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.

Left: Trucks are parked in the loading docks of a warehouse located in the center of  Bloomington besides homes and across the street from Walter Zimmerman Elementary School on August 24, 2022.  Walter Zimmerman Elementary School will be bought and demolished by Howard Industrial Partners in order to build the Bloomington Park Specific Plan.   Right: Goats feed on Alejandra Gonzalez’s family’s property on August 26, 2022. Gonzalez is a member of the Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington and an activist against warehousing. A warehouse can be seen from here in her backyard.  (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).
Goats feed at the Gonzalez home on August 26, 2022, where a warehouse was built just behind the property. The Gonzalez family has a nursery and landscaping business and grows plants on their property. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).

“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.

The parking lot at Zimmerman Elementary remains empty across the street from a warehouse on August 24, 2022. The Bloomington Business Park plan will demolish and relocate Zimmerman Elementary School to a heavily trafficked road beside a truck stop. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).

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.”

Joaquin Castijellos, a Bloomington community organizer, activist and member of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, poses for a portrait on November 15, 2022 after the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve a 213 acre warehouse project centered in Bloomington, CA. (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).

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.

“They have these meetings at 10 am. Bloomington is a working-class community, when our people are working nine to five, they have to take a sick day or a vacation day, which they work so hard to get to [attend] a meeting that they should be able to access, freely.”

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.”

Marven Norman poses for a portrait on November 15, 2022 after the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve the Bloomington Business Park Plan. Norman is an environmental activist and member of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice. He will be involved with appealing the Bloomington Business Park Plan. (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).

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. 

Containers of aguas frescas stand on pillars outside of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors meeting after the decision to pass the Bloomington Business Park Specific Plan was made on November 15, 2022. Members of the Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington brought aguas frescas to the meeting for community members to enjoy over the course of what they thought would be the entire day.  (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).

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

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.