REVITALIZE

DOWNTOWN 

I seek to become your Councilmember for many reasons, but mostly because I believe Bakersfield is a great community to put down roots, raise a family, and lead an enjoyable lifestyle. The job of a Councilmember, though, should be more than just maintaining what we already have. As your Council representative, my goal will be to display the vision and leadership to make Bakersfield even better. I want to leverage our collective resources and ingenuity to make Bakersfield a dynamic city that we can be proud of and where our children and grandchildren can thrive and seek to fulfill their own dreams.

One way I intend to do this is to work strategically to once again make downtown Bakersfield the thriving hub of the community. While downtown Bakersfield is a strategic part of Ward 2, it belongs to the entire community. Despite decades of watching new growth continue to push further and further outward, downtown is still the historic core of our community. And it can be made again to not only regain its faded luster, but be reinvented into a vibrant center of businesses, restaurants, residences, entertainment, and schools.

As you have travelled around, you may have noticed that cities all across the United States…large, small, and in between, have been successfully revitalizing their downtowns and bringing new life and vibrancy to areas that were all but given up as dead. Downtown Bakersfield, too, has begun to show signs of new life in recent years. The Padre Hotel and the Arts District, Mill Creek, and the Maya Cinema are all evidence that downtown Bakersfield is coming back to life again. It’s a great start, but there is still so much more that can be done.

The City can’t do this alone. Much of the work and resources needs to come from the private sector. But the City Council must exhibit the leadership to leverage the City’s resources and provide the active vision to set the bar high and move progress ahead. As your Councilmember representing Ward 2 and downtown Bakersfield, I will work to do this by doing the following:

Plan

Successful downtown revitalization doesn’t just happen on its own. Not only does it take the cooperation of government, business, developers, and property owners, it takes a strategic shared vision. This is particularly true for downtown Bakersfield. It’s a large area and you can’t just build something here and something else there and expect it to function together in a way that works. Districts of complementary uses, such as entertainment or education, need to be built in proximity to each other so they will all succeed and thrive individually and collectively. I will seek to develop a plan for downtown Bakersfield that does those things.

And it doesn’t stop there. Even the best plans need someone to bring together all the players in a spirit of cooperation and achieving mutual goals. The Ward 2 Councilmember is the ideal person to do this, and I am a demonstrated team builder and collaborator to do just that - to be the linchpin to make sure that everyone’s bottom line is met and progress moves forward.

Remove Obstacles & Create Incentives

The City can bring its resources to the table to help, but the real heavy lifting is done by property owners, developers, and financiers. Business must know that downtown is a good investment and that the City will do what it takes to provide that confidence and assurance. It is more challenging and costly to develop a piece of land in downtown than it is on vacant land on the City’s edge. The City can compensate for this by making the cost cheaper and the process easier to develop downtown.  

Support Business & Focus on Small Business

Of course business is the key to downtown, but what really makes downtown successful, and fun and interesting for people who come downtown are the many small businesses that all make their own contribution to the larger success. I will endeavor to make downtown Bakersfield the “go to” place for anyone wanting to start a new small business, whether it be an art gallery, an interesting new eating spot, or a working space for a new start-up business.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Dark, dull, and empty...some parts of downtown still seem that way, while just the opposite should be the case. Changing this takes both the City doing its part while creating an environment for business to do the same. But nothing will change the image, character, safety, and vitality of downtown more than the signs of activity, both day and night.

Street lights, signs, events in the street, residences that provide “built in” customers for businesses and keep downtown “going” at all hours of the day, are all ways to make downtown a place people are naturally attracted to and feel safe when they’re there. We have a big downtown with lots of space to fill, but I propose to keep moving the needle in the way of bringing more “signs of life” to all parts of downtown.

Make It Fun & Livable

It wasn’t very long ago I would commonly hear people say “who would ever want to live downtown.” Well that’s starting to change. New downtown housing projects are starting to be built and others are in the works. A growing segment of the population, both old and young, enjoy being within walking or biking distance to services and entertainment, and living in an environment where there’s “something’s going on” on a regular basis. That’s what the “new downtowns” are all about. It’s beginning to happen in downtown Bakersfield, but there is a lot of things that can be done and more progress to be made.

It can be a small open space to enjoy a relaxing moment outdoors, a bustling entertainment district, a weekend farmer's’ market, or a lively street fair. Whether you live, work, or simply visit downtown, the idea that there’s always something to do and a fun and pleasant experience to be had, will all drive people, businesses, and the revenue they bring with them to downtown. I intend to work with the City and community leaders and organizations alike to “plan for fun” for downtown.

Why Downtown?

You might think this all sounds good, but why so much special focus on downtown? There are several answers. First is that downtown belongs to all of Bakersfield. Even today, all of the City’s major roads and freeways flow in the direction of downtown, and it is still in the geographical center of town. Also, downtown is the only part of Bakersfield that has the kind of tightly-knit gridded street system that provides the walkable, bikeable environment that is needed for a more active urban lifestyle. There’s still a lot of demand for quiet neighborhoods and suburban shopping centers, but there’s only one place in Bakersfield that provide that different and special high energy, high activity area that serves as an icon and focus for all of Bakersfield – and that’s downtown. The focus and energy devoted to revitalizing downtown will pay handsome dividends for not only the residents of Ward 2, but the entire City.

It will take a lot of work on a lot of fronts. I am uniquely qualified to be the Councilmember with the understanding of the issue, the vision to achieve a large goal, and the ability to lead that task, achieve success, and in the process raise the quality-of-life for all of us. If this sounds good to you, I welcome your support for Ward 2 Councilmember.

Andrae Gonzales