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Dogs could help Moffat not got to the proverbial dogs

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POSTED August 16, 2014 12:16 a.m.

Mayoral hopeful Ben Cantu believes the city went off half baked by proposing to put the envisioned community center/veterans hall “off the beaten track” on the southeast corner of Moffat Boulevard and Industrial Park Drive.

He pointed to an equally narrow strip of 50 feet in width that runs between the Tidewater Bikeway behind downtown and the safety fence the Union Pacific Railroad installed between Main Street and Yosemite Avenue. Cantu noted the location is more central to where other activities take place and there is already parking there.

Sounds like a great idea except for one little problem: The city doesn’t own the land. The railroad does. No problem, Cantu said if that were the case, as the city could buy it from the railroad. Fat chance since the entire premise of the UP fence project and other endeavors is to get people and activities away from their tracks to reduce the railroad’s exposure to liability.

As for the city’s proposed hall site that had build bids come back at $1 million over the estimate, the city is still looking at finding ways to cut the costs. One of the biggest issues is frontage improvements that go on forever. It costs a lot to put in sidewalk plus curb and gutter. And even if they eliminated what would be a sidewalk to nowhere, what remains still adds substantial cost to the project.

City staff is looking at other potential locations as well as reevaluating the Moffat site.

As far as city staff being half baked and not thinking out of the box, it is a beating they don’t deserve. The site is a creative use of city-owned land that would never be used for anything else do to its size and location. The costs were also inflated by the aggressive timetable the council wanted in order to have it in place by Veterans Day in November.

If there is no other suitable location, city staff should give serious thought to asking the council to suspend development standards that they have adopted — at least for the Moffat parcel for the segment beyond the proposed building heading east toward the 120 Bypass bridge. It would indeed be a sidewalk to nowhere. And there is a sidewalk across the street.

If drainage issues can be worked out, there is a higher public good from edging Moffat with a raised asphalt curb and forgoing curb along the landscaping separating the street from the parking lot, gutter and sidewalk. Honest-to-goodness xeriscaping which is not only drought resistant but extremely low maintenance could be put in place.

The parcel and location are both so unique that a well-delineated reason for making the exception should counter any claims of “do as I say and not as I do” when it comes to development standards. If not, the only alternative is for the site to remain barren and weed infested forever even though the city owned property will one day be virtually  in the center of Manteca.

Staff is also thinking out of the box on the dog park. While one is included conceptually in the Woodward Park plan at Woodward Avenue and Bridewell Avenue, they are looking at the grassy storm retention basin complete with trees on Moffat. It gets no use and is much more accessible for people with the ability to park along Moffat and/or access it via the Tidewater. Since it is former Manteca Redevelopment Agency property, the state would have to release it from its mandated sell list. That shouldn’t be an issue given it is being used for public good.

That would leave one hurdle whether allowing dogs to use the storm retention basin would violate a state discharge requirement given the fact they would urinate on the grass.

But if that is an issue with the state, then the city will need to fence off all storm retention basis within city parks in order to prevent people from taking their dogs there as well.

Looking at the Moffat storm retention basin is not the same-old, same-old thinking and it effectively would maximize use of an extremely underutilized area with the added bonus of being extremely accessible to dogs and their owners.

Cantu shouldn’t be slammed for his suggestion even though it has a snowball’s chance in hell of working.

That’s because such thinking can get the community looking at other options.

There are sections of the Tidewater Bikeway between the path and the sidewalk identified 20 plus years ago to be landscaped. It isn’t going to happen. The areas that run along Moffat Boulevard between Industrial Park Drive and a point west of Powers Avenue run between 12 to 20 feet deep.

So what should the city do?

They could turn the land into a unique community park with minimal effort.

All it would take on the city’s part is extending a water line that serves the storm retention basin mini-park.

That would allow the no-man’s land to develop as a series of community gardens.

Segments could be made available to community, church or school groups to grow vegetables. They could be used for personal consumption or raised to help supply food closets in town with fresh produce.

Why not breathe life into segments of the Moffat corridor that never will have any? Besides, gardening qualifies as a pursuit that would fall under the general umbrella of the Park and Recreation Department to provide people with healthy diversions.

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