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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

County supervisors delay vote on deciding on proposed distribution center near Gillespie Field that some believe is Amazon

The board will consider whether to approve a 50-year ground lease for 29 acres on the northwest corner of Weld Boulevard and Cuyamaca Street at its March 17 meeting.

SAN DIEGO — After hearing concerns from some El Cajon residents, county supervisors Wednesday unanimously voted to delay a vote on a proposed 141,360-square-foot distribution center near Gillespie Field that could generate more than 400 jobs.

After further review of environmental studies, the board will consider whether to approve a 50-year ground lease for 29 acres on the northwest corner of Weld Boulevard and Cuyamaca Street at its March 17 meeting.

The county's airports division and SGCLMC-WELD Investment Co. have negotiated terms for a potential development of the "last-mile" distribution center for an unnamed e-commerce company, according to county documents that indicate WELD would invest a minimum of $20 million in required improvements to the property and pay rent of $420,000 in rent annually.

During the public comment period of the supervisors' meeting, some El Cajon residents and local union representatives said an Amazon distribution warehouse is planned for the site and cited objections ranging from little public notice about the project to contending it would bring low-paying jobs.

Applicant Lee Chestnut told the supervisors that while there's a lot of talk about Amazon moving in, he has "no signed lease nor an agreement with Amazon."

"It's something that's not in place at this point," he added. "I've worked with the county for five years to develop this property. My goal is have an appropriate industrial use that meets all requirements."

According to the county Land Use & Environment department, Amazon has made no official announcement about building on the property.

Xavier Van Chau, an Amazon representative, told City News Service he couldn't comment specifically on the applicant's request, as "Amazon doesn't have a lease this site."

"We don't comment on our future roadmap," Van Chau said.

Phil Farias, president of the Teamsters Local 452 union, said that until two weeks ago, no one knew about any plans for a massive warehouse. Not only would such a project add to further traffic congestion, he charged that many Amazon drivers are not properly trained and don't know local routes.

"This is a recipe for disaster for our streets," he said. "East County cannot afford what this project will bring."

Farias said the Board of Supervisors should reject the ground lease, unless Amazon promises to hire local residents and mitigates traffic concerns.

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who supported delaying the vote, said the nation is at a critical juncture because of the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic fallout.

"We need to think about (the) long-term impact of any employer," she said. "We welcome tenants that are committed to protecting workers on the job. If it's going to be a job hub, let's ensure we engage in best practices."

Supervisor Joel Anderson invited his colleagues to see the location, and noted that El Cajon is the second-poorest city in the county.

Jobs associated with the El Cajon project "would give residents a chance to move up," Anderson said. "If we continue to kill every job that's possible, I don't know how anyone can take us seriously."

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