A look at the divide between East and West Bakersfield business development

Posted at 4:51 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 20:08:45-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — New restaurant openings have become a familiar story on the western side of Bakersfield, with a new In-N-Out location in the Rosedale area and a new Chick-Fil-A in the works.

But the east side of town seems to tell a different story.

Bakersfield City Councilmember Eric Arias, who represents much of Southeast Bakersfield, says there are two major challenges playing into why companies might be looking west instead of east.

“One of them being violence, gang violence, stealing, and human trafficking issues,” he said.

Arias acknowledges that the east side of Bakersfield has many great qualities, but the community faces some challenges attracting new business. On top of crime, he says the other major factor is infrastructure.

“When the infrastructure’s not there and it’s not conducive to bringing in business,” Arias said. “Attracting business and that sort of thing, it’s a huge challenge.”

It may be a huge challenge to those considering a start-up in the area, but for Luigi’s, which has been in east Bakersfield for more than 100 years, they say they’ve established a core group of fans who support them regardless of location. Still, owner Gino Valpredo said if he had to open a new business, he’d probably head west of the 99, because he feels the area around Luigi's has deteriorated the last few decades.

“There’s a bunch of new people that have moved into town, and don’t know anything about Luigi’s cause there’s no reason to come down here,” Valpredo said.

A spokesperson with the City of Bakersfield said they play a role in ensuring a property is zoned correctly for a proposed business, but other than that, it’s mostly up to businesses themselves where they open up.

“Most base those decisions on things like the market they’re looking to reach, or where they believe they can maximize their return on investment,” the city said in-part.

In-N-Out Burger, who just opened a new location in Northwest Bakersfield, said proximity to their distribution facilities is a significant part of how they choose locations, but so are requests and feedback from proposed communities.

Arias said the east side has obstacles to overcome before the area becomes more attractive to businesses, including homelessness and easy access to public transit. He said these issues are on his radar and moving forward he’s looking for ways to deal with them.

“I think that the resources are there, I think that the interest is there,” Arias said. “I think that the business is on its way so that we can really flip this narrative.”

Arias’s term on the council will last another two years. He said for that time, bringing business to his ward will remain one of his priorities.