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Moreno Valley Planning Commission Decision Reignites Debate Over World Logistics Center

Benjamin Purper

The Moreno Valley Planning Commission voted to approve an environmental review for the controversial mega-warehouse complex known as the World Logistics Center, reigniting a debate over whether the project should go forward.

More than a hundred speakers attended the Planning Commission meeting. Some spoke in favor of the project and the jobs it would bring to the area, while others opposed the project because of its environmental impacts.

The proposed World Logistics Center, south of the 60 Freeway between Redlands Boulevard and Gilman Springs Road, would cover an area equal to about 700 football fields.

To offset the environmental impacts on this area, developer Highland Fairview is proposing to buy carbon offset credits under California’s cap-and-trade program.

The purchase would offset emissions created by the center and make the project produce zero greenhouse gases – at least, on paper.

Anthony Victoria is with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice.

“Well, it's not zero-emission because offset credits is putting a band-aid on this issue. It's not addressing the issue head-on. And we've seen time and time again that when it comes to making headway on improving air quality, that it cannot be done through cap-and-trade. It needs to be done with concrete measures that actually move forward with addressing our air quality,” Victoria says. 

The new environmental report does lay out a number of ways the center would be environmentally friendly, such as through electric vehicle charging stations, solar panels, and waste recycling. But Victoria says that doesn’t go far enough, and instead calls for electrification.

“It's important that we continue to push for electrification," Victoria says. "The state is moving forward on pushing truck manufacturers to produce more of these trucks so that they can be in our communities so they can actually make sustainable improvements. And so, I think that's the direction that developers need to be taking, if the technology is available, if they are truly committed to the residents of this community, then they need to address the true concerns, right, which I think cap-and-trade doesn't do.”

But others argue that the center is needed because of all the jobs it would bring to the area.

John Husing is an Inland Empire economist. He points out the importance of the logistics industry in creating jobs in the region, and the role the World Logistics Center would play in that.  

“If that site ever becomes available, it'll create a lot of jobs in the valley as the Amazons and Walmarts and Costcos and all the various firms are looking to run - probably a good part of it will be e-commerce because that's the huge driving force in the economy right now,” Husing says.

According to Husing, the logistics sector has grown immensely in the last decade.

“Because so many sectors were shrinking that overwhelmingly it's been the thing that's been supporting what's left of the Inland Empire economy right now. And so, having this land available to be developed would be a huge positive for the overall economy of the Inland Empire,” Husing says.

Husing acknowledges there will be environmental effects from the project, but says that it’s critical to secure those logistics jobs for this area.

“There is obviously the side effect of it does cause trucks to come, and there are people who hate the sector because of trucks, and therefore they don't want this land opened up.  But all that does is make sure that the marginally educated don't have access to the jobs that could be created on that site,” Husing says.

Anthony Victoria says those jobs should be sustainable ones with benefits and livable wages.

Victoria: “We're not against jobs, we're not against growth, but we want sustainable growth that includes everyone, that provides justice to families that for a very long time haven't had any input in regards to decisions that are being made for the community," Victoria says. 

The decision on the World Logistics Center now goes to the Moreno Valley City Council, who will vote on a development agreement with Highland Fairview at an upcoming meeting.

Highland Fairview did not respond to requests for comment.

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