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Homeless set up camp in North Main storm basin
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Several residents in the Manteca neighborhoods off Northgate Drive west of North Main Street have reported seeing an uptick of homeless in their area and were curious as to why.

The answer is simple: They’re living in the city’s storm retention basin between Kia Country and the gated Cobblestone neighborhood that backs up to North Main Street.

On Saturday afternoon, several homeless individuals were seen going through a hole cut in the cyclone fence to access the storm retention basin. The city has provided them privacy to a degree by placing slats in the fence. There were at least one half dozen well established encampments on the edge of the storm retention basin this weekend.

Whether it is illegal for the homeless to camp in the basin which is one of the few in Manteca that doesn’t double as a park, is open to debate.

The city’s camping ordinance when it comes to municipal property specifically states it is illegal to camp, occupy camp facilities, or use camp paraphernalia in the following areas:

uThe Manteca Transit Center at 220 Moffat Blvd.

uThe Moffat Community Center at 580 Moffat Blvd.

uAny public property except when the person is sitting or lying on public property between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. of the following day. That means using areas such as public sidewalks for that purpose  between those hours.

Only stating such exceptions may have been designed to not look like the city was imposing a 100 percent ban on homeless to not raise the shackles of lawyers suing the city in federal court for allegedly violating the rights of three homeless individuals when it regards to how Manteca enforces camping rules on public property.

Other city property where portions aren’t gated off such as the animal shelter parking lot and landscape area as well as parts of the Civic Center on Center Street weren’t included.

The storm basin that is along North Main Street however is fenced off. So is a similar non-park storm basin south of Atherton Drive and east of South Main Street next to the Paseo neighborhood in the Woodward Park area.

Judging by the unkempt city sidewalk and “landscape” area next to the storm basin by Kia Country it doesn’t look like very many people in charge at the Civic Center pass by the basin.

Based on the ordinance it would be OK for the homeless to sleep in the North Main Street storm basin if there was public access which there wasn’t until someone vandalized the fence.

The ordinance was modeled after those in other California cities where the municipal code has passed muster with legal challenges. It essentially acknowledged the need of homeless to sleep — hence the reference to sitting on lying on public property for a seven-hour period between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. It also allows enforcement of quality of life laws impacting the entire community.

The other major gathering point for homeless encampments in the area is along the Tidewater Bike Path extension north of Lathrop Road where there is significant vegetation overgrowth.


Two years to build

three dams before

red tape expanded

What a difference 61 years make when it comes to government red tape.

Retired South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Jeff Shields noted the Tri-Dam Project involving three major reservoirs and power plants finished in 1955 on the Stanislaus River was completed all within two years.

The project required building housing for 4,000 men as well as putting in place a temporary rail line to move material to build the massive double arch dam that created Donnells Reservoir.

To top it off, contractors were able to take advantage of an incentive offered by Tri-Dam partners SSJID and Oakdale Irrigation District to pay a year’s wages for all of the men on the job if work was completed in two years instead of three.

Fast forward to today. Neighboring Modesto Irrigation District is now in its fifth plus year of trying to simply relicense its hydroelectric plant through federal authorities. It also can take two to three years to get a residential subdivision through the environmental review process to the point the first home is completed.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email