Thursday, May 31, 2012

Out of town speculators are returning to the Bakersfield housing market, driving up prices but crowding out many local buyers

* ... REAL ESTATE: There is some good news and some bad in the local housing market. According to Coldwell Banker's Adam Belter (son of longtime Realtor Gary Belter) there are fewer than 550 homes on the market, a near all time low. That drives the prices up, which is good news, but it also has attracted a new wave of out of town speculators who are crowding out local buyers, often paying above the asking price. "We are in danger of becoming a community with more rentals than owners," he told me.

* ... COMING HOME: I had the chance the other day to catch up with plaintiff's attorney Daniel Rodriguez, who told me his 24-year-old son Marcos just graduated from Loyola University Law School in Chicago after receiving his undergraduate degree in business administration from the University of Arizona.  Marcos is coming hope to join his mother, Sylvia Lopez, to practice law. He is a 2005 graduate of Garces Memorial High School where he played basketball and football.  "I’m hoping to pry him away from time to time to help me in a trial or two," he told me.

  * ... BAD FORM: Steve Illingworth is the general manager of Urner's and a friend for almost 20 years. He's not prone to hype, which is why I am passing along this note about what appears to be some bad form on the part of a Kern High School District passenger van.  "I was driving west on White lane on Monday morning, Memorial Day, and was passed and cut off by a KHSD passenger van (no students on board). I observed the driver changing lanes multiple times to get by other drivers who were observing the 55 mph speed limit. The KHSD van was driving in excess of 65 most of the distance between Wible and Old River. She exceeded 70 mph at least once. After I gestured to her at a stop light to slow down, the light turned green and she honked at me and then tailgated me at a very close distance for quite some time. When I called the district on Tuesday morning to report the incident they were able to identify the driver but they could not answer why this employee was driving so recklessly or why she would be driving a KHSD van on a holiday."

 * ... RIP COOPER'S: Steve Montgomery joined the chorus of people lamenting the passing of Cooper's Nursery, which has served our community for so many years. "This past Saturday I picked up a tree for a friend of my wife's and while in the office handling paperwork I noted on the wall vintage signs from past businesses of the family. One sporting a three-digit phone number and a much newer one with a phone number starting with a two letter prefix. Remember those?"

* ... COVENANT: I stopped by the new offices of Covenant Community Services, the local organization that does so much good to help current and former foster children acquire the skills necessary to lead productive lives. The stunning new offices are located at 1700 North Chester in an old bank building that his been rebranded "Covenant Coffee: Hope Lives Here." It is now a full coffee house and sandwich bar, staffed by foster youth who have been trained by some of our community's most prominent restaurateurs and business people. Covenant's chief is Randy Martin, who told me a second location is being planned for Taft at the intersection of 4th and North streets. Drop by for a coffee sometime to help this worthy organization.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stunning new art show planned for First Friday this week and Steve McEvoy lands a job in sales art KBAK TV

 * ... FIRST FRIDAY: I am no expert on art, but I know what I like and I am impressed with some of the art that will be shown this Friday at The Metro Galleries on 19th Street. The show is called "Semblance" and it features a group of Southern Californian artists with some simply stunning pieces of work. Metro's Don Martin calls it "our most prestigious group showing ever." Curated by artist Mary-Austin Klein, he described the show as a "double decker group show with a nostalgic perspective on landscape and culture.". Also showing at Metro is glass artist Cameron Daugherty, son of local residents David and Pam Dougherty. He now resides in the Bay Area and works for a master glass blower. Another First Friday event will be a kids art opening at Ellie Jaye's Boutique. Two weeks ago Ellie Jaye's had an art class for 3-6 year olds and their work will be on display from 5 p.m. to 9 pm. this Friday.

 * ... TRASH: The city is running an anti-litter campaign, Mayor Harvey Hall and thrown his weight behind it yet some folks just don't seem to listen. Jastro Park is near my home, and it was distressing to see how the Memorial Day revelers left it defaced it with literally dozens of used soda cups and other assorted trash left behind.

 * ... BAD FORM: And speaking of bad form, memo to the driver of a white welding truck that almost took out six cyclists on Granite Road Tuesday morning: you might think it was a clever move coming within a foot of hitting the group, but it will be less humorous when you kill or maim someone and your employer gets the call from plaintiff lawyers David Cohn or Daniel Rodriguez.

