Stubborn in her resolve to see the glass half full rather than half empty, Erin Bakke seems to be a perfect match for downtown Vallejo, an area that needs help and often gets a bad rap. While Bakke didn’t return to Vallejo to get involved in downtown improvement efforts, one thing led to another and soon she was hired as the Central Core Restoration Corporation’s executive director.
“I was interested in it because I could be involved in downtown issues. I’ve been helping in the downtown as soon as I moved back to Vallejo,” Bakke said. “It gives me an opportunity to be involved in the future of the community.”
It’s a job she said she probably would not have been interested in anywhere else but Vallejo. She spent part of her childhood in Vallejo, and returned about two years ago after raising a family and running her own design business in Las Vegas.
The part-time job, which she took in October, involves overseeing proceeds from a downtown property assessment used to help maintain an area bounded roughly by Mare Island Way, and Santa Clara, Capitol and Sutter streets. The money pays for security, cleaning and beautification efforts. Bakke also works with the city to help fill vacancies, remedy code violations and remove graffiti.
Bakke got involved in downtown Vallejo through her art. After returning to Vallejo to live with her father and help him restore the family home on Georgia Street, she secured a studio in the Coal Sheds on Mare Island.
She also joined a network of artists and city officials to help launch the Downtown Art Windows project in which local artists created artistic installation pieces for vacant store fronts on Georgia, Marin and Virginia streets.
The project’s aim was to beautify vacant windows and to encourage more rentals. She said the late 2012 effort was a good first step, but more work is needed.
More recently, Bakke has also taken a big interest in the Temple Art Lofts project, working with city staff and others. Her aim there is to ensure that an affordable mixed-use housing project gets filled with artists, as originally intended.