If Manteca adopted a motto for 2021 it might just be “the year to transform the ugly duckling.”
Residents who responded to a request to provide what they think should be the priorities for the City of Manteca in the budget year starting July 1 came up with three issues that were on most must do lists.
Two of the items have surfaced as top issues in the past few election cycles — addressing homeless issues and stopping Manteca’s streets from going to potholes. Both are major undertakings that will require significant money to chip away at.
The third underscores growing frustration with the city’s inability to simply to stay on top of day-to-day concerns. In short, people believe the time has come for the city to literally clean up Manteca.
Those three goals were incorporated in 11 goals the council came up with during a 5½ hour long workshop via Zoom on Tuesday to guide staff in forming the budget for general fund services and capital improvement budgets for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1.
It was incorporated among city goals as “beautification” that might make it appear residents are talking about planting trees and adding flower planters.
Instead they are referencing what they point out is increasing evidence that the city, by default, is allowing Manteca to be trashed.
The problem as expressed by countless people over the years range from a matter of the city not pro-actively enforcing council-adopted property maintenance ordinances to graffiti abatement.
They believe the situation has now deteriorated to a point that it is completely unacceptable.
And there is evidence it has.
Manteca went from being one of the few larger cities in the region where graffiti rarely lingered for more than a few days a year ago to it seemingly popping up everywhere.
The reason for that is the loss of the Manteca Police Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police (SHARP) due to pandemic health concerns.
The 80-member plus SHARP unit has been the linchpin of Manteca’s day-to-day efforts to combat blight for a quarter of a century.
The SHARP unit routinely documented graffiti and painted it over with it rarely lingering for a few days. The absence of graffiti lingering has been credited by police over the years with it not proliferating.
That is no longer the case as city crews have been struggling to keep up with the problem as evidenced on sound walls and buildings throughout Manteca.
SHARP also helped with abandoned vehicles on streets and pilfered shopping carts dropped off throughout the city
The dissatisfaction with the city when it comes to Manteca looking dumpy goes beyond graffiti.
Many people point to unkempt yards with dead vegetation and barren front yards that often have multipole vehicles parked on them.
The city does have wording in its ordinances requiring front yards not to be left barren and for landscaping to be kept watered. But that was suspended during the last drought. A number of people did not convert to drought-resistant landscaping or resume watering their lawns after the drought emergency ended.
And while there are — depending upon when a home was built and covenants, conditions and restrictions councils over the years have approved for subdivisions that go along with the property — rules against parking vehicles on lawns, the city has never made enforcing them a city driven concern.
Instead they require people to make a formal complaint against a neighbor. Residents often are reluctant to do for fear of retaliation. City staff over the years when the issue was brought before the council simply said enforcement of CC&Rs is a matter for the civil courts and not the city even though the city required them to be put in place before subdivisions were approved.
The falls right in line with the city’s unwritten policy that has been shared verbally with countless citizens taking complaints to council meetings over the past 30 years. Specifically, the city only enforces municipal code section regarding property upkeep in response to a complaint as opposed to doing so proactively.
The only exception was in 1995 when the council — fed up with garbage carts being left in front of a number of homes throughout the week along with piles of trash — directed staff to clamp down.
The city harnessed the SHARP unit to go through neighborhoods after garbage carts were collected and place notices on them to remind people they were not allowed to be kept in the front yards or left on the street beyond collection day. People were warned if they did so after a certain date they would be subject to being cited.
SHARP did the cart checks for a month. Then the city stepped in and started issuing citations.
It ended what had been an ongoing headache for the city fielding complaints from residents about people keeping their garbage carts in their front yard.
Other complaints have ranged from illegal dumping at the end of stubbed streets to abandoned cars being stripped along roadways.
They also touch on messes left by the homeless and illegal encampments.
Given it was simply a goal setting session, neither staff or council members gave any indication of how the city would implement a goal of “beautification” of Manteca.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com