North Richmond Communities and Sierra Club Set New Standards for Warehouse Development
By Jacob Klein
As e-commerce continues to grow as a part of the economy, last-mile warehouse and delivery center developments are proliferating across the Bay Area, from SoMA to East Oakland, from Hayward to Fremont. North Richmond, an unincorporated part of Contra Costa County, has several lots that developers are considering. In May 2022, the Sierra Club, working with community partners, secured a series of benefits and mitigations for a warehouse development project in North Richmond, setting a new floor for regional campaigns on this issue by rapid growth.
The development was proposed by Centerpoint Strategies for construction of three 555,537 square foot warehouses on land just 600 feet from Verde Elementary School and across from urban eartha non-profit organization that has been working since 2005 to “help build a more sustainable, healthy, and just local food system.”
Although Supervisor John Gioia introduced an order that would impose a moratorium on all new warehouse applications while the county determines appropriate land use updates in December 2021, the Centerpoint Strategies application was already in course and was not affected by the moratorium. Nonetheless, the county’s ordinance sent a strong message that the developments would require further consideration and that there would be a new status quo for greater community and climate health protection, particularly for North Richmond.
North Richmond is already overloaded with air pollution, with a CalEnviroScreen in the 96th percentile. There is a history of industrial use and a population that is largely people of color and underserved. This is a common profile for communities targeted for warehouse development here in the Bay Area and elsewhere. Proximity to warehouses is strongly linked to poverty rates, concentration of minority populations, and many other socio-economic demographics, including language isolation, asthma rates, housing inequality, and unemployment. And unfortunately, Centerpoint’s development-scale warehouses have the potential to increase air pollution and criteria pollutant levels due to increased truck traffic emitting diesel particulates, among many impacts. that warehouses can have on local environments.
To mitigate these impacts, Supervisor Gioia proposed several forward-thinking measures as part of the development agreement with the county. One of the main ones was a rapid electrification of vehicles on site with 33% of the fleet to be zero-emission vehicles at the start of operations, 65% of the fleet to be zero-emission vehicles by the end of 2023, 80% of the fleet will consist of zero-emission vehicles by the end of 2025 and 100% of the fleet will consist of zero-emission vehicles by the end of 2027.
This is a standard we haven’t seen in many other places – and even faster than state electrification guidelines – and we welcome this aggressive timeline. However, we still had lingering concerns. First, within five years to 2027, harmful emission vehicles will continue to be used near sensitive receptors, such as elementary school. Second, this appendix only applies to vehicles that are domiciled on the site. This means that it applies to vehicles owned and operated by the company that ends up using this site, and only to those that remain on the site when not in use. The problem is that many e-commerce businesses rely on third-party vehicle fleets, or common carriers, which would not be required to update their fleets in the same way. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to regulate common carriers, although we’re starting to see more strategies, like the indirect source review rule that the South Coast Air Quality Management District has adopted in 2021.
Working with Urban Tilth, Richmond Our Power Coalition and Supervisor Gioia, we were able to secure additional mitigation measures to attempt to reduce the impact on the community and create stronger accountability measures in the event the development fails to comply. not agreed agreements. terms. The Contra Costa County Planning Commission approved the project on May 25 with staff recommendations for the mitigation updates we helped create.
As part of the agreement, if the company is unable to meet the requirements of the zero-emission vehicle fleet, it will have to prove that the cause is due to a disruption in the manufacture of zero-emission vehicles. This proof will need to be confirmed by a regulatory body. Even still, the company will have to ensure that as many zero-emission vehicles as possible are acquired. The required carbon offsets must be prioritized locally where the impacts are most felt. Reports must be submitted to the county on progress towards agreed targets, and any requested permit adjustments require stricter approval than administrative approval. As much energy as possible will be provided by rooftop solar PV, with any additional energy to come from renewables. Bans are imposed on certain diesel-powered yard equipment and idling. And more.
Of the site-specific warehouse campaigns we’ve worked on in the Bay Area, this one represents a standard by which we plan to set the rest. However, we also understand that the reason for higher standards has to do with the unfortunate location of this development near a school and community farm. We plan to continue working with local organizations and communities to ensure that the standards of this project are met and that standards at all levels continue to improve.
Trans Power electric heavy truck used to move cargo at the Port of Long Beach in California. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder/NREL)
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