Challenges + Solutions

During the Fall 2021 semester, our team of eight graduate students studying transportation policy, engineering, and planning at UC Berkeley's Department of City & Regional Planning conducted a semester-long research project studying the externalities, both positive and negative, of the warehousing and transportation industry in Fontana, California. Our team completed an array of qualitative and quantitative analyses, including a site visit to Fontana, a deep literature and policy review, a local and regional economic analysis, and explorations into air pollution, truck electrification, and road safety. This report is a culmination of our work.

This is a critical moment to examine the warehousing and logistics industry in the Inland Empire. COVID-19 has accelerated consumer shifts towards e-commerce, leading to an ever greater reliance on the people and places that are foundational to goods movement. In recent months, we have also seen firsthand what happens when the supply chain is disrupted and the global ramifications this has for prices and the availability of basic consumer goods. Warehousing is the primary economic regional cluster based on the data; it's undeniable that they provide jobs but analyses indicate that most of these jobs, irrespective of employer, do not offer adequate pay, stability, or benefits to sustain individuals and their families. Projections suggest it's these low paying jobs that will continue to grow in the region. Despite these challenges, electric vehicle technology is rapidly advancing, creating opportunities to reduce some environmental impacts of goods movement.

The City of Fontana is at odds with community groups who are rightly concerned about future warehouse development and the impact of development on their health and the quality of life in Fontana. This has resulted in expensive and lengthy litigation and lost opportunities for the city to work with community groups in a proactive, collaborative, and committed way.

There is also an appetite for new regulation in Fontana and the City has proposed a new local ordinance - the Industrial Commerce Center Sustainability Standards Ordinance - to regulate the warehousing industry. Given that the ordinance has not yet been passed by council, the City is still in the window of opportunity to amend the proposed ordinance to increase transparency in the development process and strengthen environmental and community protections.

We have organized our research into this executive summary and seven additional chapters listed below:

  1. Introduction
  2. Policy Overview & Analysis
  3. State of the Economy
  4. Labor & Coalition Building
  5. Air Quality and Pollution Monitoring and Action
  6. Modeling Sustainable Trucking Practices
  7. Road Safety

As a major logistics center in the global supply chain, our team believes Fontana can lead the region and industry forward in a sustainable, equitable, and resilient way by advocating for higher sustainability standards, labor rights protections, and innovative technologies and regulations to reduce emissions in the transportation of goods.

From all of our work, it feels very clear to us that local residents care very deeply about the warehouses, the logistics industry, and everything they entail. It is unique, frankly, to have so many residents engaged and almost demanding participation in civic life. To respect and harness that energy, we believe that the city can create committed, ongoing proactive processes for these people to engage with, to share their ideas, and to work with elected officials and other stakeholders to negotiate solutions. Hence, in addition to our technical analyses, we lay out direct actions various stakeholders can take to leverage the community’s assets.

Our report is currently under review, but following edits our full list of recommendations, organized by section, will be available below.