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Converting Qualex to navigation center 5 times as costly as at city owed sites at Wilson Park or solid waste yard
qualex front
The Qualex building in the Manteca Industrial Park.

It will cost at least $20 million to establish a homeless center in the former Qualex photo processing plant building.

 That amount of money — almost enough to upgrade to diverging diamond  interchanges at Airport Way or Main Street as the city just did at Union Road  — to simply get a structure ready to serve as a year round center to address homeless issues would likely prompt the Manteca City Council to abandon  the idea.

A year ago last this month the council directed staff to zero in on siting a navigation center in the 57,000-square-foot building at 555 Industrial Park Drive.  Last month after staff indicated being able to restore the building’s shell to a useable condition would cost at least $1.5 million the council directed city management to bring back other alternatives.

That is exactly what they are doing when the City Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. during a Zoom meeting.

The $20 million figure includes buying the property for $1.1 million, $1.5 million to restore the building shell to useable condition, and $17.5 million to make tenant improvements at $350 per square foot.

There are five options besides the original Qualex proposal before the council.


$5.1 million: Buying Qualex

without using the building

Under this option, the city would go ahead with the $1.1 million purchase of the 4.91 acre site.

But instead of using the building, they would place a Sprung Structure in the existing parking lot with needed site work. That would bring the price tag to $5.1 million.

PROS: The staff report lists as pros is the fact is far away from residential areas, it is close to transit, there are utilities, there’s space for expansion as well as parking and fencing in place.

CONS: Cons based on staff observations are the fact the city  doesn’t own the site, it is farther from downtown, the path of travel for the homeless to reach it is a concern, there will be business concerns, and there is an existing building.

WHAT ISN’T MENTIONED: Although the prepared presentation alluded to the fact one of the cons is that there is an existing building, it doesn’t delve into what the city would do with the building.

To be used as simply a warehouse for the city, it wiould cost $1.5 million to restore the shell. The only other uses except to let it stand as a vacant building on city property is either to tear it down that will have a cost or else try and sell it for other uses. That is highly unlikely since the parking will be lost and locating next door not a homeless center isn’t exactly a big draw for buyers.

It could also be seen as a “reserve” for future expansion of the homeless center. Tearing it down at a future date and adding more Sprung Structures would still be significantly less expensive than rehabbing the Qualex building.


$4 million: The solid waste

storage yard at 205 E. Wetmore

The city owned property at 205 E. Wetmore carries a $4 million price tag based on using a Sprung Structure. It is viewed as a 1.45-acre site but could go up to 2.29 with all available city property at the site.

PROS: The pluses are the city owns it, there is no existing building, it is close to downtown and transit, there is an easy path of travel for the homeless, utilities are in place, and the animal services is next door.

CONS: Negatives include how close it is to nearby residential, the small size of the site, lack of parking, business concerns, and fencing.

WHAT ISN’T MENTIONED:  The parcels in question have been looked at as a solution for Altamont Corridor Express passengers when service starts at the Manteca Transit station directly across the tracks in 2023.

The concept was to have ticketing machines and boarding on the south side of the tracks to avoid creating parking issues in and near downtown  given the initial projections call for 1,500 riders a day.

The city working with the rail commission  could  place parking on city-owned vacant parcels they have along the Tidewater and acquire some that they don’t own along Moffat, but the distance to the boarding area may prompt commuters to park instead on city streets.

$6.4 million: 682

South Main Street

The is an 8-acre site that — just like the Qualex site — was bought by the now defunct Manteca Redevelopment and must be sold under state law. It was originally envisioned as a South County justice center complete with Superior Courts, district attorney and public defender officers, and even a new home for Manteca Police.

The land is $2.4 million while the Sprung Structure and site work is $4 million. Access would be from a cul-de-sac off of Mellon Avenue.

PROS: There is no existing building, it is close to downtown and transit, the path of travel for the homeless is good as is parking.

CONS: The cons include the fact the city does not own the site, it is near residential, and there would be business concerns, fencing, and utilities.

WHAT ISN’T MENTIONED: While it is referenced not all of the land would need to be purchased, it isn’t clear whether the state will allow it to be split and sold in parcels.

