Business owners brainstorm possibilities to revitalize Downtown Bakersfield

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Downtown Bakersfield businesses learned of the possibility of a new county ordinance that would prohibit sleeping in public; a breath of fresh air for them as they say crime and homelessness continues to scare away customers.

“We don’t want to push anybody out of their home,” said Cassie Bittle owner of KC Steakhouse. “We want to provide them with opportunity.”

“We don’t want to push anybody out of their home.

We want to provide them with opportunity.”

Cassie Bittle owner of KC Steakhouse

During Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the ‘Block to Block’ program, a program under the Downtown Business Association (DBA), members reassure that their intentions are not to get rid of the homeless.

The Block-to-Block program started 3 years ago as businesses noticed how the homeless population invaded Downtown Bakersfield.

“If someone calls an issue at my business, I give a call to ‘Slice of Italy’ and then to ‘John’s Burger’ to keep active in this together,” said Bittle.  “The best way to combat this is to stay proactive while helping local officials get what they need to get done.”

Melanie Farmer, President of the DBA, says the problems these businesses face go far beyond than just transients sleeping around city blocks.  Fires, ‘broken windows and more make it difficult’ to attract customers. An ordinance would ease these problems and the DBA stands in-support of one.

In a statement to 17 News, Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer’s office says talks of an ordinance similar to the ones adopted in Los Angeles County started after “Supervisor Maggard (D-3) [made comments] at a recent BOS meeting” adding that “there have not been any policy decisions that were announced or draft language of an ordinance change.” 

In the past year, downtown area business dwindled down as well as crime on these businesses.

“A lot of them depended on the dumpsters and recyclables of a lot of the bars and restaurants,” said Bittle.  “So when those dumpsters went empty they began to go to other parts of town.”

Adding more lights to streets, cameras or ordinances, the fix to the homeless crisis is not one-size-fits-all.  Kern County has to consider, ensure and guarantee resources to help the homeless.

“What resources are going to be available for those folks that are going to be required to move?” said Jim Wheeler, Executive Director of Flood Ministries.  “So that has to be considered also.”

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