RIVERSIDE: Air board picks UCR for new offices, hundreds of jobs

pe.com | March 24, 2016

Riverside won out over Pomona as the location for a new vehicle emissions testing lab and offices for the state Air Resources Board that are expected to bring about 400 jobs.

Air board members on Thursday, March 24, picked an 18-acre site on Iowa Avenue, between University Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard, that’s owned by UC Riverside. The facility represents a $366 million project and would open by 2020.

The other choice – and the recommendation of air board officials – was on the Cal Poly Pomona campus. Both universities pledged to step up their collaboration with the air board on research.

Inland officials lobbied hard for the new offices, giving tours in Riverside and showing up at air board meetings in El Monte and Sacramento.

The board’s decision “cements … Riverside’s leadership in one of the most important, arguably the most important, topics we face today – that’s preserving the environment and particularly preserving the quality of the air we all breathe,” UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox said.

Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey called it “a significant investment from the state of California in Inland Southern California.”

Officials from Riverside city and county and UCR worked together to make the case for their site. Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit said their success will benefit them all.

“All boats rise when you bring 400 professional jobs, and maybe eventually 600 professional jobs, into a region like ours,” which hasn’t fully recovered from the recession, Benoit said.

More than 90 percent of the jobs are for engineers, scientists and technicians, air board spokesman Stanley Young wrote in an email.

State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, who pushed for years to get the project in Riverside, said in a statement the decision is “a landmark moment for our region that will benefit all Californians with improved air quality for generations to come.”

Cal Poly Pomona President Soraya M. Coley said in a written statement that she’s disappointed by the decision.

“The university remains committed to identifying and pursuing innovative opportunities for collaboration and partnerships that will elevate and enhance the university and the educational experience of our students,” she wrote.

The board voted 8-3 for the Riverside site. Members John Eisenhut, Phil Serna and Hector De La Torre voted no.

The decision is not subject to approval by the legislature or the governor, but the project funding is. Air board officials will send a report on the new site to a state joint legislative budget committee and they hope to get funding in the state’s 2017-18 budget. Officials plan to break ground for new offices in 2017 and move in by 2020.

Before the vote, board member Daniel Sperling said both sites were attractive, but “Riverside is kind of like the ideal campus to be associated with” because it’s still growing but already has assets like the Center for Environmental Research and Technology, or CE-CERT, which does advanced air pollution research.

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