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Streets are parking lot, parking lots falling apart

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George Janis clutches a folder of paperwork he’s collected over the past two years regarding the transformation of the parking lot behind his downtown business. Janis maintains that the City of Man...


POSTED January 29, 2013 12:48 a.m.

It’s not that Shawn Nussbaum doesn’t like what the City of Manteca did to beautify and revamp downtown.

As a business owner he can appreciate the concrete “bulb-outs” – circular planter boxes – and the landscaped center-divides that welcome people as they come into the historic district that has been serving residents for more than 100 years.

But with all of the traffic on Maple Avenue pouring out onto Yosemite Avenue – aided by the recently installed left turn lane – the eastbound lanes in front of his J&J Printing business more often than not looks like a parking lot instead of the thoroughfare it’s supposed to be.

And, if Nussbaum had his druthers, he’d make one little change that he thinks would alleviate, if not cure, the problem.

Make Maple Avenue one-way in the other direction.

“It’ll take traffic off of a busier street and put it onto a street that isn’t as busy,” he said. “I think that would make things a lot better. It’s something that’s been talked about, but we should do it.”

But his concerns for the area don’t just stop there.

As traffic from Main Street gets closer to the intersection with Yosemite Avenue, Nussbaum said, the more it starts to back-up, at times extending beyond several lights.

It was the installation of the bulb-outs, he said, that took away the possibility of a second lane that would move traffic easily through the lights and make traveling through downtown something that people will no longer avoid.

The traffic backups on Main Street, he believes, directly lead to more people traveling along other surface streets and cutting over on east-west routes like Oak Avenue and Center Street to avoid congestion, creating problems like the “parking lot” that he sees out his front window.

“The on-street parking thing for us isn’t really an issue because our customers only come in for about 20 minutes or so and then they’re gone,” he said. “But they really need to do something with Main Street. It should be opened up to two lanes with a turn lane for traffic heading south. It’s time to take out those bulbs.

“They’re more in the way than anything else. Things would flow so much faster if we were able to go to that.”

Not everybody, however, has concerns that focus solely on the traffic.

For George Janis the concern lies in both the on-street parking out in front of his business and the dilapidated lot behind it – both of which present their own set of problems and issues.

As far as the on-street parking goes, Janis said that the majority of the cars that you see out front on a given day are those of employees of the businesses that just leave them there all day – taking a space away from a potential customer that might keep on driving because circling back would be too much of a hassle.

Making all of the on-street parking timed – and having an enforcement entity that goes around and writes tickets for those who don’t follow the letter-of-the-law – would be an easy way to solve that problem in Janis’ eyes.

The issue of the lot behind his store is a different story.

Initially governed by a lease agreement that Janis’ father signed with the City of Manteca – the use of the parking lot in exchange for paving, maintenance and upkeep – the lot has since fallen into disrepair and become a “blighted” area according to the city.

So when a neighboring business owner, who was renting space, went to the city to get more parking places behind the store, Janis said he gladly followed along if it meant that the lot he’d watch decay over the last two decades got the makeover it badly needed.

But it was during those negotiations that things went south with the city.

The adjacent business owner eventually moved, and according to City Manager Karen McLaughlin, the conglomerate of property owners didn’t trust the city on the easement they were requesting and were upset with the notion that they couldn’t designate parking spaces specifically for their customers.

As a result, the $400,000 worth of redevelopment agency money subsequently evaporated under a bid to solve the state’s perennial budget crisis. Talks between the city and business owners over parking have not continued.

Janis says he still thinks that two-hour, timed parking should be the letter of the law regardless of whether his deal with the city fell through or not. Not doing so, he said, only prolongs the problem that both sides are trying to solve.

“It’s hard to fathom that something as simple as parking can’t be agreed upon,” Janis said. “The city decides to push things all the time but they don’t have the money to follow up with it. They need to have enough money to enforce the parking, otherwise its bull….”

The City Council earlier this month agreed to shift $100,000 from leftover Community Development Block Grant funds originally earmarked for storm system work to repair city-owned parking lots in the downtown district.

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