BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) – New restaurant openings have become a familiar story on the west side of Bakersfield. A new In-N-Out location in the Rosedale area and a new Chick-Fil-A are in the works.
But the east side of the city seems to tell a different story.
Eric Arias, a member of Bakersfield City Council who represents much of southeast Bakersfield, says there are two major challenges as to why businesses may be looking west rather than east.
“One of them is violence, gang violence, theft and human trafficking,” he said.
Arias admits that Bakersfield’s east side has many great features, but the community faces some challenges in attracting new businesses. In addition to crime, the other important factor is infrastructure.
“When the infrastructure is not there and it is not conducive to doing business,” said Arias. “It’s a big challenge to attract companies and the like.”
It may be a huge challenge for 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 started a core group of fans that they are support regardless of location. Still, owner Gino Valpredo said if he had to open a new business he would likely head west on 99, believing the Luigi area has deteriorated over the past few decades.
“There are a lot of new people who have moved into town who don’t know anything about Luigi’s cause. There’s no need to come here,” Valpredo said.
A Bakersfield city spokesman said they play a role in ensuring that property is properly zoned for a proposed business. Other than that, however, it is mostly up to the companies themselves where they open up.
“Most base these decisions on things like the market they want to reach or where they think they can maximize their return on investment,” the city said in part.
In-N-Out Burger, which has just opened a new location in Northwest Bakersfield, said proximity to its distribution facilities is an integral part of location selection, as is inquiries and feedback from proposed communities.
Arias said the east side had barriers to overcome before the area became more attractive to business, including homelessness and easy access to public transportation. He said these issues are on his radar and he is looking for ways to deal with them.
“I think the resources are there, I think the interest is there,” said Arias. “I think business is on its way so we can really turn this narrative around.”
Arias’ tenure on the council will last for an additional two years. He said getting business to his ward would remain one of his priorities for this time.