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The high cost of green

Landscape districts may top $1M mark in costs

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The high cost of green

There are now 32 landscape maintenance districts in Manteca collecting $890,337 a year from property owners.

Bulletin file photo/


POSTED January 7, 2009 12:24 a.m.

It costs a bit too much green to operate Manteca’s landscape maintenance districts.

That conclusion was reached by Pulte Homes as well as more than a few residents in the Del Webb at Woodbridge neighborhood who are balking at a proposed $80.54 per lot charge on 1,425 lots to raise $114,769.50. It would have been the second highest landscape maintenance district in Manteca coming in behind Tesoro in South Manteca with 485 lots with a  $440.42 per lot charge each year for $213,603.

Instead of having the city overseeing the landscape maintenance by contracting it out to a private company the residents at Tuesday’s meeting favored having the Woodbridge Home Owners Association pay for the costs and hire needed crews as they are currently doing.

The council postponed a final decision for two months so Pulte Homes could work with the city to see if it could handle the maintenance instead. Should that happen, the landscape maintenance district would still be formed but the assessment put at zero dollars per year per lot as long as the homeowners association did the work.

The Union Ranch landscape maintenance district is being formed just to cover the maintenance of medians on Airport Way, Union Road and future ones being put in on Lathrop Road.

If the Union Ranch district proceeds as presented, it would bring the number of landscape maintenance districts in Manteca to 34 and up the overall assessment levied to keep landscaping along sound walls and neighborhood entrances green and tidy — as well as some neighborhood parks — to  $1,005,106 per year.

To put that in perspective, that is almost 25 percent of the $4,223,180 annual cost of running the entire Parks and Recreation Department — including 48 city parks but excluding the senior center and golf course.

Woodbridge resident Bill Benner — who used to deal with landscape maintenance districts in Tracy — thought the administrative costs were too high coming in at $53,467 or about half of the entire levy. The actual contracting with a landscape maintenance company plus supplies would have been $26,052. The other big cost was $16,500 for water.

“All you are maintaining are shrubs and plants,” Benner noted.

Another Woodbridge resident, Rick Arucan, said he understood the water costs but failed to understand how the other costs were justified. He added that $7 a month might not sound like much but that many of the residents in the community are on fixed incomes.

Mayor: Time to re-examine landscape district operations

After the meeting, Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford said it is time to review how the city handles landscape maintenance districts.

He said the city could hire personnel to maintain the districts or else continue to contract them out and take over the entire administrative function instead of retaining a consultant that is collapsed into the costs of the districts paid by property owners.

Weatherford said it is an issue of reducing costs plus quality of service.

He noted there are maintenance districts that are well kept such as the one along Wellington Avenue and Woodward Avenue as well as on Daniels Street near Big League Dreams, and then there is some where minimal work is being down such as on East Louise Avenue east of Cottage Avenue.

It’s going to cost $890,337 this fiscal year for the owners of 5,504 homes and vacant subdivision lots to pay the costs of maintaining the 34 existing districts. Two landscaping firms now do all of the work after they won individual bids on each district.

Residential landscape maintenance districts require all lots within the subdivisions — regardless of how close they are to the sound walls or median landscaping — to pay an equal share.

No two districts are alike. Some cover just sound walls and a few, with a new trend put in place last year by the council, help pay for the upkeep of the neighborhood park as well.

Rodoni Estates will pay $565.12 for each of the 99 homes in the triangle bounded by Highway 99, Cottage Avenue and Louise Avenue making it the city’s most expensive landscape maintenance district. It is one of the few that includes park maintenance.

The council in the late 1990s opted to go with landscaping maintenance districts after getting repeatedly hammered by neighbors of new developments complaining about the proliferation of “Manteca canyons” or sound walls that met Manteca’s simple standards of a six-foot masonry wall, center sidewalks up to the sound wall and tree wells ever so often. Sound walls such as the one along Yosemite Avenue at Curran Grove that has drawn criticism at council meetings actually exceeds city standards as the wall is a foot higher and there are more trees than rewired.

More elaborate sound walls designs have required the assessments yearly by the council. They do not come up for a vote again unless a proposed assessment represents a jump in cost that is more than 3 percent or more than the cost of living index, which every figure is higher.

Property owners can apparently vote to disband a landscape maintenance assessment district but it involves a process that can take as long as four years.

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