A downtown Manteca rooming house was cleared of its 16 residents on Monday morning.
Manteca Police arrived at the 16-room complex on the northeast corner of Yosemite and Sycamore avenues to enforce a legal eviction by ordering them out onto the sidewalk. It has been dubbed by some as “Tweeker Towers” based on its past history of drug-related problems
Manteca Code Enforcement Officer Greg Baird said the property owned by Laurie Share was in bank foreclosure and was assigned to receivership while in litigation.
The rooming house is above a vacant deli while the cigarette store that was once on the ground floor has moved next door. The complex is across the street from Athens Burgers.
The former renters were seated along the outside wall of the building facing Sycamore Avenue while the Manteca code enforcement team including a fire department battalion chief took note of the condition of the rooms and the lack of both fire and carbon monoxide alarms.
Officers, fire department and code enforcement personnel all donned rubber gloves before inspecting the interior of the upstairs apartments where they found a motorized scooter in the main hallway.
The stairway railing to the second floor was pulled away from its mounting near the top of the stairs. It offered little support for anyone attempting to use it for balance. The first room down the hallway had a doorway cut into its wall giving the resident access to the toilet and the shower. Without a door, that person had a clear shot to watch anyone shower or to see them relieving themselves.
The “Illegal to Occupy” order was taped on the outside door after a locksmith changed the locks. The dwelling had been declared “substandard” under California Health and Safety Section 17920.3 and may no longer be occupied due to its numerous violations.
Those violations included exposed and unsafe wiring, the lack of required smoke and carbon monoxide detectors along with broken or missing windows. Under the Manteca Municipal Code further occupancy of the building will be considered a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or six months in county jail.
An armed 24-hour security guard has been assigned to watch the property day and night since the court order was issued last week.
One member of the eviction team advised those on the sidewalk that they could do a lot if they only worked together.
“With $200 per renter, you could rent quite a place — $200 times 15. The women could do the cooking and the men could mow the lawns and take care of the property,” he said.
Officers checked the backgrounds of the residents and found one with a felony arrest warrant and another with a lesser misdemeanor warrant. Inspection of the rooms found the majority in squalor with bicycles crammed into the rooms.
After the officers had completed their investigation, the occupants were allowed to go back upstairs and collect their belongings. Many walked through Library Park and congregated on a grassy area adjacent to the gazebo near the railroad tracks.
When the building was renovated 2008, the complex was lauded as an example of what solid investment and sound management could accomplish with second floor housing in downtown Manteca. Dubbed Sycamore Arms, it had separate rooms equipped with a bed, dresser, and small refrigerator as well as common bathrooms and even a computer for communal Internet access.
The investor from Marin County had experience with similar housing in the Bay Area – completely remodeled the complex, updated the two bathrooms, and hired an on-site live-in manager to keep tabs on things.
Manteca for years has had issues with other such boarding houses downtown being a source of crime and other issues. Even so, they are the only place that many law-abiding residents such as single mothers with one child or farm workers can afford to live in Manteca.
The rents aren’t that much less than low-end single bedroom apartments. When Sycamore Arms re-opened in 2008, rents were in excess of $600 a month. The big difference was no need to pay a security deposit.
In vibrant downtown cores the updated version of old-style boarding houses have breathed new economic life as it provides a stable population. That hasn’t happened in Manteca.
The ground floor at one time housed The Scoop, a popular ice cream parlor and news stand in the mid-20th century.
To contact Glenn Kahl email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3539.