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San Bernardino County Supervisors Ignore Residents, Use 'Flawed' Report To Approve Giant Warehouse

Anthony Victoria / Inland Empire Community News

Some residents of Bloomington say they're devastated after the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors ignored their concerns about health and safety, and used a "greatly flawed" developer's impact report to approve a warehouse in a residential area near a high school.  KVCR's Benjamin Purper has more in this feature report.

I’m at the house of Thomas and Kim Rocha. They live in a cul-de-sac next to 17 acres of empty land in the unincorporated area of Bloomington.

In September, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted to re-zone that lot from residential to commercial to allow for the construction of a 344,000 square foot warehouse.

“It's supposedly 60 feet from my wall, from my back wall,” says Kim Rocha. I asked her how she felt about a warehouse going up so close to her house.

“Devastated. Very devastated, very upset. I'm up against a wall, literally.”

That warehouse, she says, will greatly impact her quality of life. It will bring noise, traffic, lighting, and air quality risks from all those idling trucks.

“We're both senior citizens now - it's almost inevitable we're going to get asthma. You know?”

And there’s also safety concerns with all the big trucks going through that area. The proposed warehouse will be less than 1,000 feet from Bloomington High School.

“The high school's right there. So our high school track team, we have no sidewalks, they practice track and field all through here. Now can you imagine them going in front of diesel trucks and running? And how many kids are on the phone too, and stuff like that? It's an accident waiting to happen, we're really scared about that. It's really not a safe environment to have this many trucks close to kids getting off school.”

Josie Gonzales, the San Bernardino County Supervisor for this district, declined an interview with KVCR.

But proponents of the warehouse argue that it’ll bring jobs and economic growth to this area. But Ericka Flores with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice says that growth shouldn’t come at the cost of residents’ health.

“The ultimate cost oftentimes is people's health, and that is quite frankly priceless. And no amount of money which is really not much if you're going to be getting a job at a warehouse, can counteract that.”

And besides, Flores says, the jobs that will come to the community aren’t necessarily good ones. She points out that these warehouses often hire through agencies that don’t provide benefits to their employees.

“They do not provide a full-time job, the people who are being hired are being hired oftentimes on-call and people don't know if they're going to be working the next day or not. And these are often minimum-wage paying jobs.”

Eric Nilsson is a professor of economics at Cal State San Bernardino. He examined the economic impact report that the developer presented to San Bernardino County, and said it’s full of errors.

“The report itself is greatly flawed, it doesn't explain how it does things, it doesn't say where the data came from sometimes, it presents numbers with no justification, and but however because it generates a large number for economic impact, it undoubtedly pleased the client which is the developer. The client is not the people of San Bernardino."

The report says the warehouse will create about 290 jobs. But Nilsson says the methodology used to reach that number is flawed.

“I can't say what the right numbers are, but I can say that the numbers the report presents are not justified. And it would be a big mistake to use them on the basis of the decision as to whether anything should be built.”

Also, Nilsson says, the jobs the warehouse will bring might not be good jobs.

“Warehouses jobs are typically not very good jobs. And so focusing on just the number of jobs is inappropriate. Because there could be, they could be full time jobs with benefits and pay fairly well and are safe, that's a possibility. Or they could be part-time jobs with no benefits that are poorly paid and are unsafe.”

Again, Supervisor Josie Gonzales declined several attempts by KVCR to get her response to the purported flaws in the economic impact report. Nevertheless, Gonzales and three other supervisors used the report’s conclusions to vote to rezone the residential land to accommodate the massive warehouse.

Former Supervisor James Ramos was the lone dissenter.

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