Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Bakersfield residents prepare for flooding when the snowpack melts, get ready to pay more for utilities in California and the daily struggle against crime and vagrancy for the owners of Pyrenees Cafe

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... THE BIG MELT: All eyes are on the snow capped Sierra Nevada, which holds enough water to easily flood parts of Bakersfield and Kern County depending on how hot it gets. Uncertain homeowners are rushing to buy flood insurance policies (they seem to range anywhere from $800 to $1,500 annually) as experts warn the rush of water could flood parts of Highway 178 in the canyon and other parts of

Bakersfield not protected by berms. How bad is it? The re-emerged Tulare Lake already covers from 100 to 140 square miles with an average depth of 3.5 feet of water. It all depends - say the experts - on if the weather warms too quickly, unleashing a torrent of water that the dams and riverbanks just can't handle. Some experts say it will be mid June when the heaviest surges strike. Stay tuned.

 * ... UTILITY BILLS: If you think your utility bills are high now, just wait. If California utility companies get their way, a new pricing structure will be implanted in which your rate depends on your income. In other words, if you are successful and own a business, you will pay substantially more than the working poor under this so-called "flat rate" plan. According to CalMatters three companies — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — submitted a proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission that includes an income-based pricing system for these fixed charges. According to KTLA 5, the monthly charge would vary between the companies, and range from:
 - Households with annual income from $28,000 – $69,000 would pay $20 a month in Edison territory, $34 a month in SDG&E territory and $30 a month in PG&E territory.
 - Households earning from $69,000 – $180,000 would pay $51 a month in Edison and PG&E territories and $73 a month in SDG&E territory.
 - Those with incomes above $180,000 would pay $85 a month in Edison territory, $128 a month in SDG&E territory and $92 a month in PG&E territory.
* ... PYRENEES: By any measure, Rod and Julie Crawford should be living the American dream. They have worked, saved, invested their money and played by the rules. And for a time, the co-owners of the iconic Pyrenees Cafe and Silver Fox Starlite Lounge seemed to be enjoying the ride. Their 2013 purchase, remodel and reopening of Pyrenees was a huge success and the Silver Fox has never been as busy as it is today. But all that was before the homeless crisis hit Bakersfield, and now the Crawfords feel alone and abandoned by City Hall. For the past five years, the Crawfords have been involved in almost a nightly battle with vandalism and break-ins that plague east Bakersfield and Old Town Kern. Consider the damage just recently: a secure door is ripped off its hinges and the cash register is stolen and ends up in a dumpster, the iconic Pyrenees neon sign is vandalized to the tune of $14,000 to repair and even the folks who come in overnight to clean the restaurant cannot do so without their own cars being vandalized. And it all happens every morning, almost like clockwork, between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.  "If we only had a little (police) presence in the neighborhood," he said. "These animals have no fear of law since there isn’t any here. In the last three months they shot out my sign, shot through windows to destroy TVs, broke three windows, need a new door a new ceiling fan. Over $20,000 in damages." When asked if he had talked to his councilman, Andre Gonzales, Crawford replied with an emoji throwing up his hands in frustration.

 * ... OLD TOWN: The real question for the Crawfords and other Old Town businesses is this: is the city serious about combatting crime and creating a relatively safe place to do business, or is it a lost cause? Andrae Gonazles is the city councilman for Old Town Kern and despite his cheerleading - this is the guy who wants to spend millions on the pipe dream of restoring the old train depot, an admirable if fool hardy idea -  crime, vagrancy and homelessness remain out of control. And it leaves landlords like the Crawfords, and other owners of the iconic east Bakersfield businesses, wondering just who is serious about crime and who is more interested in press conferences and promises?

* ... MORE CRIME: And just to show you that crime does not discriminate, 1st District county Supervisor Phillip Peters has become a victim himself, posting this on Facebook: "Nothing like waking up in the morning to find your truck broken into and all of your tools gone. Too bad there wasn’t an extra conscience or work ethic in there so they could put them to good use…"

 * ... AND ON THE COAST: Bakersfield isn't the only place where we are all growing weary of homelessness and crime. Check out this sign that was temporarily placed on the northbound exit to Santa Barbara from Highway 101.

 * ... LIFE AS IT SHOULD BE: Take a drive through downtown Bakersfield on a Sunday morning and you will be treated to the true state of the homeless crisis. As the recent point in time count reminded us, the number of people on the streets has skyrocketed some 20 percent, and the amount of trash, debris and litter they leave on our streets seems without parallel.

 * ... BED BATH AND BEYOND: You can call it a day for Bed Bath and Beyond, the once wildly popular retailer that supplied everything from pots and pans to sheets and flatware for decades,. The company declared bankruptcy on Sunday and signaled it is closing all 360 locations, including its Stockdale Highway location.

 * ... MEMORIES: I just love these old pictures of the famous Blackboard Cafe. Here is a good one thanks to the Kern County History Fans.

 * ... MODERN ART: Some of the most striking citizen photography can be accessed via the "My Home is California" page on Facebook. Check out this shot from Sacramento posted by RubÄ« Nevarez.