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Thomas and Kim Rocha chose their “dream community” of Bloomington, California many years ago, because it wasn’t flooded with the traffic they had experienced elsewhere. But in recent years, Bloomington and other sleepy areas of the Inland Empire have become distribution centers with diesel trucks loaded with goods from the coastal ports. When the Rochas found out that a massive warehouse was slated for development behind their home, they knew they had to fight it. There were already two of these “high-cube” warehouses in their neighborhood, and the traffic and pollution was too much already. Mr. Rocha put his experience as a union shop steward to work. He took his letter of opposition and knocked on his neighbors’ doors, to give them information and urge them to fight the proposal.
The Rochas were interviewed by Graciela Larios, Organizing Director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, about their fight for their home and community. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.
Well, the first step started the day I received a letter from the planning commission. They wanted to change the property behind our house from “residential” to “commercial” and build a 300,000 square-foot high warehouse right behind us … This was going to be built 70 feet from my back wall. Seventy feet. You know how close that is? Everybody’s been to a baseball game — Little League. Home to first base is 60 feet … Right now we have two warehouses here, that we were never notified about being built. Or else I would have fought those, too.
The worst part of Bloomington now is the diesel trucks in the neighborhood, because the trucks do not respect the truck routes, and the trucks are constantly in our neighborhoods. We live about 1000 feet from a high school, also. To me, this just doesn’t make any sense, to build a cube warehouse now, 70 feet from my back door almost. And the kids have their sports, and they’re running track and field, and practicing, and they’re a few feet away from the diesel trucks going down the street they’re running on. It’s just really bad for the neighborhood.
Being in Bloomington, it’s a community of color. At least 75% of us are Latino, Hispanic. We live close to the 10 Freeway (I-10) and a major railroad yard. The 10 Freeway, it is probably the 10th worst freeway-congested area in the United States. That’s all the smog and pollution right there, coming from these freeway trucks and cars. And to be building warehouses on top of that, that’s like three strikes. You’re talking about asthma for the kids. There are people I’ve talked about, when I’m canvassing, telling us, “Well, you know there are people at school they’re complaining their kid’s got asthma now and they want to know why.” Well, “This is why,” I said. The elderly are getting sick.
It’s making me fight, it’s making me hold community meetings in my home. It’s helping me to have a voice that I didn’t know I had before. I do volunteer work now, trying to get our point across. The more I learn about this, the stronger I’m going to fight it.
PLEASE JOIN Graciela Larios and the Rochas in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and sign the #ZeroEmissionsNow petition.
LEARN MORE about the community where Thomas and Kim Rocha live, and efforts to improve the quality of life there, by following the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice.
LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.