S.B. Airport Logistics Center Brings Jobs, Resistance
By Dianne Anderson
There may be no stopping the new airport logistics center now, but with a little persistence, community members could still get a say in hires and benefits in the future of over 3,800 aviation-related jobs.
Developers are set to move on the Eastgate Project 1, pending the Federal Aviation Administration approval on the airport 101.5 acre project.
The San Bernardino International Airport is preparing to build out a 658,000 square foot distribution center, bringing thousands of daily trips of trucks, along with 26 planes coming in overhead.
Tom Dolan, executive director of Inland Congregations United for Change, said ICUC stays on top of local projects, but he said no one was aware of the call for community input on the fast-moving project until recently.
Some 250 members turned out to the town hall forum surprised to learn that the EIR had already been approved.
Dolan said an advertisement seems to have run in the fine print of the back pages of one local daily newspaper calling for community input, which they considered due diligence for community outreach.
He said it was not sufficient.
“For a project that has such a tremendous impact on our community, that notice was entirely inadequate. We were unaware that this was going on until about six weeks ago,” he said.
Notices should have been mailed to nearby homes by law, but only a few homes are located in the immediate area.
He said it was disheartening to see that most city and airport officials didn’t show up to the packed meeting.
Pollution impact is a big concern, he said, along with the daily grind of trucks on the streets. His kids go to school less than a mile away from the project. His wife is also a physical education teacher, and works outside most of the day. Recently, she was checked for bronchitis, and the doctor asked if she worked at an airport.
“He could identify something that made him conclude that she works at an airport. We already have BNSF. We already have a tremendous cancer cluster there, and a great increase in cancer risk if you live within one-half mile,” he said.
At this point, stopping the local project development is not the goal, but he said the group intends to push for a Community Benefits Agreement, which could help mitigate health impacts.
“We need to have an influence of the continuation of development. We want to make sure the environment impacts are mitigated and the employment factors benefit the community,” he said.
On the upside, the October San Bernardino International Airport Authority Special Meeting states that employees of Eastgate Building 1 would earn, on average, about $36,000 a year.
The DEIR also states the project would contribute millions to the City of San Bernardino in fees and taxes in the first year of operation, including about $400,000 in school fees, about $200,000 in city fees, about $1,500,000 in permit fees, about $3,500,000 in utility fees, and $4,706,000 in various taxes, with growth at 2% annually.
The cities of Highland, San Bernardino, Colton and Loma Linda, sent support letters, and expressed enthusiasm for past airport projects that they say have generated 11,575 jobs and billions of dollars in economic output to the community.
Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes also initially expressed her support at the prospect of local jobs in October, but last week, she sent a letter to Airport Executive Director Mike Burrows, raising concerns about how the environmental impact will be mitigated from the project.
“Moreover, the promise of these jobs created by this project does not include any measurable benchmarks for the number of jobs created, or the quality of those jobs,” she wrote.
To continue her support for the logistics project, she wrote that robust dialogue to the impacted community is needed, along with workable solutions, such as green technology and electric vehicles. Among other concerns, she is calling for all jobs to be sustainable, well paid, and establish best practices for deployment of zero emissions infrastructure.
Mike Burrows did not return a request for comment by press time.
Mario Vasquez, the spokesperson for Teamsters 1932, said their organization is well aware of area developments that should be in the public eye, but their members who live in the area of the proposed project were also taken by surprise.
At this point of the process, the project still requires National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Federal Aviation Administration approval to ready for the Boeing 737 air traffic, projected to start at 12 flights and increase to 26 flights daily by 2024.
Right now, the airport authority is still negotiating the final language with Hillwood Enterprises LP. Hillwood is also in the process of negotiating the ground lease with San Bernardino International Airport Authority. As yet, the tenant has not been announced.
Ultimately, Vasquez said the coalition of community labor and environmental justice organizations want a seat at the table. They believe the 35-year ground lease should not be approved unless there is an agreement that allows the coalition to set community standards on environmental protections, and job quality standards.
In the past six weeks, the coalition, which includes several nonprofits, including Sierra Club and CCAEJ, knocked on about 1,000 doors every weekend leading up to the recent Town Hall forum.
Vasquez said the Community Benefits Agreement has been implemented many times before with good success on establishing wages, setting a cap on temporary workers, and transparency.
Since the community is bearing the brunt of environmental impact, he said they should also have first dibs on airport jobs, and be at the table to set enforceable standards between the developer, the tenants, and the community.
“LAX did an expansion, and community members rallied to ensure that there would be enforceable, clearly measurable and ultimately a very transparent process around setting standards. That’s one example,” he said.
The Staple Center also had good community involvement for their CBA, as did the revival of the Oakland Army Base.
He said they had hoped to attend the most recent Airport Authority Commission meeting, but that it was canceled after the Town Hall forum.
Sergio Luna, also a member of ICUC, is concerned about local kids exposed to more pollution. The planes will be flying near where he lives.
Most parents he’s talked to were also unaware of the call for community input for the EIR and the development. He feels that it is a racial justice issue because most of the local families are Black or Latino.
“My kids’ school is about a half mile from the airport,” he said. “Now that there is going to be 35 cargo planes in and out, I’m considering moving my kids out of the school.