Bakersfield City Council members unanimously approved a measure Wednesday night to allow residents south of 24th Street between Oak and C streets to make their streets into cul-de-sacs where they intersect with 24th.
The idea, proposed repeatedly over at least the last 10 years, gained traction as the city has moved forward with plans to widen 24th Street. The cul-de-sacs proposal isn't part of that Thomas Roads Improvement Program project, though city staff recommended that the cul-de-sacs be built when the street is widened, if that project goes through. That TRIP project still has to be approved by the Bakersfield City Council and Caltrans, and would begin construction in 2014, if approved.
Residents south of 24th Street from Beech Street to A Street have circulated petitions to have their streets made into cul-de-sacs, but not everyone is in favor of the move.
The resolution approved Wednesday night allows the cul-de-sacs to be built on two conditions. First, all residents on those streets between 22nd and 24th streets have to agree to the plan. Second, property owners at the intersections with the south side of 24th Street have to donate a piece of their property -- about 60 square-feet -- for the cul-de-sacs to be built. Most of the needed land would come from what is already the city's right-of-way property -- the strip between the sidewalk and the street.
If the conditions are met, the city would pay for paving and curbing to build the cul-de-sacs, but not for landscaping.
But some residents voiced concerns that sidewalks would be torn up and not replaced. That could expose the city to legal challenges for not accommodating people with disabilities. Councilwoman Sue Benham suggested a change, which was adopted. The street pavement part of the cul-de-sacs would be 74 feet across, not 84 feet as originally proposed. But the city would build sidewalks abutting the street, so the full 84 feet would still be needed. Parking would not be allowed in the cul-de-sac because emergency vehicles and other trucks would need at least 74 feet to turn around.
The cul-de-sacs would cost the city about $10,000 apiece, not counting the addition of the sidewalks, according to Public Works staff.
About half a dozen people who live near 24th Street spoke against the plan.
"There is absolutely no need for this project and no need for wasting taxpayers' money," said resident Vanessa Vangel. Property owners who would donate part of their land would see their property values drop, she said.
Jerry Seydel, a resident on the north side of 24th Street, said the plan would divide the neighborhood north and south of the street and require people to drive to Oak Street or as far as F Street to navigate the area, he said. "Please don't divide our neighborhood."
But others spoke for the plan.
"Twenty-fourth Street has already split our neighborhood," said resident and former Bakersfield Fire Chief Ron Fraze. Fraze said he once had a driver crash through a safety fence he built on his property and that the cul-de-sacs are a necessary safety measure.
"It's our neighborhood. We just want to keep the integrity of our neighborhood the way it is," he said.
Resident Dominique Minaberrigarai said he gathered signatures from his neighbors on Spruce Street to bring the idea forward to the city. Residents who signed petitions "have wanted it for a long time and have come together as neighbors to put this forward."
"I'm convinced that the time has come for the city to enable this to go forward," Benham said.
Also Wednesday, the council approved:
* Spending $105,000 to demolish two aging city pools and design replacement amenities. The pool at Planz Park in southeast Bakersfield would be replaced with a skate park and more picnic tables, and the one at Siemon Park in northeast Bakersfield would be replaced with a spray park. Funding for construction of the new amenities would come in next year's budget.
* Contributing city property worth $150,000, plus $3.6 million in federal housing money allocated to the city to the Housing Authority of the County of Kern to build 40 units of low-income, multi-family housing on Baker Street.