 * ... MCEVOY: Nice to hear that Steve McEvoy has landed a job in sales with KBAK TV. McEvoy was fired from his job as general manager of KERO TV when the station was sold and the new owners brought in their own manager. The KBAK job allows McEvoy and his family to remain in Bakersfield.

 * ... GOOD SERVICE: Hard to think of another retail store in town that provides the kind of upbeat, friendly customer service that Hoggz Surf Shop does. Owner Chad Hoggard certainly sets the bar high.

 * ... ALLEN: Former Sheriff Mack Wimbush wrote that his grandson, Brock Allen, will be attending Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, to play baseball. He was a catcher for the Stockdale Mustangs when they won back to back Valley championships in 2008 and 2009. He then played for the Bakersfield College Renegades and graduated this year.

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You might be from Bakersfield if you remember Johnny's BMW motorcycle shop on 19th Street over near the new federal courthouse. Thanks to Convenant Coffee's Randy Martin for that one, and here's wishing him a speedy recovery. He spent Memorial Day weekend at Mercy Hospital being treated for two spider bites.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

State Sen. Michael Rubio hits the streets to support Leticia Perez in her race for 5th District supervisor, and a warning about a common scam about town

* ...  FIFTH DISTRICT: I had a nice chat with state Sen. Michael Rubio this weekend when he knocked on my door while walking the precincts in support of Leticia Perez, Rubio's field representative who is running for 5th District Supervisor. Rubio was optimistic that Perez would beat her two opponents, Supervisor Karen Goh and Arvin's Tim Tarver. "As you go east support for Leticia gets really strong," he told me. Rubio, who served as 5th District supervisor himself, has been knocking on doors for Perez almost every weekend. Meanwhile, Goh continues to pick up support from important business people, including three influential local women (Cynthia Icardo, Judi McCarthy and Sheryl Barbich) who wrote letters to the editor in support of the incumbent. (photos of Perez and Goh)

 * ... SCAM: My friend Pete Wonderly posted this warning on Facebook. "If you need extra cash, try this - it's all the rage: Approach someone downtown, at a gas station, or at any shopping center. Say, 'I won't lie to you... I just got out of Lerdo (or Corcoran Prison, etc), and I'm trying to take the bus home to San Diego (or Los Angeles, etc) and it's $72 and Pastor Bob at the Homeless Center (or Rescue Mission, etc.) gave me $50, and I only need four more dollars.' People give them the money and they move to the next person and the next with the same story."

 * ... SPOTTED: On Granite and Round Mountain Road this weekend I counted four tattered mattresses, two worn sofas and two recliners unceremoniously dumped on the side of the road.

* ... DOWNTOWN LIVING: If you haven't been downtown lately, make sure you check out 1612 City Lofts, an experiment in downtown loft living in an 1893 era building that is being totally gutted and renovated. The building, at the corner of 19th and Eye Streets, houses The Metro Galleries on its ground floor. There will be nine apartment loft units on the second floor sharing a common outdoor courtyard. Exterior painting is almost done and black awnings will wrap the building. The building is owned by Eydie and Gary Gibson and their partners, who are working with gallery owner Don Martin to expand his business on the Eye Street side. I have toured the loft units and they are stunning, offering a downtown lifestyle that is rare in our community. For more information go to (photo of Don Martin and Eydie Gibson)

 * ... GOOD DEED: Roy Parks wrote with this feel good story that happened after he and his wife had lunch at Famous Dave's BBQ.  "I requested the bill from our server, Sara. She informed us that a man had paid our tab. She was told not to tell us until after he left. We do not know this man. This random act of kindness was much appreciated. I would rate this stranger as one of Bakersfield's finest."

 * ... SHERWYN: I'm not an artist, or an aspiring one, but if I were I might just sign up for the Quaking Aspen Art Retreat put on by plein air artist Art Sherwyn and photographer Greg Iger. Art told me it will be a three-day retreat in picturesque Quaking Aspen in the souther Sequoia, between Kernville and Camp Nelson. The retreat runs July 9-11. The fee is $320 and includes instruction, food and camping fees. Call (661) 834-4396 if you are interested.