City of Fontana Adopts New Industrial Land Use Regulations Following CEQA Litigation by AG

On April 12th, 2022, the City of Fontana passed Ordinance 1891 (“Ordinance”). The Ordinance implemented new-wave environmental justice policies for industrial commerce centers, and although its reach is limited to Fontana alone, its terms give a snapshot of the environmentally focused land use policies that are beginning to appear on the horizon.

The Ordinance was the result of CEQA litigation brought by the CA Attorney General Rob Bonta against the City of Fontana. The Ordinance aims to reduce the impact that new industrial commerce centers will have on communities by imposing rigorous requirements on the planning, construction, and use of those centers.

In particular, the Ordinance seeks to reduce the impact of distribution traffic and activity, especially in relation to any “sensitive receptors” adjacent to the distribution centers. It also substantially increases the energy standards imposed on these centers, both during their construction and subsequent operation.

To reduce the impact of warehouse traffic on the area, the Ordinance calls for special planning and organization of the sites. It stipulates:

  • Loading docks, truck entries, and drive aisles must be oriented away from any “sensitive receptors.”
  • Entry gates into the loading docks must be set back to allow for a minimum of 140 feet of stacking depth inside the property line.
  • Truck entries must be located on collector streets.
  • Queueing or circling on public streets is strictly forbidden.
  • Facility operators must establish a truck routing map to and from the state highway system and submit that map to the local planning director prior to the issuance of a building license.
  • Idling trucks is forbidden, and the facility managers are required to enforce this ban throughout the life of the facility.

In addition to the activity mitigation detailed above, industrial centers must be physically separated from any adjacent “sensitive receptors” by vegetated buffer zones, with varying requirements depending on the size of the warehouse. As follows:

  • Warehouse buildings larger than 50,000 square feet must erect a 10-foot-wide landscaping buffer.
  • Warehouse buildings larger than 400,000 square feet must erect a 20-foot-wide landscaping buffer.
  • Both buffer zones must include a solid, 10-foot-high decorative wall, natural ground landscaping, and solid screen buffering trees, unless there is an existing block wall.
  • All landscaping must be drought tolerant, properly irrigated, and maintained throughout the life of the facility.
  • Warehouse buildings equal to or less than 50,000 sq. feet in size need only erect a 10-foot-high decorative wall between their facility and any adjacent sensitive receptor.

Finally, the Ordinance includes regulations that implement clean energy standards on the buildings’ planning, construction, and use, with the aim of lowering environmental impacts. They require:

  • Solar-ready roofing.
  • Electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Bike racks for the employees.
  • Specific electrical inputs for refrigerated truck spaces.
  • All on-site motorized equipment must be zero emission.
  • Construction of the site must follow a list of best environmental practices.
  • Projects larger than 400,000 square feet must operate wholly on renewable energy, and they must include an indoor truck operator lounge.

Fontana’s new Ordinance represents an effort to re-orient the city’s relationship with its prevalent warehouse industry in a way that will allow future industry expansions to proceed in step with environmental justice policies. Currently, Fontana’s ordinance is the first of its kind. Whether other cities will follow suit is a question for the future, but with the CA Attorney General using CEQA litigation to push such policies, Fontana may not remain an outlier for long.

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David Temblador is a Partner and Joseph Harrison is a Legal Intern at Harrison, Temblador, Hungerford & Guernsey LLP in Sacramento, California.

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