A proposed 1.8 million square foot warehouse project near the Orangecrest and Mission Grove is receiving large pushback by residents who say more logistics development will lead to more pollution and health consequences.
The West Campus Upper Plateau development being proposed by the Lewis Group of Companies would consist of two facilities – a 1.2 million square foot warehouse and a 587,000 square foot warehouse – that would replace 14 of 16 military bunkers that are currently being used by a fireworks manufacturer.
Community-led groups like Riverside Neighbors Opposed to Warehouses (RNOW) are urging the agency in charge of the land, the March Joint Powers Authority, to stop the development from moving forward.
“It feels like leaders are not thinking long term about the future of our city and our area,” said RNOW member Jennifer Larrett Smith. “This is a short-term money grab for them because they don’t care.”
This warehouse dispute is the latest example of residents advocating against the construction of distribution centers and logistics facilities. The success of e-commerce has resulted in massive warehouse growth that is attracting thousands of diesel-polluting heavy-duty trucks that is contributing to the worst ozone pollution in the nation.
Open land available in areas near the March Air Force Base has been transformed into facilities for the likes of Amazon and Target at the expense of people’s health, argue Larrett-Smith and fellow RNOW member Michael McCarthy.
“Every single arterial connector will be used for trucks,” said McCarthy. “That’s not a place where you want to raise your family.”
Since the project was first announced last year, RNOW with the support of local environmental justice groups have walked neighborhoods to inform neighbors and have testified against the project at March JPA meetings and Riverside City Council meetings.
The latest debate over the West Campus Upper Plateau occurred on October 6 during a Board of Ethics hearing at City Hall.At the heart of the discussion were claims from Larrett-Smith over Councilman Chuck Condor’s unethical behavior in support of developers and land planners.
During the meeting, Larrett-Smith attempted to make her case that Condor made some explicitly biased claims in support of plans in favor of March JPA and Lewis Group of Companies. The Board of Ethics ultimately voted 3-2 to not pursue an official hearing to further investigate Condor’s behavior due to insufficient evidence, which Larrett-Smith and others in the audience expressed disappointment with. Larrett-Smith has confirmed that she intends to appeal the decision.
Condor responded to Smith’s claims by accusing her and others with community group RNOW of taking things “out of context.”
“There is no project – no CEQA, no [Environmental Impact Report], there is no project,” said Condor. “I have never said that I 100% support the developer. I said that I would not vote against the law…This is nothing more than political bullying and cancel culture.”
Resident Jerry Shear said he was at a loss of words and alluded to Condor helping spread misinformation.
“Mr. Condor likes to say words and phrases that are misleading at times when saying there is no project,” he shared. “That’s a code word for saying a ‘proposal.’ When arguing about it we discuss this idea of a project…The builder talked to us about a project. It may be a proposed project, but it is a project. That has not changed.”
Ethics Commissioner Gloria Huerta explained to residents that while she was empathetic to community concerns, it needs to be very clear to the Board of Ethics that there was a direct violation of a law, ordinance or code by Condor.
“I felt very strongly that there were some comments made that probably were not in anyone’s best interest to make,” she said. “It definitely would make me be as concerned as the individuals in the audience are tonight. But after reading and listening to everything, I don’t think it rose to a level of violation.”