Sunday, March 1, 2015



Every now and then, government and the people can put aside differences to join forces for the betterment of the community. It’s “magic” when that happens. One of those magic moments occurred nearly a decade ago, when City of Bakersfield, Calif., officials, design professionals and everyday citizens joined together for a charrette to brainstorm the future of downtown.

Bakersfield Californian reporter James Burger took a rare look back at what the charrette accompanished in a story that appeared in the Jan. 17, 2010 Californian. The article can be read at

This was the first of three planning charrettes conducted by the City of Bakersfield and its residents. Conducting a charrette to create ideas and enthusiasm for revitalizing sections of Bakersfield, including Baker Street and southeast Bakersfield, was former City Councilman Randy Rowles’ idea. Rowles helped raise private funds to hire a consultant and help pay for other project costs. Tax dollars also were used. But before the charrette could become a reality, Rowles left the City Council. Newly elected Ward 2 Councilwoman Sue Benham, whose ward includes downtown, stepped in, providing her leadership to make the charrette a success.

Deserving a great deal of credit, however, are local private architects and engineers, who helped facilitate discussion groups and transform citizens’ ideas into practical drawings.

Over the years, we have seen many of these drawings poured into concrete. First came Wall Street Alley’s conversion to a mini-plaza. Following was the planting of trees and streetscape improvements. Pedestrian-friendly amenities built at the intersection of 19th and Eye streets compliment theater and art districts that have been created. A rundown central city park, which was used mainly by the homeless, now is the highlight of the Mill Creek redevelopment project. Soon a federal court house will be built next to the park.

Has everything been accomplished that charrette participants envisioned? No, but much has been done. And still more will be done in the years ahead.

The charrette is a testimonial to what can be accomplished when government and citizens work together.

John Hardisty
Retired Bakersfield Development Services Director

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