council meeting

The Bakersfield City Council meeting was filled to capacity on Wednesday, as councilmembers considered purchasing a property on East Brundage Lane for an emergency homeless shelter.

The Bakersfield City Council voted to postpone a plan to purchase an office complex at 1900 East Brundage Lane to turn it into an emergency homeless shelter.

In a 6-0 vote, with Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan absent, the council chose to delay any potential purchase until late January.

The vote came during fierce opposition.

Councilman Willie Rivera came out strongly against the shelter, which is in his ward. He said he was concerned about the costs, and with saddling, “southeast Bakersfield with a shelter that will never close.”

He spoke passionately during the meeting, saying he was “frustrated as hell” in what he called a flawed process.

“I’d argue that there are cheaper, more efficient, better ways of addressing this,” he said, later adding that the neighborhood had already been burdened by challenges.

The city would pay $3.8 million for 7.5 acres of property, along with $1.1 million for 10 acres of vacant property adjacent to the site. The city predicts the site would cost $1.9 million to construct.

The site is meant to be a temporary facility.

Rivera was joined in his concerns by nearly all the rest of the council. Only Councilman Andrae Gonzales spoke favorably of the site, with the remainder taking stances in opposition.

A large contingent of neighbors and businesses, churches and even a school spoke in opposition of the city’s plan. Most of the speakers either lived or worked near the proposed site and brought up concerns typically associated with the argument, “not in my backyard.”

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” said John Sacco, owner of Sierra Recycling and Demolition, a facility next to the city’s proposed site.

He said the shelter would bring more homeless individuals to a busy street that was traversed by “tens of thousands” of trucks each year.

“Somebody is going to wander onto Brundage Lane and somebody is going to get killed.”

The nearby Valley Bible Fellowship also brought up criticisms of the city’s plan, saying the proposed 450 bed maximum capacity was too large.

“We don’t think there’s been enough conversation,” said Valley Bible Pastor Tom Touchstone.

Other residents of the nearby Cottonwood neighborhood came out to the meeting, saying their already-strained neighborhood could not shoulder the additional burden of a nearby shelter.

However, Bakersfield Homeless Center CEO Louis Gill reminded the City Council that they would likely face opposition wherever they decided to put the facility.

“There is no perfect location,” he said. “There will always be a business that says it will be incompatible with their use.”

The city had previously selected Weill Park north of Golden State Avenue as the site for an emergency homeless shelter, but pulled back after nearby residents complained and concerns arose over a potential lawsuit.

The zoning of Weill Park exposed the city to potential litigation, according to the city. The East Brundage location, which is zoned for heavy manufacturing, would not require a zone change to construct the shelter, unlike Weill Park.

Only two properties in Bakersfield were determined to be on the market, and zoned correctly for a homeless shelter. The first location, in Old Town Kern, was considered to be too small. The East Brundage spot allowed for a large facility, with extra room the city could use to construct affordable housing.

The city plans to construct the shelter in phases, starting with 100 to 150 beds in the first year, before scaling up potentially to 450 beds. The city also plans to build a Bakersfield Police Department substation on the property of the shelter, and provide private security within 10 blocks of the site.

“We want to make sure that we’re not having a negative impact on our neighbors,” said Assistant City Manager Jacqui Kitchen.

She said that the recent point-in-time count of Kern County’s homeless population revealed that 91 percent of homeless individuals said they would use an emergency shelter if it did not split them up from their partners, allowed them to keep pets, and let them keep their possessions, among other concerns.

The city’s shelter aims to do just that, filling a gap other Bakersfield shelters do not.

In an effort to reduce impacts on the surrounding area, the shelter will not serve daily meals, and it will not allow walk-ins, only admitting referrals. The restrictions are meant to reduce homeless individuals hanging out outside the facility on a daily basis.

“When you drive by, you won’t know this is an emergency shelter,” Kitchen said.

Passersby may not know the property is an emergency shelter because the site may not ever become an emergency shelter.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

(16) comments

BC228

I vote to buy out have these vacant motels who already have separate rooms, lobby and kitchens.. The motel on Buck Owens would be great

bakodon

Life long resident (75 years) and totally embarrassed by out bobble head council especially Freeman, this guy is a kook and doesn't even reside in Bakersfield. City staff is a joke...fire them all...we are dealing with impotent faceless bureaucrats. We need help for the homeless TODAY not "sometime" next year...Lets find a area and put up a portable city for a year and see what happens? How about using Stramler Park on N. Chester for a year? Cant be that had to get a field kitchen porta potties with showers and make it a easy to bring your dog and stuff. WE NEED A NEW CITY COUNCIL-DUMP THE BOBBLE HEADS!

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Patricia Edna

You support crime and violence? Why am I not surprised? I support you never posting on this site again.

Fram Smith

Legally , the city can not force someone off the streets of Bakersfield , unless there is a bed for them in a shelter. What the Bakersfield City Council voted to do , was to miss the chance to keep hundreds of homeless off the streets . By the way , the Las Vegas City Council just pass a law that forces the homeless to stay in a shelter , when a bed is available. Apparently , they feel confident that the new law can withstand a legal challenge. Maybe mistakes made by the Bakersfield City Council , like not approving this location , are done because we don't have a full-time professional city council , like other communities of comparable size . Instead , we have a " volunteer " city coucil who just doesn't seem to have the time ,

money , or inclination to be a professional decision- making body. Approving this location for a homeless center would have been a big step towards dealing with this ever growing social crisis. Now , well we are just nowhere bound.

