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Monday, Jan 13 2014 05:53 PM

Zoning board to weigh assisted-living home downtown

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    This house at 2525 18th St. in Bakersfield may be turned into an assisted-living facility for seniors with terminal or life-threatening illnesses.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

Revised plans for an assisted-living home downtown have more than halved a proposed addition, and a representative for the owner said he may even give up a light-up sign, but neighbors remain opposed and are poised to appeal.

The project comes to the city Board of Zoning Adjustment Tuesday for a conditional use permit its owners need to convert a vacant house into a home for the seriously ill or disabled, or terminally ill.

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The Bakersfield Board of Zoning Adjustment will meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Conference Room A, City Hall North, 1600 Truxtun Ave.

Property Ventures, LLC, owns the 2,640-square-foot house at 2525 18th St., and operates two similar facilities in the San Fernando Valley.

It needs a conditional-use permit in order to secure state licensing, and run a 12-bed congregate living health facility on a block that also includes Franklin Elementary School and the Bakersfield Racquet Club.

The facility would be called Bakersfield Living CLHF, and would also need state licensing to house people who may be seriously disabled, breathe with a ventilator, or are seriously or terminally ill.

The larger issue, however, is whether the former home of Bakersfield caterer and restaurateur Rick Mossman should be converted because it's a good house on a bad block -- or preserved to keep one of Bakersfield's most historic areas intact.

Architect Bruce Keith, who has designed changes to the property including a 250-square-foot addition in the back yard, said helping the infirm would be its best use.

"What you have there is kind of a really nice house in a really crappy city block. The lights at the Bakersfield Racquet Club are on until about 10 and then you've got the school, in a really nice neighborhood," Keith said. "These are people who are in the end stages of their lives, and the state licensing board specifically wants it to be in a residential area, to end their lives with dignity."

In an effort to make nice with nearby residents, Keith said owner Ayk Ayrapetyan has downsized the addition by nearly half, could be willing to compromise on a 32-square-foot light-up sign, and is seeking a condition placed on his conditional use permit that would limit any future owners to operating an assisted-living home.

City staffers recommend the zoning board approve the permit with that condition -- and without the light-up sign.

Residents remain unconvinced by Ayrapetyan, who did not respond to requests for comment.

"Neighbors want it to stay a single-family residence, and it's a 12-bed hospital that runs 24-7, and you can't run 24 hours without having significant impacts," said Dan Brown, who lives on 17th Street nearby. "If they do approve it, I'm going to appeal it to the city council."

Downtown resident Mike Ladd, who lives on 18th Street, said this is unfortunately one result of progress.

"Where I grew up was the center of town 50 years ago," said Ladd, a Bakersfield native who grew up near Real Road and Garnsey Lane. "That's what happens in big cities for the most part, your neighbors start turning these into these things, and pretty soon you don't have houses any longer."

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