The Bakersfield Planning Commission on Thursday heard pleas from a group of more than 50 residents asking it to deny a zoning change that would allow a controversial 100-unit condominium complex at River Run Boulevard and Elkhorn Creek Lane.
Residents sent more than 115 letters, emails and telephone calls to the city asking commissioners not to approve the zone change, from low density to medium low density, that developer Black Ops Real Estate IV, LLC, needs to build the condos on the approximately 12-acre site.
The condominium complex would be built on land with potential cultural significance to the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi and Tejon Native American tribes. Surrounded by developments of single-family homes, it is home to at least one den of endangered San Joaquin Valley Kit Foxes.
The project is described in the city's staff report as "25 residential buildings containing a total of 50 two-bedroom, two-bathroom units and 50 three bedroom, three-bathroom units," according to Principal Planner Martin Ortiz.
Each building would contain two one-story, two-bedroom units, and two two-story, three-bedroom units, all centered around a community center, a pool, and a children's play area.
"It is staff's opinion that the density and scale of the project are in keeping with the existing residential neighborhood," Ortiz said. The Commission had not yet voted at press time. If it approves the project, however, the Bakersfield City Council will have to approve it next before development can proceed.
Speakers told the Commission that allowing these condos to be built would irreparably harm life in the surrounding neighborhoods of single-family homes, which include River Oaks, Grand Island Place and Seven Oaks at Grand Island.
"Our neighborhood is unique and special and it's what we all bought into as a community. If this gets built, and it turns out to be what we all know it will be, we can't turn the clock back," said resident Matt Dills, referencing residents' concerns that the condominiums will become rentals, that traffic levels will rise, and that the complex's one entrance would be on a blind curve. "We love what we have. We have community, and it's a beautiful thing." Others chastised the Commission for considering the project.
"I know there are at least 800 of us who never would have chosen our homes if we knew there were going to be condos there. It's not right to change things like that, on people who have made their homes there," said resident Carlie Machado. "I'm sure if it was your neighborhood, you would feel the same way."
"Somebody's pushing this too fast," said resident Michael Fitzgerald, who has spent hours photographing the kit foxes from his balcony. "What does the Kern River Plan Element say about the zone change? What does the county say about the zone change? Put it off. It doesn't help our group by putting it off, but it helps you make a better-informed decision."