At Wednesday night’s Beaumont Chamber of Commerce candidates’ forum, during my closing statement, I argued for putting the $80 million Potrero Interchange on hold while the City first concentrates on upgrading the I-10 interchanges we all use daily, Oak Valley, Cherry Valley, and Beaumont Ave. My stance on this isn’t new to anyone who has followed my writings. I think it is important to the future of our city for voters to take the time to do the necessary research to completely understand the project, what’s driving it and how it will impact our future. Just accepting the current leadership’s justification of more businesses and jobs to completely change the landscape and culture of our town without considering the alternatives I believe is irresponsible.
The plan at the time I wrote my post, “Bridge From Nowhere To A Non-Existent Road?” in May of 2013, was to industrialize the south-west side of Beaumont. The council expected to receive $1,000,000 for the interchange from Lehman Brothers who wanted to develop a 6.5 million square foot warehouse complex west of the new Potrero Bridge. This complex would have been more than 2 ½ times larger than the Gateway Warehouse Center and the largest warehouse site in the state. It would have been closer to residential developments and had as much, if not greater, an impact on nearby residents than the proposed Gateway Center. It was only a year and a half ago that the council was considering spot-zoning the City’s General plan, something they are all now condemning the County of Riverside for doing for the Gateway Center.
When about 200 citizens showed up at the city council meeting to show their unanimous opposition against the project, Council Members Castaldo and DeForge, both up for re-election in about 18 months, moved to put the spot-zoning on hold. Roger Berg fought for Lehman Brothers’ Heartland Warehouse Center to the very end. It was clear he didn’t want to be defeated on this issue. When he realized he would have been the lone vote in favor of the spot-zoning, he reluctantly joined in the 4-0 decision, Jeff Fox had left the meeting early. Now, Berg has made his opposition against Riverside County’s spot-zoning for Gateway his primary campaign issue.
I have spent many of my evenings the last few weeks knocking on doors in Seneca Springs. Many homes in Seneca Springs back up to Potrero and those residents, along with those in Four Season, are the communities that will be most affected by the council’s plans to re-route the truck traffic down a widened Potrero road to Highland Springs. There they will transition on to the I-10. Many of those I spoke to were aware of the plan and have been holding neighborhood meetings in opposition to a major change in their quality of life. Many more were not aware. Almost every Four Seasons resident I have spoken to are unaware of what is in the council’s plans for their future.
The success of the Council’s plan to industrialize this side of Beaumont is dependent on the County of Riverside connecting the bridge and road to nowhere from 4th street to Potrero. There are no funds in the City’s $80 million budget for this phase and the county has made not any such promise or set aside any funds either.
I argued last night that this project should be put on hold in favor of first upgrading the I-10 interchanges. In Roger Berg’s closing statement, he argued in favor of the Potrero Interchange saying we have already spent $20 million on the project and that this project would attract businesses and jobs to Beaumont. This claim leads hopeful members of the community to believe he is talking about the outdoor mall the City has been promising for more than a decade. Ask Mr. Berg where the $20 million was spent when they have yet to break ground on the interchange. It should also interest you to know that $11 million has already been paid to the City’s consulting firm, Urban Logic, for mitigation.
You may ask, “Don’t we want the outdoor mall?” I do and I have been arguing for the City to honor its promise for a number of years now. Ask a city consultant or staff member, or just go look at an earlier version of the City’s General Plan, before the spot-zoning attempt failed, and you will learn the plan was to put the mall between the Potrero Bridge and the I-10. Dig a little deeper and ask to see the engineering reports submitted with every bond issuance application since 2007 and you will find plans for an upgrade to the Oak Valley Interchange very similar to the Potrero Interchange
I believe the upgrade to the Oak Valley Interchange would be a smarter project for the City. It would provide sufficient access to the area west of the I-10 for the outdoor mall, but it would also provide the necessary access to the planned Oak Valley business project on the east side of the I-10; the area where we were told Lowes would be built. The Oak Valley Interchange, when completed, would directly and immediately improve the quality of life for thousands more daily commuters than the Potrero Interchange.
If you are just learning about this, please take another 5-10 minutes to read my May 2013 post “Bridge From Nowhere To A Non-Existent Road?” to get a complete understanding of the project. After fully understanding the Potrero project and the negative impact it will have on those in Seneca Springs and Four Seasons, compare it to how the Oak Valley Interchange could bring the same jobs and businesses Berg, DeForge and Castaldo are promising along with improved quality of life for thousands of Beaumontians. I think you will understand my position is not to stop growth or eliminate jobs. I just want a different future for our city than DeForge, Berg, and Castaldo want.