The Bakersfield Planning Commission went against city staff’s recommendation late Thursday night and denied a zoning change that would have allowed 100 condominiums to be built in a neighborhood of single-family homes.
The vote was 4-1 to deny, with Commissioner Dustin Dodgin recusing himself, and Commissioner Jeffrey Tkac absent. Commissioner Patrick Wade cast the lone vote against the denial, after the commission heard two hours of impassioned pleas from a group of more than 50 residents.
The decision followed six months of organizing, rallying and lobbying City Hall by residents who live in houses surrounding the 10-acre project site at River Run Boulevard and Elkhorn Creek Lane.
Originally slated to be a school, the site was purchased by housing developer Black Ops Real Estate IV LLC, which proposed building 150 apartments on the land before downsizing its project this spring to 100 condominiums.
“This was really a tough issue. In this case, you had a very qualified applicant who put forward a very quality product, and on the other side, you had a group of residents who were very organized, very methodical in the way they defended their neighborhood,” said Planning Commission Chairman Elliott Kirschenmann.
“There was not one neighbor who had come out and spoke in favor, and we saw maybe 25 folks speak in opposition,” Kirschenmann said. “When there are so many residents, it’s tough for me to say yes.”
Residents successfully challenged the city on the actual population density of the project — pointing out that the vacant parcel was actually smaller than the city thought, and thus the project would have a higher population density.
Residents also pointed out a typographical error in the city’s transcription of Black Ops’ report on traffic counts. One homeowner said the experience restored her faith in city government.
“I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I kind of thought we were just going through a process, and they had their minds made up, and it really just put some faith back into the system,” said resident Carlie Machado, who had addressed the commission. “The condos look like they’re going to be really nice. I just don’t think it’s right for the neighborhood.”
Roger McIntosh of McIntosh & Associates, which represents Black Ops, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. By city law, Black Ops has until June 17 to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the Bakersfield City Council.
Bakersfield Principal Planner Martin Ortiz said Friday that his department has no indication of Black Ops’ next move.