A city board vetoed a permit Tuesday that would have allowed an assisted-living home for 12 residents downtown, but its project manager said he’ll still be able to open a smaller version without local approval.
Jose Luis Vargas, project manager for Bakersfield Living CLHF, a proposed assisted-living home at 2525 18th St., pointed out that his employer only needs a conditional use permit from the city to care for more than six people.
Vargas said in an interview he intends to secure state licensing allowing workers to care for up to six terminally ill people, and open as soon as this summer.
“We are disappointed, but we had already previously known that the possibility was there,” said Vargas, who can reapply to the city for a conditional use permit in a year.
“We’ll definitely be back in a year. It’ll give the neighborhood the opportunity to see that what we’re saying we’re bringing into the neighborhood is exactly what we’re bringing into the neighborhood.”
More than 20 neighbors packed the Board of Zoning Adjustment’s afternoon meeting to voice concerns about noise, traffic and profits.
“I and 50 of my neighbors are strongly opposed to having this business or any other business be approved for this location,” said 17th Street resident Dan Brown, referring to a petition against the project by 50 residents. “This has a 12-bed hospital being put in a residential neighborhood that has a very unique character.”
Eighteenth Street resident Mike Ladd scolded the city for considering the home.
“Why have zoning if you’re going to do this kind of thing?” Ladd asked the board.
Lifelong resident Chuck Zwartendyk said downtown needs to be preserved.
“I think it’s ridiculous to lower the quality of the neighborhood for somebody that wants to make a profit,” Zwartendyk said. “It seems to me that it’s essential to keep this neighborhood as is.”
The project’s architect Bruce Keith acknowledged the opposition.
“It’s kind of a tough situation for both sides on this. My client’s patients are in the end stages of their lives,” Keith said. “As far as traffic, I don’t think it’s going to make a significant impact.”
Vargas stressed to the board that deliveries will not be made during peak traffic hours, that biohazard materials will be properly disposed and that the home will not be analagous to a hospital.
Hearing this, one board member wondered if Vargas and owner Ayk Ayrapetyan would be willing to aim lower.
“If we deny it, he can have six beds for eternity,” Board member Mark Fick said, after Vargas said he’d be amenable. “I think that jumping straight into a 12-bed facility in a well-established neighborhood that’s been here for 70 years, I don’t think that’s right for the neighborhood.”
After the board’s 3-0 vote to deny the permit, Zwartendyk and Brown said they were pleased, but area resident Fabiola Butcher said the fact that the home could still open bothered her.
“I’m still concerned about that,” she said.