San Bernardino residents raise concerns over massive air cargo logistics center bound for airport

Article Featured by Brian Whitehead | San Bernardino Sun

Hundreds of San Bernardino residents who say they want clean air, good jobs and transparency from their elected officials gathered Wednesday, April 17, to voice their concerns about a massive air cargo logistics center to be built in their neighborhood.

Late last year, San Bernardino International Airport and master developer Hillwood Enterprises moved forward with plans to build a nearly 700,000-square-foot logistics center at the former Norton Air Force Base that would house up to 16 aircraft and provide round-the-clock operations.

Brought together by area nonprofits and community-based organizations at a San Bernardino church, residents on Wednesday had the platform to share worries they believe, to this point, have been ignored.

Environmental groups and area labor unions contend the project has been green-lit without addressing key quality-of-life concerns raised in the Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, approved in October by the commission of regional leaders overseeing airport operations.

“We are not anti-warehouses, we are not anti-development,” said Ericka Flores, a senior organizer at the Jurupa Valley-based Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice. “Development is necessary and we need the growth. But through warehouses is not the only way. … We are at capacity (for warehouses) to begin with, and now we are going way beyond our threshold.

“The biggest issue with warehouses such as this one,” Flores continued, “is the proximity to residential areas, the exploitation of land and how they push communities, primarily communities of color, out of the area.”

Bound for a 101-acre lot west of Victoria Avenue and south of Third Street in San Bernardino, the Eastgate Air Cargo Logistics Center is expected to generate nearly 4,000 jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenue within five years, airport officials have said.

However, area labor union leaders have questioned the quality of those jobs and whether residents impacted by the development will even be considered for them.

“You look at the way development has happened in the Inland Empire the last 30 years, and you see this continued proliferation of a certain type of job over and over and over again,” said Randy Korgan, secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 1932. “These warehouses are being built without a tenant in it, or even knowing who the tenant is, and a third party or fourth party comes in, occupies it and they then employ temporary employees, part-time employees, high turnover and compressed wages.

“So you don’t have good job quality, but rather, hundreds of thousands of poor jobs in the area that are the byproduct of this sort of development.”

Pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Eastgate Air Cargo Logistics Center could be completed by the end of the year or early 2020.

Amazon, which already operates a fulfillment center at the airport, is a rumored tenant.

No matter who occupies the space, when the facility opens, as many as 12 daily flights are expected around-the-clock, with that figure increasing to 26 by 2024.

Michael Burrows, the airport’s executive director, did not return calls for comment Thursday, April 18, but said earlier this year the influx of cargo jet activity into and out of San Bernardino has been met with no resistance from local residents, business owners or environmental groups.

“We’re seeing more and more warehouses, distribution centers, logistics coming in and yet I still see the city, and the county pockets too within the city, not thriving,” said Sally Sukdol, a resident and longtime San Bernardino County employee. “Where are we gaining anything? Our streets are so torn up already and now they’re talking about bringing in more flights, which means more trucks and traffic.

“The system, it’s benefiting the industry and these corporations,” Sukdol continued. “It’s not giving back to the community and it’s really keeping people down.”

Wednesday, environmental activists and community members lamented the project’s impacts, and broached crafting a community benefits agreement to present to the developer and elected officials. Such an agreement, which details a project’s contributions to the community and ensures community support, has been reached with other large projects in Southern California, including the construction of Staples Center in Los Angeles, Flores said.

“This is not the only way to have an Inland Empire that can thrive,” Flores said. “This is not the only way to have a thriving San Bernardino. There are different ways. If we’re going to bring in a warehouse like this one, let’s make sure it’s a responsible warehouse that’s retrofitted with the right technology and giving us proper jobs.

“This can really set the precedent and be an example of what we need and deserve here.”


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