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Friday, Mar 14 2014 06:55 PM

Cedar Street gets closer to a cul-de-sac

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A constant flow of traffic on 24th Street is sometimes interrupted when drivers go south bound on Cedar Street off of 24th Street. A proposed city financed cul-de-sac is still in the works.

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  2. 2 of 2

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A constant flow of traffic on 24th Street is sometimes interrupted when drivers go south bound on Cedar Street off of 24th Street. A proposed city financed cul-de-sac is still in the works.

    click to expand click to collapse
BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

City officials could have a deal hammered out with Cedar Street homeowners by Wednesday for a cul-de-sac shielding them from 24th Street traffic to the north.

The cul-de-sac would be built at city expense, estimated at $18,026.

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The Bakersfield City Council meets at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday to take public statements on items on the closed-session agenda before going into closed session. Its regular meeting resumes at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall council chambers, 1501 Truxtun Ave. Meetings also may be viewed live on cable channel KGOV. Past meetings can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/qfatap5.

In return, 75 percent of homeowners on Cedar between 22nd and 24th Streets must sign a petition saying they want their street closed -- and corner homeowners at 24th and Cedar must donate part of their land.

That last part has been the problem.

Beech, Myrtle, Spruce, Pine, Cedar, A, B and C streets were made eligible for cul-de-sacs in 2012 by the Bakersfield City Council -- and that status was reaffirmed earlier this year. To date, all streets except Beech and Cedar have chosen cul-de-sacs.

Cul-de-sacs on B and C streets as well as on Elm Street, which was closed by a white concrete "k-rail" in 2006, will be built when 24th Street is widened.

On Beech and Cedar streets, land and parking are the dominant issues, and Cedar Street residents have made their points of view known at the Feb. 12 and March 5 meetings of the Bakersfield City Council.

At Wednesday's meeting, the council will be asked to consider four options:

* Direct staff to continue talks with one homeowner on Beech Street and one on Cedar Street who haven't agreed to donate part of their land.

* Direct staff to begin the eminent domain process to get the needed land.

* Proceed with the cul-de-sacs on Beech and Cedar streets, and build a three-foot-wide sidewalk instead of a four-foot-wide sidewalk pursuant to the "Unreasonable Hardship" rule in the California Disabled Accessibility Guidebook.

* Not approve the cul-de-sacs.

On Cedar Street, the cul-de-sac curb will be painted red and homeowner Bill Hickey Jr., whose Spanish-style house is at the southeast corner, would lose street parking and nearly two feet of his front yard.

On the southwest corner, homeowner Romain Clerou said he would lose about the same amount of his land, bringing the newly curved sidewalk closer to two 70-year-old Chinese elm trees.

Clerou's side of Cedar, however, has lots that are about twice as wide, and he said he would lose only about three parking places.

Negotiations are proceeding on Cedar Street, according to Assistant Public Works Director Nick Fidler -- and Clerou told The Californian Friday he will allow the cul-de-sac -- but the discussion reveals the complex, problematic side of progress.

On Beech Street, the city council's staff report said the city contacted the hold-out homeowner "after numerous attempts," and while he, too, has concerns about parking and landscaping issues, he's willing to continue talking with the city.

The only trouble is, the staff report said, the Beech Street homeowner will be unavailable for several weeks.

In principle, the issues seem clear.

Less traffic on residential streets is a good thing. Cul-de-sacs are great if homeowners don't have to pay for them. Protecting old Bakersfield is admirable.

Doing these things will require sacrifices from Clerou and HIckey for the greater good.

That's a concept not everyone sees the same way.

"It's a give and take. Sometimes it's a democracy. Sometimes, 51 percent doesn't get it done," said homeowner Mark Root, whose nephew is also contemplating buying a house on Cedar Street. "They're basing their purchase on whether that cul-de-sac goes in or not."

Root is so convinced Cedar Street needs a cul-de-sac he said he'll propose moving its end further south in front of his house at Wednesday's meeting of the Bakersfield City Council, if talks with Clerou and Hickey break down.

It would still close the street to 24th Street drivers, Root said, but would put the burden of parking and encroachment on him.

Homeowner Keith Barnden shares Root's conviction the cul-de-sac is the right thing to do. On a recent Friday, Barnden said he counted 130 vehicles driving south on Cedar from 24th Street between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m.

"Anything's better than our street, and unfortunately now that our street's the only one not blocked, we're getting all the traffic," Barnden said. "Who wants that many cars going past their house? But then, you've got to feel for the people" who have to give up their property.

Access to Beech Street is currently limited by California Water Service Co. work near the 24th Street intersection -- but homeowners have not chosen a cul-de-sac.

Hickey said he thinks he should be able to park in front of his house, but city regulations that fire trucks be able to turn around at the cul-de-sac's end mean parking will be eliminated.

He also questions the number of vehicles that use Cedar Street as a short-cut now that other "tree" streets have been closed.

"I'm sorry that I own a quarter-of-a-million-dollar house and I want to park in front of it," said HIckey, who works in the Los Angeles area, lives part-time at the house, and intends to retire there. "There's a lot of noise about traffic increase and frankly that is all bunk. It's just their way of pressuring the city because it doesn't affect their property. It's not screwing them so certainly they want it."

A Street resident Robert Massey said he offered to buy Hickey's house in an effort to hasten the street's closure -- to no avail -- and emphasized the value of cul-de-sacs for all streets.

"I think it's an added plus as far as property values," Massey said. "Now that they're starting to close them, they need to close them all. That's what we've asked for."

Support elsewhere for the cul-de-sacs has not been unanimous. In January, downtown councilman Terry Maxwell -- who has also voted against widening 24th Street -- cast the lone dissenting vote against relaxing the percentage of residents who must approve cul-de-sacs from 100 percent to 75 percent.

"I wish we had never gone down this road," Maxwell said. "I think it's important, and I have said this many times, I think it's important if you put rules together you stick to them."

The city placed a traffic counter on Cedar Street north of 22nd Street on March 7 to learn exactly how many frustrated motorists are turning down the street to get downtown.

It was due to be picked up late Friday, Fidler said, and one will go out on Beech Street when Cal Water's work is done.

Results could be tabulated by Wednesday's city council meeting -- but might take longer to compile.

"I would say by middle to late next week. We'll try to expedite it to see if we can get it done by the council meeting," said Fidler, adding the city has received a verbal agreement from Clerou, who could lose up to two feet of his property.

In an interview, Clerou described city officials as "responsive," and said he recognized how badly his neighbors wanted the street closed.

"We're used to traffic where we live, we're used to noise, but we think the cul-de-sac is good for neighbors and it's a push for us," said Clerou, who lives in Sonoma but whose parents moved into the house in 1951. "We're not losing a lot of what's our property, but no one ever intended to give away that city right-of-way that we've been watering for 60 years."

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