The 1 million square foot air freight development in Hawthorne is being delayed, in part, by a threatened lawsuit from neighboring city of Gardena. Interestingly, the city of Hawthorne voted to exclude this one major development from its own moratorium of anti-trucking development.

The issue is truck traffic on two streets shared by each city. One city wants the development; the other doesn’t want to pay its cost. The failure to expand LAX has had a similar effect. Instead of keeping airfreight trucking at the airport, it is now spread throughout the region thereby increasing costs, delays and wear to local infrastructure.

The unincorporated County area (near Gardena) came up with its own plan. Because of voter sentiments, the County now requires a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for outside storage on M1 and M2 properties if they border a residentially zoned property. Because the County Strip was poorly planned, the requirement for the CUP affects at least 50% of the vacant industrial land. But for individual owners, obtaining the CUP has become a costly and time-consuming burden.

When one delves deeply in the issue, there are a lot of politics. Allocation of county, state, and federal funds is one issue. Overall transportation policy is another. There are voter concerns, “to keep those trucks out of my neighborhood.” Finally, who pays for local impacts from regional developments of airports, harbors, and other major projects? The result is that local municipalities have acted in their own interest to keep trucking companies out of their cities.

The unfortunate consequence of independent ordinances causes freight companies to look for short term solutions that increase blight to the community. Many trucking companies have to accept undesirable conditions that increase costs to their customers. Unfortunately, there is no solution in sight. Unless, of course, you know how to play politics yourself.

CODA:  Five years later the political acceptability of trucking and warehousing has not improved. The cost to park trucks close to the Harbor is so high  that it is a better economic return to pave over a site for parking than to develop a brand new building.  This has turned local economic development policies upside down.

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