Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bakerfield: Goodbye neighborhood, hello highway

If you thought the era of plowing through an established neighborhood to build a brand new highway was over, then Bakersfield and Caltrans would like to have a word with you.

I've often said that Fresno is a lot like Los Angeles of 20 years ago; mimicking many of the bad choices, eventually receiving many of the trends (yay froyo, when will cupcakes hit!?) and having a downtown that will hopefully follow the path of redevelopment that LA eventually took.

Bakersfield, smaller and less developed than Fresno, is a few years further behind. Fresno made the decision to bulldoze neighborhoods over a decade ago, when highway 180 was erected through the area between downtown and the tower district. Now it's Bakersfield's turn to do what their cool peers Fresno and LA did, and put highways before people.

The Bakersfield California reports:

After years of being in the dark, residents and business owners in the Westpark area of Bakersfield finally have some idea as to whether their homes and buildings could be torn down to make room for the Centennial Corridor highway project.

Caltrans said Thursday it is recommending the Alternative B route for what will link Highway 58 to the Westside Parkway and eventually Interstate 5.

The Centennial Corridor is the biggest and most expensive of the Thomas Roads Improvement Program projects Bakersfield has been undertaking to upgrade and expand its roads.

Alternative B would ease traffic congestion along Highway 58 from Cottonwood Road to Interstate 5, Caltrans said in a press release. It would extend Highway 58 west from Highway 99 for about half a mile along the south side of Stockdale Highway. It would then turn northwest through the largely residential area known as Westpark, thread through the commercial areas along California Avenue and connect to Truxtun Avenue and the Westside Parkway between AAA offices and the retail center that contains Paragon Salon and Moo Creamery, just east of Mohawk Street.

Caltrans estimated that Alternative B would cost $570 million

Alternative B would take out 310 residences and 121 commercial properties.
Bakersfield Californian

Only $570 million to bulldoze through established businesses and residences? What a bargain! And all to reduce congestion....in Bakersfield, a city where congestion means you got a red light and must stop for it.

The article provided an image of the proposals. Before looking closer at option B which was the chosen one, take a gander at the rejected option C.


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For option C, there were proposing a brand new highway....directly adjacent to the existing six lane highway 99! And I do mean directly adjacent. C was rejected because it would completely destroy this park located by 99.

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Did they propose some kind of system where drivers had to, I don't know, use what already exists, to continue their east-west route? Nope. Adding a lane to 99? Nope. Maybe even decking 99 as to not impact any businesses or residences? Nope. The proposal was to plop in a new 6 lane highway right next to an existing 6 lane highway, for about a mile and a half.

Alternate B isn't much smarter. It also covers the same north-south path that 99 already does, but on a diagonal, thus impacting even more properties,  and creating a neighborhood bounded by two highways. Check out the path of destruction.

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Detailed map (PDF)


The path of destruction has a much larger effect than you might think. Naturally, many families don't want to move, as they've spent many years in the same home, and might have invested thousands in upgrades that may not be fully pay paid if the state takes their property.They're not just losing sentimental value, they're losing real money.

Cadena said she's made major improvements to her home, including adding a backyard pool just a few years ago when she thought the house would avoid demolition. Now that the California Department of Transportation has said it's recommending Alternative B as the route for the project, she knows her house is on the list of those to be bulldozed.
Bakersfield Californian

It also goes beyond the homes under the path of the bulldozer. For one, the neighborhood will see immediate negative affects. How many of those homeowners do you think will pay money for maintenance or improvements, with this project looming?

And then we have the homeowners whose properties don't get taken. Suddenly, they're living right by many years of construction, and then an eternal highway. Their home values will plummet. Their quality of life as well. They already live in one of the most polluted cities in the country, and now the highway is coming straight at them.

That's not all. It will hurt the homeowners that live blocks away, who can't hear (or smell) the highway. When they look to sell their home, they'll find their value has fallen as well, as people use neighborhood benchmarks. When your neighborhood sees a large drop in values, you drop with them.

The sentimental value can't be discounted either

Cherie Cadena grew up in the house on La Mirada where she now lives with her teenage daughter, 2-year-old son and her mom. Several of her neighbors also inherited their homes from their parents, and Cadena knows them from her childhood days. But Cadena's house and 26 others on her street would come down if the Centennial Corridor Alternative B is built.

