Pomona community groups and churches successfully advocated to pass a moratorium on warehouse development
The Inland Empire region of Southern California has the worst air quality in the United States–in part, due to its warehouses. As of 2021, this region accounted for more than a billion square feet of warehouses.
“Warehouses have a devastating impact on communities, because they bring pollution from diesel truck traffic which causes respiratory illnesses and premature death,” said Lisa Engdahl, Servant Partners Co-General Director and Co-Founder of Clean & Green Pomona, a community organization advocating for environmental justice, sustainability, and health in Pomona’s industrial zones and neighborhoods. Lisa’s work represents one of Servant Partners' Nine Signs of a Transforming Community, addressing environmental degradation and creating clean environments to promote a healthy, sustainable community.
The trucks, cars, and cargo-handling equipment associated with warehouses releases more smog-forming pollution than any other sector, and diesel truck emissions are known to cause respiratory problems. Pomona already has hazardous air quality, with all its zip codes having more pollution than 95% of zip codes in California, and those living close to warehouses are disproportionately low-income and communities of color. Pomona has no standard regulations in place for warehouses.
When residents noticed that new, large warehouses were being built in Pomona and operated by nonlocal businesses, they decided to act. Clean & Green Pomona joined with ICON (Inland Communities Organizing Network) and Conexión de Padres por la Educación to advocate for a moratorium that would temporarily ban warehouse development, so that regulations can be placed. There was also strong advocacy from the First Presbyterian Church of Pomona, an SP partner church, to pass the moratorium.
“We know the cost of warehouses on the giant scale that has overrun many of our neighboring cities: the worst air pollution in the country, worsening traffic on our streets, longer wait times on freeway on and off ramps,” said Damiana Aldana, Vice President of Clean & Green Pomona. “We know that the jobs that are created by the presence of warehouses are mostly poorly paid, often have bad working conditions, and are set to be replaced in a decade by automation. In Pomona, we can do better.”
When the city council met to vote on this moratorium, they encountered a diverse resident group who expressed strong support for the temporary ban. The city council voted to pass the warehouse moratorium, and a few months later, voted unanimously to extend it for 10 months!
“It was wonderful to see people gather and advocate for planning that has regard for the well-being of our community,” said Lisa. “It’s tremendously empowering and healing for people to have their work make a positive impact for change.”
This triumph joins a long line of environmental justice work in Pomona. Clean & Green Pomona helped ban polluting waste, recycling and pallet facilities in Pomona, eliminate over 20 miles of truck routes, and transition the Pomona Unified School District buses from 88% diesel to 100% non-diesel.
“Every action you take for community transformation, whether it is successful or not, lays the groundwork for future transformation to happen more easily,” Lisa said. “I can see how, through past efforts, relationships were built, knowledge was gained, and new leaders were developed or elected, which God worked through in this current situation.”