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NIMBYism isn’t the problem. It’s broken promises.

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POSTED July 31, 2017 1:36 a.m.

The term NIMBY — not in my backyard — is a lazy label that borders on being patronizing.

Whenever people object to a project — let’s say 1,000 or more homes or a new business park in the vicinity of their homes — some are quick to dismiss their concerns as NIMBYism.

It assumes that whoever objects to a project wants to close the gates now that they are here in Manteca. 

But that assumption is knee jerk at best and disingenuous at worst.

Manteca is a city of 76,000 of which probably less than 5,000, if that many, can trace their “Manteca lineage” back prior to 1960. Like California — a state that went from 92,597 in 1850 to 39.2 million today — Manteca is primarily comprised of people who moved here from somewhere else. People that are labeled as NIMBYites know that.

The real issue is how growth occurs and the nasty tendency for conditions on projects such as elevation treatments, landscaping requirements, and such to be conveniently forgotten or not enforced. People remember broken promises. This isn’t just a Manteca issue. It’s everywhere. 

Those in charge whether elected or career bureaucrats shrug their shoulders when growth unfolds that people have issues with by saying “it’s the market.”

I’ll give them that — to a degree. The problem with that is cities like Manteca are what gives raw land value. There is no doubt the private sector makes things work and puts people to work. But the assumption it is all done on their dime and design is a farce.

Manteca incorporated nearly 100 years ago. The reason the good people of Manteca voted to form a city is the same reason other cities were created. They wanted economic prosperity. They wanted services they couldn’t provide for themselves such as streets, police protection, fire protection, a water system, parks, garbage collection, and a wastewater system.

They happen to be things that raw land needs attached to it to be able to be developed for urban uses such as housing and business parks. How many people want to buy a tract home that doesn’t have water and sewer service or requires them to dispose of their own garbage? By the same token, distribution centers needs things such as streets given 80,000 pound semi-trucks tend to get stuck in the mud.

Modern planning puts in place zoning that adds enhanced value to the basic infrastructure provided by cities. Zone land for business parks or retail and it has more value. 

There are those who argue that growth pays for their fair share of using the water and sewer system, which they do. But the truth is there would be no Manteca systems to connect to if the community that incorporated to act as one didn’t build them in the first place.

So why do a good number of people react negatively to growth? Two words — broken promises.

The broken promises are sometimes implied, they are sometime conditioned on a project’s approval, and sometimes they are codified.

Let’s forget about what people were told and what the council adopted on a major business park in northwest Manteca regarding building elevation treatment and landscaping that were promised to address neighbors’ concerns about the project fitting into the general community and buffering noise. Broken promises are so prevalent they can be found at your neighborhood Manteca convenience store where a subsequent buyer after the store was built tore out city required landscaping and put in cheap looking fake grass to add to Manteca’s ambiance.

Growth more often than not disappoints. Standards that the city requires are often ignored as the years pass. Front yards aren’t kept up. Cars are illegally parked on lawns. Restrictions on truck movements are ignored. The city fails to make street improvements developers pay for in a timely matter and sometimes not at all.

Are developers greedy? Most aren’t. They are businessmen trying to make a living navigating the most convoluted planning and approval process created in the history of mankind under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Back in the late 1990s then council member Carlon Perry — frustrated with broken promises — insisted on the Curran Grove subdivision that a developer maintain landscaping in perpetuity. His remarks came on the heels of two issues — older “common” improvements that were never maintained in neighborhoods built in the 1960s and the cost to the city of taking over maintenance of such areas.  He identified a real problem although his solution wasn’t workable. What came from the exchange was the formation of landscape maintenance districts. While it protected taxpayers as a whole from being burdened by amenities that made newer neighborhoods more appealing and hence homes worth more, it was also a tactical admission that cities can’t live up to all the promises elected or appointed leaders often make.

And let’s be clear on this point. Since the city has taken over landscape maintenance districts that were originally contracted out to private firms to maintain in a bid to save city jobs, they have been done cost efficiently. But drive around Manteca. Since the city is now supervising itself, there are a large number of trees that have been destroyed or died that haven’t been replaced. Then drive around Tracy. 

It’s another example of broken promises.

Is it any wonder the first reaction of many people to more growth is to say “no more” given the track record of what ends up happening?

The problem isn’t growth. It’s the failure to follow through on requirements imposed on growth.

 

disclaimer

 

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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