If you order anything online for home delivery, there’s a good chance that it will come to you via the distribution hubs of the Inland Empire.
Thanks to relatively inexpensive land compared with surrounding areas, the IE is home to a billion square feet of warehouse space with at least another 200 million in the wings and still to be added. In 40 years the number of warehouses has surged from just a few hundred to several thousand today.
That growth has come with an environmental and public health cost, says a coalition of more than 60 Southland environmental and social justice groups and organizations.
The coalition recently sent a report and letter to Governor Gavin Newsom asking for a halt on the construction of new warehouses until the health and environmental impact can be better understood.
Spearheading that effort—which is receiving much media coverage from print, online, and broadcast outlets in the region—is the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, the Sierra Club (San Gorgonio Chapter), and the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability at Pitzer College, which is led by Director Susan Phillips.
Phillips’ research on warehouse sprawl forms the core of the report sent with the letter to Newsom, which was the subject of a major new report in the Los Angeles Times earlier this week.
Phillips told the paper that warehouse growth in the IE is “mind-boggling.” Even though it has led to a dramatic increase in pollution in surrounding neighborhoods, “they’re not stopping putting warehouses next to homes and schools in the Inland Empire,” she said. “The amount of space they are using is leaving little space for anything else.”
Also included in the coalition’s outreach to Governor Newsom were Attorney General Rob Bonta and State Education Superintendent Tony Thurmond.
“We write to you,” the letter begins, “as representatives of environmental, labor, health, community, and academic groups to urge you to declare a state of emergency for public health in California’s Inland Empire (IE) due to the unchecked escalation of warehouse growth and an accompanying health crisis within Inland communities.”
Their letter identifies the many potential health issues linked with increased exposure to pollution—including asthma, heart disease, and cognitive and reproductive problems—and the inability to move local agencies in the region to do more in response to this situation, which resulted in reaching out to the governor.
“We have felt there is no other pathway forward other than to ask the state leaders to intervene,” Phillips explained to a Southern California News Group reporter. “We’ve tried everything. Our environmental justice partners have tried everything. The system is totally biased toward development and community input is virtually meaningless. It’s a box you check and that’s what needs to change.”
The data points provided by the report include how truck traffic in the IE is generating 15 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, 30 million pounds of nitric oxide, and 300,000 pounds of diesel particulate matter which are linked to a variety of illnesses, particularly cancer.
The report also highlights how warehouses are encroaching on neighborhoods: According to the report, more than 300 warehouses are located 1,000 feet or less from some 139 IE schools.
In addition to the Times and Southern California News Group, the coalition’s efforts have been highlighted by CalMatters and CBS News‘ Los Angeles affiliate station.
- Visit the Redford Conservancy at Pitzer College page to learn more about the report “A Region in Crisis: The Rationale for a Public Health State of Emergency in the Inland Empire.”
- Interested in knowing how many warehouses are in your city? Visit the data tool Warehouse CITY, which was created by the Redford Conservancy in partnership with Radical Research. Choose your city from the drop-down menu in the top left corner, and click. That’s all it takes!