Common sense is dead.
You need not look any further for signs of its demise than the early stages of hyperventilating over downtown Manteca’s perceived parking problem.
The latest parking crisis is spurred by the impending loss of public parking places when long-term leases for lots negotiated and improved using redevelopment agency funds. As the leases expire, the funding from tax increments that once flowed to the now defunct RDA to cover the tab goes away. The cost to renew the leases aren’t exactly major budget killers. The city in all likelihood will find a way to cover the tab.
If 185 spaces or so of off-street parking would disappear would that be a death knell for downtown? After all, as businesses fill vacant store fronts and ones that have the potential to create more foot traffic replace existing concerns parking spaces within a block or two of specific destinations may become rare finds.
But will that really be a business killer?
Three recent trips to other older downtowns - twice to Pleasanton and once to Lodi - competing with major newer commercial areas a mile or so away underscore how Manteca’s perennial concern about downtown parking shortages is much ado about nothing.
The first trip to Pleasanton was to the Saturday morning farmers market complete with an alfresco lunch beneath the canopy of a giant oak tree at downtown restaurant. We had to park our vehicle five blocks away. That didn’t deter us or a couple thousand of other folks from flocking to downtown Pleasanton where once there you walk another six or so blocks to take everything in. A return trip for an early dinner and window shopping meant parking three blocks from our ultimate destination.
A trip to Lodi last weekend prompted an excursion into their downtown in search of something different for lunch. We found an appealing place thanks to not an overkill of A-frames but one rather effective sign. We ended up having to walk 2.5 blocks one way once we found a parking space.
Both Lodi and Pleasanton are constricted by older, narrower downtown streets. A heavy abundance of trees put in place as the result of a revitalization effort plus the wonderful mixture of architecture and businesses makes the walk to your destination a pleasant stroll. Manteca has both of those ingredients thanks to the city’s effort a few years back to facelift Yosemite Avenue plus it goes one better with a true downtown gathering place in the form of the expanded and upgraded Library Park.
But what really makes them work is a reason for you to go downtown.
Putting in 1,000 parking spaces won’t help downtown. People who want to go somewhere will do so even if it just involves using those things called feet. If you doubt that, check out given that goes to a shopping center. They often walk about two blocks or so to get to an entrance and then walk another block or so equivalent to get to the store.
Besides, if providing off-street parking is so essential why wasn’t the courthouse on Center Street required to add spaces since they are expanding?
And had the city actually treated the county like private business that want to expand would it have been more pleasant to have large expanse of asphalt parking packed with cars some hours and void most of the time or to simply have cars park on the street in front of nearby residences?
There is not a huge outcry from residents near downtown Manteca during heavy parking times such as the Pumpkin Fair or in Pleasanton for that matter on a daily basis when people park in front of their homes to get to a downtown destination. Most people understand the dynamics of where they live. And - surprisingly to those planners hooked on post World War II development patterns that kowtow to cars - they actually like being able to walk occasionally to do chores, dine or shop.
There is no parking problem downtown.
At the same time, if a “problem” is created because people want to go there then there still isn’t a problem that will choke business.
It may give car-orientated planners as conniption fits but once you see there is no cause and effect between lack of 2012-style parking space standards and the popularity of a downtown it will strike you as simple common sense.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.