A proposal to build a massive distribution center on the Los Alamitos border has residents and city leaders hoping to put the breaks on the project because of the amount of truck traffic that it would drive onto Katella Avenue.
Prologis, an industrial developer, plans to build a 33-acre distribution center/trucking terminal complex including about 129 truck bays at Katella Avenue and Enterprise Drive on the Cypress side of the city border. However, most of the truck traffic would appear to impact Los Alamitos.
Proogis will hold a community meeting Tuesday in Cypress to listen to residents’ concerns, but the topic took center stage at Monday’s Los Alamitos City Council meeting. The council strategized the city’s options for halting or mitigating the project, which is being fast-tracked for groundbreaking by the end of the year, said City Councilwoman Gerri Graham-Mejia. The development has stirred up hard feelings among Los Alamitos residents, who feel that neighboring cities such as Cypress have a track record for foisting the traffic burden of commercial projects onto Los Alamitos residents.
"This is a nightmare, an absolute nightmare,” said Lois Waddle, who lives in the Los Alamitos neighborhood across Katella. “It is just unbelievable that they would try to put this project here.”
The proposed project would include a new signal on Katella Avenue to allow trucks coming from the San Gabriel (605) Freeway to turn left into the distribution center.
“Why is all the traffic being directed specifically onto Katella,” asked Laura Christensen, a Los Alamitos resident. “For those of us who drive on Katella between 4 and 6, it’s a nightmare right now. We already know it is backed up.”
Already the busiest stretch of road in the county, Katella Avenue couldn’t handle hundreds of additional daily truck trips, said City Council members.
“I think the city needs to dig their heels in and stay strong,” said Graham-Mejia. “Katella is our backbone, and we can’t just let Cypress do what they will.”
Under the current proposal, the city would get a one-time fee of $725,000 to mitigate the impact to the road, but that isn’t enough to repair even a mile of road, said Steven Mendoza, the city’s community development director.
Graham-Mejia said that Prologis or the city of Cypress might want to consider kicking in more money for road maintenance and a percentage of the sales tax revenue to Los Alamitos.
She also suggested that the city could make the project difficult for developers by refusing to approve the left-hand turn signal on Katella Avenue
However, there are other options for trucks to enter the property, said Proogis Vice President Nancy Schultz.
“There are other options, but I am not going to comment as to whether or not we would decide to use them,” Schultz said.
“We bought the property. We closed on it,” Schultz told the City Council. “We want to be good neighbors. We value the community’s concerns.”
However, the company’s efforts to fast track the project is evidence that it’s disingenuous about working with the community, said City Councilman Troy Edgar.
Last year, residents in Cypress voted to rezone the former golf course property to allow for commercial and industrial uses, but at the time of the vote, the property was widely believed to be reserved for a senior citizen community.
“We have gone from a park, to senior citizen housing, to a Fed-Ex depot in six months,” said Councilman Richard Murphy. “Legally, what can Cypress do without us?”
According to the city attorney, residents and city officials would have to exhaust administrative channels such as commenting on the Environmental Impact Report before considering a lawsuit to halt the project.
Councilman Dean Grose suggested the city take a more cooperative approach in working with Cypress officials to mitigate the project’s impact.
“It’s been voted on and approved from a zoning standpoint by the citizens of Cypress. So what can we do to stop it? Not a lot,” said Grose.
Unlike Cypress’s Costco development, the last major development that pitted the cities against one another because of the traffic impact, the two communities currently enjoy a positive working relationship worth preserving, said Grose.
However, hard feelings from the Costco project are still raw for Los Alamitos residents, who resent the traffic it created on Katella Avenue.
Resident JM Ivler accused Cypress of pulling a bait-and-switch in getting residents to approve a zone change for a senior citizen development only to bring forward a massive truck depot project.
“How many times do we have to be lied to?” he asked. “No one has been fair to us.”
The Prologis open house is today, March 19 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Former Cypress Golf Course Clubhouse at 4921 Katella Avenue.
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An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the number of truck bays included in the proposed project.