Riverside County has failed Beaumont’s residents by allowing a controversial 1.8 million-square-foot logistics center being built in Cherry Valley to blight the scenery and ignore rules imposed to address the project’s impact, city council members said.
In a letter addressed to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, Beaumont’s five council members said the county’s lack of oversight of the project near the 10 Freeway hurts Beaumont and other San Gorgonio Pass communities.
“It is disheartening that the residents of the city of Beaumont and the surrounding areas must suffer the consequences of a project which was not supported by your constituents and is not being required to comply with promises made,” the one-page letter states.
Brian Rupp, an executive vice president with the project’s developer, Shopoff Realty Investments of Irvine, said via email that not only does the project follow “all conditions of approval and mitigation measures, we will also be planting additional trees and landscaping.”
Measures to shield the project from the public view and a ridgeline will be completed by the end of the year, Rupp said.
Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, who represents the Pass, wasn’t on the board when the project was approved, but said in an email that “my job has been to make sure that the applicant is held accountable to the conditions of approval. I made sure that the berm, landscaping, and general mitigations were increased to help obscure the project from the road.”
He added: “Allow me to be abundantly clear, a tenant will not occupy this building until each and every condition of approval has been met. This includes the critical interim improvements to (the) Cherry Valley Boulevard interchange” with the 10.
Despite organized public opposition, the board of supervisors, which has land-use jurisdiction in unincorporated areas such as Cherry Valley, in 2017 approved a rezoning that cleared the way for what Shopoff calls the I-10 Logistics Center.
Critics, who argued the project would worsen air quality and truck traffic — it’s estimated to generate 600 truck trips a day — challenged the project in court but lost in 2020. Construction started in spring 2021, according to Shopoff’s website.
Since then, the project in the San Gorgonio Pass, which is less than half a mile from the 10 Freeway, has ignored conditions of approval imposed to protect the mountain scenery, the Beaumont council’s letter read.
As the project moves forward, council members are concerned that other conditions and steps to address its impacts “will remain overlooked and unenforced without any public transparency,” the letter added.
The project off Cherry Valley Boulevard, which consists of two buildings on a 244-acre site, “was supposed to be barely visible … from any roadway,” Beaumont resident Mary Daniel said during the council’s June 7 meeting.
“Looking at that ugly monstrosity up there on that man-made hill, I think we can see very clearly how well that promise was kept.”
The developer promised the warehouse “would be visually unobtrusive,” said Beaumont City Clerk Steve Mehlman, who led a group opposed to the warehouse. “Half of it is … the other half reminds me of the man in the high castle. I mean it just looms over everything.”
The letter request “was made out of frustration,” Beaumont Council Member Mike Lara said during the June 7 meeting. “It doesn’t appear the county is doing much if anything to control or to stop what appears to be neglect for any of the promises that were made.”
Exterior walls for one of the buildings are 11 feet higher than plans called for, and changes are being made without public notice, said Lara, a retired director of the county’s building and safety department.
Rupp said building heights rose “due to changes in industry building standards and grading results but remain under the maximum height limit allowed by code. No variances were requested or required going forward.”
A berm screening the project from public view has been raised 5 feet and a 6-foot hedge will go on top of it, along with more than 150 trees to provide another visual buffer, Shopoff added.
Beaumont Mayor Lloyd White said the letter will be read at a board meeting because Hewitt did not respond to a request for a town hall-like meeting to talk about the warehouse. White ran for Hewitt’s supervisor seat but finished third in the June 7 primary.
Hewitt said via email that he found White’s comments “perplexing as there are numerous opportunities for Beaumont City Council members and city staff to interface with myself and county staff.”
The county addressed the city’s issues with the project at a July 14 meeting of the San Gorgonio Municipal Advisory Council, but no one from the city was there, the supervisor said.
The letter comes as the logistics industry, which has experienced skyrocketing growth in the Inland Empire in the past decade, is branching out to the Pass and the desert in search of more space.
Warehouses bring jobs and economic activity, but also concerns from residents who fear their neighborhoods will be choked by toxic diesel exhaust and a seemingly endless stream of tractor trailers.
One proposed project is Summit Station, which calls for a four-story hotel, restaurant and retail space and three “e-commerce” buildings totaling 2.55 million square feet in Beaumont
Residents in a senior community across the street from Summit Station mobilized to oppose the project. The Beaumont Planning Commission in late June recommended the council reject Summit Station.