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The real question for Manteca city leaders: Why not remove gazebo from Library Park?
gazebo homeless
The homeless gathered at the Library Park gazebo.

What you are about to read may not make some people happy.

City leaders want to do away with the gazebo at Library Park.

They want to move what they can of it — presumably the roof and support structure — elsewhere.

The reason?

The homeless.

No, they would not be throwing in the towel on Library Park.

No, it is not being cruel to the homeless.

What they are pondering doing has the potential to:

*Improve the lot of the homeless.

*Enhance community amenities.

*Reduce vandalism and other issues in Library Park and near the library.

*Help  reduce the homeless presence in downtown.

The backstory helps it make sense.

 The homeless, almost from Day 1 of the Library Park expansion and renovation being completed almost 12 years ago, have essentially commandeered the gazebo.

It — and the amphitheater style seating  — is the de facto daytime congregation spot for the homeless.

And during inclement weather their presence under the gazebo picks up even more.

Before the city started enforcing its park curfew hours that apply to all regardless of homeless status, dozens of homeless used to sleep and set up nightly encampments on and around the gazebo.

The situation has turned off many in Manteca from using Library Park that was designed for the entire community enjoyed not just a small segment.

It is more than just perception driven to a degree by biases amplified by a segment of the homeless population’s behavior and/or appearance.

There is a lot of gritty reality that the city  — as well as the library staff and patrons, nearby merchants, and nearby residents — deal with day in and day out. Most of us don’t see it because the city invests a significant amount of time and energy to make sure the telltale signs of problems created are cleaned up on essentially a daily basis.

Vandalism. Garbage strewn about. The No. 2 end result of one’s daily business dumped in the shrubbery. Used needles.

The city could ignore it but then the conditions for blight would take hold.

That is the danger of treating such small but perplexing problems as if they were mere background noise. It is why the city needs to think out of the box.

That is why  the gazebo may be on the move.

The homeless — just like anyone else — are free to hang out at Library Park — during the hours that it is open.

Hanging out is not a crime.

Nor is being homeless.

Manteca is spending close to $800,000 a year just to make sure the homeless have basic needs met at the temporary emergency facility at 555 Industrial Park Drive.

Until such time portable buildings donated by the Manteca Christian Center have been remodeled to meet state standards to be used as dorms, the homeless have been encouraged to pitch tents and such within the secure fencing of 555 Industrial Drive so they  can have a safe place to sleep at night.

In addition to outreach services to assist the homeless and to help work toward getting them off the streets, there will be a “dayroom” included where the homeless can gather complete with TV and such.

It will be a safe place to hang out. It will provide protection from inclement weather.

The city is also going forward with making an investment approaching $20 million using primarily state funds with the balance being federal dollars to build and furnish a homeless navigation center. It will include  “tiny homes” for transitional housing compete in addition to beds for those committed to programs aimed at getting them off the street.

These are not the actions of a city being cruel to the homeless.

Unless your definition of cruel is not providing a place for homeless that are inclined to do so to partake in drugs as well as vandalize and trash public property either out of boredom, indifference, or drug-induced decision making.

The city by relocating the gazebo to let’s say the northeastern side of the large storm retention at Woodward Park — away from where soccer fields are — can provide the community with a useable amenity while delivering on a broken promise.

At one point city leaders — not the current ones — talked glowingly about locating an amphitheater in the storm retention basin at Woodward Park

It was seen as a way to provide a low-key concert venue that could even support things such as outdoor theatrical performances and such.

The idea at the time was to cerate amphitheater style seating using concrete work on the storm retention basin’s slopes.

The talk was of a venue that could accommodate upwards of 1,000 people.

The city can make a version of that possible by relocating the gazebo.

Manteca does need to invest in concrete seating as the basin’s grassy slopes provide elevated “seating” using blankets.

Placement of a gazebo in  such a manner that there would be a reasonable amount of lawn chair seating available on grass in the basin would accommodate others who aren’t wild fans of blankets.

There would be some costs — and concrete work needed.

That list would include:

*Extending electricity to the area.

*Providing ADA access to the basin much the way the city did with the  Spreckels Park BMX course where a sidewalk zig zags to reduce the grade into manageable slopes for those in wheelchair and such.

*Additional concrete work would be needed for a place for those in wheelchairs to enjoy concerts and such.

*The gazebo itself would need a concrete “stage”.

There is already plenty of nearby parking.

There are also existing restrooms although they are a slight hike away.

None of this precludes the city someday — if the response to concerts and such becomes strong enough — replacing the gazebo with more of a traditional open amphitheater stage or even adding concrete amphitheater-style seating.

The city could also revive another adopted idea that was allowed to languish and die  -- the creation of an elevated segment  of the storm basin for additional restrooms and a concession area to support soccer games and even baseball/softball games for youth within the basin.

Meanwhile, the city will have a somewhat shady area for outdoor concert and such they people can enjoy.

If all goes well, it could be the impetus needed to spark a drive toward more community-based cultural and arts endeavors.

Meanwhile, the city can work at bringing people back to Library Park which in turn will help not just downtown but make the central city neighborhoods near downtown more livable.

The question isn’t why move the gazebo.

The real question is why not?


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at