Aryana Noroozi |

In May 2022, the City of Colton declared an extension of its warehouse moratorium that began May 3, 2021, for a third time. Earlier this month, the possibility of an early termination of the moratorium was put on the table. 

Since 2010, approximately 100 warehouses have been built across the Inland Empire, encompassing more than 12,500 acres, according to a data tool developed by researchers at the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability.

Colton is one of a half-dozen cities in the Inland Empire to enact a moratorium against warehousing, after the community made their concerns known. 

A period to identify solutions 

A moratorium is a period of time that allows for expert assessment of the impact of the warehousing industry on the community. During the moratorium new warehouse expansion projects are halted. Once the findings and recommendations are provided to the City Council, a moratorium can be terminated. On Tuesday, Feb. 7, Colton City Council Members and residents gathered to discuss and vote on the possibilities of ending the moratorium earlier than planned. 

At the beginning of the moratorium period in May 2022, an Ad Hoc committee was established to assess the impacts of warehouse development in Colton and develop recommendations that would benefit the community.  

The committee met several times and drafted proposed regulations which were presented to the council for review. After taking the council’s initial feedback into consideration and revising their recommended regulations, the committee disbanded. However, the item was not brought back to the council for either approval or further direction until the Feb. 7 City Council meeting. 

During the meeting, Colton City Council members voted to allow the moratorium to continue until the initial end date of May 3, 2023. They also voted to adopt the recommendations – which include a 300 foot buffer zone between homes and schools as well as updated guidelines for warehouse design, parking, noise, and operational standards –developed by the Ad Hoc committee through its assessment of the warehousing industry’s impact on Colton.

All council members, except Mayor Frank Navarro, voted in favor of keeping the May 2023 termination date. 

Environmental activists agreed that the City Council heard the community’s desire to extend a halt on warehouses for as long as possible.  However, Colton community members explained that their experiences show that moratoriums are not necessarily a definite or viable solution. 

Some community members remain concerned  

“[A lot of] community members are kind of annoyed and questioning… Why would you end it [the moratorium] and why does it have to end?” explained Marven Norman, the policy coordinator for Community Center for Action and Environmental Justice. He said, in theory, a moratorium is a window of time that allows for research and policy development. “It’s an assessment period, [that tells us] this is what’s happening and this is what we can do about it.” 

The community also expressed concerns about the Ad Hoc committee and access to the information that the committee  intended to provide. 

“We’re lucky that we have these committees that are concerned for our environment. But as a resident, I wasn’t a part of it,” said Colton resident Celeste Carlos. Activists said that there were zero community meetings in 2022 about the committee’s developments, so during the council meeting activists and community members alike pushed for more.

“What was the point of spending almost two years on this policy if we’re going to leave gaps in the final leg?” asked Andrea Vidaurre, co-founder and policy lead at People’s Collective for Environmental Justice.

Vidaurre, who grew up in the Inland Empire, said that the current Ad Hoc committee’s recommendations leave loose ends. 

“This ordinance has yet to figure out the truck routes, one of the largest concerns brought forward. Nor has it analyzed the current and future costs that trucking has on road damages and long term infrastructure costs,” Vidaurre said, adding that there are currently no requirements for local hire, a living wage or career pathways, which pose a future problem for what she sees as an evitable transition to automation in the logistics industry. 

“There is expertise in this room that can help support improving this policy. We request that you do not lift the moratorium until May and that you open up the conversation again for community feedback,” she said to the Council. 

Colton community member and activist Gem Montes shared her disappointment at the absence  of a community benefits agreement, an agreement that the city would develop through conversation with the community to identify their needs. 

“We could decide on what we need instead of having somebody dictate to us,” Montes said. “Instead, we received a promise of a public benefits agreement over which we will have zero control when we are the ones that are impacted.”

Colton community member and activist, Gem Montes speaks to the Colton City Council during public comment about extending the warehouse moratorium and developing a community benefits agreement at a City Council meeting on February 7, 2023. “We asked for a community benefits agreement so we could decide on what we need instead of having somebody dictate to us,” Montes said. The Colton City Council members ultimately voted to allow the moratorium to continue until the initial end date of May 3, 2023. They also voted to adopt the recommendations developed by the Ad Hoc committee but many community members and activists felt there are still loose ends. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local).

 A community benefits agreement is an agreement that protects and allows the community to benefit from warehouse development by implementing measures such as  job placement priority to Colton residents as well as environmental regulations such as EV trucks. 

“We asked for a community benefits agreement so we could decide on what we need instead of having somebody dictate to us,” Montes said. “We are the ones that are impacted.”

Inland Empire environmental activists remarked that the City of Colton essentially halted the development of new warehouses for two years, taking a step in the right direction and differentiating itself from most cities in San Bernardino County. However, many community members said that they share the same problems with oversight from their elected leaders that other communities across the Inland Empire experience in their fight against warehousing. 

“I’m really tired of the city waiting until the last minute to open discussion,” Montes said.

Since the decision to triple-extend the moratorium, community activists reached out to Colton’s Planning  Department regarding their availability for a community meeting to further discuss the ordinance. The department, however, said that the City completed the formal public review period on the agenda item and is now highly focussed on completing their responses to Housing and Community Development’s (HCD) comments related to the Housing Element and working on current, active planning projects. They said that if the community had specific questions about the ordinance they could email them and “the City will respond in kind.” 

Norman says it will be nearly impossible to make any further changes to policy around warehouse development in Colton at this time,  stating there will not be enough time to form a new committee, have it meet and present updated recommendations to the council for feedback, all before the moratorium ends in May. He explained that another moratorium is possible, but a significant amount of time must pass before it can be implemented.

“We can’t just keep planning for tomorrow. The impact is going to be so great that we’re not going to be able to correct it,” Carlos said.

Aryana Noroozi

Black Voice News photojournalist Aryana Noroozi was born in San Diego, California and graduated with a master’s degree from The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Her love for visual storytelling led her to document immigrant and deportee communities and those struggling with addiction. She was a 2020 Pulitzer Center Crisis Reporting Fellow and a GroundTruth Project Migration Fellow. She is currently a CatchLight/Report for America corps member employed by Black Voice News. You can learn more about her at You can email her at