Project could provide 5,000 jobs
Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/16/2011 10:12:59 PM PDT

RIALTO – Developer Timothy J. Howard calls the Rialto Commerce Center project “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something big and get it right.”

But for the many residents of the unincorporated Bloomington community, the 164-acre warehouse project – which is to include six buildings ranging in size from 64,000 to 1.6 million square feet – is a threat to their lifestyle, health and safety.

The industrial park development will sit on an island of Rialto surrounded by unincorporated San Bernardino County land, near the Riverside County line.

After four years of waiting for approval, the Rialto City Council last week unanimously approved a zoning change and environmental impact plan for the project, which includes the development of 3.6 million square feet of warehouse structures that has the potential to bring more than 5,000 jobs to the region.

The project’s green light comes at a time when inventories of large industrial buildings have shrunk to almost nothing, Howard said.

For more than an hour, area residents appealed to the City Council to postpone the decision so that issues of truck traffic and vehicle-related air pollution could be studied more thoroughly.

They were in the company of some pretty big guns.

Josie Gonzales, 5th district supervisor for the County of San Bernardino Board of Supervisors, told the council that if the city of Rialto pursues industrial development on the site, there is “an obligation to minimize the impact for existing residents.”

She too asked the City Council for a delay.

County of Riverside Transportation Department officials raised concerns about the truck traffic, which they said would spill across county lines.

And South Coast Air Quality Management District officials said the project’s environmental impact report may underestimate the air quality ramifications of the project.

In the end, the City Council voted for jobs.

“I want you residents of Bloomington to know we hear everything you say…Rialto wants to be a good neighbor…We need jobs,” said council member Ed Scott, prior to his vote in favor of the project.

Said council member Joe Baca Jr.: “I know we have concerns about the project. I too share those concerns. But it will bring jobs, jobs, jobs. I am in support of the project.”

That vote was “unconscionable,” said Rachel Lopez, community organizer for the Riverside-based Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, which has been advising some Bloomington residents opposed to the project.

“While Rialto brings in lots of money for the project, it will bring harm to other people in another area,” she said.

Following the vote, Gonzales said, “The city of Rialto council has every right to make decisions in their own self-interest…to bring about an economic turnaround in their city.

“It is important to me that as they (Rialto) move forward, that they incorporate the concerns that have been expressed, written and spoken, in reference to mitigating the impacts that will primarily be experienced by the unincorporated residents,” Gonzales said.

There will be many more hearings and points for city approval as the project’s design takes shape, Gonzales said.

“I would like to take Rialto at its word. Let’s work toward being good neighbors…to deliver the best project,” said Gonzales, noting that the jobs that it will create will add to the region’s economic recovery.

A regularly scheduled meeting of Gonzales’ Bloomington Municipal Advisory Council on May 3 will focus on developing an organization framework for future discussions about the project with Rialto officials, Gonzales said.

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