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What’s next for 1085 S. Union?

Site of homeless encampments to loud parties

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POSTED September 2, 2013 12:56 a.m.

Around a dozen homes could be built on 3.67 acres on South Union Road that was struck four times in the past 80 days by arson fires.

The odds of that happening, though, aren’t great.

The property has $40,000 in City of Manteca liens against it for weed abatement and the demolition of structures that occurred after there arson fires in one day last month.

The State of California has liens in excess of $200,000 related to toxic soil testing.

Then there is the cost of the soil clean-up  that has yet to be done. That cost is estimated at between $200,000 and $400,000.

Those three factors combined don’t exactly make the property owned by Robert C. Gordon of Escondido at 1085 S. Union Road attractive for developers, noted City Manager Karen McLaughlin in a report to the Manteca City Council.

The council will be briefed by McLaughlin about the property’s status during Tuesday’s 7 p.m. council meeting at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

City staff has sent Gordon an authorization to arrest form. Once signed, it gives Manteca Police permission to enter the property to respond to trespassing calls from neighbors. The city is concerned that even without the structures the 3.67 acres could continue to be used as an encampment for the homeless.

The Manteca Fire Department will also handle all future weed abatement. The costs will be added as additional liens on the property.

The city has also contacted Assemblymember Kristen Olsen’s office to see if any assistance could be provided to address state liens against the property in a bid to make it more attractive to buyers.

Staff has also had the city’s lobbying firm of Van Soyc Associates to make inquiries about the possible use of federal Brownfield cleanup funds for the property. The funds are available annually on a completive basis. Property must either be owned by a public agency or a non-profit. Funds up to $200,000 are available but require a 20 percent match. The next round of funding is expected to be released this fall with money awarded in mid-2014.

The property was first inspected in 1984 by both the Manteca Fire Department and the State of California Department of Health Services relating to the storage of chemicals on the 3.67 acres.

The timeline of events after that are as follows:

• The San Joaquin County Superior Court in 1986 issued a permanent injunction against the property owner from handling, receiving, storing or transporting hazardous materials at the site.

• Soil testing in 1987 showed no hazardous materials beyond allowable limits.

• The property was inspected in 1988 by the state Department of Health Services, San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office, and Manteca Fire. It was found to be in compliance with the order.

• Lighting struck the house on the property in 1988 causing significant damage. Residents abandoned the main house and moved into a mobile home on the 3.67-acre site.

• City of Manteca workers delivering dumpsters in 2007 noticed several suspicious containers and reported the situation to the Manteca Fire Department. An investigation showed some of the containers were leaking while others were damaged or had deteriorated. The San Joaquin County Environmental Health Department was notified. The California Division of Toxic and Substance Control stepped in assuming control over the remediation project due to the large scope of work involved.

• In 2012 the state ceased its testing and enforcement efforts on the property.

Soil testing had detected arsenic, lad, cadmium (batteries), diesel, motor oil, benzo(a)pyrene from wood burning, polychlorinated biphenyl (coolant) and dioxins. Based on the state report, none of the chemicals were on a level that warranted a state clean-up. The state determined “the remaining contamination does not pose a risk to groundwater or to off-site human or other environmental receptors.”

Prior to Aug, 9, 2013, the city’s enforcement consisted of weed abatement, clearing of defensive space for firefighting activities, and removal of transients. Between February 2010 and October 2012, police responded to nine calls regarding transients on the Gordon property. Since then, police have responded 26 times for complaints arranging from trespassing to loud parties.

On June 24, 2013 after the first arson fire, Manteca  Fire contracted with an environmental management firm to clear a defensible site around the buildings in the event a fire broke out. Staff then contacted Gordon about having the remaining structures demolished as an attractive nuisance and having the cost placed as a lien against the property. The city was in the process of getting final written authorization to do the work when the series of arson fires took place on Aug. 9, 2013. Due to the structural integrity of what was left, the fire department had the structures razed.

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