On Thursday, August 8, hundreds of residents from San Bernardino and beyond spoke both in favor of and against the Eastgate Project, an air cargo logistics center, during a Federal Aviation Administration public hearing inside Norton Regional Events Center.
Many attendees showed their support by carrying signs, wearing t-shirts, and by speaking out during public comment at the hearing.
The hearing was well supported, and it was evident the amount of interest the project is continuing to garner, when the building reached capacity and over-flow seating extended outside.
The forthcoming 750,000 square foot project has already been approved by the San Bernardino International Airport Authority (SBIAA) and is being developed by Hillwood, the same developer behind Amazon’s regional air hub in Ft. Worth, Texas.
“The San Bernardino airport is located in the most ozone polluted part of the most ozone polluted basin in the nation! We do not even entirely understand how the current air quality is truly affecting our health. And we want to add a huge polluting development? We need a comprehensive, robust, deep dive look into what exactly this project is bringing us and what does that mean cumulatively in the context of where it’s located,” demanded Andrea Vidaurre, Policy Analyst with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice.
“We have very serious concerns that this project will have severe impacts. How will we know how strong of a mitigation package we need, if we do not truly understand the impacts? The city and community deserve to know what exactly they are approving. And they need a true commitment to lower and eliminate those impacts,” continued Vidaurre.
Community members who spoke during public comment were only given a couple minutes to make their point; San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia who is also the President of the SBIAA Commission, attended a portion of the meeting but did not comment. He did, however, cite support of the project during a previous interview.
“(Eastgate) was organized to start the process of redevelopment and renaissance for the old closed Norton Air Force Base, so it’s within our scope, it’s within our purview; we’re doing I think what the mission has been assigned to us and that’s creating jobs,” Valdivia said. “Eastgate compliments that scope of service so I think it’s a win-win for our community.”
Furthermore, at the workshop, it began with an introduction to the National Policy Act of 1969, an introduction to General Conformity was given, followed by an overview of the proposed project and finally, public comment.
“We’re still pursuing a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), but today we’re here asking for a true environmental impact report,” said Ben Reynoso, community advocate.
“Since there are high levels of ozone in our area, we want air filters for residents’ homes, schools, churches, and anywhere else that there are large amounts of people,” continued Reynoso.
All public comments, research, and studies will be included in the Draft Environmental Assessment; once the Draft EA is complete, the FAA will determine whether or not to approve the project as proposed or request a full Environmental Impact Report.
The Draft EA and a transcript of Thursday’s hearing can be found at sbiaa.org.