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FRANKLY, DOES CITY GIVE A DARN?

Manteca is letting a lot of things slip downtown

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FRANKLY, DOES CITY GIVE A DARN?

One of the many poles without signs the City of Manteca has left throughout downtown

DENNIS WYATT/The Bulletin/


POSTED April 8, 2017 1:22 a.m.

Pole Land.
I can’t get it out of my mind.
The City of Manteca — apparently years ago — removed parking limit signs from downtown streets and municipal owned parking lots and left the poles. There’s at least a dozen — if not more — lining Yosemite and alley parking lots
Some now have stickers on them. Others are a bit rusty. All are probably a lawsuit waiting to happen given a number of them protrude out of sidewalks and aren’t exactly highly visible.
Even though they don’t have a sign per se they convey a powerful message that either says the city is reprising the role of Rhett Butler and telling their Scarlett O’Hara how much they care or the City of Manteca is incapable of either following through or finishing what they’ve started.
It may be the latter given the $10,000 monument to the dysfunctional Family City government that stands in the 300 block of West Yosemite Avenue where the Tidewater Bikeway crosses Manteca’s marquee east-west street. That monument is the Tidewater Bikeway information kiosk installed almost 20 years ago. Notice the information signs for the Tidewater as well as the community-style bulletin board case the city originally said they’d put in place the next year? They never were installed. Now the information kiosk is about as informative as a jungle gym. That’s what it looks like with a fancy roof and nameplate tossed in for good measure. The city is fairly proud of the incomplete kiosk as a large photo of it graced the cover of the 2015-2016 municipal budget binder.
The “Gone with the Wind” inference fits downtown perfectly. While the city and downtown have this passionate affair with what the heart of the city can be the city has a funny way of showing it.
Forget about fancy plans. What if the city just holds up its end of the bargain and enforces existing codes and upkeep their own property? Who in their right mind, as an example, would reopen the site of the historic Yosemite Café with its still stunning hidden courtyard with the homeless magnet that the old Club Leon has become next door complete with broken windows and trash strewn about just a few feet from the courtyard’s back wrought iron decorative gate?
Much of the trash, merchants will tell you, is clothing dropped off in big boxes by well-meaning folks at Library Park and nearby to help the homeless. Perhaps one out of every 25 pieces of clothing left is retained by a homeless person, if that. The rest trashes up downtown and has to be constantly cleaned up and put in dumpsters.
There is a reason the Manteca Police community resource officer hands out clothing vouchers to the Hospice Hope Chest thrift store to those homeless he comes across in his rounds. Not only does it address an eyesore, but it stops essentially wasting good clothes that could go to a better use than being buried at the landfill. Also with the vouchers the homeless get what they need in the right size.
A walking tour of the 100 and 200 blocks of West Yosemite — the historic heart of downtown Manteca that the City Council correctly carved out a special set of zoning rules for in December due to its unique physical issues — reveals there is a lot of things going right.
The businesses that are in the two blocks as well as on Maple Avenue and Center Street along with East Yosemite Avenue are doing an admirable job making the best of the situation and drawing business. Again, downtown is viable given there are five financial institutions — six if you go a block north to North Street — four furniture stores and other retailers, service firms, dining spots and specialty restaurants.
While a lot of grief is caused by absentee landlords as well as landlords that don’t seem to care as city leaders as well as responsible  business owners and reasonable landlords keep pointing out, there is one property owner that has been given a pass that needs to be held accountable — the City of Manteca.
Besides streets, sidewalks, alleys and parking lots the city has the $7 million transit station, the $1.2 million Library Park expansion and upgrade, the library, and the Tidewater Bikeway segment that they own.
The reason why the businesses that are thriving are making it is because they work to keep their properties looking respectable. There are some nice looking buildings downtown with competent and dedicated owners and staff providing services and merchants successfully catering to the needs of customers.
And there is new life coming into downtown. Dentist Mas’ood Cajee has purchased the old Manteca Dental Office on Sycamore Avenue and is remodeling it. Starfrutas — a family business that serves ice cream, frozen yogurt, juice bars, and smoothies — has moved into a bright spacious space at Yosemite and Lincoln avenues.
But it would help the ambiance of downtown a lot if Manteca spent a little more energy on upkeep than writing proposals for consultants to come up with as new downtown plan that has more versions than Microsoft Windows.
