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Fontana And The State Attorney General Have Reached An Agreement Over A Warehouse Project In A Low-Income Community

The settlement, according to State Attorney General Rob Bonta, is “unique” in how it solves environmental inequities.

Fontana and state Attorney General Rob Bonta have reached an agreement in a lawsuit filed last summer challenging the city’s approval of a 206,000-square-foot warehouse near Jurupa Hills High School at Slover and Oleander avenues.

Bonta termed the settlement “unique” in how it addresses environmental inequalities in warehouse construction – not only in the Inland Empire – at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, April 18.

The agreement announced Monday, for example, required Fontana, which has approved dozens of warehouses in the southern part of town in recent years, to recently adopt “the most stringent warehouse ordinance in the state with dozens of new requirements for warehouse projects” and seek City Council approval.

Bonta, who was flanked by community activists Mary Ann Ruiz, chair of the Sierra Club San Gorgonio Chapter, and Liz Sena, a South Fontana resident and organizer of the South Fontana Concerned Citizens Coalition, described the agreement as “a win for everyone.”

“One individual, one working mom and a community leader from Fontana can better the lives not just in her neighborhood, her community, but with this new model, for millions of people in California,” Bonta said.

Fontana officials said in a statement released Monday that “air quality and prudent development have long been a focus of the Fontana City Council.” The council recently passed the Industrial Commerce Center Sustainability Criteria Ordinance, which “ensures that any industrial growth inside the city surpasses all federal and state environmental standards for warehouses and freight operations,” according to the council members.

“We agree with Attorney General Bonta, and this act should serve as a model for other municipal governments across the state,” Mayor Acquanetta Warren said in a statement.

“We’re ecstatic to be leading the way once more.”

The Slover and Oleander Warehouse Facility Project will be erected across the street from a low-income area, close to Citrus and Jurupa Hills high schools, as well as Fontana Adult School.

When round-the-clock operations commence, the facility’s 22 truck doors are estimated to generate around 114 daily truck trips.

The state’s complaint, filed in July in San Bernardino Superior Court, claimed that Fontana officials erred in finding that the warehouse would have no significant environmental impacts on the city when they dismissed a community-led appeal and allowed the development a month earlier.

The Sierra Club, a local environmental justice organization, has filed a lawsuit in response to the judgment.

The deal announced Monday would end both claims once it is approved by the court.

Duke Realty, an Indianapolis-based developer, must implement significant mitigation measures both during and after construction to minimize the project’s impact on the local neighborhood as a result of the agreement. According to Bonta, the corporation must also deposit $210,000 into a community benefits fund, with $160,000 set aside for the purchase of top-rated air filters for up to 1,750 adjacent households over the course of five years.

The remaining $50,000, according to Bonta, would be used to improve landscaping buffers along Jurupa Hills High’s property border.

“Today is a fantastic day for Fontana and its citizens,” Sena remarked on Monday. “It is the culmination of our community’s efforts to protect our city’s most valuable resource, our children.”

“We are encouraged by the results that have come from this daring and just litigation,” Sena continued, “even though we are concerned that the warehouse involved in this lawsuit will proceed forward, being built less than 100 feet from a high school.”

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has announced a process to revise its California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, guidance for analyzing cumulative air quality impacts, in addition to the ordinance adopted by Fontana and the mitigation measures to be followed by Duke Realty, according to Bonta.

According to Bonta, such a modification would oblige communities to consider existing pollution burdens linked with local pollution sources when considering developments in disadvantaged regions, particularly warehouses. This will motivate city officials to seek out other locations for such projects, reducing the negative effects on residents’ health.

“I’m so inspired by Liz and a community rising up to call out injustice, put out the call for change, to be aspirational about wanting something better, something more, something different and making it happen, through courage and resilience, organization and struggle,” Bonta said.

“It inspired us, and we’re proud to be a part of it here.”

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