Reader: Just read your article on Bakersfield's Westpark neighborhood ("Where We Live: In Westpark, the new freeway's path determines homeowners' fate," Jan. 27). You captured the human side brilliantly. As one the property appraisers commissioned to perform the eminent domain appraisals for the project, I am intimately familiar with the values and prices in this and the Lakewood neighborhood to the south.
The numbers are devastating. As soon as the project was officially announced, the typical home value in Westpark declined $35,000. The homes taken received more than they were worth; as appraisers operating under the eminent domain laws, we could not use comparable sales from the project area. We used sales from (the) Quailwood, Westwood Estates, Amberton and Laurelglen (neighborhoods) as they were the most proximate with similar characteristics. On average, the Westpark “takes” received 15 percent to 18 percent more than their true values.
You are right, the people that were “screwed” were the ones left behind, and even more “screwed” were the properties with “partial takes” that will be adjacent to the freeway. They were paid for the partial take but nothing in punitive damages for being next to the freeway.
I was not allowed to participate in the partial-take valuations because I disagreed with TRIP. According to my research, the “partial takes," in my opinion, should have received an additional 10 percent for punitive damages. Again, that is just my documented and supported opinion.
Westpark will recover some day. If case studies are correct, that will be five years after the freeway is operational. In the meantime, the ones left behind will suffer.
Anyway, what’s done is done. Very good piece.
— Gary Crabtree
Reader: Robert, a beautifully documented review of the demise of a part of the Westpark neighborhood resulting from shortsighted planning for the Centennial Corridor. It’s a sad story for many.
In 1974, our family moved from my Occidental Petroleum assignment in lush, green Indonesia to Bakersfield (one can supply his/her own contrasting physical description). Westpark was convenient to Occidental’s offices. The house suited our two-kid family just perfectly and the neighborhood was somewhat secluded, quiet and safe. Our son and daughter attended nearby Harris Elementary School.
My wife and I moved away in 1993, long before the final decision was made to run the freeway through Westpark. Thus we avoided the stress and hassle suffered by others and in hindsight were winners.
Coincidentally, before learning of your forthcoming piece on Westpark, we drove through the neighborhood and along Marella Way, where our house was. What a shock and depressing disappointment. The house was the last one saved along that stretch of the street. It now abuts what will be the freeway, smack up against what will probably be a sound barrier. Quite claustrophobic.
— Richard W. Burritt
Price: Hindsight is golden, but planners as far back as 1958 foresaw the need for an east-west highway across the metro area. Their repeated failures to act over the next four decades proved costly to both government and individual property owners.
Reader: Just wanted to weigh in on your piece about the late Jerry Gibbons ("'Mad Man' of Bakersfield chased his creative dream to SF," Jan. 30). I had no idea of Jerry’s phenomenal success after high school but I am not surprised. We were not close friends at KCUHS/BHS but we graduated together and I always thought very highly of him. Thank you for your write up. From a member of the BHS Class of 1954,
— Bob Myers
Reader: You would have loved Jerry Gibbons. What a sincere and great guy he was to all people, clients and colleagues. The stories are endless. Jerry's face would always get red from blood pressure before or after client meetings. Me not knowing that, I would walk in from a meeting and say to Jerry, "Hey Jerry, it looks like you got some sun this weekend," when in fact he had clients in the office or just got back from a Microsoft meeting.
— John T. Diaz
Price: Gibbons met with Bill Gates in 1982, and, according to Derrick Daye of Branding Strategy Insider, afterward the Microsoft founder went back to Seattle and doubled his advertising budget.
Thousands of Bakersfield natives like Gibbons have collected their high school diplomas, packed their bags, and left in search of fame and fortune, never (or rarely) to return. Gibbons, who died Jan. 7 at 82, was one of them. He definitely made a name for himself.
Reader: It seemed that during the holidays TBC got away from printing "news" articles from Washington Post. Now those articles are creeping back in. As a conservative, I'm extremely leery of getting my news from a left-leaning publication. They tend to edit their news — maybe not lie, but ignore information covering both sides of an issue.
The far-left has just gone nuts. I think Joy Behar expressed it best when she said, "We hate Trump and will do anything to get him out." Really, is this what our nation has come to? Anyway, I don't know the newspaper business, but why can't you use the AP for our national news?
Doesn't TBC have enough liberal columnists for the Opinion section to take up the slack? I scanned through the last month's issues of TBC and noted that you printed a total of six conservative columns from Rich Lowry and Stephen Moore. TBC printed a total of 15 liberal columns from: Leonard Pitts, Froma Harrop, Michael Gerson, and Jennifer Rubin. Is that really neutral?
— Van Fairbanks
Price: We did not make any conscious decisions to publish less Washington Post content, or more AP content, over the holidays. We did publish more local content than usual during that time (if that's possible) in part because we routinely devote a lot of space to end-of-year/beginning-of-year material. By about Jan. 3, we were back on schedule.
The Washington Post has unparalleled access and insight, plain and simple. The Post goes after President Trump with barely restrained zeal, it sometimes seems, but I believe three factors explain that, right or wrong: Trump makes outrageous claims and demands unlike any president in recent history, a fact the media can scarcely ignore; collectively, the U.S. press believes it gave Trump a pass during the campaign, failing to aggressively call him out when it should have and is now in the compensation phase of the relationship; and Trump's infamous "enemy of the people" statement about the media poisoned the well, and understandably so.
None of that justifies imbalance. Yours are reasonable concerns.
As for our syndicated Opinion columnists, your abacus is faulty. I count 19 conservative columns in January to 12 liberal ones. Opposition to or criticism of Trump does not make one a liberal; George F. Will can vouch for me on that. I'd wager that you, as a conservative, would agree with every pre-2016 column Gerson, an evangelical Christian, and Rubin, criticized in 2012 as a Mitt Romney "mouthpiece," ever wrote. But they are stridently anti-Trump and that colors the whole equation.
In January, we published six columns apiece by Pitts and Harrop; we also printed seven by Gerson, two by Rubin, four by Lowry, three by Moore, one by Hugh Hewitt and two by Dan Walters, who leans a tad to the right on state issues.
Reader: Regarding the story of the Covington (Ky.) High School students and their alleged confrontation in Washington with the Native American activist: I've seen this before with students. Baseless accusations before getting the facts straight. Remember the Duke Lacrosse 8? Again, people with an agenda combined with personal biases ruining the lives of people. Only worse now with social media. And I sincerely doubt mainstream media will offer a apology, merely "correction" of facts.
— Chris Von
Price: Some media pundits definitely jumped on this in error, but a lot of the stories I saw were simply people who'd been quoted expressing their outrage based on incomplete information. The former requires apology but the latter is simply a matter of reporting on current public sentiment based on a context-deprived video.
An important aspect of this story is that media got fooled by a disinformation campaign/social media phenomenon. Established media are supposed to be vetting this stuff for the public, and this was a big fail.
Reader: I need to point out an error in the Jan. 24 paper. In the public safety column, there is an article about a vehicle accident on Highway 166 in Buttonwillow. As a former resident of and current businessman in Buttonwillow, I can assure you that Highway 166 is nowhere near Buttonwillow. I suggest that whoever wrote the story needs to study Kern County geography in more detail.
— John Blair
Price: Our early morning reporter, new to the area, wrote that brief, which was fixed online and never went to print. She saw that a CHP officer from the Buttonwillow station had responded to the incident and assumed that meant the town of Buttonwillow was somewhere close by. We set her straight.