At the  same time the city could purchase the site and at a future date use it for other purposes along South Main Street such as selling to a developer for higher density housing that is more affordable or use it for other city needs,

$4 million plus: Frito-Lay

at 1190 Spreckels Avenue

The only cost estimate on the site in the report is $4 million for a Sprung Structure and site work. The 2.76 aces are privately owned by Frito Lay and may not be for sale. 

PROS: No existing building, space, parking, and good path of travel for the homeless.

CONS: The city doesn’t own it, it is not close to downtown or transit, business concerns, utilities, fencing, and residential being nearby.

WHAT ISN’T MENTIONED: When Frito-Lay located in Spreckels Park in 2001 to consolidate distribution operations in Modesto and Stockton, they bought the additional land for future expansion to allow them to grow as Stockton, Modesto and Tracy did.

 Although the presentation with the agenda doesn’t delve into it, the city may be assuming Frito Lay would be willing to sell the undeveloped portion  of their site when they have no desire to do so.


$4 million: Wilson Park

at 224 W. Center Street

This is the small park where the homeless already gather behind the Post Office and across the street from Library Park in downtown Manteca.

The cost of $4 million reflects a Sprung Structure and site work.

PROS:  No existing building, the city owns it, it is in downtown, it is close to transit, access is easy for the homeless, and tutties are available.

CONS: There is residential directly across the street, it is a small space, there is a lack of parking, no fencing, and business concerns.

WHAT ISN’T MENTIONED: When the site was discussed a year ago, there was a concern brought up that when the land was donated to the city to honor the postmaster that secured the existing post office for Manteca that the deed restricted it to be only used as a city park. The report doesn’t indicate whether that question was thoroughly researched.

Five sites that were rejected last year did not make the list for a second consideration because they are now either occupied, have been sold or is in the process of being sold.


Breitenbucher’s proposed site

not among the city’s options

The only other site that has come up that isn’t addressed is the solid waste yard on the south side of Wetmore Street where solid waste trucks are currently parked.

Given the entire fleet ultimately will be converted to liquefied compressed fuel requiring overnight fueling from the city’s food waste to fuel facility at the wastewater treatment plant, the city adopted a plan two years ago to relocate the entire operation to the wastewater treatment site.

Councilman Dave Breitenbucher has pointed to the site at least twice during council discussions

City staff has indicated they believe it would be a better fit as a new home for the cramped streets division that is just across the street.

The site is larger than the storage yard the city owns directly across Wetmore that is listed as a potential site for the navigation center.

The staff hasn’t vetted the site to the south of Wetmore Street that they own.

Such a vetting would involve whether there would be another location to eventually move the street division to if the site proved to be the best option to address what has been the council’s top priority for the last three years which is addressing homeless issues.

It clearly would be easier to site a streets division elsewhere in the city as oppose to a homeless shelter.

The city could still pursue commuter parking where the solid waste storage is north of the street. That may be a better option given for nearly a center the site was used as a vehicle/equipment  maintenance shop first for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District and then the City of Manteca. As a result there could be toxic issues involved on the site that wouldn’t be a problem if it was paved over for a parking lot.



How your voice

can be heard

Tuesday’s meeting that starts at 7 p.m. can be viewed livestreamed over the city’s website or on Comcast Channel 97.

There are four ways you can comment on an item.

*The first is eComment where you call up the agenda on the city’s website. New users will need to follow instructions to make an account. The comments are made by going down the agenda on the website and clicking on the eComment icon. Only one comment is allowed per agenda items of up to 500 words. Any eComment can be at any time up to the item being heard by the council.

*Emailing a comment to up until two hours before the meeting. Comments 250 words and under will be read into the record while those over 250 words will be made a part of the official record but not publically read.

*Mail comments to the City Clerk’s office at 1001 W. Center St, Ste. B, Manteca, CA, 95337 that is received up to two hours before the meeting start. The same email word rules apply.

*Hand delivered comments to the city clerk’s door drop slot no later than two hours prior to the meeting. The same email world rules apply.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email