The homeless continue to squat in the fire damaged Sycamore Court boarding house creating ongoing problems for nearby downtown Manteca businesses.
They fear another fire could be started that could spread to the rest of the 200 block of West Yosemite that lacks modern fire wall standards.
The homeless have a history of starting fires in vacant buildings for warmth or to cook that get out of control. At least four buildings in Manteca have been destroyed by such fires. Others have been doused before doing major damage including at an office for a former used car lot in the 200 block of East Yosemite.
The boarding house at Sycamore and West Yosemite avenues was damaged by a fire on Nov. 10, 2015.
The blaze was believed to have been started by the homeless who were trespassing and living in the second floor rooms.
The complex was shuttered by frustrated owners prior to the fire.
Residential managers had kicked out tenants that were violating rules by committing major vandalism such as pulling plumbing fixtures off the wall, stealing smoke detectors, and taking fire extinguishers. Others weren’t paying rent. Then Norteno gang members threatened residential managers prompting them to quit. Some of the former tenants broke into the units and trashed them.
The building was owned by a Southern California woman who had not taken out fire insurance on the building before the fire struck, she noted at the time. It was subsequently sold to a Manteca man.
Several business people have been keeping a close eye on the building watching for anyone entering the old apartment house, capturing suspicious activities on still and video cameras in an effort to help police prevent further deterioration of the downtown.
The current owner had placed chards of glass atop the rear fence to keep the trespassing homeless individuals out of his property, but city staffers ordered the glass removed. That has allowed the homeless to once again scale the back wall to gain entrance to the building.
One business owner told of watching a man in his early 20s park his bike next to a light pole behind the building and chain it up on almost a daily basis before crossing the alley way and jumping over the concrete wall. Police have been trying to keep their eyes on the property in addition to their normal calls for service throughout the city.
The building and its patio area have been cited as being dangerous and presenting a safety threat to any officer who might enter the area after dark. It’s difficult to see if anyone is actually in the building at night looking from the outside.
Brenda Franklin of Tipton’s Stationery and Gift, said cleaning up the downtown and restoring it as an inviting shopping area would involve three empty and blighted locations: 220 Yosemite Avenue where Club Leon was located, 108 Sycamore Avenue with the burned-out Sycamore Court Apartments and the store fronts from 135 to 141 West Yosemite Avenue.
“If you cleaned up those properties and found the right tenants – that would be a good start,” Franklin said.
Nearby merchants say numerous homeless access the burned out building on a regular basis
They questioned just how long the city is going to continue without taking action to either restore or demolish the structure that some say is beyond repair. They contend the city’s inaction is allowing the burned out Sycamore Court building to continue to be a detriment to their businesses and livelihood as well as the general well-being of the community.
Meanwhile the windows and doors are boarded up with multiple pieces of board and plywood rather than one solid piece of heavy plywood as required by city code. Blue tarps cover the openings in the roof to apparently prevent further rain damage.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com.