Proposed warehouse project near March Air Reserve Base is put on hold after protests from residents

Rob McMillan Image
Friday, June 14, 2024
Proposed warehouse project near March Air Reserve base is put on hold
A group of frustrated residents in Riverside is protesting against a proposed development west of the 215 Freeway near March Air Reserve Base.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A group of frustrated residents in Riverside is protesting against a proposed development west of the 215 Freeway near March Air Reserve Base.

For decades, the land has sat untouched. But it could soon be home to yet another large cluster of warehouses.

"Most likely when you see construction coming in, it follows by four concrete walls and it becomes a warehouse," said Franco Pacheco, a resident of the nearby community of Mead Valley.

For now, the project is on hold. At a public meeting Wednesday night, with residents opposed to the project filling the room, the March Joint Powers Authority voted to table it indefinitely. Many of them are worried about truck traffic, air quality, and what might be in the soil.

In 2019, an F-16 fighter jet crashed into a warehouse. The weapons from that jet were destroyed in a bunker on this very piece of land.

"They're going to be digging more than 20 feet below to try to move dirt around," said Riverside resident Jennifer Larratt-Smith. "We don't know what that's going to release."

But the developer of the project said the land has been adequately tested.

"This site is very unique," said Bryan Goodman, with the Lewis Management Corp. "It has some old ammunition bunkers and we have studied those extensively, the government has studied them extensively, and they are perfectly ready and suitable for development."

In an interview with Eyewitness News before the JPA's decision to place the project on hold, Goodman said the land has always been proposed for redevelopment.

"This is a logical continuation of what has been going on out here for probably 20-plus years now," he said.

The proposal that was before the board would not have consisted entirely of warehouses. Sixty acres on the west end was to be set aside for a community park, along with a large buffer zone of land that would remain as it is today. The rest of the project had been designated for warehousing and other businesses.

"Only 39 percent of the development is proposed for larger, big-box, logistics-type facilities," Goodman said. "Most of the other surrounding land uses are for smaller types of buildings to accommodate tech, manufacturing, and medium and small businesses."

Following the commission's vote, the senior executive vice president at Lewis Management Group sent the following statement to Eyewitness News:

"After public comment, we felt it would be appropriate to thoughtfully review all of the testimony and provide comprehensive and meaningful responses for the public and Commission. We will also be exploring whether modifications are appropriate in light of the feedback we have received. The currently proposed development has not been modified and offers a tremendous number of community benefits and opportunities for many diverse types of business while minimizing environmental impacts."

For now, the concerned residents can breathe a sigh of relief. The question is: For how long?

"We have millions of square feet of warehouses already," Larratt-Smith said. "Can we try to think differently. Can we be more than that?"