A few years ago, I made a post about how Bakersfield was planning to bulldoze a neighborhood to build yet another freeway. I am rarely in Bakersfield, so in those 5 years, I didn’t really follow the project, aside from knowing it was chugging along. (I actually did stop in Bakersfield in August for dinner, coming back from Six Flags, but didn’t explore). Usually, big infrastructure projects take years to happen. At the time, Bakersfield was looking at alternative routes. If it takes Fresno 10 years to build improved bus stops, Boston 30 years to extend a trolley route, and NYC 60 years to add a subway station, surely things in Bakersfield would move slowly. Demolishing an existing neighborhood is no small feat.
Well, Ryan Young recently took a visit and photographed the progress. The freeway is indeed under construction, and the neighborhood is gone. He reports:
Westpark is a neighborhood like any other in Central Bakersfield. It’s filled with single-story ranch homes from the 50’s and 60’s; its streets are wide, clean, and lined with orderly parked cars; its lawns are neatly divided by fully matured palm trees.
But Westpark is a neighborhood under siege.
Over the past several years, city bulldozers sliced a wide, sterile arc directly through the heart of the neighborhood; they razed at least 300 homes and 120 businesses. And now, where the humble homesteads of hundreds of families and retirees once stood, there is nothing–just woodchips and orphaned cross-streets as far as the eye can see.
So if Bakersfield is going to be build this freeway after all, then I hope we at least remember that we threw a community under that bulldozer. I hope we can say that, in the end, we did give a s—t.
Check out his post for his on-the-ground photos and a local news video from an aerial drone. It’s pretty shocking.
And it will only get worse. Right now things look empty – but peaceful. Add mountains of concrete, asphalt, and trucks, and that peacefulness will be gone forever. That neighborhood will never be the same. Property values will plummet, pollution will increase, and thousands of drivers will zoom by, on their way to their newly built homes on the outskirts of town.
Here are some comparison shots from Google.
For many in Bakersfield, this is the prosperous future. It looks like a dystopia to me.
Additionally, I took a quick peak at Streetview to see what the latest and greatest Caltrans design standards look like. I was actually pleased to see that at one new off-ramp, the sidewalk goes UNDER the ramp, instead of making people cross at a ramp where vehicles are expecting to exit at 50mph without stopping.
But sadly, this was the exception. Every other BRAND NEW on- and off-ramp looked like hot garbage for bicycles and pedestrians. Note this example,where a bicycle lane was removed and replaced with a sharrow, so two lanes could be added leading to an on-ramp. Horrendous.