Cheetara Piry | Voice Staff
San Bernardino City Council will carry on discussions to ratify a moratorium that could freeze further construction of warehouses in the city.
The city council voted 5-2 to agendize the warehouse moratorium with Theodore Sanchez, representing Ward 1, and Fred Shorett representing Ward 4, in opposition.
This however, is not the first time an Inland Empire community sought to -if not halt-at least put some restrictions on their impact. In 2017, Riverside County supervisors sought to place some limits on the industry with a so-called “Good Neighbor” agreement which called for a 1,000 foot buffer from warehouse loading docks to property lines. The county settled for a 300 foot buffer instead.
In 2020, a “Community Benefits Agreement” sought in relation to the warehouse development associated with the San Bernardino Airport received pushback from the developer.
Ben Reynoso, the councilman representing the City of San Bernardino’s Ward 5, launched the moratorium initiative to start the conversation on researching the current and abandoned warehouses developed in the city. The ultimate goal is to see whether the continuation of developing warehouses would be beneficial or detrimental to the community as well as its potential environmental impacts.
“It’s the opportunity that people have been asking for,” he said. “It’s why a lot of people have left this area.”
Reynoso mentioned the city has 72 warehouses with over 2,500 truck trips per day.
The majority of the public comments that were received during the April 7th were in support of the moratorium with no one commenting against it.
Constituents were vocal about implementing research into the environmental impacts of warehouse production. The research may disclose the effects of diesel truck trips, smog emissions and what it may do to the air quality. They also protested for researching potential health risks for residents that may result and clearly stated they did not want any more warehouse jobs.
Victor Velasco, resident of San Bernardino, attested to the implication of a warehouse moratorium, even if just temporarily, so that the city could figure out exactly who benefits from the warehouses.
“We’re suffering here,” he said. “Our people need permanent employment and the money that these warehouses make do not even come back into our community.”
Velasco, like many others, believes warehouse jobs are a temporary fix and should not be an investment for the community.
Another commenter, Michael Segura, one of the leaders of Inland Congregations United for Change and San Bernardino Generation Now, took it a step further and anticipates warehouse jobs are moving toward a technological direction making human work obsolete at some point in the future, pointing to a PBS documentary on the Amazon Fulfillment Centers.
Segura has a one-year-old daughter and urged the city council to think about future generations.
“When you’re looking at the future of warehouses, things are going to become automated,” he said referencing the Frontline documentary. “These jobs that they’re promising us aren’t forever, so we’re going to give up our land, which is a huge resource, right, for something that’s not sustainable for future generations.”
The mayor of the city, John Valdivia, contradicted the agenda item, stating the moratorium would be placed on “job centers.”
Sanchez did not disagree that warehouses have been appearing at an increasing rate than when he was a child. However, he wants to ensure that moving forward there is correct and factual information when taking on the moratorium.
“I don’t think you’re making the right decisions,” he said. “I want to use good information and all I hear right now is that they’re bad.”
Reynoso responded that there is current data on warehouses. What he wants to do with the moratorium is put together the existing data “in a way that the city has not done before.”
Shorett placed the blame on the younger generations for “putting us in this situation with ecommerce.” He stated the warehouse development is from the growing need of people who want a speedy delivery.
“It’s the young people that have brought us here with technology,” Shorett said. “I just don’t think we’re going to stop it.”
Shorett said he was still unclear about what a moratorium would entail, and will not be supporting it. He believes a moratorium would set back production for developers and could potentially result in developers taking their business elsewhere.
“I think a moratorium is the absolute worst message to send to the development community,” he said.
To pass a moratorium, according to the San Bernardino government code, will require five votes. There was no specific time frame discussed for when a decision on this issue will be made.
Cheetara Piry is a mother and community journalist who found passion in bringing a new voice to writing with the hope of engaging communities and spotlighting local journalism as a way to enact real change.