All Star

You are wrong. Las Vegas CANNOT force the homeless to stay in a shelter. Do some research and edit your post, or delete it.

bakodon

YES THEY CAN! If you have beds, its either the shelter or jail!

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Mrknowitall

I agree. Wonder where the censor-patrol was on this one. Lord knows they cut my posts at a healthy 60% clip—at least 60, likely closer to 75%. But I get it. I understand they can’t have me on here scathing the under-educated and uninformed foils I come across here. Lol. SOMEbody has to Knowitall. It fell to me by natural selection.

RefereeB

Understand the business concerns, but Valley Bible? That’s a slap in Jesus’ face! Isn’t (or shouldn’t) part of their mission to serve the lost and down trodden?

HeresJohnny

Its an ideal location for a shelter and any pastor with a church in the area should welcome the idea. However, many of us now understand that churches are just like any other business, and homeless people don't have money to contribute so off they go, ship them to the marketplace...right? That is what you want? Don't build a shelter on a vacant piece of property thats been unused for decades. Makes too much sense, we should have them camping in our front yards out in the southwest.

REMUDA

If so-called 'homeless shelters' are 'necessary', they should be 'county', no 'city' issues and in outlying areas (tent cities) as truly temporary and away from 'neighborhoods'. The cause of 'homelessness' should be addressed and studied for the root cause.

Are we 'recipients' of homeless transported from other communities? There are study groups that are available to evaluate this newest phenom . . . mostly caused by the explosion of DRUGS! Look around you . . . and ask WHY?

palooloo

I think having it on brungage sounds like a good idea. The only issue i have is the lack of buses that pass brundage. Many of them are going to have to walk a bit from their bus stops to get to the shelters. But i think if it's closer to churches, then churches shouldn't see it as a burden, rather see it as an opportunity to share more and volunteer their service more to serving the shelter too as a volunteer activity. It's more closer to the fields too which'll make serving fresh food to them more attainable. I would volunteer more at this shelter if it was so close to work

Cracker

I agree with you palooloo. It reads to me as a place for people that are just homeless because they can't afford housing and possibly can't get a job because they don't have an address which can lead to be homeless. I like the idea of having a police sub-station near, a screening process for the residents and with no walk-ins. Curbs, sidewalks, and landscaping will add to the control of dust and the look of Brundage Lane as it does across the road. GET will most likely be able to assign a new stop for the village so people can go to work or look for work. My question to the people who oppose this endeavor, "what do you think should go there?" Houses? No one would want to live by a recycling facility. Shopping Center? One would only draw in other "riff-raff" from the area. As for as temporary, are they not referring to the people being temporary not the village being temporary? I would also like to add that the exit and entry for Highway 58 needs to be controlled with a traffic light

Mrknowitall

Shame on Valley Bible “Church”. I can see greedy businessmen like Sacco and Kyle Carter trying to block shelters near their biz—but a church??! Shame on them. The downtrodden look to the churches for relief and empathy. Pastor Touchstone was not an angel in his “past” life either. The body-building act was classic steroid abuse—that industry was rife with it. But the church overlooked his past—and rightly so. And now this. And Willy? Lol. Guy isn’t even from that district, but he’s furious? Grandstanding. That area is blighted. A shelter with a built-in police station and private security on the perimeter is an IMPROVEMENT. Besides, it’s a referral only-no meals project. That means ZERO increase on savages traffic into the neighborhoods there. That property is a ghost town. Perfect for the project. If Cottonwood and Lakeview are “too good” for a shelter... just where the heck isn’t too good?!!

She Dee

Mrknowitall...I agree & I'm gonna go out on a limb here by adding that I have seen this same type of "opposition" take place in abandoned neighborhoods in other towns where a lot of illegal activity goes unnoticed....until someone who doesn't know the area buys into it & brings a new demographic of people into the area. FEAR of the UNKNOWN is what's happening here in my view. Everyone is afraid of something & that is not being discussed in any of the articles I have been reading. Sad that so many will die this winter while city officials postpone & derail all efforts to assist those in need.

mrdwm1

While it's good to see somebody finally trying to do something, Ms Kitchen's statement that the shelter "won't serve meals" is a tip-off: where do you think these 450 people will go to eat and do other bodily functions during the day? Think they'll just get in their cars and drive somewhere else to Mickey D's? More thought, MUCH more, is needed here. Meanwhile these unfortunates will be left to themselves for another winter.

Mrknowitall

Of course the shelter will be serving meals. It ain’t Auschwich. They must feed the folks. Lol. They just won’t serve open-invitation soup-kitchen-anyone-can-show-up-and-get-in-line meals. They’ll only feed n shelter those homeless who referred by a homelessness agency. Yeah. MORE thought needed wherever you came up with the Starvation-Shelter idea. Lol

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