Aryana Noroozi

“Residents in and around Bloomington already breathe some of the nation’s dirtiest air, but San Bernardino County wants to pile on still more pollution,” said Hallie Kutak, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, in response to a decision made recently by San Bernardino County that shook many Bloomington community members.

Last month, environmental justice and conservation groups filed a lawsuit against San Bernardino County for violating the California Environmental Quality Act after the county approved the Bloomington Business Park Specific Plan, a warehouse development that will use 213 acres of land to build three warehouses, ranging from 383,000-square-feet to 1.25 million-square-feet. 

According to a press release issued by the Center for Biological Diversity, the suit states that San Bernardino County approved the project without “adequately addressing the harms it will cause to air quality, public health and housing.”

In November 2022, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors granted the project developer, Howard Industrial Partners, approval to begin the project which is projected to increase traffic in the rural community by an additional 8,555 vehicle trips per day, including diesel trucks.  

Like many areas across the Inland Empire region, Bloomington is already known to be within a “diesel death zone,” resulting from its proximity to the masses of warehouse developments that have spread across the area in the past decade. 

The press release states that in its environmental review, San Bernardino County failed to consider and mitigate the air quality, greenhouse gas, traffic, noise and other environmental concerns caused by the project’s subsequent increased truck traffic. These concerns were expressed by the community and organizations, including the California Air Resources Board.

Candice Youngblood, an attorney at EarthJustice, a public interest organization that litigates environmental issues, says the closest residence to the project site is only 11 feet away.

Candice Youngblood, an attorney at the public interest organization EarthJustice. Her work focuses on the intersection of clean transportation and racial justice issues. (source: earthjustice.org).

“Building warehouses in the middle of our neighborhood strips us of our right to breathe clean air and these buildings encroach upon our homes, schools and ultimately our freedom,” said resident and community organizer for the Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington, Alejandra Gonzalez. 

Gonzalez spends afternoons tabling in front of her family home, explaining and distributing resources that demonstrate the impact of warehouses coming into the community. Gonzalez’s family owns a landscaping and nursery business that is headquartered on their property. In recent years a warehouse has popped up in plain sight, blocking their view of the foothills.

A deliberate act of disrespect

“The approval of the Bloomington Business Park is a deliberate act of disrespect to the children, seniors and families who will continue to call Bloomington their home long after the land that currently houses horses, chickens and gardens becomes home to pallets, forklifts and machinery,” Gonzalez said.

Alejandra Gonzalez poses for a portrait at her family’s home which doubles as the land for their nursery and landscaping business on August 24, 2022. Gonazalez is an activist, speaking out against warehouses next to schools and homes. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight).
On August 26, 2022 activists Alejandra Gonzalez and Caitlin Towne play with a dog on Gonzalez’s family’s property after tabling outfront to bring awareness to the Bloomington Business Park Specific Plan and sharing how the community can become involved to oppose the project. Both women grew up in Bloomington and are now community organizers for the Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington, a community group fighting against warehouses near homes and schools. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight).
Potted plants grow on August 26, 2022 on the Gonzalez property where they operate their nursery. Community group, the Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington, often table outfront of the property to bring awareness to the issue of warehouses encroaching on the community. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight).

“The county’s approval of this project is not only unlawful — it is disproportionately harmful to a community that is already overburdened,” said Youngblood of Earthjustice. “In the last several years, especially as e-commerce has boomed, we’ve seen the freight logistics industry sprawl across the Inland Empire. At this point, these warehouses are in folks’ backyard.”

Controversial rezoning

While affordable housing remains a crucial need within the region, San Bernardino County rezoned existing residential land to accommodate the project, calling for a minimum of 100 homes to be demolished and residing families displaced. Households who remain in close proximity to the project face threats to their quality of life from health to noise concerns.

The lawsuit also argues that the county’s decision violates fair housing legislation which exists to safeguard vulnerable communities from discrimination.

“There is no evidence that the county analyzed the project’s impacts on the primarily Latinx households that will be directly displaced by the project or in close proximity to the project,” said Nisha Vyas, attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty. (source: law.ucla.edu).

“There is no evidence that the county analyzed the project’s impacts on the primarily Latinx households that will be directly displaced by the project or in close proximity to the project,” said Nisha Vyas, an attorney with Western Center on Law and Poverty. “Nor did the county consider that this community will disproportionately bear the ongoing environmental, health, and housing harms caused by the Bloomington Business Park.”

The lawsuit was filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court on behalf of the PCEJ, Community Action and Environmental Justice, Sierra Club and the Center. The Community Action and Environmental Justice is represented by Earthjustice; People’s Collective for Environmental Justice (PCEJ) is represented by Earthjustice and The Western Center on Law and Poverty; and the Sierra Club is represented by the Law Office of Abigail Smith.

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.