The Majestic Gateway Project, which sparked elation from union workers and ire from residents, was approved by the Bakersfield City Council Wednesday night.
The City Council agreed to rezone the 93-acre lot near Greenfield, which qualifies it for the construction of several commercial buildings and a 50-feet-tall, 1-million-square-foot warehouse. The commercial center would comprise roughly 16 percent of the site, according to city statistics.
“One of the major things people want (are) jobs,” said Ward 7 Councilman Chris Parlier. “I believe this project does that in spades. I live fairly close to this location, too, and for me, those jobs just outweigh so many things.”
Request to build began in 2020, and came before the dais after the Planning Commission recommended the project 9-1 in October. The council voted unanimously in favor of the site. The issue of rezoning was the final hurdle that blocked construction.
The decision was deferred two weeks ago at the request of representatives from Majestic Realty while they addressed submitted concerns.
“I’m excited for the city of Bakersfield,” said Randy Giumarra, vice president of sales at Giumarra Vineyards Corp. and owner of the site. “It’s going to provide a lot of jobs and make a wonderful destination for people in the close-by community that can live and work close to home.”
While Giumarra’s partnership with Majestic Realty, a Los Angeles-based private developer, began two years ago, he pointed out that he’s tried to put something on the plot for more than a decade. Plans for a Bass Pro Shops were scrapped in 2021 after over a decade of negotiations between officials and developers led nowhere.
“We’ve had grand ideas of 80-plus acres of retail development, but the world has changed,” Giumarra said. “And the possibilities are not quite the same, so you have to adapt. But we’re still going to build a development that has a great retail component.”
Giumarra said he was not sure when building would start or how long it would take.
Once in operation, the site will include several commercial buildings and a large warehouse to be used as a distribution center, where products will be distributed to retailers or directly to consumers. The San Joaquin Valley is positioned favorably as a transportation hub, given its proximity to ports in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“It’s been a huge collaboration for many years through the course of three different developers, none of which could bring anything to fruition,” Giumarra said. “It’s amazing what a professional group we’re working with.”
According to numbers provided by Majestic Realty, the project will be funded in the amount of $219 million. The project is estimated to generate $2.2 million annually for the city and provide an estimated 5,600 jobs.
As they did two weeks ago, members of the Leadership Counsel For Justice and Accountability voiced their opposition, describing a litany of inequities that will come at the consequence of the surrounding community, which already deals with pollution and congestion.
According to Perry Elerts, the LCJA staff attorney, Greenfield is regarded by the California Environmental Protection Agency as an SB 535 Disadvantaged Community, due largely to its alarming pollution. He said that the warehouse would run in violation of laws set in the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
“After reviewing the final Environmental Impact Report, we believe the Project, as proposed, and the FEIR do not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act or the city of Bakersfield’s duty to affirmatively further fair housing and avoid discrimination due to its proposed location in the midst of environmentally-burdened lower-income neighborhoods of color,” Elerts wrote in an address to the city.
In their Environmental Impact Report, city officials found no significant impacts to air quality and housing, but did state that this construction would produce significant greenhouse gas emissions and increase traffic congestion.
The pollution burden for the surrounding community is in the 95th percentile for ozone, 99th percentile for particulate matter, 99th percentile for drinking water, and 70th percentile for solid waste, according to CalEEnviroScreen 4.0, a pollutant mapping tool provided by the state.
The space under contest: an undeveloped, unfenced patch of dirt, fixed 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 the project will incur 12,700 vehicle trips in a residential neighborhood every day, which includes 580 heavy-duty trucks entering and exiting the site.
Ask residents and they’ll say that one is more likely to find a school zone than a speed limit sign.
“Residents have asked for safe crosswalks, bike lanes and light restrictions,” Elerts said. “Right now, the EIR only requires the project to include a few signs pointing towards truck routes, which are the same roads used by kids to walk to school.”
According to Jag Singh, a Greenfield resident who lives a block from the site, there is going to be “a lot of congestion from the big rigs that will come through every day.”
Singh, a retired interstate truck driver of 23 years, said he’s 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 goes for a morning walk, around 7:30 a.m., cars are either piled up before the stoplight or zipping along his street at upwards of 80 to 90 mph. The speed limit is 40.
“I cannot cross the street in the morning, because people drive so fast, 80 to 90 mph — vroom,” Singh said, launching his hand forward like an arrow. “It’s the same thing on Hosking (Avenue); so busy in the morning. And with the trucks — it’s going to make it a nightmare.”