Nancy Watson — who is seeking election Nov. 8 to the District 4 City Council seat — filed notice with the city Thursday that she intends to seek a special election to allow Manteca voters to decide the fate of a proposed homeless navigation center.
It is the second such move to collect signatures in order to essentially force a citywide referendum on whether a homeless navigation center should be allowed in Manteca.
When Lei Ann Larson, one of three candidates for mayor, attempted to move a similar petition forward the city secured outside legal counsel to determine the legal validity of what Larson was seeking to do which was ban any homeless navigation center in the city.
The city received a legal opinion that it was contrary to established state law that requires cities to allow such homeless shelters “by right” in at least one zoning district within their boundaries.
Interim City Manager Toni Lundgren indicated the city would do its due diligence and review the wording of the most recent petition proposed for circulation before proceeding.
The next step in the process is for the city attorney to issue a ballot title and summary for the petition and publish a notice in an adjudicated newspaper regarding the plans to place the petition into circulation.
That would then start the clock running for a set time period to collect the necessary signatures to qualify the measure for a ballot and to call for a special election.
City Clerk Cassandra Tilton-Candini confirmed that it will require the signatures of 15 percent of the city’s registered voters to force an election.
The city clerk is in the process of checking to see what that number currently is.
There were 46,329 registered voters in Manteca as of mid-June. If that number is still correct, Watson would need to collect the valid signatures of 5,096 registered voters who reside within the city limits to force the issue.
Candini did not have a cost figure for such an election and is seeking a number from the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters.
The primary election when it was conducted with races from other jurisdictions cost $200,000, Based on a previous quote for a stand-alone election the city requested the figure could end up in excess of $300,000.
Legal counsel retained by Manteca made it clear the city, if needed, would seek a court order to block the current wording of the previous proposed petition by Larson seeking to place the issue of a homeless navigation center being built on a future municipal ballot.
In an email dated July 20 attorney Mona G. Ebrahimi informed Larson representing Mantecans4Change “the city will seek declaratory relief from the court” if the group seeks to circulate their petition in its current wording.
A declaratory relief is a judgment issued by a court that establishes and outlines the obligations and rights of each party involved. They have the same power as a final judgment.
In an email, Watson indicated she was aware of Larson’s attempt for a ballot measure.
“Both Mayoral Candidate Larson and I would like to see the citizens of Manteca vote on whether the citizens want the City of Manteca to build and operate a Navigation Center in Manteca,” Watson noted. “ The City of Manteca unilaterally decided to build and operate a homeless navigation center at 682 S. Main Street in Manteca, against the wishes of the majority of Mantecans.
She added that while Lundgren and City Councilman Gary Singh worked to secure a $16 million grant to build the homeless navigation shelter, the city has not identified funding source to cover ongoing operating costs.
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