For all of the things that there are to love about Downtown Manteca, there’s a seedier underbelly that isn’t talked about very much.
Well, it is – homelessness and the issues that come along with it have become something of a hot topic in the last several years and has reached kind of a crescendo now that some of those that claim to be without residence are suing the City of Manteca for violating their civil rights.
But if you talk to those who frequent the area, and those that own buildings there, they’ll tell you a completely different story that’s ripe with vandalism, intimidation, filth and aggravation.
One downtown business owner that I spoke to, who asked not to be named out of fear that the problems they’ve experienced will only intensify, told nothing but tales or horror that would drive most people to shutter and walk away from their investment rather than deal with the ongoing trouble.
Without giving too many specifics that would undoubtedly give away the person speaking, they told me that’s there is a sense of entitlement among some of those who claim to be the most persecuted – people that actually come in, demand to see the wares for sale and then claim that they’re priced too high before throwing what they think is the fair amount on the counter, taking the items with them, and heading out the front door.
This isn’t how commerce works. And right now you’re probably saying, “why not just call the police?”
Well, that’s because these same people have vandalized the building multiple times because the police have been called, and it’s become easier to just let it go than it is to have to deal with the headache – not to mention the financial implications – of a smashed window.
Think about that for a second. Downtown business owners are actually being held hostage by people that are turning around and claiming that they’re being persecuted. I didn’t major in logic, but there is something wrong with that equation.
And while downtown seems like a charming place when you pass through, a closer look reveals a completely different story altogether.
Last Friday Bulletin photographer Hime Romero and I spent a few hours walking the streets of Downtown Manteca and talking to people and the results of the venture were more than eye opening.
We were told to take a closer look at the entrance to what was at one time Bucktooth’s Billiards and eventually Club Leon. It has since been shuttered – and a quick walk around the building showed that the parking lot that is only traveled by people cutting around Yosemite Avenue to Main Street is littered with everything from broken bottles to household garbage. The door itself has what looks like a bicycle look placed on it, which was peculiar because I was told that the homeless actually cut off the original lock and have replaced it with their own so they access it whenever they want to.
Not far from there is a sleeping spot that’s probably 10 feet down a shaft built to access to an air circulation system that is littered with garbage, and the lid that covered it has supposedly been cut away and sold as scrap at a local recycling yard.
And this is all within a single city block.
Across the street at what was once the most infamous of the single resident hotels in the community – 108 Sycamore Avenue – the building is a burnt out shell that belongs more in Detroit than it does in the heart of California. The awning has burn marks in that are visible to people passing by as they traverse through town, and while the undesirable element that was once there – incorporating one of the complexes known colloquially as “tweeker towers” – it has now become a blighted eyesore.
That’s not even taking into account the number of vacant buildings in the area.
One longtime eatery has shuttered. A dentist’s office that served the community vanished seemingly overnight.
In everybody that I spoke to on Friday, nobody had more to say about Downtown Manteca than the people who have the most interaction and dealing with it, and I’m not necessarily sure that’s a good omen.
Whether it’s the traffic or the train or the homeless or the vacancies, Downtown Manteca has its problems.
Never did I think though that business owners feel like they’ve been taken hostage in their own stores.
That’s something that’s just not what you ever expect to hear.
It has all of the potential in the world to be like Mayberry.
It just certainly isn’t that way right now.