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Downtown vision not clear
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A letter to the editor was posted in the Manteca Bulletin on Nov.  14 regarding the downtown area and whether there is a “clear vision” for its future.

The author stated: “There is a clear vision for downtown. After two years and much discussion, the downtown business merchants overwhelmingly voted to change Maple Avenue back to two-way traffic, and remove the Main Street bulb outs that are obstructing and delaying police, fire and ambulance calls for service.”

There has been no “overwhelming” vote of the business merchants to change Maple back to two lanes NOR remove the bulb-outs. As part of an analysis to determine whether there would be support to form a self-help, self-assessment Property Business Improvement District (PBID), surveys were distributed to both business and property owners within an expanded downtown area. The only “overwhelming” vote expressed was to not support a PBID. Of the approximately 475 business owner surveys hand delivered, and approximately 225 property owner surveys mailed, only 38 property owners and 60 business owner surveys were returned. This represents only a 14 percent return rate.

The survey asked participants to rank the types of services that might be provided through a PBID, with 1 being the most-desirable service, and 8 being the least. The services were consolidated into eight areas: Public Safety, Maintenance Services, Marketing, Special Events, Economic Development, Downtown Identity, Capital Improvements and Advocacy/Communications. The Advocacy/Communications category included the following description:

“Represent downtown issues, ie.

• Zoning and code enforcement

•Façade improvement program

•Bulb-out and median removal


Of the 98 individuals who returned their surveys, only 11 took the time to rank these services at all. Of those 11 who did, only three of them ranked “Advocacy/Communications” in its top four priorities. In fact, this category ranked 7th out of 8. If three individuals out of 700 surveys distributed ranked this issue as a top priority - even just in its top four choices - this represents less than 1 percent of the people surveyed, and 3 percent of those who even responded to the survey at all.

It is also impossible to discern whether those who ranked “Advocacy/Communications” in their top four supported the removal of the bulb-outs and/or medians, or supported keeping them. In fact, one of the surveys returned had written on it “They should remain” next to this category, and ranked it 8th out of 8. Perhaps those who ranked it in their top four were more concerned about zoning changes downtown, or the Redevelopment Agency’s existing façade improvement program. It is impossible to know what their thought process was and, thus, does not support a claim of “overwhelmingly voted to change Maple Avenue back to two-way traffic, and remove the Main Street bulb-outs.” A reader comment at the end of the Letter to the Editor even states: “And I am so sorry, but I must confess, I like the current configuration of Maple (Avenue) in front of the post office.”

Whether the bulb-outs and medians stay or go, or whether Maple Avenue is returned to two-way traffic or remains as it is, are matters that will require additional discussion. If the bulb-outs are removed, should those areas be retained for additional on-street parking? If so, would this also not contribute to “obstructing and delaying police, fire and ambulance calls for service”? Or should all on-street parking, at least in the 100 block of North Main Street, be eliminated. Such an option raises questions about sufficient public parking and traffic speeds in an area where downtown business owners are hoping visitors will stop and shop.

The issue of whether the bulb-outs have “obstructed and delayed police, fire and ambulance calls for service” must also be addressed. Anyone driving through the downtown area during peak commute times, whether in a private vehicle or in an emergency vehicle, are well aware of traffic congestion. Thus, if in a hurry, those same drivers will take alternate routes. I spoke with one of the members of the Manteca District Ambulance Board of Directors, who said the bulb-outs on Main Street have not resulted in one delayed call for ambulance service. The Police Chief and Fire Chief reiterated that statement. If they have an emergency call, they will use alternate routes - unless the emergency is on Main Street.

I assure the author of this Letter to the Editor, that “City Hall” is listening. We at the staff level are attempting to listen to constituents. And for the time being, the message has been far from overwhelming.