Landowners fight Pacific Gateway Project at meeting in Tracy

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By Craig W. Anderson

Originally called the Golden State Logistical Hub by developer Mike Sandhu, the plan has been resurrected as the Pacific Gateway Project, but the battle to stop it remains the same.

The recent meeting at Banta’s Jefferson School found nearly 100 landowners, farmers and residents in attendance to make their feelings known concerning the pending Environmental Impact Report (EIR) by Raney Management of Sacramento.

San Joaquin Farm Bureau Executive Director Andrew Genasci described the meeting as “initially raucous but it calmed down somewhat as it moved along. The many angry landowners and homeowners expressed their concerns about the impending EIR and the Pacific Gateway Project itself.”

“Farm Bureau is against the Gateway Project,” Genasci remarked. “Good, irrigated farmland will be lost to this limited resource as productive farmland is paved over.”

The meeting, called by San Joaquin County’s Community Development Department to hear opinions about the Pacific Gateway Project’s EIR, the project and its impact on the county’s agriculture by “all interested agencies, organizations [and] persons” during a Public Scoping meeting.

The Ridgeline Property Group from Atlanta, Georgia is the project developer which will achieve buildout after 30 years on the 1,612-acre project site. Ultimately, the planned square footage of the project warehouses and other buildings is 27,650,000 square feet of “limited industrial use,” 104,544 square feet of “general commercial use,” a 29 acre “private university,” 93,654 square feet of “business park use,” a VFW post and open space, park, pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

The first phase includes 2.8 million square feet of industrial uses in five buildings, with an additional 140,000 square foot University Medical School Facility “as well as associated utilities to serve the initial phase.”

The boundaries are: Tracy Boulevard on the west, Durham Ferry Road on the north and the California Aqueduct, the Delta-Mendota Canal and the Banta-Carbona Irrigation District on the south. The east border is about 0.5 mile west of Bird Road. South Chrisman Road cuts across the project.

The project is close enough to Tracy to be in the city’s sphere of influence; the land is zoned as general agriculture and has almond, cherry and walnut orchards along with agricultural businesses: A B FAB, Inc., a manufacturer of dust control machinery for ag processors and Crown Nut Co. inside the project’s borders.

The plans are interesting but, said Genasci, “Water concerns about the project include water being pumped from aquifers now used by neighbors’ wells, flood flows from asphalt parking lots and building roofs during winter rains, traffic that would affect Jefferson School’s drop off and pick-up of students by parents and school buses and noise, dust and pollution during construction and use of the roads.”

Perhaps the biggest water issue is that the Del Puerto Water District – the district within which the project is located – only provides surface water to ag customers but none to industrial or municipal users.

Other challenges needing attention, Genasci said, is that during various harvest seasons and agricultural activities by the surrounding farms, ranches and businesses slow moving ag equipment on roads are likely to create traffic challenges on already overtaxed roadways.

The Pacific Gateway Project is “starting to generate interest” said San Joaquin Valley Hay Growers Association President and CEO Rick Staas. “Everyone who attended the scoping meeting made their opinions known but it’s vitally important that those affected by this project send their opposition to it to the board of supervisors by letter. That will have a great, effective impact.”

The project proposes in its EIR Notice of Preparation to seek three general plan amendments and a zone reclassification to meet the county’s general plan requirements.

SJFB First Vice President Les Strojan noted that ancillary businesses affected by the removal of ag production as the Pacific Gateway works toward its 28 to 30-year buildout.

“Sales of ag equipment, fuel, insurance, processing facilities, tractors, sprayers and loss of work for labor, all will suffer as ag is replaced by warehouses,” he said. “Should the economy have a slowdown or a recession during this project’s construction and lifetime and business begins to slip, it wouldn’t be the first time construction exceeded need. We already have empty warehouses in the county.”

He added, “A project like this changes the character of our county from ag production to gigantic buildings and sheets of asphalt. Another thought: what are the products being stored for eventual shipment? If the principle industry of the county’s swapped for non-productive industrial storage, agriculture takes the hit.”

SJFB Second Vice President James Chinchiolo of Chinchiolo Farms in Lodi, noted, “A lot of land in California’s not being used for anything, not even grazing cattle that could be the site for projects like Gateway. This is replacing a producing society with a consuming society.”

He added, “This proposed project is a massive disservice to local agriculture and a massive pushback is needed.”

Regarding the Atlanta, Georgia location of the developing company, Chinchiolo said, “When your only concern is the bottom line, it’s easier to manage from another state and have someone else on site doing the work.”

He said he’d like to see California be more creative on less valuable land.

Strojan agreed, commenting, “There is no need to take prime farmland when there are other, better, non-ag locations for a project like this.”

The EIR Notice of Preparation says the “buildout of the Specific Plan will require additional roadway, water, sewer and storm drainage improvements, including…widening of South Chrisman Road to a four-lane major arterial.”

Potential environmental impacts of the project that “…could have a potentially significant environmental effect” include: agricultural resources, air quality and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, geology and soils, hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, land use and planning, noise, public service systems, transportation and urban decay.

Genasci said, “There is no way to completely mitigate all the impacts and we’ll have to wait until next year for the final EIR to be completed. The meeting lasted 90 minutes filled with lively discussion from the incredible turnout of landowners that would be affected by the Pacific Gateway Project. Farm Bureau is definitely not in favor of the Pacific Gateway Project.”