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Push to make development design review more robust
Dennis Wyatt
Dennis Wyatt

Leonard Smith thinks the time has come for Manteca to increase its expectations

The Manteca Planning Commission chair is making a pitch for elected leaders to establish a more robust architectural review process for future commercial and business park projects.

Smith has established a solid reputation as an advocate for a more environmentally greener Manteca gently prodding those developing projects in the city every chance he gets to consider using solar power out of the gate as well as other green initiatives.

His push for a more muscular design review process isn’t necessarily a slap at any project that has been built to date.

He made his pitch during the commission meeting Tuesday before the commission unanimously approved the 117,000-square-foot Living Spaces furniture showroom that will break ground early next year in Union Crossing on the southwest quadrant of the Union Road and 120 Bypass interchange. The Living Spaces building is arguably an exception to Smith’s concern. That’s because it has extensive architectural treatment — various materials, outcroppings, varied paint tones, and relief features — on all four sides so it won’t look like a big box with minimal curb appeal.

The overall Union Crossing project has a set of architectural guidelines that must be followed after they were adopted by the City Council on the commission’s recommendation.

Smith, though, wants to make sure nothing falls through the cracks when it comes to building the best possible looking city. Nor does he want to see a hodge podge of architectural designs mixed together.

The last time Manteca stepped up its game was in 2001 after the Home Depot was allowed to be built with bare minimal architectural façade and design treatments. Home Depot stores built elsewhere — including in farm towns such as Delano — have much sharper treatment that softens the big box look.

The council members that were disappointed at the time about Home Depot’s “Plain Jane” look led to the requirement that planned developments have at least some basic cohesive design elements.

Currently the architectural review function is done by staff with the city’s Community Development Department.’

In cities that are generally given high marks for the look of growth as it occurs, they have a citizen-based board that passes muster on design.

As an example the City of Roseville Design Committee has two members appointed by their City Council and one member by the planning commission. They serve as a three-member board that reviews Design Review Permit applications for multiple-residential, commercial, and industrial projects. The Committee — that conducts all meetings in public — reviews projects proposed site plans, architecture and landscaping for conformance with the City’s general plan, specific plans, and community guidelines.

The question is now whether Smith will try or garner support from one or two council members so he can make a formal pitch to elected officials to up Manteca’s architectural review efforts.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email