Margaret Luevano during the past 54 years has given up part of her yard twice as Lathrop Road went from a sleepy, narrow two-lane country road to a busy two-lane thoroughfare catering primarily to commuters heading to and from Manteca as well as truckers.
Each time in the past she was compensated at fair market value.
Now the City of Lathrop is preparing an upgrade of Lathrop Road with an engineered design of 50 mph. The city won’t be taking her property this time — just the normal use of her home.
The pending Lathrop Road widening project will put four lanes of traffic rumbling down her street with trucks just over 20 feet from her front door.
To accommodate more traffic, the city is eliminating on-street parking and at this time has no plans for even a bicycle lane in front of her home.
By this time next year, Luevano will likely have to walk at least a block to put out and retrieve her garbage carts each week. She has no idea where she will be collecting her mail that is now dropped off in front of her home.
More truck traffic is
expected to make
of her home difficult
In recent years, road noise, vibrations, and emissions have forced Luevano to keep front doors and windows shut. She expects a four-lane Lathrop Road that will accommodate even more truck traffic once Lathrop secures STAA designation from the state for oversized trucks to make reasonable use of her home more difficult.
The elimination of on-street parking, though, makes family gatherings and friends just dropping by problematic at best meaning they will need to walk a block or more in rain, heat or fog.
Meanwhile getting in and out of her driveway will become more dangerous. A landscaped median will eliminate left turns into her driveway from westbound Lathrop Road. But that isn’t what worries Luevano the most. With no de-acceleration lane or on-street parking which would leave a clear area by her driveway, she is worried about being rear-ended.
Neighbors report they are routinely flipped off and yelled at by drivers for slowing down to turn into their driveways.
But what really scares Luevano is the city plan essentially calls for her to try to back up into a lane of traffic where trucks will travel at 35 mph plus.
The way Luevano sees it the city’s plan is essentially taking reasonable use of her property away without compensation. In doing so, the Lathrop Road project while enhancing the value of land where big firms are building distribution centers will devalue her home of 54 years and make it next to impossible to sell.
If the city were to offer her fair market value for her home, she’d do something that she never would have thought of doing before the city started advancing the project to widen Lathrop Road to four lanes — she’d sell in a heartbeat.
Mary Meninga said the city condemning and buying the homes where she believes Lathrop is essentially taking away reasonable use of property “is the right thing to do.”
expected down the
road in Manteca
Meningia isn’t a Lathrop resident. She lives along Lathrop Road in Manteca and is in the same boat of at least 50 other homeowners as the two neighboring cities have taken a piecemeal approach to addressing the Lathrop Road corridor between Highway 99 and Interstate 5.
But this is not just a battle that impacts Meingia, Luvenao and others that live along Lathrop Road. It impacts nearby residents that also use the corridor where truck traffic grows year after year.
Among the issues residents are concerned about:
uTraffic coming within 20 feet or less of front doors.
uThe lack of bike lanes.
uNoise and vibration issues not just for homes that front Lathrop Road but homes that back up to it as well.
uIncreased safety issues of residents in neighborhoods such as Del Webb at Woodbridge in Manteca to make turns on and off of Lathrop Road from side streets.
uSafety of pedestrians as the edge of sidewalks will be mere feet from passing trucks.
uIncreased truck traffic.
uThe lack of planned turnout for buses.
uA significant increase for accidents with residents pointing to Louise Avenue in Manteca where a year doesn’t go by where a solo accidents ends up with cars going through sound walls and into backyards. There was one incident where an gas tanker ending up smashing through a sound wall and dangling over a backyard swimming pool.
Lathrop Road corridor & citywide truck
In a bid to be pro-active, the Manteca City Council has budgeted $150,000 for a Lathrop Road corridor study and another $125,000 for a citywide truck route study.
Lathrop Road, in a way, could end up as a microcosm of what others in Manteca will face as growth changes Main Street/Manteca Road, Union Road, Airport Way, Tinnin Road and other streets south of the 120 Bypass.
Residents along those streets — who some might argue “should have seen it coming” even though the first tract house wasn’t built south of the 120 Bypass until 1998 — may want to take heed of the trials and tribulations of Lathrop Road residents.
“We’re unable to hear outside,” noted Sharon Worden who is Luevano’s neighbor.
Once Lathrop is through, Worden will have just over three feet behind her parked car in her driveway to unload groceries from her trunk as trucks rumble by in the curbside lane.
“We have odors from the traffic, mainly trucks,” she noted.
She said the city gave no consideration even to basic services most residents enjoy such as employing a yard service. Once the widening is done and parking eliminated, the yard service firm that uses a truck and trailer will have to park at least a block away on a side street. Her driveway will be too short to back into. It also will mean her family will no longer be able to load and unload their RV at their home.
Residents say city is
“The city is making our house worthless,” Worden said.
