Three aging and deteriorating downtown parking lots — along with three alley segments riddled with cracks and potholes — may at least finally have plans drawn up for improving them.
Last year the City Council authorized hiring Associated Engineering Group for $50,580 to do design work for the alley that runs from Maple Avenue to Main Street behind the north side of the 100 block of West Yosemite and the alley starting at Center Street that T-intersects into that alley. The scope of that work included the parking lot behind the 100 block of West Yosemite accessed directly from the 100 block of North Main Street and the city-owned parking lot just west of Maple Avenue.
On Tuesday, the council will consider a request by Mayor Steve DeBrum to add the alley behind the south side of the 100 block of West Yosemite as well as the parking lot behind the south side of the 200 block of West Yosemite Avenue and just north of the Tidewater Bikeway. The cost for the additional design work is $19,320.
The condition of the downtown alleys and parking lots has been a sore point with downtown merchants and a number of residents since at least 2000. They were last worked on in the early 1970s.
There are numerous cracks, potholes, curbing uplifted by trees and other issues including lighting.
In 1998 the city spent a considerable amount of energy on coming up with a game plan dubbed Vision 2020 that was overseen by a 24-member citizens task force in terms of what the city should have in place by the time the year 2020 rolled around.
At the time upgrading alleys was identified as crucial not just for safety but to help set a tone for downtown revitalization. It was advocated back then to make the alleys and parking lots more secure with better lighting as well as more appealing to encourage businesses to develop more attractive back entrances. The goal was to make it easier for people to access stores and to reduce parking issues along Yosemite Avenue.
The alleys were part of a Vision 2020 plan for downtown that included the installation of the old-fashioned style of street lights, traffic lights and street furnishings as well as the installation of new sidewalk and crosswalk pavers, expanding and upgrading Library Park, building the transit station to double as a downtown gathering place, launching the mural endeavor, and creating two mini plazas — one of Maple Avenue and the other in front of the Legion Hall on Yosemite Avenue.
The plan to extend the old-fashioned street lights to Center Street and side streets from Manteca Avenue to Grant Avenue was never tackled and neither were the downtown alleys and parking lots.
The City Council finally set aside $187,382 in federal pass through Community Development Block Grant funds to repave alleys in the downtown district as part of the 2015-2016 Manteca municipal budget to deliver on a promise made years before to do the work. The city has estimated to replace the alleys it would cost $188,155. It was eventually determined downtown was not an area where the federal funds could be employed.
The city staff told the council in November of 2016 there was $602,103 worth of work needed to upgrade the alleys and parking lots — $181,555 for the alleys, $390,175 for the parking lots, and $30,755 for downtown sidewalk issues.
Money for the design work is coming from the Assigned Economic Revitalization fund that consists of general property taxes set aside at the rate of $750,000 a year to fund design work for the project. That property tax was directed back toward the general fund after the redevelopment agency was dissolved by the state.
The council was told in November of 2016 there was $2.4 million in the AER account. A staff memo for Tuesday’s meeting had a projected balance as of June 30, 2017 of $3,627,845.
City staff 14 months ago told the council there was no money available to do the actual work. Several council members at the time questioned why the $600,000 plus needed to do all of the work — alleys, parking lots, and sidewalks — couldn’t be done in one fell swoop from the AER account. The staff’s response was they wanted to have that money available for deals that would stimulate economic development.
At the time several citizens spoke questioning why eliminating safety hazards, improving blighted city parking lots, and making downtown more appealing wasn’t considered as important for economic development as cutting deals with Costco, Poag & McEwen to secure Bass Pro Shops and negotiations for a water park resort.
The agenda item does not identify funding for the alleys and parking lots, just the design work.
The City Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org