BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Black Ops Real Estate is a name that's been appearing frequently on Bakersfield City Council and Planning Commission agendas.
Black Ops, and the various groups of investors under its umbrella, has not been overly public about plans for four potential housing developments around Bakersfield, but they've got plenty of people in the surrounding neighborhoods upset.
Matt Wade, listed as general manager for Black Ops, didn't return requests for comment on the projects. Neither did Roger McIntosh of McIntosh & Associates, a firm representing Black Ops in its applications for zone changes.
The development that residents have been most vocal about is plans for up to 150 residential units on about 12 acres at the southwest corner of River Run Boulevard and Elkhorn Creek Lane, with construction starting in 2014, according to a zoning change application.
The property owner is listed as Black Ops Real Estate IV, LLC, which applied for a zone change from single-family homes to a higher-density designation. That would allow it to build an apartment building.
Details including how many stories the housing would be aren't known yet, according to the application filed with the Planning Division. Residents foresee a major apartment complex that would hurt nearby property values, increase crime and drain an already overcrowded local school, according to 80 to 90 emails and letters filed with the city from opponents.
It also wouldn't fit with the neighborhoods of single-family homes that surround the property, they said.
Last month, about 30 residents from the nearby River Oaks and Seven Oaks neighborhoods held a rally in front of the property to protest the plans.
The Planning Commission was to hear that zone change application last Thursday, but it was pulled from the agenda at Black Ops' request. It's tentatively rescheduled for the commission's June 6 meeting.
Bakersfield Planning Director Jim Eggert said the developer plans to add a "planned unit development" overlay, which will give area residents a better picture of the plans. They also indicated they might try to do some community outreach, he said.
"Since there was a lot of people asking, 'What is it you're going to build?' ... I think they realized they needed to show the neighborhood, 'This is what we're actually looking to build,'" Eggert said.
Bakersfield residents in the homes north of Rosedale Highway are upset about Black Ops' plans for another development.
Those plans brought a handful of people to a city council meeting last month to voice their opposition. And more than 80 residents in the area signed a petition submitted to the City Council opposing it.
Their concerns focused on what a multi-family housing development would mean for traffic at Rosedale Highway and Allen Road, which they said is already too congested.
The investor group for this development is listed as Black Ops II LLC on Planning Division documents. The property is a 20.5-acre site on the north side of Rosedale Highway, just west of Allen Road. Plans are to build duplexes and apartments.
This project is slightly further along in the process because the City Council approval for a zone change came after the Planning Commission's approval. The City Council approved a change in the land use designation from low-density residential to a higher density, plus a corresponding zone change, in February.
The Planning Commission had approved a limit of 225 residential units for the property, but at the City Council meeting, the developer agreed to a limit of 200 and a restriction that the north side of the project be single-story buildings.
The first phase of building would start in September, according to documents filed with the Planning Division regarding air pollution impacts.
Black Ops has applied for zone changes for two other projects as well.
The 56-acre site that Black Ops Real Estate LLC plans to develop south of Panama Lane and just west of Stine Road is the largest of the four projects under the Black Ops umbrella in terms of housing units.
But it's not stirred up as much outcry, even though the City Council approved a zone change to a higher density in February that will allow the developer to build up to 617 units.
That's because the property lies in an area that's largely surrounded by vacant land, Eggert said.
"The big difference is there's nothing around them, no housing around them yet," and hence less controversy, he said.
Black Ops' proposal for this property is to build 400 multi-family units on the north half of the rectangular-shaped property and 217 duplex units on the south half, according to a city report.
Finally, Black Ops III and Black Ops Real Estate VIII applied for zone changes on two large parcels abutting Noriega Road, a 40-acre plot in the northeast corner of Noriega Road and Rudd Avenue and 80 acres on the other side of Noriega Road, between Rudd Avenue and Renfro Road.
For both properties, the Planning Commission on Thursday approved a zone change to the city's one-family dwelling zone, which would allow single-family houses to be built. But in this case, the commission approved "pre-zonings." The properties are still part of the county but expected to be annexed to the city.
However, new annexations to Bakersfield have been on hold for several months as the city and county continue to haggle over property tax splits.
CONSTRUCTION UP GENERALLY
The appearance now of multiple plans for housing developments and apartments, like Black Ops', isn't surprising, said Donna Carpenter of the Kern County Home Builders Association.
"It's picking up a little. I have personally seen a lot of interest in doing high-density developments in Bakersfield," she said.
Part of what's driving that are efforts and laws encouraging more sustainable communities, in-fill development and high-density development near commercial centers and workplaces, she said.
"The new rules coming down the pipe are forcing us to have higher densities in communities that are developed," she added. And that can lead to conflict with established residents.
"It's hard when you're used to a lifestyle in a quiet, suburban area" and a new, higher-density development brings more activity. "It changes the character."