BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A group of about 30 residents from the River Oaks and Seven Oaks neighborhoods held a rally Thursday night on River Run Boulevard to protest plans to build a large apartment complex at the corner of River Run Boulevard and Elkhorn Creek Lane.
Black Ops Real Estate, which owns the 10-acre parcel in question, has applied to the city of Bakersfield for a zone change from a low-density residential zoning to a higher-density designation, which would allow it to build the apartment building, said Bakersfield Planning Director Jim Eggert. The Planning Commission is slated to consider the zone change at its March 21 meeting, he said.
But River Oaks resident Amy Johnson Barks said she and her neighbors oppose the possible zone change because the project would make the area less safe, be a drain on an already overcrowded local school and jam up traffic on River Run Boulevard. A large apartment building also isn't congruent with the single-family homes that make up the neighborhood, she said.
"The neighborhood is opposed to the construction of this kind of multi-family dwelling. There's no way to access it without what we believe (will be) a negative impact on the traffic flow along River Run," Barks said.
Barks added that there are "safety issues that come with having a large multi-family housing unit there. Oftentimes, with large apartment complexes, the crime rate goes up. Those are not, obviously, concerns the planning department is going to take up, but they're concerns of the neighborhood as a whole."
Eggert said the property was sold to Black Ops by the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District, which had planned an elementary school for the site.
City staff have gotten "a significant number" of letters from area residents against the project, about 50 or 60 letters in all, Eggert said.
"When you're in a developed area (of) predominantly single-family ... homes, it's always very contentious when you bring in a proposal to go to an apartment project," Eggert said.
Bakersfield planning staff haven't released their recommendation on the project yet, Eggert said. The Planning Commission will review that recommendation at their March 21 meeting and make their own recommendation to the City Council. The council will likely consider the zone change application sometime in May, Eggert said.
"There is no construction that can start at all now" before a zone change is approved, he said.