Hello. I am Gae Rusk. Our family moved to Banning in 1966, and our parents Eve and Jim Rusk became “Founders” of Sun Lakes when they purchased one of the six original houses built here.

Now our family owns two of these original houses, allowing us to live next door to each other.

On Dec. 10, I left my home at 2 p.m. - just after the daily midday rush hour on Highland Springs Ave. usually winds down for a short time - to head to downtown Banning for a Holiday event I was part of producing.

However, Highland Springs Ave was gridlocked, which I could not see until after turning onto it.

A full hour later, after trying the few options that exist to cross I-10, I admitted that I simply could not escape this horrendous traffic snarl.

I was frustrated and angry, as was every other driver I could see, but worse was the realization that the entire time I was trapped I did not see one police officer or one highway patrol officer, not even one, trying to control traffic in any way whatsoever, and no emergency vehicles, not even one, could have had any chance of getting through to the many thousands of residents living south of the freeway. Anxiety and fear about that fact layered onto my frustration and anger.

At 3:05 p.m., I contacted my colleagues at the event in downtown Banning that I could not get there because of the traffic catastrophe called Highland Springs Ave.

Instead, I went home and began making a list of all the errors, omissions, probable lies, and truly lazy thinking we all witnessed in the project presentation by Creation Development and the City of Banning’s Planning Director on Tuesday evening, Dec. 7, 2021.

List:

1. Yes, the Developer did completely change the project after an initial presentation at Sun Lakes. Proof? Toward the end of this summer of 2021, creation erected a billboard across from Sun Lakes’ Main Gate that pictured and claimed their future development would be “office and retail” spaces.

I do not know exactly how long this billboard was up, but eventually it was removed. Then, recently, a new billboard was erected that altered the development to “industrial and retail” spaces.

It was up for a very short time, long enough to create confusion, acrimony and sudden awareness of the deception, before it too disappeared.

The Developer’s and Planning Director’s claims that the project was always industrial and was never changed are simply not true.

2. The Developer’s traffic study was done before the multiple new housing developments on Highland Springs Ave were completed or even began. In the last six months, thousands more cars per day began using Highland Springs Ave to commute, to shop, to eat out or see a movie. These vehicles were not counted by the Developer, even though he had to know those housing developments would begin filling up with families in 2021. There are also developments still under construction on Highland Springs Ave that will add thousands more vehicles making multiple daily trips, none of which were projected into his analysis of traffic patterns.

Also, the more retail and medical offices that are built along Highland Springs Ave, the more out of town visitors there will be exiting I-10 to shop and keep appointments. You have to realize that one horrible experience trapped on Highland Springs Ave will keep them from ever returning, and they will share the story of their bad experience in Banning with others.

3. The Developer failed to measure the length of the left turn lane heading east off of Highland Springs Ave onto Sun Lakes Blvd.

The question was asked if that left turn lane was long enough to accommodate a big rig truck turning left.

The City of Banning’s own traffic engineer clearly responded, “No.” When asked if there was room to lengthen the lane backward to accommodate the big trucks, the City of Banning traffic engineer answered, “No.”

FYI, the Highland Springs Ave left turn lane east onto Sun Lakes Blvd in Banning actually belongs to Beaumont. The Highland Springs Ave left turn lane west onto East Second Street in Beaumont actually belongs to Banning. There is no space between the beginnings of these two left turn lanes to lengthen the left lane turning east onto Sun Lakes Blvd. This appears unfixable, which could be why the Developer never mentioned it.

Even though this mitigating fact was made clear by the city’s own traffic engineer, the Developer and Banning Planning Director Rush discounted these clear and emphatic answers, as did three of Banning’s five City Planners, all voting to proceed with this incomplete, absurdly stupid and deeply flawed warehouse/big rig project in a residential neighborhood filled with the elderly and infirm.

4. Another failure of the Developer’s traffic analysis is not realizing there are three rush hours, not just two on Highland Springs Ave every day. The midday rush begins around 11:15 am, and it tapers off around 1:45 pm, but some days it just continues and melds into the afternoon rush hour.

5. The Developer proposes leaving exterior lights on 24/7 for 365 days per year. The Planners voted that this was ok with them, even though the closest neighbor will be The Lakes, a large and comprehensive assisted living facility.

6. If it becomes a warehouse for refrigerated big rigs, they will be on generator mode 24/7.

7. Who will make the Developer actually develop the proposed office and retail spaces? Why didn’t the City Planning Director mandate that those buildings - the ones that actually fit in with Highland Springs Avenue’s business and office demographics - be developed first? 8. Who will monitor the hiring of local employees over out-of-town employees? Does anyone actually believe that locals will have guaranteed jobs?

9. Beaumont has never completed Second Street going west to connect to Pennsylvania Street.

Beaumont allowed the building of all those retail spaces off Highland Springs Ave without developing the needed vital infrastructure, and now we suffer every day for Beaumont’s intransigence.

Banning has never completed Sun Lakes Blvd going east to connect to Sunset or 22nd Street.

Banning allowed the building of Sun Lakes 34 years ago with the city’s promise to do so, but the city never came through, and now we suffer every day for their intransigence.

10. I could go on about the huge loss of property tax revenue that Banning will experience if the proposal to build a 24/7/365 big rig warehouse next to a retirement development and an assisted living facility is approved, because the dumping of several thousand Sun Lakes homes all at once will devalue every property in Banning.

Instead, I will reduce this steaming pile to one encompassing question: Who will want to live in a community that treats its elders so hatefully?

So, the city of Banning is at a true crossroads. We can choose to grow into being an admirable, intelligently guided city like Redlands, or we can become one more I-10 big rig warehouse slum like so many of the I-10 cities that were led by truly lazy and possibly malicious leaders into their current existence as warehouse ghettos.

Actually, no one who can afford to will choose to live anywhere near yet another ruined town on I-10. Banning homes are now filled with people who have fled those already ruined towns. You should listen carefully to their stories before this warehouse assault goes any further. We are depending on our leaders enlightened thinking to save us from this sickening warehouse plague infecting the I-10 corridor.

Please do not become lazy thinkers like the leaders of those I-10 warehouse towns that used to be livable communities. Please pursue original ideas about how to grow this town. Please do not sell out any part of Banning to out of town developers who have misrepresented their intentions all along.

Thank you for reading this letter and considering the points I make regarding the dismal probability that this warehouse project would be the beginning of the end for Banning.

Gae Rusk, Banning

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