By Kareem Gongora
At last week’s Fontana City Council meeting, Fontana residents organized and spoke in opposition to three projects: Slover Warehouse, Sierra Avenue and Casa Grande Warehouse, and the Fontana Foothills Commerce Center.
The Slover Warehouse and Sierra Avenue and Casa Grande Warehouse required a General Plan amendment and rezoning of medium to high density residential to light industrial to construct 41,000 square feet and 332,998 square feet warehouses. The Foothills Commerce Center is zoned residential but needed an expansion of the Southwest Industrial Park Specific Plan (SWIP) to build two warehouse buildings of approximately 754,408 square feet. In totality, that’s almost 26 acres, which is equal to 20 football fields.
This continuous rezoning and altering of the General Plan to green light industry showcases the poor planning and lack of vision displayed by city leadership. For context, Fontana’s General Plan received approval on Nov. 13, 2018. In this plan, the city identified housing and environmental justice elements but has failed to follow through with those promises.
Mayor Acquanetta Warren and City Council members Jesse Armendarez and John Roberts routinely vote for the industry than the community’s needs, which has led to significant increases in pollution and traffic.
It is appalling to see the increase of warehousing in South Fontana in comparison to North Fontana.
A part of South Fontana alongside the Interstate 10 Freeway is considered disadvantaged per the city’s General Plan and has some of the worst air quality in the country.
The continued development in this part of the community is a clear sign of environmental racism, where low-income families and people of color bear the negative impacts of pollutants, such as particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5). PM2.5 is linked to premature death in people with heart or lung disease, aggravated asthma, and decreased lung function.
There is a study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which found that “breathing more polluted air over many years may itself worsen the effects of COVID-19”. Today, Fontana is second to the city of San Bernardino in COVID-19 cases, and deaths within San Bernardino County, with 9,779 confirmed cases and 114 deaths. Latinos comprise 47.48 percent of San Bernardino County positive cases and 53.87 percent of deaths, whereas Fontana has a Hispanic or Latino population of 69.3 percent.
Based on the public comments from the meeting, it is clear that this council majority is out of touch with the community needs and more in line with their wealthy campaign funders.
Those wealthy funders do not live or work in Fontana but are becoming wealthier because of our community.
We deserve better, and our children deserve to inherit a better Fontana.
(Kareem Gongora, a Fontana resident, is a member of the California State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners and a member of the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools (SBCSS) Committee on School District Organization, Fifth District.)