S. E. Williams
UCR wins bid for multi-million dollar emissions and research testing facility
A united effort by Riverside officials that could help shape the course of history on the all important issue of global warming and at the same time raise the profile of Riverside moved the California Air Resources Board to relocate its motor vehicle and engine emissions testing and research facility from El Monte to an 18-acre site at the University of California, Riverside.
On Thursday, March 24, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) reached a majority decision (8-3) to bring the $366 million investment into the community of Riverside along with approximately 400 high-paying jobs.
This monumental coup did not come easy. It came as a result of years of concerted and joint effort by the University of California—Riverside (UCR), the City of Riverside, Riverside County, and the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce who worked together and successfully demonstrated the advantages of locating the facility in Riverside.
However, these four institutions did not work in isolation. They were joined and supported in their efforts by State Senator Richard Roth of Riverside and his staff who worked equally as hard to ensure that Air Resources Board members understood how eagerly UCR, local government, business and elected officials had embraced the idea and were fully committed to its goals and objectives. Another California State Senator, Kevin De Leon, sent a strong and possibly game changing letter of support to the Board.
“Team Riverside scored a big win, which will bring high-paying, future-focused jobs to the city,” said Mayor Rusty Bailey, who addressed the Air Resources Board when it visited Riverside last year and attended the meeting in Sacramento Thursday. “Our collaborative efforts have delivered results that will benefit residents and local businesses for decades to come.”
CARB ultimately chose Riverside after deciding that land owned by the University of California on Iowa Avenue near Martin Luther King Boulevard would provide the best opportunity for growth in the coming decades and for collaboration with world-class air quality research already underway at UC Riverside.
According to reports, more than a dozen proponents of the Riverside site spoke at a hearing a few weeks ago in El Monte. The speakers emphasized the synergy between the work of the Air Resources Board and the world-renowned research that has been done at UC Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) for decades. The new facility will replace an existing one in El Monte that is no longer adequate for the agency.
Agency staff had initially recommended in favor of a site in Pomona in part because of its proximity to the existing site. The staff’s recommendation was cited in Governor Brown’s preliminary budget proposal; however, California State Senator Richard Roth worked to assure the Board remained true to its promise of working through a competitive process and thus assured a level playing field.
Another pivotal turning point in the evaluation process arose in relation to an edge Cal Poly Pomona appeared to have because of state land it could make available for the initiative; however, that issue was neutralized by UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox. In his long range planning, Chancellor Wilcox identified land readily available in Riverside as well—the land owned by the University of California on Iowa Avenue near Martin Luther King Boulevard.
In the final analysis, CARB Board members ultimately decided that Riverside best fit its long-term needs particularly as it related to opportunities for future growth.
Before last week’s vote the Air Resources Board had narrowed its list of potential sites to two, UCR and Cal Poly Pomona. There seems to be very little doubt the organized and passionate team approach taken by Riverside played a pivotal role in the Board’s decision. Where Riverside was united in its approach and desire for the CARB facility, Cal Poly Pomona on the other hand, experienced some bumps along the way—particularly as it related to support from some members of its student body.
Had the Board selected Cal Poly Pomona it would have needed to use about 17 acres of the nearly 150 acre Spadra Farm currently used by Cal Poly Pomona students to raise crops and to facilitate other educational activities.
Last October, Cal Poly Pomona Agriculture students among others, staged a peaceful protest on their campus during a visit by CARB staff. They advocated a single poignant message, “Don’t build on soil that is essentially a classroom”. At the same time, a number of Cal Poly administrators allegedly saw advantages to having CARB on campus. They believed it would bring opportunities for a number of colleges to come and participate in research projects and educational opportunities for different disciplines within the university.
Since last October’s protests, Cal Poly Pomona students came to see the positive potential in becoming home to the research facility. In a remarkable turnaround brought to the board’s attention last week, Cal Poly Pomona students purportedly expressed their change of heart and urged the Board to consider their campus.
Although the Board never mentioned student resistance at Cal Poly Pomona in its final decision that favored Riverside, an CARB Staff Report released in February did make note of the student resistance.
Also according to the CARB Staff Report, in December the agency surveyed existing employees at its El Monte site and fully 85 percent of the respondents preferred a commute to Cal Poly versus Riverside. In the final analysis though, this issue was somewhat neutralized by the reality that both locations would require employees to drive distances considered non commutable.
In the final analysis and a sure tribute to the Riverside team, Board spokesperson Stanley Young told reporters late last week, “It wasn’t so much about resistance to Cal Poly as it was what UC Riverside brought to the table.”
