Downtown residents were reassured Wednesday by a unanimous Bakersfield City Council that the city will still build cul-de-sacs at their request and its expense, offering a shield from 24th Street traffic to part of Bakersfield's historic core.
On a 7-0 vote, the council decided to receive, file and amend a city report to allow construction of cul-de-sacs on Beech, Myrtle, Spruce, Pine, Cedar, A, B and C streets at 24th Street.
The amendment from Vice Mayor Ken Weir clarified that construction will begin "on those streets where residents meet the established criteria at a time agreed upon by the residents and the public works director."
The city's cost is estimated at $18,026 per cul-de-sac. Currently, only Myrtle and Pine Streets meet the requirements of all residents between 22nd and 24th streets agreeing on cul-de-sacs, and corner lot owners on 24th Street donating part of their property.
The council also answered Spruce Street residents distraught about a neighbor who withdrew his support for their cul-de-sac -- stopping it from happening -- by calling for a discussion of that issue, and possibly relaxing the unanimous consent requirement at its next meeting Jan. 22.
"How can one absentee property owner veto the will of all the other homeowners?" Spruce Street resident Dominique Minaberrigarai asked, holding up a photo of the Spruce Street home of Guarantee Shoe Center owner Rosco Rolnick. "I urge you to amend the requirements of the 100 percent agreement."
Contacted after the meeting, Rolnick -- whom Ward 6 Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan said should have attended -- said he couldn't because he had to work.
"I was brand new to the neighborhood. I didn't check with my wife first and I should have," Rolnick said of signing the petition, adding he was unaware of the cul-de-sac issue upon buying the Bermuda-style home of former Mayor Don Hart in 2012. "We don't want to live on a cul-de-sac there or anywhere."
He said his opinion was further swayed against a cul-de-sac when he learned that white concrete "k-rail" would be used as a temporary barrier.
City Attorney Ginny Gennaro said the council's Jan. 22 discussion could result in a second amendment to the resolution, relaxing the unanimity requirementresidents must meet to get a cul-de-sac.
The council's original resolution in November 2012 allowed the closure of Beech, Myrtle, Spruce, Pine, Cedar, A, B and C streets at 24th Street subject to the two conditions.
Cul-de-sacs on B and C streets as well as on Elm Street, which was closed by a white concrete "k-rail" in 2006, were supposed to be built when 24th Street is widened -- but the resolution didn't specify when others would be built.
In November 2013, Ward 2 Councilman Terry Maxwell reopened the discussion, calling for a different amendment specifying all cul-de-sacs would be built when 24th Street is widened, which won't begin for at least 18 months -- and that if the council decides not to modify 24th Street, residents would have to pay the city's cost of building cul-de-sacs.
"My fear is that as we go forward, if we agree to pay for these cul-de-sacs, then I think we're setting the bar fairly low for people in the city to come to us and say they're not happy about a problem or a perceived safety issue, and the city will go on and on and on (paying)because of the precedent we set here," Maxwell said.
The rest of the council felt otherwise.
Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera apologized to residents, pointing out how different his southeast area is from downtown.
"I don't mind a precedent. I don't have folks asking for cul-de-sacs. I have folks asking for sidewalks," said Rivera, who drew applause from residents during his remarks.
After the meeting, retired Bakersfield Fire Chief Ron Fraze said he was "very encouraged." Fellow Pine Street homeowner Bart Hill agreed, saying residents were due for a party after the council's decision.