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City of Bakersfield cuts down trees, causing some concerns for the homeless

The city plans to replace the trees with new ones for their Eye Street Garden Renovation Project
Posted at 6:43 PM, Jul 03, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The city of Bakersfield cut down trees on 21st and Eye Streets to continue their beautification of downtown, but it's caused some concerns for homeless who found shade there during the heatwave.

  • Video shows trees cut down on 21st and Eye Streets
  • Alexander Davidson has been experiencing homelessness for more than a year and used the trees on 21st and Eye Streets to escape the heat, but now they've been cut down, he has to look for another place for shade.

For those with nowhere to go under Bakersfield sun, trees like this have become a place of refuge from the heat, but these stumps are what’s left behind after the city of Bakersfield cut down two trees for a beautification project, concerning homeless advocates.
This was home for some of the unsheltered people in Bakersfield.

“Everybody always says, ‘go home, go home, go home.’ It’s like… if I had a home, I’d be there,” Alexander Davidson, who's been experiencing homelessness for more than a year, said.

But, Davidson says he watched as the city of Bakersfield cut down his place of refuge.

“At the end of the day, when this is all we have, how is that not a personal shot directed at people who congregate here?”

The Eye Street Garden renovation plans to replace the planters on Eye Street with ground level planting areas.

Joe Conroy with the city of Bakersfield says in a statement, “the existing trees were removed since they would not survive after their root systems were established in the above-ground planters.”

“I think it was very poor timing on the city’s part to have the trees cut during this heatwave,” Belinda Rickett, the CEO of the Bakersfield Burrito Project said.

She serves food to some of the people who found shade under the trees and thinks the project could have been started sooner.

“I think it’s very inconsiderate to not think of those who use it during those hot days,” Rickett added.

In last Wednesday’s city council meeting, Vice Mayor Andrae Gonzales emphasized that the project was not in place to remove the homeless rather to improve the downtown area.

“It actually includes elements, including street furniture, is that correct?" Gonzales asked. "It does. Okay, so we actually will be enhancign the area for all of our citizens to find refuge under shade.”

Joe Conroy adds, “The Recreation & Parks Department will be planting new, mature trees in the new planting areas in the coming weeks. The trees are expected to be 36” box or larger in order to restore the shade canopy as part of the update project.”

“We will choose the largest species and the most drought tolerate species, and obviously, the species that will provide the most shade,” Rick Anthony, the Recreation and Parks director for the city of Bakersfield, said.

But for now, Davidson says he has to find another place for shade.

“What would you like to see from the city? It’s already done,” 23ABC's Dominique LaVigne asked Davidson.

“A more concentrated effort to actually interact with the people who live here,” he tells us.

Rickett says she hopes the people who once found shade at this trees will be welcomed at local cooling centers.

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