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Letter to the Editor: A glut of warehouses: Why we don’t need the West Campus Upper Plateau project

"Building warehouses in Riverside neighborhoods makes no sense. Even teenagers playing SimCity know that you don’t build warehouses next to homes. It decreases the health and quality of life of residents. We already have the worst air pollution of any region in the country."

Open space between the Orangecrest neighborhood and the Sycamore Canyon warehouses. Brenda Flowers)

On June 12 at 6:30 p.m., the March Joint Powers Commission will vote on a plan to build up to 4.7 million square feet of industrial warehouses in the Orangecrest and Mission Grove area. The West Campus Upper Plateau project would sit on land formerly owned by the March Air Force Base, the site of munitions bunkers that housed nuclear and conventional weapons. It is surrounded on more than three sides by residential homes - homes that will be dwarfed by the giant mega-warehouses proposed.

Building warehouses in Riverside neighborhoods makes no sense. Even teenagers playing SimCity know that you don’t build warehouses next to homes. It decreases the health and quality of life of residents. We already have the worst air pollution of any region in the country. Diesel Particulate Matter spewed from trucks is a known carcinogen, and we know that living next to warehouses increases the incidences of asthma and other cardiopulmonary diseases. This particular project would dig more than twenty feet into soil that hasn’t been properly tested for contaminants despite having stored munitions for decades. And anyone who has driven the 215/60 interchange knows that our region is already overrun with trucks. They wreak havoc on our roads and thunder down our streets, often illegally.

Why threaten the health and safety of residents and reduce the quality of life in our communities? Politicians often justify approving these monstrosities with the “need for jobs,” but sadly, building more warehouses doesn’t even make sense economically anymore. Economic indicators have shown a softening of the logistics industry. According to Collier’s first-quarter report on the logistics industry, warehouse vacancies are at their highest in a decade, and rents dropped for the third consecutive quarter. The Inland Empire has lost over 23,000 warehouse jobs since November 2021.

In its 2023 report, SCAG paints a grim picture for the industrial economy. The industrial sector was one of very few industries that saw a decrease in employment over the past year. The report goes on to say:

We expect the logistics sector to continue to weaken in 2024. In the long run, the region’s reliance on Logistics as its anchor industry is cause for concern. Growth in Logistics output and economic activity is expected to last over the foreseeable future, but automation and efforts to shorten supply chains or even re-shore production activities may constrain future employment gains.

In spite of this, the region continues with its plans to double its industrial footprint over the next ten years. For instance, Moreno Valley is constructing the World Logistics Center, which will bring 40 million additional square feet of warehouses to the region. And that is but one project of hundreds that have already been approved. We do not need any more warehouses.

In the case of the West Campus Upper Plateau, the community has consistently opposed the project for two years. We’ve gathered thousands of signatures in protest, made hours of public comment, and sent thousands of emails, but the March Joint Powers Authority (JPA) has consistently ignored our opposition and has pushed this project forward.

In addition, the land on which this project would be built is one of the few open areas remaining in Riverside and is home to hawks, rabbits, and coyotes. It was even once set aside for the threatened Stephen’s kangaroo rat. It is treasured by locals for hiking, dog walking, and mountain biking.

On Wednesday, June 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Moreno Valley Conference Center on 14075 Frederick Street, the community has a chance to make a final stand before the March JPA Commission votes on the West Campus Upper Plateau. I can only hope that in the face of facts and near-unanimous opposition to the project, the Commission will do the right thing and send this project back to the drawing board. But whatever happens, residents will keep fighting. We owe it to our community to press on until the tide turns. The future of our region is at stake.

Jennifer Larratt-Smith, Chair, Riverside Neighbors Opposing Warehouses

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