Even now with two lanes of traffic and parking separating trucks from homes, residents like Worden still report pictures shaking off walls especially when trucks that haul empty shipping containers that go on massive ocean going ships as well as railroad flatcars rumble by.
Erika McDaniel, who lives a block away facing Lathrop Road, noted the truck traffic already can be downright scary.
Her family was abruptly jolted awake one morning at 2 a.m. A heavy mirror above a decorative table with a glass top came crashing down, shattering the table glass. It has since been replaced with Plexiglas.
During a 10-minute chat with McDaniel in her front yard, a semi-truck pulled into the middle continuous turn lane and just sat there without moving.
“It happens all the time, Adrianna Flores-Lopez said.
Flores-Lopez is at the moment the high profile resident on Lathrop Road as she has dug in her heels. They city wants part of her yard for the project.
Her objections — delineated in a letter from her lawyer — are focused on:
uWidening Lathrop Road is neither in the public best interest from a safety standpoint and isn’t needed. The contention is widening it to four lanes from two lanes increases safety risks such as forcing residents to back into a truck lane to get out of their driveways.
uThe widening is not compatible with existing development and the how it is configured is not in a manner that “will be most compatible with the greatest public good and least injury.”
uThe city has failed to adequately analyze the environmental impacts of the project.
By that, Flores-Lopez notes the city simply said there would be no impacts — noise, vibrations, emissions or safety — from placing truck traffic closer to homes.
On Friday afternoon after the 60th truck had rumbled by there was a clear smell of diesel in the air standing in her driveway where carrying on a conversation was trying at best due to the noise.
Attorney contends city
is refusing to compensate
for taking use of property
It is the issue with air quality as well as noise that prompted her attorney — Brian Manning — to send the Lathrop City Council a letter on June 1 contending “the appraisal fails to comply with the mandatory requirements of the Eminent Domain law. The offer fails to substantially address the severance damages of the appraiser. An offer required by Government Code 7267.2 has, therefore, not been provided.”
In a nutshell, severance damages means the compensation given to a property owner for the loss in value of a portion of land and for the decrease in value to the remaining property which the government takes for public use by condemnation under its eminent domain rights.
What is playing out in Lathrop along Lathrop Road awaits Manteca along its segment of Lathrop Road.
Meniniga — and others — will see a further erosion of their quality of life as Lathrop Road is widened.
“I don’t use the front part of my house that much now because of the noise,” Meninga said of the home she bought 43 years ago from the late Antone Raymus.
In no man’s land down the road just west of Airport Way, Karen Duke has lived for more than 50 years in a home that is still in the county.
Getting out of her driveway is a nightmare as commute traffic back up bumper-to-bumper from the Airport Way traffic signals to the top of the bridge over the railroad tracks every workday afternoon. Worst yet, a continuous left turn lane put in place so residents could pull out of traffic to wait to make a left turn lane into their driveways, has been commandeered as a de facto travel lane for those wanting to turn north at Airport Way.
On Friday at 3:30 p.m. a truck traveled the entire distance from the base of the bridge to the intersection passing backed up traffic.
“It’s a mess,” Duke said.
And it’s a mess that those who live along Lathrop Road — or access it from side streets — contend is getting worse with every passing year.
Based on Manteca’s existing policy, even if they address what the Lathrop Road corridor ultimately will look like it won’t be done all at once or in phases. Instead it will move forward on a piecemeal basis as projects develop.
help bump up truck
traffic on Lathrop Road
Lathrop is pursuing a STAA route designation for the segment of Lathrop Road within its jurisdiction after being requested to do so by a firm that deals within the longer STAA trucks to move goods. Manteca has indicated it is not pursuing such a designation at this time but may do so at a later date.
Lathrop Road is already a truck route including through Manteca where no weight limits posted.
While Manteca hasn’t made any movement toward a STAA designation for its portion of Lathrop Road, it has approved the development of more than 3.1 million square feet of distribution centers as part of the CenterPoint Business Park north of Lathrop Road along Airport Way.
There is no direct access to Lathrop Road from CenterPoint as plans call for trucks to use Roth Road to reach Interstate 5. However, that ignores what Lathrop Road residents contend are basic “physics” based on how water takes the path of least resistance. The adjoining Union Pacific Railroad intermodal facility where truck trailers are transferred to and from flatcars on trains often blocks the Roth Road crossing for extended periods of times. A primary justification for building the two bridges across the separate UP lines was based on the need to have a road not tied up by stopped trains to improve emergency response and enhance traffic flow. Given UP’s plan to increase movements through the intermodal facility by more than 250 percent in the coming years, residents believe it increases the likelihood truck traffic from CenterPoint will travel south to Lathrop Road to access I-5 rather than wait five to 15 minutes for a blocked rail crossing.
And while Lathrop Road is a legal truck route in both cities, it isn’t legal for STAA trucks.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org