uPOWER WASH PAVERS: Yes, there has been a drought for four years but the city has never power washed the pavers that form sidewalks or the bricks along sidewalks to upgrade the visual look of the street. They are dirty and dingy. Rest assured if the Civic Center sidewalks looked that filthy they would be cleaned. The city could manage power washing at least once a year if they tried.
uREPLACE MISSING TREES: There are at least two of the ballyhooed ornamental trees that have been missing for over a year. They need to be replaced.
uTRIPPING HAZARDS: The city’s risk management folks need to walk downtown sidewalks. If they need directions, they can find downtown Manteca seven blocks east of the Civic Center via Center Street. The alleys are a given but there are some high profile sidewalk issues on the south side of the 100 block of West Yosemite that are a lawsuit waiting to happen.
uGRAFFITI: The walls on the second stories of the building sandwiching PeopleReady in the 100 block of West Yosemite have large swaths of graffiti that have been there for a month. Can anyone say code enforcement?
uPARKING LOTS: There is bad and there are the City of Manteca parking lots behind the 100 and 200 blocks of Yosemite Avenue and Center Street. Buckling and cracked concrete is the norm. What makes it even more atrocious is the city spent a wheelbarrow of money on downtown designs the last time the general plan was updated 20 years ago with the idea of encouraging merchants and property owners to develop inviting back entrances to stores to encourage people to use alley parking lots. The city — that delivered a dog park in 15 years flat — is working on the plans. Let’s hope they are more than just a Band-Aid and actually carry out the city’s goal. This would mean lighting to make it more inviting in the evening. And the lighting should follow the Tidewater street light theme. That brings us to the next point — following through.
uDOWNTOWN MOTIF: The city made the decision to change out traffic signals, street lights and street furniture — benches and trash cans among other items — to match the Tidewater fixtures some 18 years ago. At the time the plan was to extend it little by little through the downtown district. It has never happened, yet if they spent $350,000 on another consultant they could tell them to finish what they started so they can have another plan to shelf.
uWEEDS & TRASH: Some of it is on private property while some of it is along city right of way. But nothing says “inviting” as overflowing trash bins, garbage — included tossed tires — strewn about, and high weeds. Granted these are on the alleys but they are the alleys the city said 20 years ago that need to be upgraded to lure more people downtown. Actually it would be a big improvement if the city just maintained them. As for the trash mess, someone might want to direct someone at 1001 West Center Street to the municipal code that talks about how solid waste customers are supposed to maintain bins and enforce the rules.
uCONCERTINA WIRE: The city has told the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post that wants to protect a $10,000 air conditioning unit at the Manteca Veterans Center on Moffat Boulevard that concertina wire is not allowed in most zones in Manteca yet it is there in the back of the 100 block of West Yosemite that is a retail zone.
uGLASS SHARDS & NAILS: The city gave the owners of the burned out boarding house at 108 Sycamore Avenue that vagrants have turned into the Homeless Hilton five days to remove broken glass shards along the top a fence to prevent the homeless from entering. On Wednesday more than five working days had passed. Plus there is the added bonus of nails being hammered into a flimsy plywood gate with the business end sticking out to cut people.
uBROKEN WINDOWS: The sidewalk along Sycamore Avenue on the west side of the Homeless Hilton was littered with shattered class. The reason is simple. There are a series of second floor windows that have been broken out because the property owner has not boarded them over from the outside as city rules require. Maybe Manteca could consult with the City of Oakland staff that did a wonderful job over the years with code enforcement at the infamous Ghost Ship to see how they should handle 108 Sycamore Avenue.
uPOSTAL DROP-OFF BOXES: Eighteen years ago when the city was revamping the Maple Avenue parking lot and added a plaza with benches and a water feature, they approached the Postal Service about relocating the drop boxes on the alley next to the Post Office to a drive thru lane in the parking lot. The reason was simple. In order to drop the mail in the box closest to the street vehicles have to intrude into the sidewalk. Making matters worse there is a blind corner to the south. Remember that this is on a fairly busy sidewalk. Why not approach the Postal Service again about relocating the boxes? And if that doesn’t work at least shame them so they will move the drop off boxes four feet further away from the sidewalk.
That said the city has done a lot of good things downtown.
uThe $7 million transit center.
uThe Tidewater streetscape improvements 20 years ago.
uAssistance for the Manteca Mural Society project.
uThe Library Park expansion and revamp.
That said the devil is in the details.
And if the city doesn’t start paying attention to details downtown may still yet descend into blight hell despite Herculean efforts by those that are making sure downtown is still a place where people want to go.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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