Is the City of Angels Doomed to Become the City of Warehouses?

A new data tool provides insight into how the “warehouse boom” is impacting the environment and California communities

Warehouse CITY, a new data tool developed at the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability, is providing insight regarding the rapid pace of urban development through a very specific lens: the footprint left by warehouse construction in Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

As The Guardian reports, Warehouse CITY’s interactive map allows users to analyze everything from the acreage dedicated to warehouses to the daily truck trips in and out of the facilities. The tool is equally relevant for municipalities, planners, community-based organizations, not to mention residents and environmental health advocates concerned about the impact of thousands of the gargantuan storage facilities are having on their communities—such as the Inland Empire, which is currently home to 9,500 warehouses with a footprint above one acre. In other discouraging numbers, Warehouse CITY reveals that approximately 1,100 warehouses across over 12,000 acres have been built just since 2010.

Los Angeles clocks in as one of the top three Southern California cities with the most land dedicated to warehouses, thanks mostly to its proximity to the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach—two of the nation’s busiest—and the highways and railways which support them. With over 2500 acres allotted for warehouses, the city sees 48,583 daily truck trips and a daily emission rate of 4,504,616 CO2 (pounds).

Construction worker Juan Díaz of Bloomington, CA—a community set to be largely demolished to make room for a 213-acre industrial complex—spoke to The Guardian about the untrammeled rise of the warehouses, saying, “They are taking away our future… little by little.”

While developers often propose warehouse construction under the guise of job-market stimulation, it also means the demolishing of local schools and houses, along with a unique reshaping of communities by a big rig blitzkrieg through the suburbs and heavy curtains of smoke billowing from the facilities themselves—increasing ozone pollution, asthma and COPD rates, and more. 

In the face of such rapid and enduring development, Warehouse CITY is being eyed as a kind of tool for resistance: residents in Riverside are teaming up with the atmospheric scientist behind the app, Mike McCarthy, to try and ward off a new plan to develop 9,000,000 square-feet of land for warehouse use. The massive undertaking, they argue, will do away with hiking, running and mountain biking areas that residents have been using for years.

This resistance mirrors efforts taken in Riverside, Colton, Chino and Redlands, communities also working to freeze warehouse development, according to Bloomberg. In October, Susan Phillips, a professor of environmental analysis, contextualized the development issue, telling the New York Times“Warehouse growth is totally demand-driven. Developers and many municipalities do not want any regulation on this, and at this point warehouses are growing at many times the rate of population growth.”

With such rapid proliferation, the question becomes whether or not such massive development is inevitable, bolstered by a one-project-at-a-time mentality among officials who ignore, perhaps willfully, the cumulative damage. Hopefully, Warehouse CITY can relieve city planners and developers of their unwittingness as it spells out just how much California is changing, increasingly dominated by those flat-top monoliths we’ve come to know so well.

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