City residents tend to oppose changes in their neighborhoods’ land-use restrictions for a variety of reasons. Chief among them are concerns about traffic, noise and parking impacts.

Here's a new one: homelessness.

Residents of southwest Bakersfield are speaking out against a proposal to remove the strictly residential zoning at the northeast corner of Wible Road and Hosking Avenue, in part because they worry that allowing development of a new gas station, stores and restaurant there will attract people living on the streets.

That came as something of a surprise to city staff who presented the idea last week to the city Planning Commission, which ended up postponing consideration of the proposed zone change and General Plan amendment until Dec. 5.

“The concerns about homelessness were a new wrinkle,” said Steve Esselman, Bakersfield’s principal planner for advanced planning.

Letters written by local homeowners to commission staff cite fears that people who are homeless will congregate at the now-vacant 10-acre property once commercial buildings go up at the intersection. They assert transients will be attracted to inexpensive food that would be sold there and then camp out in the landscaping.

Other concerns were expressed in the letters, too — that air pollution, noise, light pollution and traffic will all increase if commercial development is allowed in the area. But those are fairly standard complaints in comparison with the worries about a jump in vagrancy.

"Our community believes commercial development will increase the homeless/transient population resulting in increased criminal activity in our neighborhood," Joe Jimenez, president of the Wible Road Action Group, or WRAG, wrote to the city in mid-July.

The group says it has gathered signatures from more than 250 local residents opposed to the zoning change.

RESIDENTIAL SURROUNDINGS

The 10-acre lot proposed for commercial development, owned by Cindy Henson, is surrounded by residential buildings. The only land zoned for commercial development in that area is a vacant lot at the southwest corner of the same intersection.

Area resident David Palinsky shared a list of concerns with city staff in a letter he wrote opposing the proposed changes in late August. Topping his objections was the potential for an increase in the area's population of homeless people.

"An increased presence of homeless/transient activities ... always has negative effects on a community including criminal activity, panhandling, public defecation and litter," wrote Palinsky, who is vice president and treasurer of WRAG.

The Ward 7 councilman representing that area, Chris Parlier, declined to share his thoughts on the matter because the proposal may be revised before it goes to the City Council, if it gets that far. But he did say he is "kind of going back and forth" on whether he would support the proposed zone change and General Plan amendment.

"I don't want to get in the big middle of it,” he said.

THREE FACTORS

Esselman said that, from a city planning perspective, there are generally three factors that can contribute to a rise in vagrancy in an area. They are shelter — bushes and trees where people might try to sleep — as well as access to inexpensive food and the presence of recycling centers where transients may want to redeem materials for cash.

No recycling center is proposed there, he pointed out, and new lighting at the lot would probably discourage sleeping there. But it's possible a new restaurant would provide food that could be of interest to homeless people, he said.

He did not rule out the possibility that people living on the streets would hang out near the filling station.

"Do the homeless have the ability to move and congregate? Sure," he said. "But are you really going to walk that far for a gas station?"

Planning commissioners were unable to reach consensus on the proposal at last week's meeting, Esselman said, so they decided to revisit the matter later in hopes a compromise could be reached during the interim.

The reason the item was postponed until December, he said, is because General Plan amendments can only be made during certain windows of opportunity and December is the soonest one can be brought up again.

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf. Sign up at Bakersfield.com for free newsletters about local business.

(3) comments

REMUDA

Homelessness is not a 'result' . . . it is a 'symptom' . . . of sociatal apathy and disorder (sometimes 'mental'). This 'effect' increased with . . . the end of "The Draft" (which also taught personal responsibility) . . . for 'most!

How many 'homeless' are vets (eligible for VA)?

("THE DRAFT ") . . . 4. Can Provide Useful Skills"

"Life in the military can teach individuals more than how to throw a salute or shoot straight. The trainings they provide goes far beyond the technical skills needed to get the job done. Many military volunteers who have pursued a career in the civilian workplace mentioned several other skills and work-related attitudes that help them well in their job. These include teamwork, responsibility, initiative, stress management, diversity, and global awareness. Others learn the habits of healthy living and discipline as well as the skills in self-defense."

https://connectusfund.org/10-meaningful-pros-and-cons-of-mandatory-military-service

WibelRoadActionGroup

Maggie80 comments as someone who rented property from the Henson's and had issues with homeless people. The problem for homeowners in OUR community will be significantly worse if this zone change request is approved. Homeless people, which includes drug addicts and mentally ill people, are creating major issues for Bakersfield's citizens. One has to look no further than the outrage expressed by business owners at the September 11, 2019 Bakersfield City Council meeting. Introducing additional commercial property at the intersection of Wible and Hosking is an invitation to additional homeless people into OUR community. This affects OUR safety, well being and we want to keep the impacts of homelessness out of OUR neighborhoods.



Retail is not the future of Wible and Hosking and more commercial development in the middle of OUR community is not progress. There is more than enough commercial property to support OUR community needs, especially with the development that will occur around the Hosking/99 interchange. (BTW, that's the direction the horse is riding!) Fine dining? So, with all the available commercial property in and around our community, Maggie80 thinks it is more likely that a fine dining restaurant will be built at the intersection of Wible and Hosking? We respectfully disagree. What experience do the Henson's have as commercial developers? What other commercial developments have they built?



The Planning Commission and the City Council both unanimously denied a similar zoning change at the intersection of Wible and Hosking in 2003/04. That is a fact. The City Planning Department recommended against that zoning change request because it wasn't consistent with the General Plan's policies. That is a fact. What has changed? Nothing and the City Planning Department, when given multiple opportunities to tell us and the Planning Commission what changed, chose to remain silent. Mike Henson stated at the September 5th Planning Commission meeting that "the City came to us and we are going with the plan." Since no one from the City at the meeting denied that allegation, we have to assume it is true. Why is the City pushing a project that area residents do not want?



As citizens, taxpayers and voters, we are extremely concerned about the lack of transparency and appearance of a developer bias by the City Planning Department. We hope City leadership will take note, review and address these concerns.


Maggie80

II lived at that property and what people don't see is the homeless pushing carts past the homes late at night talking loudly to themselves or the semi-truck drivers pulling in as a rest stop. I had to call Cindy many times because homeless were in the field setting up tents, knocking on my door, occupying the sheds, robbed their workshop, or passed out. They always worked hard to keep me safe and the field clean and clear. They responded quickly each time, removed the trash, people, and always disposed of abandoned carts etc., within 24 hours. Zoning is not going to prevent homelessness there; IT IS there. The Henson's have reached out to the neighbors opposed but they haven't spoken to them and blocked them on their Facebook page? They are open to putting in what that area is missing: fine dining and family friendly shops. They are open to logistical changes, working on evening lighting, placement etc.? Commissioner Kowan used an analogy at that last meeting (regarding mother in law homes) that I think also applies here. He said, “Sometimes you have to ride a horse in the direction it is going.” Retail is the way Wible and Hosking is going. Commercial zoning was already denied in 2003. That was 16 YEARS AGO; progress happens. Cars drove past my house all day and night at 60+ miles an hour, it’s dangerous, accident prone, loud, and busy already? A shopping center would slow traffic barreling down Wible toward Panama. Don't forget The Bass Pro Shop is opening around the corner. Also, 4 houses south of this property is already zoned commercial? How does it make sense to deny commercial zoning 4 houses over the other direction? The Commissioners have asked both sides to meet and discuss before the next meeting. What if the Henson’s decide to put in section 8 housing or an actual homeless shelter instead? I’m thinking: be careful what you wish for.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.