BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Roughly 100 people packed the room Thursday night at a Bakersfield Planning Commission meeting to protest plans for a housing development in northwest Bakersfield.
The Planning Commission was set to consider an application to change the zoning on an 11-acre piece of property at the northwest corner of Hageman Road and Knudsen Drive from a one-family dwelling designation to a zoning that would've allowed more dense housing to be built. That would've allowed the property owners, South Knudsen-Hageman LLC, to build up to about 150 units of multi-family housing, according to documentation from the city's planning division.
Residents from the neighborhood took that to mean the developers planned to build an apartment complex. That would increase crime, overcrowd the already filled-to-capacity San Lauren Elementary School, cause traffic congestion and cut into home values, residents said.
"We don't want apartments," said resident Linda Hibbard. "This impacts us severely, and we want what we were promised when we bought our homes, and that's a park or single-family homes, not an apartment complex, not a duplex." Hibbard said she collected over 100 signatures from neighbors opposed to the project.
Resident Toni Mitchell said the area, especially around the San Lauren school, is already dangerous and adding more housing, and therefore more traffic, would create more problems.
"Every morning, there's a jam. ... And you're going to add how many more people? Six hundred?" Mitchell said. "Bringing in more people will cause more problems."
Steve Lantz is part of the development group that has a joint venture agreement with Nancy Stafford, the landowner of the property. Lantz said the plan, if the proper zoning is approved, would be to build single-story duplexes, not an apartment complex. And the number of units would probably be half of the roughly 150 that would be allowed. Designs for the property haven't been drawn up yet, since the zoning must be secured well in advance of that step, Lantz explained.
"We want to be a good neighbor," Lantz said. "We would like to put something on that site that would be a plus for the neighborhood." Commercial development, the current land use designation for the property, wouldn't accomplish that, he said.
"We think a low-density, single street in, single street out, single-story duplexes (with) garages ... contains that," he said. "We're not going to do a two-story apartment. It will be managed."
Lantz had asked that the hearing for the zone change application be continued to the commission's next meeting, on April 4. But after discussion with Lantz and city staff, the commission decided to move the matter to its June 6 meeting or even later. That will give the developer time to meet with residents and further develop plans for the site, Lantz and commissioners said.