Sometimes you forget how valuable a building permit is until it's gone.
Three years ago, Vista-based real estate developer Viridian Consulting Group went up against downtown residents and business owners to win permission to build 28 loft-style apartments in one of Bakersfield's oldest neighborhoods.
But after a hard-won victory, distractions settled in. Viridian attended to projects elsewhere and told Bakersfield officials financial complications had delayed work on the apartments. The company's conditional use permit expired two months ago.
Now, as Viridian returns its attention to the still-vacant site on 18th Street between C and D streets, it appears the company will have to start all over again. But whether the developer will face the same level of opposition remains to be seen.
Then as now, Viridian proposes to build one-bedroom apartments ranging from 760 square feet to 1,180 square feet at 2125 18th St. The building would stand 50 feet high and provide 31 parking spots on site.
The city's development services director, Jacqui Kitchen, said by email this week the company would have to apply for a new conditional use permit from Bakersfield's Board of Zoning Adjustment, as it did successfully in 2015. Back then, residents and business owners appealed the board's decision and the project ultimately won approval by a divided City Council.
Kitchen noted the company has been asked to fill in trenches dug as part of the project's preparation work, adding that the property was no longer considered an active construction site.
Viridian's owner, Eric Jencks, said he had been hopeful the city would extend the permit under the circumstances.
"It was successfully approved before and we're not proposing any changes," he said, blaming the construction delay on the company's other projects.
Kitchen confirmed the city worked with Viridian to extend the permit, "(h)owever, the permits are not good forever and the clock finally ran out." She expressed hope the company is able to get a new permit because the City Council has taken a position in support of new housing downtown.
People who spoke against the development proposal did so for a few reasons. Some were worried it provided too little parking, while others saw the building as out of step with the surrounding neighborhood, both for its relatively dense housing and its stucco and corrugated-metal design.
One of the project's early opponents appears to have come around. Marvin Ramey, owner of Experience Dance, a studio just west of the proposed apartments site, said he was initially concerned the apartment building provided too little parking and that it was unclear what kind of residents would ultimately move in.
But since then, he said, homelessness has taken its toll on the area. People with nowhere else to go have made use of the vacant property despite a fence put up around its perimeter, he said.
"It's been a mess," Ramey said. "I wish they would have went on with it and completed it. That way, everything would've been done."