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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Scaffolding surrounds the building on the northeast corner of 18th and Eye streets in downtown Bakersfield.

Q: What's with all the work being done to the building at 18th and Eye streets downtown? There's scaffolding all around the building and some sort of improvements are being made to the outside. Is there more to it than that?

A: Bakersfield city officials said Friday that the construction on the building is only for remodeling the exterior.

The commercial building is being stuccoed and crown molding will be added at the top of the structure. Old windows are being replaced as well.

Rick Cottrell, who owns the building, declined to comment on the remodel.

Building inspector Gary Fenstermaker said the construction will involve replacing 52 windows and doing additional stucco and stucco repair work. The property's building permit was issued Jan. 14 and the building was inspected March 13.

Fenstermaker estimated the work will be complete in early to mid-April.

One person who leases space in the building said she's enthusiastic about the eventual outcome.

"Once we get through the construction, it will be really nice," said Janet Hopkins, who leases office space for her State Farm Insurance agency. "The building is 110 years old, so they're just making it more modern."

Q: A man called The Californian newsroom wondering why he was issued a misdemeanor citation for panhandling when the city of Bakersfield's ordinance on aggressive solicitation has not yet been approved.

A: According to Bakersfield police Sgt. Joe Grubbs, California penal code section 647c targets what's commonly referred to as "panhandling."

The code section in general makes various types of disorderly conduct misdemeanor crimes.

Section C applies to anyone "who accosts other persons in any public place or in any place open to the public for the purpose of begging or soliciting alms."

That's exactly what the Bakersfield police officers who arrested and cited the man observed, Grubbs said. The man was not acting aggressively -- but under the state penal code, aggressive conduct is not necessary.

"This has nothing to do with the (Bakersfield) municipal code. This is the penal code. And because we have this issue going on with the city council now with aggressive panhandling, there might be some confusion out there that the panhandling has to be aggressive to be enforced," Grubbs said. "I think the intention of the code is further enhanced by using the words 'beg' or 'solicit.' Neither of those is particularly aggressive."

The city's proposed ordinance would make "aggressive solicitation" either an infraction or a misdemeanor, depending on the situation.

City Attorney Ginny Gennaro has said it would go farther than state penal code by outlawing aggressive solicitation, and banning all soliciting near banks, credit unions and ATMs, in parking lots and structures after dark, and on medians and public transit.

Ask TBC appears on Mondays. Submit questions to or to The Bakersfield Californian, c/o Christine Bedell, P.O. Bin 440, Bakersfield, CA 93302.