BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Changes are coming to East Bakersfield thanks to a project that aims to address issues ranging from affordable housing to sidewalk improvements. Funding from the Niles Monterey Prosperity Neighborhood Initiative is expected to not only bring affordable housing but also rejuvenate the area entirely.
Known as the "spine of Bakersfield," the Niles/Monterrey corridor connects East and Central Bakersfield. Residents in the area, including Laura Gutierrez, have a few wishes of their own for the revitalization efforts.
"Honestly, I hope we just gain safer streets, safer place for kids to play, safer place for everybody to be, you know, just somewhere more comfortable where everyone can feel that safety," said Gutierrez.
Gutierrez has lived in East Bakersfield all her life, and she says she's glad the Niles Monterey Prosperity Neighborhood Initiative is taking some steps to make change.
Bakersfield City Councilmember Andrae Gonzales says making a positive change is the point.
"The whole goal is to revitalize East Bakersfield. We know that there are many wonderful families and people who have lived here for years," said Gonzales.
Gonzales says the overall goal of the initiative is to create a more livable space for the families that live there.
"We know that there are many families who live in this neighborhood, who often bike and walk to school, to work, take public transportation as an everyday mode of transportation," said Gonzales.
One of the biggest projects the initiative is taking aim at is the creation of affordable housing in what are currently vacant lots in the area. According to Gonzales, that housing will not be specifically for unhoused and low income residents, but open to all income levels.
In addition to creating housing, the initiative has a number of other projects in the works.
"We want to make sure these streets are accessible for all users, and so what does that mean? That means better lit streets, pedestrian level lighting, so we're lighting up the sidewalk. It means enhanced sidewalks. It means adding bike lanes to the roadways," said Gonzales.
As for Gutierrez, she hopes to also see improvements when it comes to the area's schools.
"As somebody who walked to school often, I think improving our sidewalks and making the street lights a little more safer would be really beneficial, especially for those people who stay after school and do sports and end up walking home when it is dark," said Gutierrez.
Gonzales says the initiative will take months to reach what is known as "30 percent design," adding that the city is still looking into state and federal funding. According to Gonzales, the city hopes to finish the project within the next 2 years.