Bloomington residents spoke at the Colton Joint Unified School District Board of Education meeting Thursday to urge school leaders to speak out against future warehouse development.
“We come here to ask you to do what’s right for our children,” said resident Thomas Rocha. “Remember, we are all in this together.”
With the help of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, residents drafted a resolution specifically asking CJUSD board members and employees to aggressively advocate for the health and safety of students by monitoring and formally opposing warehouse projects.
In addition, the resolution demands that anyone connected with the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission recuse themselves from making decisions on industrial developments.
The demands stem from concerns with a warehouse development to be built on the corner of Cedar and Jurupa Avenues. Approved by the Board of Supervisors on May 2, the proposed 680,000 square foot logistics center will stand approximately 50 feet away from Zimmerman Elementary School and 528 feet from Crestmore Elementary School. Other warehouse proposals near Bloomington High School and Slover High School are also unsettling environmentalists and residents.
One parent, Jennifer Arrington, believes the close proximity of warehouses to schools will only further exacerbate already existing respiratory concerns with area children.
“I’ve seen first hand the dangers of asthma and cancer,” Arrington told CJUSD board members. “If we don’t stop this now, we’re letting [students] down.”
Environmentalists in the room made clear their disapproval of CJUSD President Dan Flores’ involvement with the County–claiming that his current role as Chief of Staff for Supervisor Josie Gonzales is a “conflict of interest.”
“His job is to protect and support his boss, and him sitting on the Board of Education is a complete oxymoron,” said CCAEJ organizer Ericka Flores.
Despite holding off on commenting thoroughly due to legal concerns, Flores and Superintendent Jerry Almendarez assured residents they would take a look at the resolution and discuss it at an upcoming board meeting.
Gary Grossich, who sits on Bloomington’s Municipal Advisory Council, spoke in favor of warehouse development in the unincorporated area. He believes housing could co-exist with distribution centers and would bring the area much needed economic development.
“There are three elements to a city–commercial, residential, and industrial,” Grossich said. “A healthy city is going to have all three. If warehouses are such a bad thing, why are commercial developers building near them?”
Grossich expressed disappointment with the environmental justice groups for not tackling illegal trucking operations, which in his opinion, are more detrimental to residents. The small business owner and longtime Bloomington resident has identified two unauthorized trucking operations across the street from Bloomington High School.
“I would have more respect for their position if they said they would do something about illegal trucking,” explained Grossich. “These places don’t have concrete, no mitigation, no CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) process. It’s illegal stuff and it’s getting out of hand.”
Meanwhile, CJUSD Board Member Frank Ibarra expressed his gratitude to residents for their commitment in protecting student wellness.
“We as a board believe in the safety of all our students, staff, and the people in Bloomington as well,” said Ibarra. “I want to throw my support for us to start a potential new resolution.”