"It sucks. We've been established here for many, many years," Cadena said while taking a break from putting up lavish Christmas decorations Friday afternoon. "This neighborhood especially -- it doesn't have that high a turnaround. ... There's just a huge group of people who've been here for years. ... It's sad."

Naturally, the homeowners will do their best to fight it off. California has a long history of highway opposition.....just not in the valley, where there can never be too many lanes.

A large group of residents decided Monday night that they will fight the building of the Centennial Corridor freeway through their Westpark neighborhood. The community meeting organized by the Westpark Home Owners Association at the First Assembly of God church drew more than 250 people, so many that the meeting was moved from a room off the sanctuary to the sanctuary itself.

Brian Self, one of the organizers for the meeting, said residents in other California cities have effectively opposed Caltrans' highway projects. "It can be done," Self said. He added that the home owners association had consulted with attorneys who successfully fought Caltrans' projects. A legal defense would cost $100,000 to $300,000, including hiring experts to rebut Caltrans' environmental document once the agency releases it.
 Bakersfield Californian



Caltrans doesn't think that's going to be an issue. Doesn't matter if you like it or not, they've got asphalt to lay.

The option to not build the project is unlikely, Milton said. It would happen, for instance, if Bakersfield were to lose the funding.

Other sections of the highway, that didn't require demolishing a neighborhood, are well under construction. Of course, sacrifices were made.

Bakersfield decided that riverfront property was best set as a highway corridor. While other cities are looking to demolish highways that ruin rivers, build beautiful parks, and then reap the benefits of high property values, in Bakersfield, they've decided to convert industrial land to highway. Instead of fixing past mistakes, they're going to make it worse.

Like in Fresno, Bakersfield has brand new satellite imagery. Let's take a look at what the project was doing in August.

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The good news is, this freeway which will head directly west to land that has yet to be sprawled on, will not induce any demand at all.

9.   Won’t this project induce growth?

Studies done nationally to evaluate this issue indicate that most projects are not growth inducing, but would accommodate planned growth. Growth areas are based on community planning documents, and this project would help facilitate the planned growth in designated areas. A growth inducement study will be done for the Environmental Document.
 Caltrans

That's a clever way to put it. You're not inducing sprawl if you have it in a document that sprawl would happen anyway, so might as well build.



Incidentally, I've yet to come across an article protesting the $570 million cost. I guess cost only matters if the project involves trains.

23 comments:

  1. How can such an unbelievably stupid project even be contemplated in the year 2012?!

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  2. Didn't Bakersfield declare bankruptcy like last year? Where the f**k is the money coming from!?

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    1. The articles indicate large piles of federal gold.

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    2. Nope. Never declared bankruptcy.

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  3. If we insist on building freeways through established neighborhoods, then they should be built underground. And while we're at it, we should start moving existing urban freeways underground. The real estate taxes on the new structures which can now be built over the freeway would easily pay for the cost of moving it underground.

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    1. Not entirely, even in cities like LA and Boston with very high property values, the depressed freeways are mostly unbuilt over.

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  4. First Bakersfield is actually one of the more financially stable cities in the state, and is in no danger of going into the red. Second Bakersfield is projected to surpass Fresno as the most populous city in the valley in 25 years. Third you should tackle traffic control before traffic brings progress to a halt. As someone who used to live in Fresno -Palm and Browning to now living in Bakersfield I can vouch for this project being needed, the 58 freeway just ends.... its makes no since that homes should have ever been built in the path of what many knew would be a continuation of the 58 freeway.

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    1. I agree. Something must be done about the traffic issues in Bakersfield as the city continues to grow. If the freeways aren't complete and connected, there will only be more problems.

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  5. This gets even better - now the City of Bakersfield wants to accelerate the condemnation/purchase of the homes involved ASAP, before their value goes up as the area recovers from it's Real Estate crisis.

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    Replies
    1. at least it is saving tax payer money.

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    2. ...nevermind the hundreds of taxpayers that are going to have their homes bulldozed.

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  6. Why didn't we just run the new freeway pryor to arvin, farmer's can't afford water anymore in the central valley, and just connect it to panama on the out side of town.