According to the Board, the proposed site will be a world-class emissions testing and research facility to support California’s air quality and climate change mandates and goals through at least 2050. The new facility will also provide a national and international destination for policy and technical assessments of air pollution and climate change.
In addition and quite importantly, it will support programs such as the Sustainable Freight Initiative in support of the Board’s overall environmental justice program in communities that are significantly burdened by and vulnerable to high levels of pollution.
The selection of UCR was a great choice for other reasons as well. It will certainly stimulate the local economy and further solidify the inland region’s reputation as home to some of the world’s premier air quality research and testing efforts. In addition, as previously reported, research synergies with CARB can only serve to expand Riverside’s knowledge pool which in year 2014 alone resulted in 114 National Science Foundation awards for research at UCR and CE-CERT (Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology).
Finally, the new facility will also showcase how sustainability and energy efficiency goals can be integrated into facility building design and operations. The agency expects to break ground in 2017. The 400 employees who currently work in the agency’s El Monte facility will stay in place there until the new lab is ready which could be another three to five years.
“Creating good jobs has always been one of my highest priorities, and securing CARB’s new research and testing facility in Riverside is a major victory that will bring over 400 jobs to our region. It is a tremendous investment in our region’s future that will expand upon and grow Inland Southern California’s talent pool and continue to strengthen our region’s economy. I am proud of what we have accomplished by working together and look forward to delivering even more for our region and state.”
“We are very proud to have won the incredible honor to develop the world’s premiere air quality research facility in Riverside with our world-renowned research university. This is a momentous day for our region that will have a positive impact for generations.
My colleagues and I express gratitude to all those that worked with our Economic Development Agency on this successful proposal. First and foremost, we owe many thanks to Senator Richard Roth! His diligent attention and personal participation in the process from start to finish made today’s great news possible.
Finally, I thank the CARB board for their strong vote of confidence in the long-term advantages in locating in Riverside, California.”
“To be a world class testing site it was important for it to be located near a public research site. There are only three in California—UCLA, UCI and UCR. Also, in California, there is always talk about coastal communities and inland communities, this was a good opportunity to do something in one of the inland communities. The City of Riverside has a great reputation for being a long-time advocate of green action—in 2012 it received an award for having the greenest fleet in the nation.
Not only will the ARB testing facility be a good investment, it comes with good paying jobs. It will provide great opportunities for graduate students and it will also provide an opportunity for satellite and related industries to develop.
The [Riverside] advocacy group was unique and Chancellor Kim Wilcox played a pivotal role as did State Senator Richard Roth. Warehouses are coming to Riverside but we must work hard for other opportunities as well.”
“[The] decision is great news for UC Riverside, the city and county, and it is great news for the people of California. This facility will bring together two world-class institutions working in air quality and emissions science and promises to create a whole range of synergies that simply wouldn’t be possible otherwise…Building this new facility in Riverside now positions our region to become the global capital for air quality research. With construction slated to begin next year, planning has already begun to ensure a smooth transition and, most importantly, accommodate the needs of Air Resources Board employees.”
Letter to CARB dated February 23
“…the Board’s decision on the location of the new Lab presents a generational opportunity to demonstrate the importance of significant infrastructure and technology investments in the Inland Empire and its disadvantaged communities. The Riverside County legislative delegation, the University and the business community are united in their support for ARB consolidating in Riverside. Here in the Senate, Senator Roth has been a leader in reviewing the ARB evaluation process thoroughly as it has proceeded over the past year.”
“This $366 million investment in Riverside and the 400 STEM jobs that will come to our city will have a profound impact on our local economy. I look forward to welcoming the Air Resources Board to Riverside and working with city staff to identify companies that would benefit from co-locating near such a facility to create an even larger economic benefit for our city and the region.”
“It truly was a collaboration of all the [Riverside] entities. It is something we have been working on for three or four years—the group stayed together and stayed focused. It was a pivotal position for us and we are very excited about this opportunity.
When the governor’s budget proposal was released [January, 2015] and cited Pomona as the new ARB site, Senator “Richard Roth worked to assure the final decision would ultimately be the result of a competitive process. And when the issue of ‘no cost’ state land being available at Cal Poly Pomona was raised, Riverside Chancellor Kim Wilcox had a long range plan that leveled the field. He identified available acres of land in Riverside that enabled us to compete with Cal Poly at no cost. We left no stone unturned, including reaching out to individuals who knew the passion in our community.”