An Inland Assembly member wants to put some distance between warehouses and people.
Legislation from Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-Colton, requires local governments, when approving new logistics projects of 100,000 square feet or more, to impose a 1,000-foot buffer between those projects and homes, schools, health care centers, playgrounds and other places especially at risk from air pollution blamed on warehouse-bound diesel trucks.
AB 2840 would also require a “skilled and trained workforce” as defined by the state Public Contract Code to build warehouses. Local residents — the bill doesn’t define who qualifies as local — also would be entitled to a set percentage of jobs once the warehouse opens.
The California Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill “because it exacerbates California’s existing supply chain problems,” Adam Regele, CalChamber senior policy advocate, said via email.
The bill ignores “California’s robust environmental laws and regulations … (that) mitigate all significant impacts,” Regele said, adding that the state “needs more warehouses … to help alleviate critical supply chain issues” and that AB 2840 is inconsistent with an executive order “which emphasizes that the health of supply and distribution chains across California is a matter of vital statewide importance.”
With flat, vacant, cheap land, a blue-collar workforce and proximity to freeways, rail lines and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the Inland Empire is ground zero for an ongoing logistics boom that employs thousands and filled the region with mega-warehouses, often 1 million square feet or larger.
With those jobs come concerns about pollution from warehouse-filling diesel trucks in an area notorious for poor air quality. The boom shows no sign of slowing, and warehouses are starting to encroach on residential areas as developers with vacant land seek to profit from the demand for more logistics space.
Reyes, whose district includes Bloomington, Colton, Grand Terrace, Fontana, Muscoy, Rialto and part of San Bernardino, acknowledges the logistic industry’s economic benefits.
“You can be a neighbor, but we want you to be a good neighbor,” Reyes said by phone. “It isn’t being a good neighbor if you’re driving your diesel trucks through neighborhoods where these children are.”
Reyes said she represents communities “where warehouses are coming up too close to (people), too close to the children. I feel it’s my responsibility to bring this issue up with my colleagues and explain why we need better protections.”
Six of eight schools in Bloomington are or will be located close to a warehouse, Reyes added.
“The effect on our small children — we’re going to feel already from those who are located there. But as (the logistics industry) expands, there’s nothing good that can come from that.”
Reyes added she’s offering her bill because, in her view, local governments aren’t requiring their own buffers.
Places of worship, day care centers, prisons and jails are among the places covered by Reyes’ 1,000-foot buffer. The bill also would apply to existing warehouses that expand to 100,000 square feet or larger.
Reyes said the buffer is set at 1,000 feet because that’s what the state attorney general’s office recommended. Former Attorney General Xavier Becerra suggested a 1,000-foot setback in a series of mitigation measures his office proposed for warehouses.
It’s not the first time that government has tried to widen the gap between new warehouses and the public. 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 truck bays and loading docks and homes.
The final version of that policy allowed supervisors to choose whether to enforce it in their districts. Currently, Supervisor Kevin Jeffries enforces the policy in his district, which includes most of Riverside, Lake Elsinore, Wildomar and Canyon Lake, according to county spokesperson Yoaska Machado.
Supervisor Chuck Washington, who represents Temecula, Murrieta, Hemet and San Jacinto, also enforces the policy, according to Joseph Pradetto, Washington’s chief of staff. The policy is not enforced in Supervisor V. Manuel Perez’s district covering the Coachella Valley, Machado said.
It’s not clear whether the policy is used in Supervisor Karen Spiegel’s district — Corona, Norco, Eastvale, Jurupa Valley and part of Riverside — or Supervisor Jeff Hewitt’s district, which covers the San Gorgonio Pass, Moreno Valley, Perris and Menifee.
Reyes’ bill is “exactly what I wanted our county to adopt as our standard for large warehouse (facilities),” Jeffries said via email. “It’s not necessarily the size of the building that matters. It’s really the number of tractor-trailer rigs that will utilize the site, and/or the number of delivery bays that the building will have.”
San Bernardino County “is monitoring the bill but has not decided whether to take a position,” county spokesperson David Wert said via email.
If passed, Reyes’ bill would be the latest effort by Sacramento to rein in the logistics industry. Last September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill empowering warehouse workers like those in Amazon facilities to fight production quotas that critics say endanger workers and force them to skip bathroom breaks.
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.
Reyes said she expects her bill will be heard by an Assembly committee in the next few weeks.