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3 different landscaping standards
Which one can Del Webb homeowners match?
The landscaping and upkeep along Atherton Drive near Paseo Villas Apartments is arguably Manteca’s gold standard. - photo by DENNIS WYATT


The following are upcoming stories on landscape maintenance districts in Manteca:
• How landscape maintenance districts got started.
• The $1 million a year endeavor.

Can the Del Webb homeowners association that already maintains two internal parks, the community’s recreation complex and landscaping along sound walls meet “ city standards”?

It depends upon what city standards were being  referenced during Tuesday’s City Council discussion on allowing the Del Webb group to maintain the median landscaping in the middle of Union Road and Airport Way adjacent to the planned 1,406-home age-restricted community until such time as the effort is deemed inadequate.

Under the plan being pushed by residents, the City Council would leave the district dormant when they decide in May what to put the annual assessment at and charge the Del Webb Homeowners association with doing the work. If it is deemed inadequate, the City Council could activate the landscape maintenance district (LMD) and assess each home or parcel $47.92 annually to cover the cost of city workers maintaining the median landscaping.

A drive down three separate segments of Atherton Drive paints three different pictures of municipal standards.

The first is a LMD put in place by AKF Development in front of the Paseo Apartments on Atherton Drive just west of Van Ryn Road. The extensive landscaping that includes flowers that have blooms that are regularly dead-headed by the firm that has the maintenance contract is arguably one of the nicest looking landscaped areas in Manteca.

The next segment – directly across from what is supposed to be the City of Manteca’s retail jewel – the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley – has weeds bigger than the few surviving plants. While this isn’t in a LMD yet, the city has responsibility to make sure the contractor maintains it. Despite the fact that it is one of the most high-profile segments of landscaping in Manteca due to the massive regional draw of Bass Pro Shops, the city’s oversight isn’t working effectively to make sure it is maintained.

Further down on Atherton Drive there is another LMD flanking both sides of Airport Way.

This was put in at essentially the same time as the Paseo segment yet it consists of the old concrete canyon with tree wells on the south side while the bare minimum landscaping the north side that has a bike path. The grass wasn’t exactly in prime condition.

The city currently has oversight on nearly three dozen landscape maintenance districts that homeowners are paying an agate of just over $1 million annually to maintain. They also are responsible for making sure developers keep up landscaping before it is turned over to a LMD.

There is at least one privately maintained and controlled LMD in Manteca and that is Spreckels Park. The retail and industrial parcels are assessed to maintain the landscaping on both sides of Spreckels Park. The upkeep is overseen and maintained by a mechanism put in place by AKF Development.

The city is moving toward taking over all LMDs – with the exception of Spreckels Avenue – in a bid to take $250,000 that had normally been going to the lowest bidders  to maintain the landscaping to help cover part of the city’s projected $11.3 million deficit expected  to materialize during the fiscal year starting July 1. City workers would perform the work instead.

Staff in previous years argued that there wasn’t enough synergy for the city to maintain the LMDs for less than the private sector. That has changed in the past few months as the city has taken a hard look at costs and revenue.

Parks and Recreation Director Steve Houx said studies have shown the city can come within 5 percent of the cost of what is paid to the two contractors while maintaining the current quality of maintenance.

Assistant City Manager Karen McLaughlin said that is possible due to the deployment of resources as LMD work can be done with equipment and crews assigned to nearby parks.

The strategy  is to reduce neighborhood park maintenance somewhat and not reduce LMD upkeep as that is a specific service level paid for with a specific property assessment.