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Debate rages over Eastgate logistics center bound for San Bernardino airport

Critics lament the abundance of warehouses in the area, but local leaders and laborers welcome the project

This article was first published August 9, 2019 on the San Bernardino Sun

Steve Alverson, left, Director of ESA-Environmental Science Associates and Mark Gibbs, right, Director of Aviation at SBD International Airport, listen to Andrea Vidaurre with Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), during a public hearing concerning the Eastgate Air Cargo Logistics Center at Norton Regional Event Center in San Bernardino, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. The project is destined for San Bernardino International Airport. (Photo by John Valenzuela, Contributing Photographer)By BRIAN WHITEHEAD | bwhitehead@scng.com | San Bernardino SunPUBLISHED: August 9, 2019 at 1:15 pm | UPDATED: August 9, 2019 at 2:40 pm

Dozens of residents from San Bernardino and neighboring communities made it clear Thursday, Aug. 8, they would not support the construction of a massive air cargo logistics center at San Bernardino International Airport without an agreement holding those in charge accountable for reducing or eliminating negative environmental impacts in the surrounding area.

One by one, environmental advocates, concerned neighbors and public figures from San Bernardino, Highland and Redlands urged high-ranking airport officials and project managers to consider the adverse effects of building the Eastgate Air Cargo Logistics Center on a 101-acre lot west of Victoria Avenue and south of Third Street on the former Norton Air Force Base.

The nearly 700,000-square-foot sorting facility would house up to 16 aircraft and provide round-the-clock operations.

Amazon is a rumored tenant.

As they have since the plans were announced in February, community members this week called the project “a very emotional issue.” Some who live near the airport shared personal anecdotes of their children and elders having to spend most of their time indoors because of the already poor air quality.

“We know exactly what the negative effects (of the project) will be,” said Andrea Vidaurre, a policy analyst for the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, a Jurupa Valley-based advocacy group. “They’re going to be tremendous, they’re going to be huge, and they’re going to clog up different streets in the community and bring dirty and dangerous diesel (emissions) close to the community here.”

Without a community benefits agreement, critics of the project said, the Eastgate logistics center would only exacerbate environmental problems.

“We need written promises, a commitment that the project will reduce or eliminate negative effects on the area and protect the communities living on the front line of pollution,” San Bernardino school board president Abigail Medina said. “A community benefits agreement is the only way we can guarantee accountability. We live here. We deserve better.”

While most of the 60 or so public speakers Thursday evening voiced concern over the quality of jobs such a project would generate, as well as the abundance of warehouses already in the area, members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, or LiUNA, supported the Eastgate logistics center and the windfall of construction jobs its approval would create.

Working close to home, they said, would yield more time with their families and offer them key roles in their community’s rise from hardship.

Former San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris said the facility would be master developer Hillwood Enterprises’ most important investment in revitalizing the former air force base. Kelly Space CEO/president Mike Gallo, a San Bernardino school board member, said, when completed, the facility would create quality logistics, transportation and aviation jobs.

The Eastgate logistics center would be a “major economic driver for the region,” said Carole Beswick, a former mayor of Redlands and CEO of Inland Action, a group promoting economic development throughout the region.

Thursday’s public testimony, and any studies associated with matters stemming from it, will be included in the project’s Draft Environmental Assessment. Upon completion of the Draft EA, the Federal Aviation Authority will determine whether to approve the project as proposed or request a full Environmental Impact Statement.

There is no timetable for the Draft EA’s completion.

The Draft EA and a transcript of Thursday’s hearing can be found at sbiaa.org.

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