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East Yosemite needs a chance to flourish

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POSTED February 23, 2010 1:36 a.m.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves.

Manteca has a serious problem along East Yosemite Avenue.

With all due respect, there are a lot of less than favorable conditions along what is still one of Manteca’s prime corridors of commerce especially from Cottage Avenue  to Fremont Avenue.

There are more than a few houses in various stages of disrepair. There are commercial vacancies with the latest caused by some heading into the core of downtown. There are also viable businesses such as Quicki-Kleen Car Wash, Thomas Auto Sales, Big O Tire, Johnny’s Restaurant, and Bob’s Pharmacy to name a few.

There is no plan for this segment of Yosemite Avenue. And there are too many small parcels to make any significant private sector investments feasible given building restrictions.

Just a few blocks to the south, Moffat Boulevard has a development plan. Parts of it are moving forward with a small business park project involving the acquisition of city-owned property on hold until the economy improves. The Manteca Redevelopment Agency has been a driving force on Moffat cleaning up an area once used to dump trash and park semi-trucks, as well as installing curbs, sidewalk, and gutter plus even creating a mini-park in a storm basin. The tree planting along the Tidewater Bikeway is another positive step in the right direction.

Of course, the City of Manteca is the largest property owner along Moffat Boulevard where its efforts are underway to complete two gateway projects on either end of the old Highway 99 entrance to Manteca – the Spreckels Recreation Park complete with BMX track on one end and the transit station on the other.

So what can be done to help upgrade East Yosemite Avenue where the city has at least put in sidewalks on the north side of the street between Powers and Cottage?

Make it part of a sweeping – and ambitious effort- to spark a renaissance in the central district between a public-private partnership with the redevelopment agency acting as the catalyst.

Myopic thinking would focus just on revitalizing downtown. There is a real need to harness the resources of the RDA over the long haul to clear the way for private sector revitalization. Downtown – or the central district – should be defined as the railroad tracks on the south, the north side of Center on the north with the exception of both sides of Main Street up to Alameda, and Cottage Avenue on the east.

A plan needs to include specific development rules to encourage investment. That runs the gamut from relaxing parking rules, higher densities, and assorted other zoning changes.

It may also involve the RDA – once a plan is in place – buying up parcels to make them available to private sector developers who want to work within the planning framework. It is a classic RDA tool. Buying up odd parcels that become available without using eminent domain and then packaging them together to create parcels large enough to make investment work.

The plan could also address affordable housing by having anything from apartments or condos above ground floor retail to studio apartment complexes such as the ones near downtown Sacramento that helped provide a stable population for retail and dining on the southern flank of that city’s core.

It would be a perfect mix of RDA’s three primary goals – fighting blight, stimulating economic investment, and providing affordable housing.

Affordable housing, by the way, doesn’t mean subsidized housing. It means housing that is up to 120 percent of median price and it doesn’t necessarily mean owner occupied nor does it have to be a traditional single family home.

Having people living in an urban setting in a “bedroom community” may seem a bit odd but it certainly addresses a lament almost as old as Manteca itself – people who complain there is no affordable housing for young people or reasons for them to stay in Manteca.

Not everyone wants a traditional single family home. Yet that is what Manteca zoning encourages except for the occasional apartment complex located away from most amenities.

Manteca needs to get its act together before the next upturn starts. A plan – with specific development rules that acknowledge limitations and encourages higher densities – would mean the central district could be a viable candidate for private sector investment.

As it stands now, though, East Yosemite Avenue and the rest of the central district may just end up going to the wayside.
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