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  7. This is a test of wills between two groups, one the engineers still being train in the mentality of more roads is better for the country. The second group is fighting to protect there investment of many years, and the peace and tranquilly of the neighborhood. Back many years ago, there would be a good argument for more roads, however its becoming a point of diminish returns, and no real organization on we tie in where we work, were we shop, and where live, as this should be are priorities as the next generation grows up and will need and want the same or better lifestyle as we now enjoy.

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  8. im a home owner in the planed rought i thin this project realy f.....kn sucks . all i see is a bunch of home owners getting the shaft

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  9. I would've had this built as a slightly different version of plan C: have two ramps connecting from the existing 58 freeway at Brundage and have them parallel on either side of 99 until both ramps exit out westward after California Ave and continue as a viaduct over the railroad tracks to connect to the end of the current Westside Parkway. I understand that building these freeways aren't always popular ideas especially since they take up space and seem to encourage population and automobile growth (although I could probably argue that these growths are and were bound to occur regardless). I do agree though that building this option B looks like a waste of a project and that it only undermines a community that, in part, it was trying to help. There could've been a way to minimize the impact this Westside Parkway connector's had on the surrounding community and instead Caltrans and the City of Bakerfield have induced a black eye on it's own city and overall history.

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  10. I would've had this built as a slightly different version of plan C: have two ramps connecting from the existing 58 freeway at Brundage and have them parallel on either side of 99 until both ramps exit out westward after California Ave and continue as a viaduct over the railroad tracks to connect to the end of the current Westside Parkway. I understand that building these freeways aren't always popular ideas especially since they take up space and seem to encourage population and automobile growth (although I could probably argue that these growths are and were bound to occur regardless). I do agree though that building this option B looks like a waste of a project and that it only undermines a community that, in part, it was trying to help. There could've been a way to minimize the impact this Westside Parkway connector's had on the surrounding community and instead Caltrans and the City of Bakerfield have induced a black eye on it's own city and overall history.

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    1. Hey C. Pro, I like your idea but instead of going over from Brundage to California
      why not go under like Bostons big dig? People keep their homes. Traffic as usual.
      It's a relitivly short distance really. A no brainer. Let's put this connection out of sight.

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  11. This Option B seems to be one of the worst urban freeway decisions in modern history. There have been studies showing that freeways cutting through existing neighborhoods drives down their values and detriments them as time goes on. I realize that with the three options on the table there were going to be property casualties with whatever was going to be built, but I think the City of Bakersfield and Caltrans have chosen the worst plan to go forward with. The best, least-impactive option would've been a form of Option C with having either a viaduct over the current 99 between Brundage and California or having ramps on either side of 99 between Brundage and California to connect the two freeways.

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  12. What no one seem to address is the added cost of the other options. Option B was the cheapest option by over 50 million dollars. It also requires the taking of the fewest homes and businesses, with the exception of option C which would have been nearly 100 million more expensive. Also, California law prevents building a new highway on existing park land or historic districts. Option B was the only option that doesn't violate that law. it wasn't Cal Trans just deciding to blow up peoples houses. Option B was the only option that worked and happened to be the cheapest. Bakersfield owned and reserved that right-of-way 30 years ago, before the houses and businesses were built, intending to complete the freeway. Then Governor Brown said no more freeways in California. So the city sold the land to make a buck and we have ended up with now three freeways to no-where. Building this is a big sacrifice, and my house would have been bulldozed for option C. But this city needs to address its traffic issues BEFORE they become gridlock, not after. And they need to build this. Wish it weren't the case, but it is.

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  13. I kind if like the viaduct in a plan c idea. The Japanese love the use of viaducts and tunnels for their highways. They way they design their highways in Tokyo is interesting. They don't plow through the middle with a giant concrete expressway. Instead they save neighborhoods by working around them with the road working it's way around buildings and over existing streets. Additionally, they appear to make use of sound proof walls next to residential areas.The speeds are also lower, around 45 mph. Because of the decreased speed, tire noise isn't as big a problem. They also keep their highways small,around 4 lanes, so merging on and off isn't as dangerous.

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  14. But then again, Bakersfield already has huge amounts of freeway.

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