Q: Who owns the empty lot on the northeast corner of Stockdale Highway and Coffee Road, and are there any plans for development?
-- Sade Haake
A: This is a frequently asked question, and there finally is news to share.
The property is owned by GC Investments, a group of local investors who Controller Ken Bowles of Bakersfield declined to identify.
As for the land's future, a combination of city planning documents and a chat with Bowles revealed that GC Investments has asked the city to rezone the property from multiple family residential to commercial office use to allow for an office development.
Conceptual plans call for 226,000 square feet of office space on 15 acres, which are surrounded by residential and commercial development. Across the street is the Town & Country Village Shopping Center, home to Trader Joe's.
The parcel is also known as the most popular spot in town to put up political signs at election time, something the property owners haven't encouraged over the years but haven't fought very fiercely, either, Bowles said.
GC isn't sure how the development would be laid out, including how many buildings there would be and their size, Bowles said. No tenants have been lined up. Possibilities include medical offices and banks.
"As one can see up and down Stockdale, there are a lot of those kinds of structures," he said.
A review of the potential environmental impacts of the zone change is pending. The zone change request is scheduled to go to the Bakersfield Planning Commission for a thumbs up or thumbs down recommendation March 21. The City Council will have the final say.
Bowles acknowledged that one of the issues likely to come up is how much traffic the development would generate at an already bustling intersection. All that GC can do is lay out its plans, explain how it would mitigate any potential problems and see what city deciders decide, he said.
Q: Do the city and county have policies about buying products "Made in America?"
-- Chuck Thompson
A: The county doesn't, but it does have policies that encourage purchasing goods from local vendors. General Services Division Director Bret Haney said, in a nutshell, the county has two buying preferences:
* There is a local vendor preference that applies to all competitive bids for any good or service other than public works projects. It lets all local vendors that submitted a bid within 5 percent of the non-local low bidder an opportunity to submit a new bid in an amount equal to or lower than the announced low bid.
There are several detailed definitions of what a local vendor is.
* There also is an at-risk employer preference that applies only to local vendors. If there is a tie for the low bid among local vendors but one is also an at-risk employer, the contract is awarded to the at-risk employer. An at-risk individual is one who has been incarcerated within the last five years and/or has been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony within the last five years and/or are youth in foster care.
An at-risk employer is defined as any business that qualifies as local in the previous definitions or has employed local at-risk individuals for at least one year prior to submitting the bid and continues to provide employment.
As for the city of Bakersfield, Finance Director Nelson Smith said he doesn't think the city has a "Made in America" policy. But in March, the City Council voted to give greater preference to local businesses in bidding for city contracts.
The resolution increases the city's ability to choose a local company for a contract when the local company doesn't submit the lowest price.
Under the rule, if a local company submits a bid for a city contract that is within 3 percent of the lowest bid, the city could choose the local company. It applies to contracts of more than $40,000, and the preference amount can't be more than $9,000. Also, the local company has to be the second-lowest bidder and have a storefront in the city limits.
Ask The Californian appears on Mondays. Submit questions to email@example.com or to The Bakersfield Californian, c/o Christine Bedell, P.O. Bin 440, Bakersfield, CA 93302.