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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.