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Tuesday, Jan 21 2014 07:08 PM

Council considers 24th Street widening, Condors lease

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Vehicles including a GET bus and cyclist travel east on 24th Street near Oak Street and east of Highway 99 in this file photo.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

Two road improvement projects on a street that sees nearly 60,000 vehicles per day will be considered Wednesday by the Bakersfield City Council.

One is a public hearing on the Environmental Impact Report on widening 24th Street through downtown and improving its intersection with Oak Street.

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The Bakersfield City Council meets at 3:30 p.m. to take public statements on items not on the 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.

The other is a decision on no longer requiring intersecting streets' residents' unanimous consent in order to build cul-de-sacs immediately south of the crosstown connection.

Widening 24th Street through downtown, the project's most controversial area, would require demolishing 23 single-family homes.

Expanding 23rd and 24th streets from three lanes in each direction to four between D and M streets, and from two to three lanes in each direction between D and Olive streets, would eliminate 293 street parking spaces and result in "(a) permanent increase in ambient noise level," according to the EIR.

The Bakersfield Planning Commission voted 7-0 last week to recommend the council certify the EIR, which would allow actual design of the project and property acquisitions to begin.

In the first of two hearings on the EIR, the council is expected to hear at length from residents concerned about the project taking portions of their properties, in addition to increasing noise and limiting access to their own property.

At its Feb. 12 meeting, the council will finish the hearing and vote whether to certify the EIR.

Residents last week succeeded in convincing the Planning Commission to request the council consider "constructing sound walls with City funds" when federal money cannot be used.

"We haven't quite made that recommendation yet, but it's obviously something the council can do if they wish," Public Works Director Raul Rojas said.

The council will also consider relaxing one of two requirements placed on downtown residents who'd like the city to build cul-de-sacs protecting them from 24th Street traffic.

The city's current amended resolution allows the closure of Beech, Myrtle, Spruce, Pine, Cedar, A, B and C streets at their intersection with 24th Street, provided all residents between 22nd and 24th streets agree they want cul-de-sacs, and corner lot owners on 24th Street donate part of their property.

The city's cost is estimated at $18,026 per cul-de-sac.

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.

Residents on Myrtle, Pine and Spruce streets had agreed unanimously they wanted cul-de-sacs until Spruce Street homeowner Rosco Rolnick recently withdrew his support.

After hearing from Rolnick's unhappy neighbors on Jan. 8, the council now will consider another amendment. This one would specify that it "may" decide to build a cul-de-sac on any of these streets where 75 percent of neighbors to agree they want one.

In other business, the council likely will consider approving a lease agreement with the Katz Group of Companies to run the Bakersfield Condors and have them continue to play at the city-owned Rabobank Arena, if, as widely expected, the ECHL Board of Governors gives its blessing earlier Wednesday to the Katz-owned Edmonton Oilers owning the Condors.

If approved, the new lease, which runs through June 2023, would represent about $300,000 in direct annual payments to the city from KGC. The Condors' per-game payment to the city would not change.

The new lease also would raise the amount the Condors earn annually for new and renewed suite leases. The Condors also will earn 50 percent of concession sales during playoffs -- though regular season rates remain unchanged -- and a $25,000 payment from Rabobank Arena's next naming sponsor when rights expire in 2016.

Being owned by the Oilers could boost the quality of Condors hockey and get Bakersfield into the playoffs, City Manager Alan Tandy said.

"They're an NHL team that has an entire scouting staff. They own teams," Tandy said, praising the Oilers for their player development.

As part of a mid-Fiscal Year budget review, the council also is expected to learn that the cost of the ongoing remodel of the City of Bakersfield Animal Care Center -- including a new parking lot, new administration building and renewed kennel spaces -- has gone up.

The total anticipated cost now could reach $879,000, according to Assistant to the City Manager Steve Teglia, an increase from the $512,630 spent by late October.

Teglia said the city already had about $602,000 set aside for the remodel. The current net cost increase the council will need to approve is $215,866. The remaining funds will come from adoption and other fees.

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