S. E. Williams
Moreno Valley Faced With Several World Logistics Center Challenges
Environmental groups and conservation organizations joined forces recently and became the latest to take legal action against the City of Moreno Valley for its mid-August approval of the controversial and massive World Logistics Center facility.
The organizations also named the World Logistic Center’s developer, Highland Fairview, in their complaint.
The plaintiffs in this action include the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, the Coalition for Clean Air and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society.
These environmental and conservation organizations coalesced in the filing because they are united in their disapproval of the World Logistics Center’s probable impact on the environment particularly in relation to human health and threats to nearby animal habitats. The organizations are also united in their allegation that the city failed to adequately mitigate all of the impacts identified in the Final Environmental Impact Report.
The World Logistics Center is designed to be a 40-million-square-foot warehouse complex estimated to be equivalent in size to 700 football fields. The developer projected (though detractors doubt) on completion it could bring as many as 20,000 jobs to the area.
In the months leading to the project’s approval by the Moreno Valley City Council many residents, environmental organizations, conservation groups as well as government agencies like the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the County of Riverside, the Transportation Commission among others expressed concerns related to the project’s potential impact on human health, the environment and traffic as it relates to road capacity and increased vehicles.
There was also particular concern expressed regarding the San Jacinto Wildlife Area (SJWA) as it is located in near proximity to the development site on the southeast end of the city. The SJWA is approximately 19,000 acres (including 9,000 acres of restored wetlands) and serves as a refuge to several species of birds.
When the project was approved by the council in August, Mike Millspaugh, spokesperson for the Moreno Valley Group of the San Gorgonio Chapter of the Sierra Club, expressed his organization’s concerns to the VOICE regarding the potential health implications that might result from the increased traffic the project would draw to the area—the increase will certainly come with more diesel pollution. According to public estimates, the project could draw as many as 14,000 additional trucks to the community.
The suit initiated by the environmental/conservation groups was just one more in a plethora of legal actions initiated against the City of Moreno Valley since the project’s approval in August.
Legal actions against the city began in earnest on September 15th when the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to take legal action against the City of Moreno Valley for its failure to mitigate potential traffic issues. Those issues related most specifically to Gilman Springs Road. The road is currently two lanes and falls primarily within the county’s jurisdiction.
The Final Environmental Impact Report recommended the road be widened to between four and six lanes. Since most of the road is within the county’s jurisdiction, Moreno Valley allegedly offered no provisions, nor did it provide any guarantee as to whether the recommended road modifications would ever be made.
Two days later, the city was hit with a second law suit initiated by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. This suit alleged the city failed to adopt adequate air quality protections when it approved the project. The state agency claimed the project could, due to traffic projections, increase the levels of nitrogen oxides and the city had failed to authorize appropriate mitigation to combat the potentially harmful health impacts.
Also on September 17, the Riverside County Transportation Commission and the Southern California Environmental Justice Alliance filed similar suits against the City of Moreno Valley, both related to traffic.
In at least two of the cases filed against the city, plaintiffs claimed to have made repeated attempts to reach a purposeful solution with city officials before filing suit. Their efforts purportedly failed—this limited their options. In addition, plaintiffs asked the court to set aside the World Logistics Center’s Final Environmental Impact Report and mandate the City of Moreno Valley complete adequate mitigation initiatives before the World Logistics Center Project is allowed to move forward.