and industrial space. Redlands is currently rezoning the area. The council argued that new warehouse development could interfere with much-needed housing that could occupy the same part of town.

 

Officials in Colton enacted a temporary pause on warehouse development in order to further evaluate how warehouses are impacting land use, traffic, local roads, and environmental and public health. After initially approving a 45-day moratorium last May, the City Council decided to extend it.

 

In January, the Fontana City Council approved an amendment to the city’s municipal code to include the "Industrial Commerce Centers Sustainability Standards." The amendment adds environmental and building requirements that reach beyond the current federal, state, and regional requirements in an effort to reduce air pollution attributable to industrial development.

 

Not a New Idea

 

The move to widen the gap between new warehouses and the public has been going on for several years. In 2019, Riverside County supervisors voted 3-2 to enact a Good Neighbor Policy for unincorporated areas that requires a 300-foot buffer between warehouse loading docks and homes.

 

In January 2021, Jurupa Valley voted to put a moratorium on any project that would add to the area’s existing truck-related pollution issues. Over the following months, officials studied the issue and ultimately adopted what’s referred to as a "truck-intensive use ordinance" that targets high truck volume rather than warehouse development.

 

Other Problems to Solve

 

In addition to concerns over pollution, officials are also worried that the Inland Empire lacks the electricity to power new warehouse developments.

 

Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries told The Riverside Press-Enterprise that Southern California Edison doesn’t have enough wattage to supply millions of square feet of warehouse space planned along a 15-mile stretch of the 215 Freeway from March Air Reserve Base to Menifee. Jeffries said it could be two years before more power is available.

 

The power company neither confirmed nor denied the allegation it was short on power, the newspaper reported. Nor did it respond to Jeffries’ assertion that Edison failed to keep the county in the loop about its ability to supply power to new warehouses.