Riverside County supervisors Tuesday completed their initial assessment of a proposed “Good Neighbor Policy” establishing criteria to gauge the compatibility of warehouse and logistics center projects with unincorporated communities, but formal action on the policy was postponed.
Transportation & Land Management Agency Director Juan Perez told the Board of Supervisors that the “tremendous amount of growth in logistics” over the last several decades led to findings by TLMA analysts that culminated in formation of the Good Neighbor Policy.
“These are best practices we’ve already applied on a case-by-case basis for projects,” Perez said. “It’s an effort to lessen the impacts on surrounding communities.”
He said further growth is assured, largely because foreign imports unloaded at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach end up stored in the Inland Empire.
Mammoth warehousing projects have stirred controversy over the years, stemming from traffic congestion, pollution, noise and other concerns. A court- issued injunction recently stopped construction of the World Logistics Center in Moreno Valley, based on evidence of a possible flawed environmental impact report tied to the 40 million-square-foot development. A group of Cherry Valley and Beaumont residents last year attempted, unsuccessfully, to prevent the 230- acre San Gorgonio Crossing Project from moving forward. Supervisor Kevin Jeffries was the lone vote against the colossal warehouse.
“This is an issue that is dramatically impacting my district, the First District,” Jeffries said. “We probably have 20-40 warehouses in the works. Warehouses are more and more prominent. Imagine sitting on your back lawn and listening to diesel rigs coming and going all night.”
The policy underscores the need to protect “sensitive receptors,” identified as residences, daycare centers, hospitals, nursing homes, parks and playgrounds.
According to the TLMA, the policy’s aim would be to ensure qualify-of- life issues are addressed “from the initial design process, to construction and through operations.”
The policy would generally focus on projects in excess of 250,000 square feet, but it would not supplant requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Supervisor Karen Spiegel asked about the rationale for the 250,000- square-foot threshold, and Perez told her that was a big box figure which generally demands higher scrutiny.
TLMA officials would be responsible for gathering all pertinent details in the vetting stage of a proposed development and furnish the county Planning Commission and the board as and when necessary to help both bodies make appropriate decisions, Perez said.
The policy would direct that developers build no closer than 1,000 feet from a sensitive receptor, and that during the construction phase, heavy- duty trucks, graders and excavators use CARB-certified low emission engines.
Contractors would be required to agree to keep all construction equipment parked in designated areas, away from residences, and during building activity, truckers would be directed not to idle for more than five minutes at a time, with vehicles situated in a manner to cause the least noise and pollutant incursions in neighborhoods.
Facilities would need to be designed so that “on-site queueing of commercial trucks … is away from sensitive receptors,” with minimal spillover of truck traffic onto residential streets.
The policy would also push for berms, trees and other landscaping to be installed that shields receptors from warehousing activity, which typically runs 24 hours.
Lighting and public address systems would need to be designed with the objective of creating the least intrusion on receptors, and routes would need to be laid out with the goal of putting trucks on freeways and highways quickly, minimizing time on surface streets, according to the policy.
Compliance officers would need to be on hand at all times to monitor operations and make certain employees are not violating policy guidelines, officials said.
The policy would further encourage developers to look at ways of improving public infrastructure, including streets, in the immediate vicinity of each project as an offset to the impact of construction.
A future supplemental funding rule might additionally be put in place, requiring a one-time payment by developers — separate from county developer impact fees, or DIFs — to mitigate the increased pollution and environmental consequences connected with logistics facilities, according to the policy.
Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, who is away on personal business, wanted action on the Good Neighbor Policy suspended until he could be present at the board’s Aug. 27 meeting to discuss it. His colleagues agreed.