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Vision 2020: An exercise in futility for 26 citizens back in 1998

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Vision 2020: An exercise in futility for 26 citizens back in 1998

A family crosses Maple Avenue using the paver crosswalk in downtown Manteca.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED January 3, 2010 1:49 a.m.

It was almost a giddy experience back in 1998.

Twenty-six volunteers – including a former Manteca resident who faithfully traveled from San Jose to provide input – debated and researched for months at the direction of Manteca’s elected leaders at the time to forge a document dubbed Vision 2020.

The goal was to provide the city with a blueprint for economic development, growth, and for downtown to put in motion the molding of Manteca’s path to the year 2020.

It was the brainchild of then Community Development Director Irwin Kaplan who implored participants to examine every nook and cranny of Manteca, decide what they liked and didn’t like, and then think big before cobbling together a plausible road map for Manteca for the ensuing 20 years.

Some of what went into the document consisted of private sector job generating policies that the council was already pursuing as well as infrastructure to accommodate growth. But the items dealing with housing standards, changing the looks of neighborhoods, breathing new life into downtown, and amenities such as a performing arts center was all new territory.

Twelve years later, Vision 2020’s legacy exists in only three ways – the downtown murals, the streetscape that includes the old-fashion style street lighting and controversial landscaping bulbs, plus the sound wall landscaping standards.

The landscaping for sound walls actually was an outgrowth of a housing standards committee that the Vision 20020 effort spurred. Even so, the only aspect of the citizens’ group neighborhood recommendations that was ever put into play was the elimination of sound walls flushed against concrete sidewalks and asphalt that were dubbed “Manteca canyons” by one critical resident of the Cowell Station neighborhood south of Sierra High. And getting the sound wall design change in place took five years of pushing to get both the community development staff and elected officials on the same page.

The downtown streetscape was stalled for three years after plans were finalized effectively reducing the amount of blocks improved by 40 percent because former City Manager Bob Adams – who was dealing with a severely divided City Council – wanted everyone in the downtown are impacted to be on board. Finally, it went forward with only a handful of dissenters but by then inflation had effectively eaten away a large chunk of the redevelopment agency money set aside for the project.

As for the downtown murals, the Manteca Mural Society was formed basically by people who served on the Vision 2020 Task Force. The murals – which are still moving forward – are the only Vision 2020 recommendation that is still viable and alive. Everything else is collecting dust at City Hall.

The council never did officially adopt the report but simply “accepted it” and then tossed it aside.

Tom Wilson, who served on the committee and was the driving force behind forming the Manteca Mural Society, said in retrospect it wasn’t surprising as the council at the time was extremely fractured with infighting following every decision that didn’t go the way opponents wanted them to go.

A performing arts center committee was formed. A consultant was hired to work with the group and then it was simply added to the list of desired “government facilities” and then dropped. The same was true of the proposed library expansion which the city tried unsuccessfully twice to secure state bond money to augment local funds

The Library Park expansion – which was brought up during Vision2020 talks – has been stalled now for eight years going nowhere fast. The city has though put in playground equipment, restrooms, and the interactive water play feature.

The task force identified problems and then listed various possible solutions.

Problems group saw
with downtown
Manteca in 1998
For downtown as an example, in 1998 the 26-member community-based task force noted problems with downtown included:

•Downtown is not well-defined.
•The city currently has no vision for downtown.
•Downtown is bleak.
•Businesses close too early.
•There are not enough stores to attract customers downtown.
•Not enough inventory in stores.
•Absentee landlords.
•Yosemite Avenue traffic congestion.
•Traffic is often delayed by trains.
•Access to alleys and many off-street parking areas are not promoted.

The streetscape was recommended to eliminate the bleakness. They also pushed for a focal point by expanding Library Park and noted the need to have weekly activities - if not more often – to lure people downtown and get them into the habit of using the central district as the city’s cultural and social center. The murals were part of that vision. They suggested re-inventing alleys and rear parking lots as well appointed access points to businesses.

The City Council did instruct the Community Development staff to take the Vision 2020 design standards for neighborhoods and review them for possible implementation.

It was keeping in line with the task force report’s purpose which was to have a citizens’ committee provide civic leaders with a possible blueprint to guide Manteca’s economic and cultural development as the city’s population grows from 46,000 residents in 1998 to an expected population of 97,000 in 2020. Manteca has 67,000 residents today.

Among the changes in housing developments the committee wanted to see were garages set back from the front of homes, more emphasis on pedestrian traffic and encouraging neighborhoods similar to Park West with common park areas.

Everything was put into short, medium and long range goals. As an example, streetscape was a five-year goal while a two-story parking garage in the downtown district was a 20-year goal

The neighborhood design recommendations included:

•Detached garages and parking areas behind homes with access from the side to emphasize a residential facade.
•Wider, shallower lots that present more of a residential face to the street.
•Wrap-around porches on corner lots.
•More variation on subdivision design to avoid a “cookie-cutter” effect.
•Landscaping that minimizes the visibility of sound walls.
•Landscaping and parking integrated into the center of cul-de-sacs.
•Non-standard street lights appropriate to residential neighborhoods.
•Street trees and parkways that separate sidewalks from the street and provide for a canopy effect.
•Consider development fee caps for projects that provide amenities that serve a boarder community purpose.

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