The Majestic Gateway project, which has sparked elation from union workers and anger from residents, was approved by Bakersfield City Council on Wednesday night.
The city council has agreed to rezone the 93-acre lot near Greenfield, qualifying it for construction of several commercial buildings and a 50-foot-tall, 1-million-square-foot warehouse. The mall would make up about 16% of the site, according to city statistics.
“One of the main things people want (is) jobs,” Ward 7 Councilman Chris Parlier said. Several things.”
Demand for construction began in 2020 and came to the stage after the Planning Commission recommended the 9-1 project in October. The council voted unanimously in favor of the site. The question of rezoning was the last obstacle blocking the construction.
The decision was postponed two weeks ago at the request of Majestic Realty representatives as they responded to concerns submitted.
“I’m thrilled for the town of Bakersfield,” said Randy Giumarra, vice president of sales at Giumarra Vineyards Corp. and site owner. “It’s going to create a lot of jobs and be a wonderful destination for people in the nearby community to live and work close to home.”
While Giumarra’s partnership with Majestic Realty, a private Los Angeles-based developer, began two years ago, he pointed out that he had been trying to put something on the plot for more than a decade. Plans for a Bass Pro Shops were scrapped in 2021 after more than a decade of negotiations between officials and developers came to nothing.
“We had great ideas for over 80 acres of commercial development, but the world has changed,” Giumarra said. “And the possibilities are not quite the same, so you have to adapt. But we will still build a development that has a large retail component.
Giumarra said he doesn’t know when construction will begin or how long it will take.
Once in operation, the site will include several commercial buildings and a large warehouse that will serve as a distribution center, where products will be distributed to retailers or directly to consumers. The San Joaquin Valley is well positioned as a transportation hub, given its proximity to the ports of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“It’s been a huge collaboration for many years over the course of three different developers, none of which have been able to bring anything to fruition,” Giumarra said. “It’s amazing the professional group we work with.”
According to figures provided by Majestic Realty, the project will be financed to the tune of $219 million. It is estimated that the project will generate $2.2 million per year for the city and create approximately 5,600 jobs.
As they did two weeks ago, members of the Leadership Counsel For Justice and Accountability have spoken out in opposition, describing a litany of inequities that will result from the surrounding community, which is already dealing with pollution and congestion. .
According to LCJA staff attorney Perry Elerts, Greenfield is considered by the California Environmental Protection Agency to be an SB 535 disadvantaged community, largely due to its alarming pollution. He said the warehouse would operate in violation of the laws set out in the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
“After reviewing the final environmental impact report, we believe that the project, as proposed, and the FEIR do not comply with California environmental quality law or the City of Bakersfield’s obligation to positively promote fair housing and avoid discrimination due to its proposed location in the middle of low-income, environmentally polluted neighborhoods of color,” Elerts wrote in an address to the city.
In their environmental impact report, city officials found no significant impact on air quality and housing, but said construction would produce significant greenhouse gas emissions and increase traffic jams.
The pollution burden for the surrounding community is in the 95th percentile for ozone, the 99th percentile for particulate matter, the 99th percentile for drinking water and the 70th percentile for solid waste, according to CalEEnviroScreen 4.0, a tool map of pollutants provided by the State.
The contested space: an undeveloped, unfenced parcel of land, set between Berkshire Road and Hosking Avenue and framed against Highway 99. Within a 2-mile radius there are 19 schools and more homeowners than renters, according to census data. Elerts estimates that the project will cause 12,700 vehicle trips through a residential neighborhood every day, including 580 heavy trucks entering and exiting the site.
Ask residents and they’ll tell you that you’re more likely to find a school zone than a speed limit sign.
“Residents asked for safe crosswalks, bike lanes and light restrictions,” Elerts said. “At the moment, the EIR only requires the project to include some signs indicating truck routes, which are the same routes that children use to walk to school.”
According to Jag Singh, a resident of Greenfield who lives a block from the site, there will be “a lot of congestion because of the big rigs going by every day.”
Singh, a 23-year-old retired interstate truck driver, said he had never seen a warehouse so close to a residential area. He keeps in touch with truckers who frequent Interstate 5 and Highway 99, and “they find it unusual too.”
Singh said when he was out for a walk in the morning around 7.30am, cars were either piled up before a red light or speeding along his street at more than 80 to 90 mph. The speed limit is 40.
“I can’t cross the street in the morning, because people are driving so fast, 80 to 90 mph – vroom,” Singh said, jerking his hand forward like an arrow. “It’s the same on Hosking (Avenue); so busy in the morning. And with the trucks, it’s going to make it a nightmare.