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Open Access Publications from the University of California

E-commerce is Reshaping the Warehousing Landscape – and it May Impact Disadvantaged Communities

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Prior to the last decade, the logistics industry trended towards the development of mega-warehouse facilities in suburban settings far from core markets, creating a phenomenon known as logistics sprawl. This trend is particularly prominent in Southern California (Figure 1). Since the 2008-2009 economic crisis, however, the trend has shifted. The rise of e-commerce may have influenced supply chain decisions to locate warehouses and distribution centers closer to denser urban areas to enable faster deliveries to consumers. The changes in size and spatial distribution of warehouses and distribution centers as well as the environmental and equity implications of these changes are not fully understood. As warehouses and distribution centers locate in denser urban areas, they may introduce additional diesel truck traffic into disadvantaged and low-income communities.

To gain a better understanding of how the spatial distribution and size of freight facilities are changing and the implications of these changes for disadvantaged and low-income communities, researchers at the University of California, Davis analyzed aggregate data about the number of warehouses and distribution centers and disaggregate real estate data of purchases and leases during the last three decades in California. They also analyzed the relationship between freight facilities and communities of concern using the California Environmental Protection Agency’s CalEnviroScreen 3.0 tool. The research focused on the San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Joaquin Valley, and Sacramento regions. Key findings from the research are presented in this brief.

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