An expert has made it clear.
It’s likely not going to be safe to be a student living in a City Council approved 99-home subdivision along heavily traveled Airport Way to walk or bicycle to Sierra High or any commercial location along equally busy West Yosemite Avenue.
Mayor Ben Cantu dismissed the route to school study the council requested and Fehr Peers – the city’s longtime go-to consultant to analyze off-site traffic impacts created by growth — delivered as being essentially a ploy for Manteca Unified to get the developer to agree to have Yosemite Greens join a Mello-Roos district to help fund school facilities.
Councilman Jose Nuño saw it much differently. Nuño believes it can serve as a cornerstone for a long overdue city effort to address growth-related pedestrian and bicycle safety — especially as it pertains to students walking to and from school.
At Wednesday’s meeting the council approved the 99-home Yosemite Greens project but declined to put the developer on the hook for all or part of the costs so future high school students living in the homes he will profit from have a safe route to walk to Sierra High. Nor did they offer any direction to do anything with the consultant’s report except to allow it to be filed and forgotten.
The neighborhood will be built on land on the southeast corner of Crom Street and Airport Way immediately west of the municipal golf course.
agree to Mello-Roos
The property owners did agree to encumber future homes that are built to be part of a Mello-Roos district to help pay a portion of the cost the development will create in the need for school facilities. Manteca Unified Chief Business Officer Jacqueline Breitenbucher said the district did not receive the letter agreeing to inclusion in a Mello-Roos district until Wednesday after the council approved the project. She indicated there were some issues with the wording the district hopes to work out with the property owner to assure the implementation can be smooth for both parties.
Breitenbucher said Manteca Unified was “disappointed” the council declined to address the safe routes to school issue.
Breitenbucher re-enforced the district’s position that going forward they will try to work with the city to make sure all new residential development moves forward with such safe routes being put in place.
District officials last year during the Yosemite Greens approval process admitted they had been remiss in not actively examining proposed subdivisions to make sure the city and developer take into account measures to assure the safety of students walking to school that will live in new homes being built.
That will be especially true of developments similar to Yosemite Greens being built along heavily traveled roads with no connecting sidewalks.
The city has a history of not taking in consideration the fact they often approve new subdivisions without having the consultants they hire to examine off-site pedestrian movements and impacts in terms of safety generated by new households being created as they do for vehicle traffic.
Prime examples are high profile crosswalks across heavily traveled Woodward Avenue where there is heavy foot traffic of students walking to and from school.
It took more than six years for the council to follow through on a commitment they made after development was in place to install a high profile crosswalk across Woodward Avenue at Buena Vista Drive for students north of the arterial that attend Woodward School.
The city also had to come back and spend taxpayer money to install a safer crossing of Woodward Avenue to reach Veritas School after the council had approved subdivisions south of the road without requiring the developer to pay for all are part of such an improvement such as they would for a traffic signal.
Much of Woodward Avenue west of Union Road was built with no-consideration given students who had to walk along narrow roads to go to and from school until subsequent developments put in place sidewalks.
Some cities experiencing similar growth problems will require developers of subdivisions to put in barebones separated bike paths off-site of their subdivision for pedestrians and bicycle traffic the sale of their homes create.
In regards to the Yosemite Greens project, the consultant made the following recommendations to create a safe route to school for future students living in the neighborhood that the council opted not to require the developer to fund partially or install that were not discussed in any detail by the council:
*Improved crosswalk stripping and signage of the east side of the Yosemite Avenue/Airport Way intersection. The consultant also said timing of the signals needs to be improved to give pedestrians sufficient time to cross safely. In addition they recommended additional signage for vehicles to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.
*Re-paint the shoulder on the south side of Yosemite Avenue to Fishback Road some 1,100 feet for greater visibility and to create a larger separation between foot traffic and vehicles. In addition they suggested an engineering and traffic study to determine if the combination of vehicles, pedestrians and traffic warranted reducing the 45 mph speed limit.
*Place a four to five foot wide shoulder on the west side of Fishback Road between Yosemite and Castillo Way for a distance of 560 feet to provide safer separation between vehicles and pedestrians/bicyclists. They also recommended a study to determine if the 35 mph speed limit on Fishback should be reduced.
*Install a school crossing with signage across Thomas Street at Fishback Road and also conduct a study to see if it should be converted into a three –way stop intersection.
Councilman Gary Singh was unsuccessful in his bid to require the developer to install sidewalks all the way from Yosemite Greens to Silverado Drive along the golf course instead of just to Zurich Drive where school crossings will be installed across both Zurich and Crom Street.
Other council members said the city could budget funds for the remaining section.
Singh countered that based on historic city actions that the only way the sidewalk will be put in place is if a developer does it. He noted there are numerous missing sidewalk segments in Manteca the city has promised to address for years and haven’t. Such work has been budgeted but the money has almost always been shifted to other purposes.
“Budget it and it won’t be built,” Singh said of the sidewalk.
No one brought up the possibility of having the developer install the sidewalk along Crom between Zurich and Silverado and then having the city reimburse them from growth fees.
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