During their November 2 Bakersfield City Council meeting, residents stepped forward to speak up against the proposed Majestic Gateway Project that would place a one million square foot distribution center within two miles of 19 different schools.
The Majestic Gateway Project was proposed by Majestic Reality Company and would be built in South Bakersfield near the Hosking and Highway 99 Interchange on an undeveloped, 91-acre land. During the City Council meeting, the project developers stated that this land was sought out for future retail, food, and entertainment purposes.
Emma De La Rosa, the Regional Policy Manager for Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability stated: “The developer is selling this project to the community stating that this project is going to be a beautiful shopping center like Riverwalk but completely ignoring the fact that the majority of this project is a warehouse. The warehouse will be built first, meaning for the first few years the community will be home to a one million Sq Ft. warehouse and not a commercial shopping center.”
During the meeting, Majestic Reality presented its Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and it revealed the ways they plan to attempt to minimize adverse environmental effects with mitigation measures and alternative ways to accomplish the project’s objectives but also stated some aspects of “significant and unavoidable” environmental thresholds such as greenhouse gas emissions and transportation.
“Also, Riverwalk has a park attached to it, not a warehouse so comparing the two does not seem reasonable. While residents support the idea of a commercial center, residents oppose a distribution center which can bring traffic, health, lighting, and economic impacts,” De La Rosa commented.
Because of the “significant and unavoidable” environmental impacts, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires the decision-making agency to compare the project benefits against the unavoidable impacts.
“If the project benefits outweigh those impacts, those impacts may be considered acceptable,” stated Paul Johnson, the Planning Director for Majestic Reality Company.
Following the Majestic Reality Company presentation, residents began to speak out in opposition to the proposed project. They stated that pollution and the impact of heavy trucks on streets were their main concerns, commenting that the area surrounding Hosking Ave and South H Street is already congested and needs road improvements.
Additionally, public comments pointed out that people suffering from asthma will have an ever harder time breathing in this area as the warehouse will increase the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are released.
Sandra Plascencia, a Policy Advocate for Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, urged the Bakersfield City Council not to approve this project, stating that they have been conducting outreach in the neighborhoods surrounding the project’s placement and highlighted the residents’ concerns.
“Residents are against the zone change and warehouse but are in favor of the commercial development. If the project were to move forward, we advocate for the no-project alternative which would allow for the entire site to be used as a commercial center,” Plascencia stated during the public comment portion of the meeting. “Regarding resident concerns, one of the biggest concerns is traffic — with 19 schools within a two-mile radius, residents are worried about what the impact of increased traffic will be.”
Plascencia and the residents in the neighborhoods they conducted outreach in pointed out that cars are already zooming through Berkshire and Hosking Road and noted the lack of speed bumps in the area. Plascencia also commented that there aren’t enough street lights in those areas or safety measures to protect pedestrians and students in the areas.
“Residents fear that with this new project, things will only get worse. The current mitigation measures only propose street upgrades to the intersections in front of the project. Thus we ask the city to incorporate high-intensity activated crosswalks or Hawk systems at the following intersections: Berkshire Road and South H Street, South H Street and Hosking Ave, Monitor Street and Berkshire Road, and Hosking Avenue and Monitor Street.”
Additionally, the City Council was urged to incorporate more street lights on these roads. Plascencia also pointed out that this area of South Bakersfield already has high rates of contamination, leading residents to fear what health risks could await them.
Nataly Santamaria, a Ward 7 resident and Promotora with Vision y Compromiso, also spoke in opposition to the industrial aspect of the project during the public comment section.
“We have very high asthma rates, not just in the Central Valley but in that area specifically. We already have a very high traffic of trucks coming into other distribution centers. This does not represent what the community wants and what they have been asking for,” Santamaria said. “We have had youth here asking for a center for them to be able to meet or a park for them to be able to attend to. For street lighting and for other things that can be prioritized rather than an industrial warehouse and distribution center.”
Following the conclusion of the public comment section, the decision to move forward with the project was left to the council, who decided to put it on continuance while Majestic Realty Company addresses the concerns submitted by residents.
“I think this is a good opportunity for us here, I think there’s also an opportunity for us to do it right and make sure that we are very conscientious of keeping our community safe — make sure that it’s walkable there,” stated Ward 1 Councilman Eric Arias. “If we could just get some visuals of what it looks like on the ground so that we can fully comprehend what it’s going to look like from the pedestrian and bicycle perspective that would be helpful in the future.”
Arias also suggested getting in contact with the school districts and obtaining an overlay of where those 19 schools are to make sure that there are proper pathways for students to be able to get to and from school.
The council will reconvene on November 16 during the 5:15 meeting to make their decision.