A controversial proposal to build five-story dorms at Coffee Road and Stockdale Highway was rejected Tuesday by a unanimous vote of Bakersfield's Board of Zoning Adjustment.
The project's Monterey-based developer, who expressed surprise at the opposition the project elicited among neighbors, said he was undecided whether to appeal the board's decision to the City Council.
"We're going to get together and talk about it," said David Moon, president of Coleraine Capital Group Inc. "So, I don't know" whether an appeal would be filed, he added.
Tuesday's 3-0 vote followed a staff recommendation that the 660-bed project be turned down based on findings that student housing at nearby Cal State Bakersfield is less than 70 percent occupied and that far more surrounding residents spoke out against the project than voiced support for it.
Project opponents packed a more than two-hour hearing at City Hall South, where many criticized the project as inappropriate for its proposed location. They said it would drive additional traffic through their quiet neighborhoods, present new dangers to pedestrian travel through the area and compromise their privacy.
Stockdale Estates resident Richard Armstrong said after the vote he was pleased by the board's decision to follow its staff's advice.
"People don't want to live next to a five-story apartment building," he said.
Coleraine, which has built successful dormitories at other California State University campuses, had applied for a conditional use permit because the property is zoned for commercial and offices uses, not residential. Its Bakersfield project was to include a swimming pool, Internet cafe and multimedia rooms, while offering shuttle service, security and student activity programming.
Before the afternoon hearing, the city received 12 letters of support for the project and 90 against it, plus hundreds of signatures of people opposed to the development.
Only one person unaffiliated with Coleraine spoke in favor of the project during Tuesday's meeting. Linda Morales, a parent of college students, said she liked the idea of in-fill housing near the university. She also said she didn't want Moon to think all Bakersfield residents were "Nimbys," an acronym for "not in my back yard."
The university came out strongly against the proposal. Spokeswoman Jen Self spoke during the hearing's rebuttal period, saying even though Coleraine gained community support for its dorm projects in Monterey and San Jose, Bakersfield "is not Monterey or San Jose."
Addressing Moon's contention his project would cost students half what CSUB charges, Self asserted the university is looking to reduce the cost of its dorm housing.
City Councilman Andrae Gonzales attended the hearing but did not speak publicly. When asked, he declined to share his opinion of the project, saying he needs to remain neutral in case Coleraine appeals to the council.