Local Politics

Thursday, Jan 24 2013 09:34 AM

Baker housing plan gets new life

BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer aboessenkool@bakersfield.com

City council members on Wednesday night sided with city staff over the recommendation of the Planning Commission in order to give the stalled affordable housing development on Baker Street another chance.

A development of 37 low-income housing units on the east side of Baker Street at Lake Street is finished and occupied, but a second phase of the project, across the street, has been stalled since development plans fell through several years ago. Last November, the city council gave the go-ahead for the city to work with the Kern County Housing Authority to get the second phase restarted.

The second phase would include about 50 affordable housing units and would also involve turning the vacant Cornet building into a community center. Council members agreed last fall to contribute land and property worth $150,000 plus federal housing money totaling about $3.5 million that is allocated to the city.

Bakersfield Planning Commission members recommended in December that the property be zoned as a commercial center, but with an added qualification, a "planned commercial development" addendum. That means the Housing Authority would have to run its development plans for the second phase by the Planning Commission. That would slow things down and possibly jeopardize the second phase of the project, said Community Development Director Doug McIsaac.

The qualification isn't needed, McIsaac said, because the Housing Authority already plans to build the project to the city's development standards. There are also looming deadlines for the city and Housing Authority to use or apply for federal housing assistance money and tax credits to build the project.

The council members agreed with McIsaac's recommendation.

Also Wednesday, Arnold Ramming of the public works department gave a mid-fiscal year report on ongoing and planned improvements to city streets, parks and streetlights.

Public works staff recently finished a pilot project to see how much money could be saved by replacing traditional sodium vapor bulbs in streetlights with more energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) lights. The city installed the LED bulbs in streetlights on parts of California, Truxtun and Ming avenues and found that energy costs were halved, Ramming said. Now the city plans to use LED lighting for streetlights in all new developments, Public Works Director Raul Rojas said. To start, he said the city will install the new lighting in Stockdale Estates -- which currently has no streetlights -- sometime this year.

And the public works and parks departments are moving forward on replacing 1960s-era swimming pools at Siemon and Planz parks. Last year, council members approved plans to replace the Siemon Park pool in northeast Bakersfield with a spray park and the one at Planz in southeast Bakersfield with a skate park. The pool at Planz is being demolished now, and that should be done by early next month, Ramming said. Demolition of the Siemon pool will quickly follow. Construction of the replacement facilities should happen this summer, he said.

Also, the city council re-appointed John Enriquez to the Keep Bakersfield Beautiful Committee and Susan Stussy as an alternate member. Enriquez was a founding member, in 2000, of Keep Bakersfield Beautiful.

For the Planning Commission, the council named local business attorney Dustin Dodgin as a member to replace Dean Haddock, whose term would've expired this April.

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