Legislation that would have created buffer zones around new logistics projects is on hold.
First introduced in February by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-Colton, Assembly Bill 2840 would have required the counties of Riverside and San Bernardino, and the city and town governments there, to impose a 1,000-foot buffer between logistics centers larger than 100,000 square feet and homes, schools, day care centers, playgrounds, health care centers and other places especially at risk from air pollution blamed on warehouse-bound diesel trucks.
It also would have required a “skilled and trained workforce,” as defined by the state’s Public Contract Code, to build warehouses. Local residents also would have been entitled to a set percentage of jobs at a new warehouse.
But that’s all on hold for now.
“Today, I made the difficult decision to hold AB 2840 in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee,” Reyes wrote in a news release Tuesday, July 5.
AB 2840 was “specifically tailored to Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, given the proliferation of warehouses that we’ve seen in the Inland Empire, and our dubious status as having some of the poorest air quality in the country,” Reyes wrote.
Both San Bernardino and Riverside counties get an F on the American Lung Association’s 2022 State of the Air report card for both high ozone days and particle pollution, as did Los Angeles and Orange counties. Air pollution, the association warns, increases the risk of premature birth, causing or worsening lung and heart disease and shortens lives.
Once known as the “Orange Empire” for the miles of orange orchards that stretched across the region for the first half of the 20th century, today, the Inland Empire is now dominated by the logistics industry:
The appetite for warehouse expansion accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic as consumers turned to online retailers amid government and business shutdowns. In 2020, the top 500 North American retailers generated $849.5 billion in online sales, up 45.3% from 2019 and the biggest jump since 2006, Forbes reported.
AB 2840 had passed through the state Assembly’s local government and appropriations committees this spring and passed the full Assembly on May 26.
But it faced pushback from the business community. The California Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, with some saying AB 2840 would exacerbate the state’s existing supply chain problems while ignoring existing environmental laws and regulations designed to mitigate air pollution issues.
Inland Empire economist John Husing warned that, if AB 2840 became law, “the poorest among us” would lose access to warehouse jobs.
On Tuesday, Reyes said the goal was “never to stop development,” noting she had rejected a proposed amendment of a one-year moratorium on warehouse development in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
The bill stalled out in the state Senate committee on government and finance. Reyes intends to retool and try again in future.
“We are not done,” she wrote. “I will continue to work on this issue and welcome all stakeholders to the table to work together, because nothing is more important than the health and safety of our community. This includes our children, who depend on us to lead even if it costs a little more.”
Reyes may well get another chance with this bill next term: She won 57% of the vote in the June 7 primary and will face Republican Sheela Stark, who received 39.6% of the primary vote, in the November election for the the 50th Assembly District
Redrawn following December’s redistricting, the 50th District includes parts of San Bernardino County, including all of Loma Linda and Colton, and parts of Fontana, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Rialto and San Bernardino.
Reyes is hardly the first California politician to push back against the rising number of warehouses.
In 2019, Newsom signed legislation from Assembly Member Jose Medina, D-Riverside, requiring local governments to disclose details about warehouse projects that get tax breaks of $100,000 or more.
And in September 2021, California passed a law empowering warehouse workers such as those in Amazon facilities to fight production quotas that critics say endanger workers and force them to skip bathroom breaks.