Sycamore Court — the fire-damaged problematic boarding house with 15 rooms and two communal bathrooms near the heart of downtown Manteca — will not be able to reopen as a residential complex.
It is the second casualty of an effort to clear the downtown core of uses viewed as counterproductive to encouraging the private sector to create more pedestrian friendly uses aimed at Manteca developing its own version of an aging central district remake such as has been done in Pleasanton and Lodi.
The City Council in December by adopting separate zoning rules for the downtown core effectively blocked a night club from reopening at the former Club Leon that was shuttered in 2009. The closure occurred after the city determined the owners were illegally operating a dance hall at the former Bucktooth Billiards location in the 200 block of West Yosemite Avenue. They only had a permit for a lounge and pool hall. When it was open, Club Leon was by far the No.1 address for police service calls in Manteca with the immediate downtown area being subjected to fights, public urination, and more.
The boarding house after being upgraded more than a decade ago had lapsed into a problem plagued complex. It was shuttered at the time of the fire. It had been taken over as a flophouse by the homeless and drug users.
The complex at Sycamore and West Yosemite avenues was damaged by a fire on Nov. 10, 2015. It would have been grandfathered as a non-confirming use under new downtown core zoning had the property owner started reconstruction within a year of the blaze as required under city ordinances.
The city received a building permit application 11.5 months after the fire on Oct. 25, 2016. Corrections to the plans were emailed to the owner’s representative on Nov. 18, 2018 along with a notice it was no longer protected as a non-conforming use. A follow up letter was sent by the city on Dec. 2, 2016 conforming that legal non-conforming use was lost. They were also advised the City Council on Dec. 20, 2016 would conduct a hearing to consider an ordinance that would bar further residential use of the property.
The vote by the City Council on Dec. 20 has now effectively rid the downtown district of one of three such boarding houses. Over the years several of the locales had been dubbed “Tweaker Towers” and “Meth Manor” by people frustrated with drug-related problems that had been occurring in and around the complexes.
At the same time the boarding houses are the only housing a number of law-abiding people can afford to rent in Manteca including some single moms with young children.
The City Council when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center Street, will consider refunding the full $1,069.86 building fee the property owner paid when he submitted plans to rehab the structure that included ground floor commercial space. The municipal code gives staff the authority to refund only part of the fee.
It is not clear what will happen now to the Sycamore Court building.
Back in April of 2015 the owner indicated she was willing to wed private sector investment with some of the remaining redevelopment agency set aside funds for low income housing to convert the complex into Manteca’s first ever housing for low-income veterans. It was envisioned for seven studio apartments and eight one-bedroom, one-bath units.
The third floor was proposed to have a courtyard and a roof-top garden for tenants to grow food.
Part of the ground floor was targeted for conversion to office space for job training and visiting medial personnel to serve all veterans in the community. The rest would have been commercial space.
The complex would have included a community space for computers for use of residents, a laundry room, and a community room with kitchen, lounge, and an exercise room
Laurie Share, the owner at the time, had closed the complex four months earlier saying she didn’t want to become a slumlord.
Copper thieves destroyed the air conditioning on the building she bought in 2005 and remodeled into what was then a boarding house that was highly praised by city officials.
Prior to shutting the boarding house down residential managers 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.
Share made the decision in December on 2004 to shut down the complex while working with lenders to restructure the loans.
Instead of using part of the $2.3 million to help Share convert the Sycamore complex into housing for low-income veterans the council opted to spend all of it to partner with a Stockton firm to leverage a $10.7 million project on Cottage Avenue on the southeast corner of the Highway 99 overpass that will provide 40 units of independent housing for low- and very-low income seniors.
The city received four proposals to provide low-income housing using the $2.3 million in RDA funds.