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If Manteca goes with a navigation center at Qualex they need to homeless proof the area
homeless mess
The homeless often trash — and defecate — on public and private property in areas screened from the street by landscaping or the layout of buildings. This is a file photo of the railroad right-of-way adjacent to Library Park in downtown Manteca.

 You have a cutting edge green business that offers one of the few viable paper bottles in the world made from recycled materials.

While you’re not a Fortune 500 company with an army of workers, you have a solid history of employment and providing decent paying jobs. You’re located in the Bay Area but you’re looking to expand in a place that is business friendly.

That’s where Manteca comes into play. Manteca wants jobs.

Manteca also has an older industrial park without the mega distribution centers in high demand today. A business park, by the way, where the building that once housed the city’s largest private sector employer with 800 jobs had its vacant building gutted and trashed by the homeless seeking copper wiring. The Manteca Police at one point put the damage to the former Indy Electronics plant that was repurposed as Alphatec and then Turnkey Solutions in excess of $1.5 million. The building has sat empty for over 12 years.

Still you take a chance as you see a lot of good things happening in Manteca. So in 2012 you buy a building on Carnegie Street that backs up to the vacant Qualex building in the Manteca Industrial Park. You move Ecological Brands’ manufacturing plant and more than two dozen jobs to Manteca.

The city holds you up as an example of how business friendly Manteca is.

Fast forward seven years. You have just endured the second of two temporary homeless outreach efforts by the city that took place in a tent set up in the Qualex parking lot.

During those two tent events the fence between your property and the Qualex site was cut numerous times. Homeless were found sleeping on your grass and even trying to make parts of your property their new home. Pallets were stolen. Your building was broken into numerous times and items stolen and property destroyed. You got to enjoy the smell of human feces and urine on the outside of your building. There was non-stop tossing of beer and alcohol bottles dumped onto your property along with other trash. Aggressive panhandlers entered your building looking for money.

Now for the zinger: The city wants to make all those problems permanent.

You finally got wind of the city’s intent to buy the Qualex property to convert it into a homeless navigation center. The city, while not hiding the fact, downplays that the goal is to provide 212 beds based on Manteca’s most recent point in time count of the city’s homeless so the city can meet court requirements in order to enforce anti-camping and quality of life laws.

You raise your concerns and the city makes it clear if they decide to pursue the purchase of the Qualex building with the intent to use it for the homeless they will work closely with nearby property owners to address issues.

That’s honorable and nice but in reality someone has a duty to throw a lot of ice cold water in the faces of the nearby businesses.

Once the city takes steps to buy the building there is no turning back. Concerns about homeless shelters being allowed in a business park go out the window under state laws that require cities to provide one zone where they can be allowed regardless of how many people protest.

Politically speaking, the majority of the council right or wrong, has concluded the Qualex site is the only one that will work in all of Manteca. Once it is in place it allows the city to start addressing homeless issues more aggressively. Derailing the train will be next to impossible once it takes off in earnest.

The best outcome is one that even before the city closes escrow, there are mitigations outlined the city guarantees will happen to protect the integrity of the business park.

On a drive through the Manteca Industrial Park on Tuesday there was barely a sign of the homeless. Granted some are well hidden. Compare that to the last time the tent was up. Not only did Industrial Park Drive have a steady stream of homeless although most accessing the tent were driven their by vans, but there were at any given time at least four vehicles clearly belonging to the homeless that they were living in parked along the industrial park streets.

Inner City Action made it a point to intercede when the homeless who were not staying in their warming tent overnight but were accessing services during the day tried to set up encampments on nearby property.

It is clear the city needs to assure neighboring business that if it does take over the Qualex site they will erect 7-foot masonry walls on at least three sides of the property.

On street parking in the business park should be by city issued permits only in the form of dashboard placards businesses can issue to workers, guests, or trucks that may need to park for hours at a time. Once a day, seven days a week the city needs to send a community service officer through the business park and — after an initial month of warnings — start towing vehicles without the proper placards.

The city also should use economic development funds to award grants to concerns in the industrial park that want to place decorative security wrought iron fencing that should be allowed to be 7 feet high along the back of curbing given there are no sidewalks in the industrial park. Police should patrol the area twice a day to get any homeless to move on as the only public places left at that point would be the streets. It is safe to assume even the courts won’t say the homeless have a right to camp, sleep, sit, or lie in a street.

Essentially the city needs to make a serious commitment to homeless proof the Manteca Industrial Park if the area is to carry the burden of a homeless shelter that would reduce homeless issues elsewhere proportionately.

The fencing grants can be justified as they will prevent blight and thus a flight of jobs that would have the potential to turn the Manteca Business Park into a slum.

Manteca has a rare opportunity to put a homeless solution in place that does right by the homeless that are willing to help themselves to get off the streets, to help improve the quality of life for the community and to avoid a navigation center/homeless shelter from becoming a cancerous sore by attracting homeless to camp nearby in an overflow situation or so they are able to access services without fully committing to a program.