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Over the past five years, Fontana has been the statewide epicenter of warehouse development near schools, hospitals, and other sensitive sites
LOS ANGELES – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced an innovative settlement with the City of Fontana to protect vulnerable communities from pollution associated with industrial development where they live, work, and go to school. Today’s settlement, once entered by the court, will resolve allegations that the City of Fontana violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in approving the Slover and Oleander warehouse project in south Fontana. As part of today’s settlement, developer Duke Realty will be required to adopt substantial mitigation measures to minimize the impacts of the Slover and Oleander warehouse project to the surrounding community. More broadly, the City of Fontana last week adopted an ordinance, as required by the settlement, setting stringent environmental standards for all future warehouse development in Fontana.
“For years, warehouse development in Fontana went unchecked, and it’s our most vulnerable communities that have paid the price,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “South Fontana residents shouldn’t have to choose between economic opportunity and clean air. They deserve both. Today’s settlement demonstrates how innovative solutions can be used to address environmental injustices, without hindering development. Because when we build, we must build responsibly. Most importantly, the impacts of this settlement are not limited to mitigating the impacts of a single project. As a result of our lawsuit, the City of Fontana has adopted the most stringent environmental standards in California for new warehouse projects. This ordinance should serve as a model for other local governments across the state to build upon. We must ensure that future development does not repeat past mistakes.”
"For over a decade, Sierra Club volunteers have been challenging warehouse developments throughout San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, resulting in mitigations and community benefits, including 3 previous lawsuits in Fontana,” said Mary Ann Ruiz, Chair of the Sierra Club San Gorgonio Chapter. “The difference this time was the voice of the community, led by Liz Sena and South Fontana Concerned Citizens Coalition, gaining the attention of Attorney General Bonta. We appreciate the partnership and leadership of the AG's office in reaching this agreement to improve the project and set a standard for all future projects in Fontana.”
“For years, Fontana residents have voiced their concerns regarding the rise of air pollution associated with the increase of warehouse development but have been disregarded,” said Liz Sena, South Fontana resident and founder of the South Fontana Concerned Citizens Coalition. “And for this reason, The South Fontana Concerned Citizens Coalition recognizes Attorney General Bonta’s leadership and partnership in filing a lawsuit against the City of Fontana. The settlement is the first of its kind, and will help protect us by minimizing the impact of future warehouses surrounding our community, where our families live, learn, and work.”
Over the past five years, Fontana has approved several dozen warehouses totaling approximately 16 million square feet in southern Fontana alone. The Slover and Oleander warehouse project is a 205,000 square-foot project that shares a border with a public high school and is located in a low-income neighborhood that suffers from some of the highest pollution levels in all of California. On July 23, 2021, Attorney General Bonta filed a lawsuit against the City of Fontana challenging its approval of this project. In the lawsuit, Attorney General Bonta argued that the City’s limited environmental review of the project and its failure to appropriately analyze, disclose, and mitigate the project’s environmental impacts violated CEQA. The Sierra Club separately filed a lawsuit, and today’s settlement resolves both cases.
Today’s settlement required the City of Fontana to adopt the most stringent warehouse ordinance in the state with dozens of new requirements for warehouse projects in its jurisdiction. These include site designs to keep trucks away from sensitive sites such as schools, hospitals, and day cares, promotion of zero-emission vehicles for on-site operations, landscaped buffers, installation of solar panels to meet 100% of energy needs for larger warehouse projects, and use of environmentally friendly building materials. The ordinance also includes a number of provisions to boost economic development and protect the health and safety of construction laborers, warehouse workers, and truckers.
The settlement also requires the developer, Duke Realty, to implement new measures to mitigate the Slover and Oleander warehouse project’s environmental impacts on the surrounding community. Mitigation measures include design changes and other protections for nearby residents, reduced emissions from equipment used during construction and operation, solar power, and more. Duke Realty will also establish a $210,000 community benefit fund that will be used to enhance landscaping buffers at Jurupa Hills High School, which shares a border with the project, and to purchase and distribute a five-year supply of high quality air filters to up to 1,750 households in the surrounding community.
Finally, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has announced a process to revise its CEQA guidance for analyzing cumulative air quality impacts. The Attorney General’s lawsuit challenged the City of Fontana’s reliance on SCAQMD’s existing guidance in its approval of the Slover and Oleander warehouse project. SCAQMD staff have proposed a groundbreaking approach for new guidance that would consider existing burdens associated with nearby pollution sources and, where warranted, quantify for the first time cumulative air quality impacts and the effects on human health. Not only would this approach address flaws in its current guidance, it would also consider the impacts of concentrating polluting land uses, like warehouse projects, in disadvantaged areas, thereby encouraging local governments to site future projects in areas where they will have the least impact on human health.
Attorney General Bonta is committed to fighting environmental injustices throughout the state of California and being a voice for frontline communities who are all too often under-resourced and overburdened. On April 28, 2021, Attorney General Bonta announced the expansion of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Environmental Justice. In just over four years, the Bureau of Environmental Justice has reviewed hundreds of warehouse projects across the state and collected best practices and mitigation measures to assist local governments in complying with CEQA and to promote environmentally-just warehouse development across California. These best practices are available here. More information on the Bureau and its work is available here.
A copy of the settlement, which is subject to court approval, can be found here. A copy of the City’s ordinance is available here.