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Adherence to parking standards for Manteca’s sacred cow (aka cars) undermines wise growth
green driveway
An example of a green driveway.

Manteca doesn’t have enough “parks.”

It would be nice, though, if for once people were talking about a place with green grass instead of an area covered with asphalt.

It sounds like a cliche, but we have a nasty habit of planning cities for cars and not for people.

Yes, vehicles play a vital role in how people go about their lives.

That said, we act as if it is essential for how — and where — we park our cars in relation to everything planned for a community that parking actually dictates development patterns.

It might strike you as being logical to do so.

In reality, though, how we go about it is costly.

Mandated formulas on how we accommodate cars:

*eat up a lot of real estate unnecessarily.

*often creates more impermeable surfaces than necessary which in turn increases storm runoff.

*adds cost in terms of more pavement to maintain.

*makes human activities such as walking subservient.

*makes it more expensive to develop housing given the requirement that free standing homes must have garages even though often they are not used for the purpose of parking cars.

*creates heat islands in the summer.

Planning standards err on the side of requiring too much parking.

We allow the exceptions of the Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks/Jamba Juice at Yosemite-Highway 99 fiascos scare us into clutching on to rigid passing space standards.

But the reality in both cases is this: The biggest problem is not being able to park within 80 feet of the front door. The defect was poorly thought out drive-thru traffic pattens.

The root cause of an over obsession with parking is no longer textbook planners. It’s us.

Drive around Manteca.

You will notice there are literally tens of thousands of unused parking spaces.

A majority of them are on the streets.

How street parking is viewed is the Achilles Heel of wise development.

And by wise, it’s referring to judicious conversion of farmland/open space for development.

City rules do not allow for the counting of on street parking to any degree to accommodate vehicles in commercial areas or neighborhoods.

It is substantially worse in the design of new subdivisions.

The underlying rule is all cars for an average household must have space for them to park off-street.

That rule is entrenched further by how many of us get offended when a neighbor — or their guests — has the audacity to park their car in front of our house.

Forget the fact “our property”, when you factor in public right of way, ends behind the sidewalk.

That nine-foot plus area of the asphalt adjacent to the curbs that is designed for parking is not in the twilight zone of the sidewalk that is property you own, maintain, and are assessed for but the public has a right to use.

Instead, it is owned by the “city” and not you and I.

Anyone has the right to park there as long as they do so in a legal manner according to state laws and local ordinances.

There, of course, is the archaic requirement that new homes have garages that house a minimum of two cars.

If the goal is to be able to park four cars per home off the street, then why does there need to be a garage?

A carport or an extended concrete driveway would suffice.

Better yet, there can be green driveways using a pattern of concrete or parking pavers intermixed in a design with permeable surfaces such as appropriate ground cover or even some type of gravel.

It reduces storm runoff that eases the pressure on managing flood control systems,

It reduces the heat island affect.

And, not building a new home with a two-car garbage easily would knock $30,000 plus off the price.

How’s that for making housing more affordable?

That does not mean a city would outlaw garages. But buyers should have the clear option of either a garage, carport or go sans car covering structure if they so choose.

Garages are not exactly essential in this part of California given it rarely freezes.

As for commercial parking lots, overkill is the general name of the game.

The Costco, Stadium Retail, and Target/Food-4-Less commercial areas were built to standards that are more robust than when the Walmart/Mission Ridge center was developed in the early 1990s.

As such, they are designed to accommodate circa 2002 Black Friday conditions that occur once a year.

Black Friday, of course, is a lot leaner these days.

But even 20 years ago on the peak hour of the peak day of in-person shopping, there were still unused spaces.

Of course, we don’t see it that way.

Most of us believe there is a parking crisis if we can’t park in front - or next - to a store in a traditional downtown.

Walking two blocks to reach a store is borderline blasphemy.

But what is bizarre is that we often do that and more every day and rarely complain.

In 1991 in what is the never ending debate of what supposedly ails downtown Manteca, there was a bizarre exchange at a community workshop that speaks volumes about parking perceptions.

A woman, when asked by a city planner, if she shopped downtown replied she didn’t because she couldn’t find a parking space near a Hancock Fabrics store that at the time was located where Manteca Bedquarters is today.

She said that had “forced her” to shop for fabrics at Walmart instead.

It was back when the Manteca Walmart had a fabric section in the southwest corner of the store, the farthest point away from the front entrance.

Even if she had been able to secure the closest parking space to the front door of Walmart, she literally had to walk almost the entire distance of the width of the downtown shopping district to and from her car to purchase fabric.

The reality why she wasn’t shopping downtown had nothing to do with parking.

It likely had to do with the ability to shop for multiple items under one roof, selection, pricing or a combination thereof.

It is why some people at the time wanted to deep-six parking requirements for new businesses that were more robust than for uses at specific downtown locations that were already grandfathered in.

What they said Manteca needed was to create a “parking crisis” downtown by making it such a desirable place to be such as Livermore or Pleasanton today.

The city, years later, dropped the straight-jacket parking rules for downtown that allowed more businesses without creating a parking space crisis.

How overkill parking requirements manifest into “bad development” is best demonstrated locally by the center anchored by Target.

AK Development had a sit-down restaurant chain that wanted to locate along Spreckels Avenue in the parking lot in front of Target near where the Tesla Supercharger station is today.

The city killed off the proposal by noting the combined parking needs of approved retail spaces with a 6,000 square foot restaurant pad added would mean the center overall would be shy 15 spaces of the parking requirements noted in Manteca’s development code.

Manteca lost out on a restaurant.

And even on the heaviest shopping day of the year, there are easily more than 100 parking spaces that are never used.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at