Prince James Story and Aryana Noroozi |

Alejandra Gonzalez says everyday on her drive home from work she counts how many of her neighbors she sees on horseback. 

Bloomington, California appears like many other rural equestrian communities in the state’s southern region, and residents are fighting to keep it that way. The community has a large Mexican American population. For decades it became a new home for those immigrating from Mexico. Many have lived in their homes for multiple generations: growing produce and caring for livestock on their properties. For some, this is their livelihood as they operate their businesses from home like the Gonzalez family. 

Gonzalez says she started counting the horses when her community’s equestrian lifestyle began facing a threat. 

Currently, Gonzalez and fellow community members navigate a precarious situation to preserve their rural community in the midst of warehouse developments encroaching on homes and public spaces.

Gonzalez’s family has lived in Bloomington for two generations, owning and operating a nursery and landscaping business. Today an Amazon warehouse sits directly across from their home and obstructs their view of the foothills.

Left: The view of a warehouse from Alejandra Gonzalez’s family’s home. The Gonzalez family has a nursery and landscaping business and grows plants on their property. Right: Alejandra Gonzalez poses for a portrait at her family’s home. She is an activist, speaking out against warehouses next to schools and homes. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local, August 24, 2022).
Left: Plants are grown and cared for on the Gonzalez property where they operate their nursery. Right: Goats feed at the Gonzalez home, where a warehouse was built just behind the property. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local, August 24, 2022).

Ms. Gonzalez says that project developers see Bloomington as blight, while residents like herself think San Bernardino County should drive the necessary infrastructural change as opposed to private developers. These residents fear changes that warehouse developments will bring to their community; they’ve banded together as the Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington (CNB), a community organization that advocates for representation of their community’s need for a healthy community without warehouses near homes or schools. 

“Every season you might find a fruit stand on the corner, [in]avocado season we might see neighbors trading fruits and vegetables,” said Ana Carlos, member of CNB. “We have our weekends where the family is going to go for a walk in the hills, or all the family goes for a ride on their horses. That’s the type of community that Bloomington is.” 

Approximately five years ago, Carlos witnessed an increase in warehouses in the area. When she learned of the plan to build one directly behind the future high school of her children, she became heavily involved with CNB.

Ana Carlos poses for a portrait while tabling for the Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington. Carlos is a teacher in Bloomington and is heavily involved in protesting warehouse development near homes and schools, displacing families. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local, August 24, 2022).

CNB is currently opposing the “Bloomington Business Park Specific Plan.” The project applicant is Howard Industrial Properties. 

The Bloomington Business Park Specific Plan is proposed to use 213 acres of land to build warehouses, facilities, office buildings, and a business park. The proposed location is approximately one mile south of the Interstate 10 (I-10) corridor and is generally bound by Santa Ana Avenue on the north, Jurupa Avenue on the south, Linden Avenue on the east, and Alder Avenue on the west. 

The plan is in two phases over 20 years. The first phase covers an initial 141-acre development area. 

The project would involve the destruction of Walter Zimmerman Elementary School and displace occupants of approximately 100 residential homes.

Left: Across the street from Zimmerman Elementary School stands an actively operating warehouse and a lot that will be developed if the Bloomington Business Park plan is approved. Right: The playground at Zimmerman Elementary remains empty after school. If the Bloomington Business Park plan is approved, Zimmerman Elementary School will be demolished and relocated to a heavily trafficked road. Currently, there is already another warehouse across the street from the standing school. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local,  August 24, 2022).

On September 18, CNB held a protest where community members gathered to bring awareness to the proposed project and garner support.  Holding signs that read, “Bloomington is not for sale,” they rallied against warehousing. These signs are displayed in the yards of homes across Bloomington.

A Bloomington resident displays a “Bloomington is not for sale,” sign in their front yard. The sign boasts a rallying cry for those protesting warehousing and was created by community members pooling their resources, including a local business who printed the signs. Shortly before the San Bernardino County Planning meeting, some community members reported their signs stolen. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local,  August 24, 2022).

