The Bakersfield City Council narrowly voted to purchase the headquarters of Calcot Limited for a new homeless shelter site at a meeting on Wednesday.
In a 4-3 vote, with Councilmembers Chris Parlier, Willie Rivera and Jacquie Sullivan dissenting, the council voted to move forward purchasing the multimillion dollar corporate office on East Brundage Lane.
The city said 17.24 acres at Calcot would cost $4.9 million to purchase, with $2 million to construct homeless facilities on the site and $315,000 in infrastructure improvements.
In separate votes, the council also voted to develop an agreement to help Kern County pay for its own new shelter on Golden State Avenue and develop neighborhood improvement plans for the two areas that will be impacted by the shelters.
As has occurred at previous meetings, a relatively large outpouring of the public attended, hoping to either advocate or object to various options set before councilmembers.
The issue of where the city should place a homeless shelter has been the subject of intense debate for months. The council pushed back a decision in November after fierce disagreement developed within the council over the viability of the city’s top choice at the time, Calcot.
The council had the ability to select from four options presented by city staff on Wednesday. Either the council could have chosen one of three potential sites for the shelter, or councilmembers could have decided to pay the county to run its shelter site near the intersection of O Street and Golden State Avenue.
The city brought back Weill Park, which is close to the county’s shelter and was previously the frontrunner before the city backed away from the option, as a choice. The city also presented an industrial property at 601 Brown St. and the corporate office of Calcot Limited at 1900 East Brundage Ln. as places where the shelter could go.
Councilman Andrae Gonzales strongly pushed for Calcot, saying it was the only choice that prevented the city from potentially searching for a new site in the future if the shelter becomes full.
"We have a homeless crisis that will continue to grow," he said.
He added that Calcot's shelter plan was modeled after successful shelters in other counties.
"How do we know it will work," he said of the new shelter. "Because it has worked in so many other communities throughout the state."
Community opinion has been divided since spring of 2019, when the city first began searching for a homeless shelter site. Residents near the Brundage Lane site have been especially vocal about their objections to the location. The residents say the neighborhood has been ignored by the city for too long, and is in bad need of municipal improvements like improved roads and sidewalks before a shelter should be placed in the area.
Community advocate Arleana Waller submitted a petition with over 1,000 signatures to the city in opposition to the Calcot site.
“For the first time in decades, this community feels like it has hope,” Waller said. “And then we talk about adding a low-barrier shelter in a double-digit unemployment area, that’s inhumane.”