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Moreno Valley OKs 40 million-square-foot warehouse project

Moreno Valley OKs 40 million-square-foot warehouse project
Riverside County resident Betty Masters opposesa proposed 40 million-square-foot warehouse for a World Logistics Center on land south of the 60 freeway and north of Redlands Boulevard in Moreno Valley on May 28. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

A divided Moreno Valley City Council voted 3-2 Wednesday to approve a 40 million-square-foot warehouse project to be developed on the eastern edge of town.

The proposed World Logistics Center had split the city between those who said it would bring needed jobs to a struggling bedroom community and those who worried it could have major environmental consequences while bringing mostly low-wage, temporary work to the city.

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"It's going to provide a variety of jobs," said Mayor Pro Tem Yxstian Gutierrez, who supported the project, along with Mayor Jesse Molina and Councilman Jeffrey Giba. Councilman George Price and Councilwoman D. LaDonna Jempson opposed.

The proposal comes during a logistics boom in the Inland Empire that has brought countless large warehouses and distribution centers to local communities — though no projects on the scale of the World Logistics Center, which, if fully built, would be large enough to fit almost 700 football fields inside.

On Wednesday, the City Council met to take its vote at a recreation center to accommodate the large crowd. Outside the building, a detractor held a sign urging a no vote and noting project developer Iddo Benzeevi has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence recent council elections.

Supporters put up signs that read "Save Moreno Valley" and "Yes Yes Yes to World Logistics Center."

The developer has touted an estimated 20,000 jobs that would come to the city because of the project. In late June, the Planning Commission voted 6-1 to approve the project largely because of the promise of employment opportunities.

According to the project's environmental impact report, the center would likely draw about 14,000 trucks a day into the city in a region plagued with some of the worst air pollution in the nation. Emissions of multiple pollutants would exceed thresholds set by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The environmental report drew criticism earlier this summer from a host of agencies and organizations, including the California Air Resources Board, which called it "legally inadequate;" the South Coast Air Quality Management District; the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; county transportation officials; and the American Lung Assn. in California.

"It has caused so much division," said Jempson, adding that she hoped the vote would finally bring "some degree of normalcy to our city."

But the council's vote is unlikely to be the end of the controversy.

"We've already been told if this is approved, lawsuits are going to be filed," Price said during Wednesday's meeting.

For more Inland Empire news, follow @palomaesquivel.

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