The attendees, both on foot and horseback- marched the perimeter of the planned Bloomington Business Park site.

Community organizer and member of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), Joaquin Castijellos led the march with a megaphone chanting, “Bloomington united will never be defeated.” 

 The march concluded at the Dave Jayne Equestrian Area, where CNB served authentic Mexican food for residents to enjoy, live music, and organizers made speeches that educated and motivated residents to get involved.  Organizers said they were pleased with the turnout of the event and hope that the County of San Bernardino was, is, and will become more aware of how many residents are against the Bloomington Business Park.

“For me, Sunday was like a new beginning for Bloomington. I hope that people can take what they saw home and realize when you mobilize as a community, there’s power there,” Castijellos said. 

“When the residents of Bloomington don’t feel connected to the land, to the community, to their neighbors, to their neighborhood, you know, it’s easy for them not to want to get involved,” Castijellos said. “When there is an event like this, it is something to bring the community together and feel that connection with everyone around them.”

Carolina Verduzco has lived in the Bloomington community for 34 years and said her rift is not with the warehouses going up; it’s with the placement of the warehouses. 

“A lot of the people think that we’re anti-development, we’re not anti-development. I think we need development that makes sense. And it doesn’t make sense to put a warehouse in the middle of a community,” Verduzco said. “I think they need to be in areas that just make more sense, traffic wise, housing wise and school wise.”

Carolina Verduzco and her daughters pose for a portrait after the march. Verduzco has lived in the Bloomington community for 34 years and said her rift is not with the warehouses going up; it’s with the placement of the warehouses next to homes and schools.  (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local, September 18, 2022).

Bloomington is listed as an unincorporated community which means it is not a city and does not have a local government. Final decisions are made by the San Bernardino County  Board of Supervisors. 

On Thursday, Sept. 22, the San Bernardino County Planning Commission held a meeting to listen to project plan leaders and provide an opportunity for community members to voice their support or disapproval of the proposed project. 

Bloomington community members and labor union workers filled the chamber.

Every seat in the chamber was filled with an additional room to accommodate the overflow at the San Bernardino County Planning commission meeting, where the project plan was discussed and the floor was opened for community members to voice their support for or opposition to the Bloomington Business Park plan. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local, September 22, 2022).

A number of people wore T-shirts that read, “Invest in Bloomington.” The consensus from this group was Bloomington desperately needs infrastructure upgrades and a developer, like Howard Industrial Properties, is the only promising option to fulfill this need. 

Others called for more funding for the sheriff’s office, from road improvements to the water drainage system, and many recounted their experience of flooding throughout the rain season during the public comment session. These residents expressed extreme frustration at Bloomington being neglected. They believe a significant perk of this project is the money that Howard Industrial Properties will be investing will bring the change  that  they have been advocating for their community for years.

Members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) also attended the meeting to support the proposed project. 

The presentation stated that these new warehouses would bring in over 3,000 local and permanent jobs to the community.

Members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America(LIUNA) attended the meeting to support the proposed project, speaking passionately about the economic opportunity development similar projects have provided them. The supporting community from Bloomington also wore green shirts that said “Invest in Bloomington.” The consensus from these supporters was that Bloomington desperately needs infrastructure upgrades and that the project could provide jobs to the community.  Howard Industrial Properties says they encourage employment from within Bloomington but has not put any official measures in place to ensure this. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local, September 22, 2022).

The project is also proposed to bring $6.4 million in Infrastructure, $20 million to solve regional flooding issues, $45 million to build a new elementary school, and $2.2 million in street improvements will be invested into the community. 

Altogether the project proposal states that Howard Industrial Properties will spend $512 million investing in Bloomington over the next 30 years. 

Ana Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), was one of the speakers who raised the issue of increased air pollution in residential areas during  public comment.

“I am a mother of a child with asthma who can not live a normal teenager life,” Gonzalez said. “He is homeschooled because his lungs are so damaged because of the pollution he breathes in every day.”

