Warehouse Project Stirs Debate

The fight isn't unprecedented in the region; a warehouse project plan was killed after dozens of residents rallied against the proposal

Cherry Valley, Calif.--March 15--While residents of Beaumont and Cherry Valley are rallying in an attempt to prevent a large warehouse project from coming to their neighborhood, the developer said the venture is not what opponents are making it out to be.

The 2.6-million-square-foot Gateway Center Project is proposed for the north side of Cherry Valley Boulevard, east of Interstate 10, mostly in the unincorporated community of Cherry Valley.

The land, between Beaumont and Calimesa, is zoned for housing, but the builder is trying to change that to industrial.

If approved, the Gateway project would include two buildings on three parcels with 428 loading docks. The project area is 247 acres, of which 171 would be utilized. It would be roughly the size of 43 football fields. The remaining acres would remain as open space.

While no tenants have signed on yet, Bill Shopoff, president and CEO of Shopoff Group, an Irvine-based real estate investor developing the project, said the buildings are planned to be logistics centers for the distributions of goods.

The project, which is in the draft environmental impact report phase, is at least a year away, Shopoff said.

Leading the fight against the project are residents of Solera at Oak Valley Greens, a senior community that is about one mile from the proposed warehouse. Among their concerns are truck traffic, noise and pollution.

Shopoff said he doesn't want to get into a war of words with opponents, but said many of their concerns will be answered in the environmental impact report.

"We're early in the process; we'll try to address their concerns," Shopoff said. "I think the EIR will dispel for a lot of people a lot of misinformation. There's a lot of stuff being said that is simply not accurate."

Calling themselves "No Way Gateway," the opponents have been attending City Council, school board and other community meetings in the San Gorgonio Pass, asking boards to come out against the project.

Although they have no official say in the matter, members of the neighboring Beaumont City Council last week directed administrators to draft a resolution to the county in opposition of rezoning the property.

County Supervisor Marion Ashley, who represents the area, said Tuesday, March 11, that he will ask the Board of Supervisors to form a review committee to study the environmental impacts of the Gateway project, such as water, traffic, infrastructure, air quality and community compatibility.

David Castaldo, a Beaumont city councilman, spoke out against the project at the Cherry Valley Acres and Neighbors meeting Feb. 27. No one moved to the area with the expectation that warehouses would surround their homes, he said.

"We don't need big, ugly boxes at the gateways to our communities," he said. "We do need jobs, but not at the expense of our communities."

Patsy Reeley, president of the Cherry Valley group, said residents of all Pass communities have to put differences aside to work together to stop the Gateway project.

"Cherry Valley has been well known to fight with Beaumont over boundaries," she said. "This is not one of those fights."

No Way Gateway vice chairman Steve Mehlman said he is not against development and that he has no problems with houses and businesses that could come to the area.

Shopoff said when his company purchased the property in 2004, the plan was to build homes, but that received opposition, too. He said residents then wanted buildings that would bring jobs; something he said would come with warehouses.

Shopoff said he knows there's no way to convince everyone to agree with the project, but he hopes enough people see the benefits.

"This project isn't meant to run anybody over," he said. "We do our best to be good neighbors."

Shopoff acknowledged that every warehouse project in the region will be compared to the 1.8-million-square-foot Skechers warehouse in Moreno Valley. Foes of that project say it didn't create the numbers and types of jobs that were promised.

"We're not the developer of the Sketchers building. We didn't make any promises," Shopoff said. "There are a lot of reasons our building isn't Skechers."

Shopoff said there is a lot of demand for warehouse space, especially along the Interstate 10 corridor.

Castaldo told opponents that they should speak up against the project.

"Your best argument is that you don't want it here," Castaldo said. "You want homes there. That's what you were told."

The fight isn't unprecedented in the region. In July, a warehouse project planned for western Beaumont was killed by the City Council after dozens of residents rallied against the proposal.


Contact Craig Shultz at 951-368-9086 or [email protected]



What: Gateway Center Project

Where: North side of Cherry Valley Boulevard, east of Interstate 215, mostly in the unincorporated community of Cherry Valley.

How big: 2.6-million-square-feet. Facility would include two buildings on three parcels with 428 bay doors. The project area is 247 acres, of which 171 would be utilized. It would be roughly the size of 43 football fields.

What's next: The draft environmental impact report is being prepared. The Riverside County Planning Commission also is being asked to change the zoning for the property from residential to industrial

Review committee: County Supervisor Marion Ashley wants to form a committee to look at the potential impacts the project will have on the community. To apply, contact Steven A. Hernandez at (951) 955-1050 or [email protected].

Timeframe: One to two years, according to the developer.

Details: County planning report: www.sovg.org/Gateway.pdf

Opponents' website: nowaygateway.org

Developer: www.shopoff.com



Copyright 2014 - The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.