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Manteca needs a Del Webb-style solution to avoid creation of blight

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POSTED October 31, 2012 11:40 p.m.

A large chunk of people’s gripes with the City of Manteca come down to property use and maintenance. At the same time the city is hard pressed to maintain parks, street lights, and abate blight.

There is a solution that can address both while saving the city money and reducing every day aggravations.

New subdivisions need to have a neighborhood government of sorts. Call it a hybrid between what Del Webb does and what the city promises but can’t or won’t deliver.

The promise is in the form of CC&Rs - covenants, conditions and restrictions on property use that the city puts in place every time they approve a new subdivision. They are designed to make sure one property owner doesn’t use his - or fail to maintain his - property in such a manner that it devalues that of others in the neighborhood. Often they are reflections of existing municipal property maintenance codes. In some cases they have stepped up restrictions aimed at promoting and protecting a particular standard.

The city, however, shirks any responsibility for enforcement of CC&Rs saying they are a civil matter even though they put them in place. As for enforcing property maintenance ordinances we know how will that doesn’t go.

Del Webb provides a perfect model to craft a solution. They engage hired personnel to enforce property use restrictions that buyers sign off on when they purchase a home in any of their communities. And while Del Webb standards might be a little too restrictive for some, they have the option of not buying. They make property use and property upkeep a legally binding - and aggressively as well as consistently enforced -part of the property purchase that goes along with any future transfer of the home. It is why you can drive through a Del Webb community in Roseville that was built 20 years ago and it is in virtually pristine condition. There are absolutely no signs of blight, half the front yard hasn’t been covered in concrete, and there aren’t cars parked on lawns or overnight on the street as people actually park their cars in garages.

In short, property value and lifestyle are being maintained while the city isn’t facing costly headaches of dealing with blighted property.

Yes, Del Webb type restrictions aren’t for everybody but that’s the point. They are for people who have legitimate expectations when they buy a home - or even rent it - that certain standards will be maintained. If someone doesn’t like the standards, the solution is simple. Don’t buy or rent there.

The same thing can be done with commercial property.

The city is moving toward requiring landscape maintenance districts to also cover the upkeep of parks as well. Why not go the extra step and include the cost of a person to enforce the CC&Rs?

It can be done probably for less than what one might think providing it is put in the hands of the private sector firm and not the city.

Del Webb’s monthly fee runs around $150. That ultimately includes the upkeep of three parks, common landscaping, and the recreation center in addition to property rules enforcement.

A typical neighborhood minus the recreation center upkeep could easily come in around $100 a month. It would be more than a typical LMD perhaps but it would be worth it in the long run if property values aren’t negatively impacted and the neighborhood gets what they were promised - well maintained parks and such.

And given Del Webb has already proven they can maintain common landscaping areas and have adequate reserves for unexpected needs for less than the city, the cost to property owners compared to a standard LMD would either be less or about the same for more benefits.

About the only thing the city would need is someone to oversee the neighborhood quasi governments to make sure the private sector property standards enforcer is doing their job as well as whoever is contracted to do park and landscaping maintenance and upkeep.

It’s a situation that would only work on neighborhoods not yet built. But it answers a big question facing city government: How to avoid blight as neighborhoods age without breaking the back of the taxpayers.

 

This column is the opinion of managing 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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