“It’s gotten worse over the past few months,” says Jaramillo in Spanish. “There are more trucks now. It used to be only Monday and Friday. Now they come every day except Saturday.
“Traffic is a problem. The trucks stop in the middle of the street with their engines running. There have been car accidents. And there are a lot of kids that live here and play outside, inhaling exhaust all day. It’s not safe. My son has to stay in his room because he starts coughing when he is in the living room. He doesn’t understand why.”
Outside, another truck lumbers down Main Street. Once again, Jaramillo pauses.
“Normally we have to keep the windows closed, but there are times when it gets too hot and stuffy,” she says as the beeping semi begins to back up. “Right when we open the windows we smell exhaust and hear the noise. No matter how often we wipe it down, there’s always a layer of black dust around the windows and on the furniture.”
Asked about neighborhood complaints, William Goldfield, Dole’s communications manager, says, “We have been working with the community, as well as the port, to resolve any issues. This warehouse facility is zoned for this type of business, and all of Dole’s equipment is within regulations of the State of California Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, the third party handling our transfers has one of their own employees directing traffic so as not to cause congestion on the street.”
The Port of San Diego set up a telephone hotline for residents to call with complaints, but, Goldfield says, not one person has called.
LoPresti of the Environmental Health Coalition says the hotline and staging area are “imperfect and partial solutions” that have “resulted in almost no improvement.”
“We think there are two tracks that we have to take,” writes LoPresti. “A long-term solution is to be sure that the new community plan update does not allow warehouse and distribution centers in this area.
“On a more immediate level, we need to get Dole, the port, and the City of San Diego to do what they can to find an alternative to the Main Street warehouse. Fortunately, there is an immediate alternative. A vastly underutilized refrigerated warehouse exists on the terminal, which is run by San Diego Refrigerated Services. The warehouse was designed to distribute the fruit product being offloaded at the terminal. It should do just that. Dole does do some of their business through this warehouse. Early on there were folks saying that the warehouse was at capacity. That turned out to be completely inaccurate. The warehouse is actually quite desperate for more volume. Seems like a simple solution.”
Asked about moving operations to the terminal warehouse, Bil Goldfield, a Dole representative, responded, “Although there may indeed be space capacity available at the warehouse, from a business standpoint the location does not offer the flexibility we require to operate efficiently.”