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Manteca turning homeless problem at one location into a win

Manteca has quietly eliminated a major public health and safety issue involving the homeless as well as drug users and illegal trash dumping that for years was a cancer on a Manteca neighborhood along Union Road and east of Brock Elliott School.

And, if all goes well, the problematic property where Mission Ridge Drive T-intersects into Union Road will within a few years be home to a new Islamic elementary school for 200 students.

The property had been blighted since the mid-1980s. There have been a number of fires over the years with the most recent in June of 2013 that threatened nearby homes. The remaining structures were razed at that time to severely reduce the problem of illegal homeless camping. Officials believe the fires on the property were inadvertently started by homeless individuals either trying to stay warm or cooking food.

The property was once used to operate a chemical reformulation and repackaging business known as Gordon Research. Although leftover chemicals were removed, an investigation noted 13 areas that are contaminated with lead, arsenic, and cadmium, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, and petroleum hydrocarbons. The California Environmental Protection Agency determined there was no imminent threat to the ground water so the risk wasn’t high enough for the agency to fund the cleanup.

The heavy lifting to finally set the stage for the blighted property to be returned to productive use required behind-the-scenes negotiations with state agencies, a potential buyer, making arrangements where excess soil can be used to avoid and future issues, and meeting a lot of legal requirements.

Part of the city’s role in making it happen was agreeing to release a $48,554 lien against the property in exchange for 17,000 cubic feet of clean fill dirt for either the interchange project at Union Road or McKinley Avenue.

The liens are for costs the city has occurred over the year abating weeds and removing trash that had been illegally dumped on the property creating a fire hazard.

Should the site fail to yield the entire 17,000 cubic feet, whatever amount the city is shorted would require the academy to pay the city $3 a cubic foot.

The Islamic Center of Manteca wants to establish the Nur Al-Huda & College Preparatory on the site. It would consist of three buildings, playing fields, and a parking lot. The school would employ about 25 teachers and staff.

City Attorney John Brinton highlighted his office’s work on the Gordon property as an example of what his firm — McFall, Burnett & Brinton — perform as the city’s contracted attorney during Tuesday’s presentation to the City Council on the tasks various city departments perform..

Besides reviewing the legality of city ordinances, contracts, advising the council and city manager on legal issues, and addressing other non-specialized legal matters Brinton or his partner Don Lupal appear on a regular basis in Superior Court as prosecutors for city-issued citations by Manteca Police or code enforcement officers involving the homeless, noise issues and various code violations.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email