Aryana Noroozi and Prince James Story |
Last month, in a polarizing decision, the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the Bloomington Business Park Specific Plan. Community members and environmental groups opposed to the park are considering legal action to challenge the decision.
The Nov. 15 vote permits the developer, Howard Industrial Partners, to begin the project, which proposes to use 213 acres of land to build three warehouses, ranging from 383,000-square-feet to 1.25 million-square-feet. This is not the first warehouse project that the community group, Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington, has banded together to fight.
“It’s a huge shift in what Bloomington is, to what Bloomington is going to become,” said community organizer and member of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) Joaquin Castijellos. “They’re preparing for Bloomington to become an industrial hub for the IE [Inland Empire]. We’re getting truckstops and truck terminals, warehouses. [But] what about grocery stores? What about community centers for our people.”
Project will demolish an elementary school, dozens of homes and displace residents
The project is located 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. It will destroy Walter Zimmerman Elementary School and displace occupants of approximately 100 residential homes.
We have five supervisors that vote over Bloomington affairs, and none of them are from Bloomington,” Castijellos said. “But they get to decide the future of Bloomington…Make that make sense.”
Bloomington community members and CCAEJ members expressed their concerns and anguish with the pace of the meeting that ended within two hours. The September meeting, in which the San Bernardino County Planning Commission voted its approval of the project lasted the entire day, posing challenges for Bloomington’s primarily working-class community as many could not stay for the public comment period due to work and childcare obligations.
The fateful decision
The meeting began with public comment, where community members from Bloomington spoke in favor of or against the project. Members from the Laborers’ International Union of North America also spoke in support of the project. Members of the Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington group say that many of the union members who attended are not residents of Bloomington and are paid to be at the meetings.
In under two hours, the County Board of Supervisors moved to vote. As the board approved the project, the final vote was met with both cheers and outcries while some residents were threatened with being removed from the meeting as they voiced their dissent.
Currently, members of the Bloomington community are figuring out the best path forward on whether they will appeal the Board’s decision or pursue legal action.
Marven Norman, the policy coordinator for CCAEJ, said members of the community are currently weighing their options to stop the project. “Some people aren’t sure if they really want to have a lawsuit. They want to find out what other ways [there are] to stop it from happening.”
Other IE communities have pushed back against warehouse development, in their areas
In nearby Moreno Valley, it took five years for environmental justice organizations to agree on a $47 million settlement with the developer of the World Logistics Center, which is a 40.6 million square foot warehouse and industrial complex.
The settlement money will be used to mitigate the environmental impact of the warehouses on the nearby communities.
Bloomington community members say the fight is not over. “It’s a defeat today, but we’re not going to stop. This is just the beginning of a huge campaign that we’re going to start to fight to protect Bloomington,” Castijellos said.