Manteca’s elected leaders are advancing three scenarios to step up efforts to address the city’s homeless issues.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously directed City Manager Tim Ogden to:
continue working toward a legislative solution with Assemblyman Heath Flora that requires other taxing entities such as San Joaquin County and Manteca Unified to sign-off on a plan that would allow Inner City Action to establish a homeless resource center at the former Qualex film processing building at 555 Industrial Park Drive.
explore other city property where a homeless resource center could be built from the ground up.
process an event permit that would allow Inner City Action to bring back their large tent for a temporary homeless revival/resource center in the Qualex parking lot while efforts are made to secure a permanent home for a resource center.
Inner City Action Pastor Frank Saldana was asked to provide the city with a written proposal outlining how they intend to finance needed building upgrades, what exact programs will be offered, and how operations would be funded should they be able to secure the Qualex site at a below market value as possible as low as $1.
“We do not want to open a shelter here,” Saldana emphasized to the council.
Saldana said such an approach would create a revolving door of homeless coming in and out. Inner City Action, he explained, takes in homeless that are ready to get off the street and works with them to address issues so they can stay off the street.
So far Inner City Action between their revival tent outreach that was at the Qualex site up until a month ago and working with the Manteca Police community resource officers assigned to homeless issues has housed between 50 and 60 men, women and children that were once on Manteca’s streets with a number still living in their housing in Stockton. Inner City Action will keep their housing in Stockton where they also have a warehouse that accepts donations including furniture and such that they provide free of charge to families and individuals that are ready to move on into housing of their own.
Several people from Manteca that Inner City Action has helped off the streets and get on with their lives spoke at the standing room only council meeting. They ranged from a mother with two young boys who were sleeping in her car at Library Park to an addict that had spent seven years on the streets of Manteca.
Saldana said Inner City Action wants to use the Qualex building as a homeless resource center and warehouse. He also wants to establish a job training program that could, as an example, include forming a business venture such as manufacturing tents that could be made at the Qualex location.
Saldana noted Inner City Action has property valued at $1.1 million in McFarland that has a remaining debt of $144,000 they are planning to sell to fund much of the work. They also have a 20,000-square-foot warehouse in Stockton that includes 4,000 square feet of office space.
Councilman Dave Breitenbucher, while making it clear that he supported the Inner City Action efforts, expressed concern that the building would prove to be too big for Inner City Action’s purposes and the cost too daunting for the non-profit to bring up to code and make necessary modifications for occupancy. He noted he spent a lot of time in and on the Qualex building before he retired as a city firefighter given the department used it extensively for training.
Breitenbucher pointed to an estimate made several years ago that indicated it would cost in excess of $800,000 to address issues such as a new roof. That was in addition to American with Disabilities Act compliance requirements and higher standards of improvements needed if the structure was used for assemblies and such that he said could push the cost of renovation as high as $4 million.
Other council members expressed similar sentiments.
Saldana acknowledged his biggest concern was the need for a new air conditioning and heating system. He added he walked the roof with a licensed contractor who determined the leaking was caused when the hearting and air system was removed and that the roof was in good shape although a cracked beam needed to be fixed. He added the inside electrical was in good shape but not the electrical on the outside,
He had also looked into concerns that they might be toxic issues with the flooring given chemicals were used by Qualex to process photo film. Saldana said he was told by experts be could seal the floor with 3 inches of concrete for $50,000 instead of ripping it up to remove any toxins and then replacing the floor. He added with volunteers doing the work he could slash $20,000 to $30,000 off the price tag.
Saldana made it clear that if extensive improvements such as sidewalks and traffic signals were imposed as city requirements for use of the structure for non-industrial purposes such as a homeless resource center and warehouse it would likely make the project financially impossible to pursue.
In answer to a question about other potential locations in Manteca Saldana noted they had considered the former Kmart building on Northgate Drive and a location in the downtown area but determined the Qualex site was the best location. Cantu said he concurred with the conclusion although he thought the Qualex building might be too big
Given the Qualex building was owned by the former Manteca Redevelopment Agency and that the state when it disbanded redevelopment agencies ordered property not being pursued at the time for an actual project be sold off at auction and proceeds split between local taxing entities, it would require an act of the California Legislature and the concurrence of the other taxing agencies to make it possible for ownership to be transferred to Inner City Action.
Field representative Jason Laughlin told the council Assemblyman Flora already has had his staff draft a bill that needs to be submitted to the appropriate committee by April 26. That leaves the city with a small window to move forward. The matter will be brought back to the April 2 council meeting for further consideration.
“I want to move forward no matter what we have to do,” said Councilwoman Debby Moorhead who got the ball rolling last month on exploring the Qualex building possibly being acquired by Inner City Action. “This is the most worthwhile thing we can do with this building.”
Moorhead added that “Manteca needs to step up and do it.”
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