One of the oldest and most popular tennis clubs in Bakersfield and the Central Valley, if not California, will undergo massive changes if its owner convinces the Bakersfield Planning Commission to change the zoning for the club and exempt the project from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
In-Shape Health Clubs LLC, wants to remove 7 of the existing 15 tennis courts at the club, including the showcase Court No. 1, increase the size of the parking lot by 260 percent, and convert the facility into another "big-box" health club similar to several others it already operates in Bakersfield, some of which are only a few miles away.
Long-time members of the tennis club have been expressing shock and dismay with the plans, fearing that the changes will destroy the facility and harm not only the club that they have enjoyed for years, but also cause major harm to the Bakersfield tennis community. The changes will negatively impact leagues, tournaments, clinics, and opportunities to simply find a court to play.
In addition, the expansion of the parking lot from its current 68 spaces to 245 spaces, may result in increased traffic, noise, crime, and congestion in the area.
A hearing to approve the zoning change is scheduled for tonight at the Council Chambers of City Hall. In order to proceed with the changes, the Planning Commission must approve a zoning change for the facility, which is currently located off of Ming Avenue in a predominantly residential area, and make a determination that CEQA does not apply.
The Planning Commission staff has recommended approval of the changes. Its staff report on the project, only released this week for public review, asserts that there will be no significant changes from the project that will necessitate further CEQA review. For example, their report states that there will be no significant traffic impacts from the changes, despite the increase in parking spaces. However, nowhere in the report are there references to any numbers or traffic impact studies conducted by the staff or the applicant that prove that to be the case.
Members of the club and nearby neighbors have been trying to get a decision on the project delayed until they have had more time to review details of the project and discuss it further with In-Shape. Whether the Planning Commission will agree or not will be answered tonight.