Christian Clegg talks city priorities, Climate Action Plan, and rising temperatures

June 7, 2024 /

Since 2020, Christian Clegg has served as the City Manager of Bakersfield, overseeing daily operations and future budget planning. Under his leadership, the city has prioritized mitigating the impact of homelessness, collaborating with Kern County and other partners to develop housing programs and conduct encampment clean-ups.

Despite the growing progress the city is making public stakeholders such as environmental justice groups worry the city is not putting enough funding towards the systemic issues that initially cause homelessness.

With rising temperatures in the San Joaquin Valley advocates fear low-income households could suffer with no air conditioning, high utility costs, hot pavements with no tree shade, and lack of access to safe parks. 

Clegg spoke to Kern Sol News about current city projects and who will be invited to participate as stakeholders. 

Q: What are the city’s three main priorities currently?

A: “We’re still early enough in the process that one of the top three priorities is solidifying our stakeholder group and the process that we’re going to use to talk through projects and policies- that’s one. Two is making sure that we’re grant-ready to receive grant funds to work on the projects. I think three is aligning the multiple city efforts, because we have our general plan update and our Housing Element update, and we also have our Capital Improvement program. Aligning these different efforts to make sure we’re well  coordinated and leveraging as many opportunities as we can.” 

Q: Has your office been able to build partnerships with environmental justice groups or grassroots organizations for the Climate Action Plan?

A: “The stakeholder group that I invited folks to participate in represents I would say a diverse background of the city, it includes some important agencies. It includes the city, county, Kern Council of Governments, and the San Joaquin Valley Air District, but it also includes some of our local business interests through our chambers. We have representatives from the Greater [Bakersfield] Chamber, Hispanic Chamber, and Black Chamber, we also have folks representing some of our industry leaders from the energy industry, and we also have local developers and realtors. But then we also have Reyna from Building Healthy Communities has been invited to participate, Kern Community College District, Blue Zones…” 

Clegg shared that the Community Action Partnership of Kern and California State University Bakersfield represent community interests. He also explained further that he aims to create a balance between business and community interests for the Climate Action Plan (CAP) from 2023. The CAP is meant to meet California’s greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030. Several members that represent city corporate interests for the CAP coalition made a letter public to Clegg and other city officials on August 22, 2023, stating that the CAP goals should be absorbed by the city’s 2045 General Plan, eliminating specific climate goals for fear of lawsuits due to grant funding going to controversial projects. The letter can be found here:

The 2045 General Plan update shares that the goals mainly focus on housing, transportation, and vaguely on quality of life. More information can be found on the city’s website. 

Q: How much closer is Bakersfield to updating most homes with solar?

A: “We have a couple of different programs that are coming that will actually offer financial assistance with that,” Clegg continued. “We know there’s many individuals that are in need and it’s not financially feasible for them to do that on their own, so through the Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) grant we have several million dollars set aside for weatherization and solar installation on homes throughout the TCC geography that’s been established. The city also applied for whats called the Communities Change grant that would put several more million dollars into the same programs.”

These weatherization and solar programs can be expected to start taking applicants in the early Fall of 2024 according to Clegg. 

Q: Does the city have a program that holds landlords accountable for high temperatures in their units? Some activists are calling for a “minimum/maximum indoor temperature threshold” to protect vulnerable communities from the extreme heat. Have you heard of this call to action?

A: “It is something I’ve heard of before. Some cities are adopting policies around this. It’s a newer concept compared to some, it has not been proposed or discussed by the city council. I do feel like there might be some interest in both the community and the city council to at least do the research and analysis on it.”

Q: What would be your advice, as the city manager, to individuals and groups who are organizing for the minimum/maximum indoor temperature threshold to be legislation?

A: “I do think the more partners that advocates reach out to and work with early in the process the more strength there will be in the ultimate solution.” 

Q: Do you think it’s possible for Bakersfield to become a walkable city?

A: “Yes, I do think that Bakersfield can become a more walkable and multimodal city. Multimodal lanes can be bicycle lanes, walking, scootering, it could be vehicles- it’s multiple modes. I think one of the challenges for Bakersfield is that it has had a very suburban development pattern. Maybe we build out roads and neighborhoods with single-family homes, and that’s one of the things people like about Bakersfield. We also adopted a Complete Streets policy as a city, both in the form of ordinances and resolutions. All of our streets that we either rebuild or build new will include not only the car lanes but bike lanes, wide enough sidewalks with street trees and street lighting,” Clegg stated this is enforced by the city council. 

Additional information from the interview was about the city’s mobile app features which help residents report issues with existing city systems and how to use the city’s Help team. 

During the city’s next fiscal year, there are plans to continue supporting the Open Door Network and their new homeless shelters that add 100 new beds. Then there is the revitalization of the MLK Park community center with plans for a new pool. Clegg concluded by reconfirming the city’s focus on homelessness and stated he plans on making a team to work with individuals who don’t want to go into a shelter but can’t stay on the streets. Other goals include aiding public and commercial properties by adding new infrastructure updates or programs that financially support it.