Alejandra Gonzalez speaks against the project during the public comment session following lunch recess.  Gonzalez and CNB members expressed frustration that these meetings and public comment are held all day and on weekdays, preventing many community members from attending. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local, September 22, 2022).
CNB members rally behind fellow member, Kari Kalinich speaking against the project. Many had to leave early for work and could not give their public comment as the meeting stretched for the entirety of the day. Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local, September 22, 2022).

According to a 2018 report by the Safe Routes Partnership, a nonprofit organization working to provide a healthy environment for children walking to and from school, areas like Jurupa Valley or Bloomington in the Inland Empire are disproportionately susceptible to health disparities due to high truck volume. 

“In the Jurupa Valley and Mira Loma area, a study found that children that reside in this area had the weakest lung capacity and the slowest lung growth of all children in the region due to exposure to diesel exhaust, and a majority of the children affected were Latino and low-income.”

Bloomington residents are fighting the drastic environmental impacts of pollution like other municipalities in the Inland Empire.

A truck drives past Zimmerman Elementary School and homes along the road. Truckers often do not abide by the route laws and take back roads past homes and schools. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local, August 24, 2022).

After seven hours of deliberation and public comments, the Commission voted in favor of the proposal, with one committee member abstaining. 

The project will now move to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors who have the final vote.

Despite differing opinions among attendees, the Sept. 22 meeting evidenced that all of these residents collectively agreed that investment in the community was necessary.

CNB members say that they remain hopeful. “If we weren’t then they wouldn’t have fought this hard,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve come together for hundreds of hours of community organizing,” she said. 

Community members have also raised questions regarding the longevity and sustainability of the warehousing industry both in Bloomington and across the Inland Empire.

Caitlin Towne poses for a portrait. Towne grew up in Bloomington and is now a teacher at a middle school in the community. She became involved with activism in 2016 while campaigning for Bernie Sanders and now is heavily involved with CNB’s fight against warehousing. She fears what will become of the region’s economy once warehouses transition to automation. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local, August 24, 2022).

Caitlin Towne grew up in Bloomington and is now an educator at the local middle school. Towne believes that warehousing alone is not diversifying the economy of the Inland Empire and is concerned for the future. Towne said she read an article about the potential financial dangers and began to consider “the outcome of the singular economy of warehouses and logistics in the Inland Empire” to that of Detroit and the automotive industry. “I think we’re already seeing that with automation,” Towne said.

A report on Warehouse Automation Trends in 2022 and Beyond noted,  “43% of companies prioritize warehouse automation, while 37% look forward to achieving it shortly.” 

“Once automation came in, it toppled the whole economy of Detroit. It never fully recovered from that.”

Wild flowers grow in front of an Amazon warehouse on Slover Avenue in Bloomington. Community members say there is a rumor that this warehouse is closing and laying off workers. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local, August 18, 2022).

Authors

  • Prince James Story

    Report for America Corps member and Black Voice News Climate and Environmental Justice reporter, Prince James Story was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is an intersectional journalist with experience covering news and sports across numerous mediums. Story aims to inform the public of social inequities and discriminatory practices while amplifying the voices of those in the communities harmed. Story earned his master’s degree in Sports Journalism from Arizona State University-Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He earned a B.A. in Mass Communication and a B.A. in African American studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Contact Prince James with tips, comments, or concerns at Princejames@blackvoicenews.com or via Twitter @PrinceJStory.

  • 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 aryananoroozi.com. You can email her at aryana@blackvoicenews.com.

Prince James Story

Prince James Story

Report for America Corps member and Black Voice News Climate and Environmental Justice reporter, Prince James Story was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is an intersectional journalist with experience covering news and sports across numerous mediums. Story aims to inform the public of social inequities and discriminatory practices while amplifying the voices of those in the communities harmed. Story earned his master’s degree in Sports Journalism from Arizona State University-Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He earned a B.A. in Mass Communication and a B.A. in African American studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Contact Prince James with tips, comments, or concerns at Princejames@blackvoicenews.com or via Twitter @PrinceJStory.

Aryana Noroozi

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 aryananoroozi.com. You can email her at aryana@blackvoicenews.com.