Editor’s note: Bulletin reporter Jason Campbell and Bulletin photographer Hime Romero spent an afternoon getting a snapshot of downtown Manteca. They examined the good on Monday, the bad on Tuesday and the ugly today.
There’s an ironic aspect to trying to figure out the good, the bad, and the ugly about Downtown Manteca.
And that’s because I almost expected to see the Man with No Name coming down Yosemite Avenue last week while Ennio Morricone’s classic whistling score played through invisible speakers – making the brazen walk through what was at the time virtually a ghost town.
That’s the ugly aspect to his whole dilemma.
There are good parts about the area and there are bad parts about the area, but there are also some extremely ugly parts of the area and it’s starting to affect some of the business owners who have made their careers serving the people of the community.
“It’s like that one house on the block with the neighbors that everybody has a problem with,” one downtown business owner told me on Tuesday. “That’s what we’re facing right now. And there are several of those houses down here.”
Let’s start with some of the alleyways.
There’s not much that the City of Manteca can do with the actual physical layout of Downtown Manteca. It was built at a time when it wasn’t even thought that the city would have as many people in it as it does today, the layout of both the surface streets and the pass-through alleys were practical at the time.
But those shortcuts – sometimes to get around traffic and sometimes to access parking spaces behind the stores – have fallen in disarray.
It’s not just that they are cracked up and chunked, because you’re probably not supposed to be driving fast enough down them for that to truly make a difference on your vehicle anyways. But it just looks bad. It’s not pretty. And in the day and age when everything is put onto appearance, some of the alleyways just give off the impression that they’re seedy and uninviting.
And while there isn’t much that the City of Manteca can do about the vacant buildings either, there is one constant eyesore that is straight out of a dystopian novel and has been that way for as long as I can remember it.
That gutted, roofless building — basically walls — that was at one time a free book lending library and has since become a place for taggers and photographers alike to frequent? Yeah – that’s something that should probably be torn down.
That same business owner that used the bad neighbor analogy to describe what they’re facing also made an interesting point to me on the phone – noting that the flourishing Maple Avenue businesses are located in spaces owned by local people that have a vested interest in making sure that they’re kept up well.
Not every building in downtown Manteca is quite so lucky.
One of the biggest problems that the City of Manteca had when dealing with the single occupancy hotels above downtown businesses when issues were rampant due to out of town owners that many described as “slumlords” that cared more about the money coming in from rent than the impact that their properties were having on their neighbors or the community at large.
Is that something else that’s happening in Downtown Manteca again?
For the longest time I’ve made it a point to show some of the more unique aspects of downtown to friends when they came to town, and I frequented establishments when they were actually open.
But it’s not the same place anymore.
There are burned out buildings that likely aren’t going to get fixed anytime soon (and might actually be out of compliance with new ordinances that require that boards on buildings be painted to adapt to the existing paintjob) and there are abandoned spaces and there are cracked streets and graffiti.
This isn’t a knock or a dig, but an observation. People talk about these things a lot around town. And there are livelihoods at stake – people have invested everything they have into making sure that these businesses succeed, and while money get thrown around trying to improve things, right now it seems to be decaying.
It’s good and it’s bad and it’s ugly.
And maybe it’s time that something is done.