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Manteca leaders may put tobacco-related shops, massage parlors, liquor stores on road to extinction in the city’s core
sycamore building
The city is working toward finding a solution to the boarded up building at Sycamore and Yosemite avenues in downtown Manteca.

Manteca’s elected leaders could sound the eventual death knoll for tobacco-related shops, massage therapy studios, and liquor stores in much of the downtown district.

If the City Council adopts a municipal code amendment when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m., such businesses would be banned from downtown.

Existing massage studios, liquor stores, and tobacco-related shops would be allowed to continue to operate. Given they are grandfathered uses they could also be sold to new owners. But once the concern closes down permanently or the use of the building use changes it can never reopen as such continued use would be prohibited.

The selling of alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises at restaurants, bars, wine tasting rooms and such will be allowed.

The prohibition of such uses is considered critical to efforts to make downtown eventually more appealing for the opening of trendy restaurants and boutique-style businesses. It is part of an effort to put in basic measures that have repeatedly been listed in downtown plans devised by outside consultants but never put in place let alone implemented.

The move comes as city staff has started enforcing another municipal code change targeting vacant buildings that aren’t being maintained downtown and elsewhere in the city.

Municipal staff has already contacted owners of several problematic downtown properties. At least one owner is moving to sell their property to avoid draconian municipal fines that will be imposed should they fail to address maintenance and upkeep issues.

The city addressing problematic vacant building is a follow up on the council’s pledge made in February to make fighting blight and combating “ugliness” ranging from graffiti to illegal dumping one of the city’s top priorities. The all-encompassing ordinance addresses the upkeep of boarded up, neglected, or vacant buildings.

The nail the city will be hammering to make the ordinance work will be significantly stepped up fines.

The owner of any building after receiving notice of violation — essentially the 30-day correction period offenders are given — and has chosen to ignore them or make no progress toward remedying them are subject to fines of:

*$100 for the first violation (the first day after the 30 day period expired).

*$500 for the second violation (the second day after the 30 day period expired).

*$1,000 for the third violation (the third day after the 30 day period expired).

*$1,000 for each violation (per day) thereafter.

*$300 for an enforcement response fee each time a building inspector is called to the building site to cover the city’s costs.

*$350 for a monthly monitoring fee.

Under state law, such fees can’t exceed $100,000 in a calendar year. Based on the fee structure that threshold could be reached in 30 days.

Should the city reach the $100,000 mark, they have the option of going to court to have a receiver appointed to force work to be done and for the property to be sold off with the proceeds paying for the costs to bring structures up to code plus the city be made whole on its fines.

Similar ordinances have been used in other cities to deal with owners who board up buildings or leave them vacant and “sit on them” making no effort to rent, lease, or sell them or even maintain them. It’s been an essential tool in pumping economic life into older downtown districts.

The ordinance applies to all zoning districts in the city including residential neighborhoods where houses gutted by fires or boarded up or homes that are left vacant to deteriorate.

It joins a repertoire of other property management ordinances such as those dealing with abatement of public nuisance, weed control, and landscaping maintenance. It is the fine structure — which reflects what other cities have imposed— that is expected to be the key tool to either get the property owner to comply or force a solution through the receivership process.

The ordinance is based on the City Council finding that “vacant buildings are a major cause of blight in both residential and nonresidential neighborhoods, especially when the owner of the building fails to actively maintain and manage the building to ensure that it does not become a liability to the neighborhood. Substandard or unkempt properties, long-term vacancies, and boarded and/or vacant buildings all discourage economic development, negatively affect property values, and may pose a safety risk.”

Several years ago elected leaders established two zoning overlay districts — one for the historic core on a three block stretch of Yosemite Avenue from the railroad tracks to Grant Avenue and another for areas to the immediate north, east and south.

It allows the city to craft strategies tailor-made to the unique issues in downtown.



To contact Dennis Wyatt, email