Is downtown too dark when it comes to public parking lots after the sun goes down?
Brenda Franklin — who for decades has worked in downtown at Tipton’s — told the Manteca City Council the answer is clear. She suggested the elected officials take a drive after nightfall through the triangle parking lot in the 100 block of South Maple and the one in the 100 block of North Maple.
Such an inspection drive Saturday night through the two Maple Avenue lots and one through the city-owned parking lot at the nearby Transit Center on Moffat Boulevard showed a contrast as sharp as night and day.
The one on South Maple Avenue had two vehicles of which one was obviously a makeshift home on wheels. Nearby in the area between the Tidewater Bikeway — that under city ordinances is closed from dusk to dawn — and the parking lot a small group of individuals loitered with a shopping cart and assorted bags nearby. It was definitely dark.
The North Maple Avenue lot had vehicles parked and was fairly dark as well.
Tipton’s comments came during last week’s City Council meeting where the council agreed to spend an additional $19,320 on design work to upgrade the South Maple Avenue parking lot and the alley behind the south side of the 100 block of West Yosemite Avenue that runs from South Maple to South Main.
That is in addition to design work that’s being done 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 also includes 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.
City staff noted lighting is being included in the design work for all three of the parking lots.
Franklin pointed out that the South Maple parking lot was the newest and the least in need of work adding she’d prefer to see money invested in lighting on the North Maple Avenue parking lot. Staff concurred about the better condition of the parking lot but added work was being proposed to avoid it from slipping into the state of disrepair of other older parking lots.
Spot checks on Thursday and Friday throughout the day confirmed Franklin’s observations that the triangle parking lot was rarely used given that only one vehicle was spotted during mid-morning and mid-afternoon visits on each day. However when there was a billiards room and restaurant with outdoor patio open last decade, the parking lot would often be a third to half full.
Efforts by code enforcement and Manteca Police — working with downtown merchants reporting problems — seems to have resulted in a significant drop in unwanted activity in and around the South Maple Avenue parking lot. A year ago, there were periodic nightly makeshift fires for barbecuing that the homeless had in the lot away from buildings. Trash seems to be less of a problem and issues dealing with vagrants breaking into vacant buildings appears to have dropped off significantly.
Making sure there is adequate, safe, well-lit, and attractive off-street parking that was well marked with directional signs was identified as a key need in the 1998 document regarding downtown that was included in the Vision 2020 Task Force report.
The city’s goal is to address the three aging and deteriorating downtown parking lots — along with three alley segments riddled with cracks and potholes — and have design work completed identifying what work needs to be done.
A funding source for the actual work hasn’t been identified. 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.
Councilwoman Debby Moorhead asked what the city was doing about a pothole that “she bottomed out in” while driving in the alley behind the south side of the 100 block of West Yosemite Avenue.
Staff said that the pothole was actually within a private parking lot. Mayor Steve DeBrum added staff was planning to address it through code enforcement given it was a private property maintenance issue.
The city almost a decade ago tried to work with the property owners involved to redesign of that parking lot in exchange for it being available to the general public for a set number of years but the property owners rejected the idea.
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