Manteca’s mish mash approach to major arterials continues unabated.
Manteca’s planners relieved Meritage Homes of any obligation to work to avoid future traffic safety issues triggered by their 42-home Silva Estates project and future development along South Union Road.
The project that was approved earlier this month by the Manteca Planning Commission and has yet to receive final approval from the Manteca City Council was originally proposed to be required to address roughly 200 feet of Union Road widening north of the project to where it intersects at Woodward Avenue.
Staff wanted to avoid creating a repeat of the Louise Avenue situation where two eastbound lanes go down to one land and back to two lanes east of North Main Street due to existing homes. Louise Avenue has been configured that way for over 30 years. It has become a safety and traffic flow issue as drivers speed up to beat others to the merge lane.
It is also reminiscent of the safety hazard for pedestrians created when parts of Louise Avenue east of Cottage Avenue were not widened when the city approved the California Classics neighborhood in the early 1990s. It brought a significant number of school children and bicyclists heading to school on a shoulder less stretch of Louise Avenue with their back to traffic that moved at relatively high speed as it came in from the rural portions of the city.
The safety issue was finally remedied on the city’s dime several years ago by widening the short stretch and putting in curbs, gutters, and sidewalks.
To remedy the situation on Louise Avenue, Manteca one day will likely need to go through costly and prolonged and expensive eminent domain proceedings to secure the right-of-way to widen the major east-east corridor while at the same time creating ill will with the homeowners whose houses will likely be virtually on top of the roadway.
The two property owners north of the Silva Estates project reportedly have indicated they were open to working with the developer to allow Union Road to be widened for all the needed northbound right of way as well as to place curbs, gutters, and sidewalks for pedestrian safety as well as those of bicyclists.
By dropping the requirement at Meritage Homes’ insistence, the city will officially be creating another Louise Avenue squeeze lane with a barricade right on top of a major intersection.
While the two smaller property owners would be obligated to move forward with the improvements if and when they develop, the odds are great that Union Road will be widened to four lanes south of that point long before it happens given the bulk of 9,700 homes in various stages of approval in Manteca are south of the 120 Bypass with Union Road being almost smack dab in the center of that growth pattern.
The staff move raises several issues:
uIt seems to go counter to City Council statements and actions that stress stepping up pedestrian and bicyclist safety wherever possible. The more homes approved south of Woodward Avenue along South Union means more people will be walking along the edge of the road.
uIt could put city taxpayers on the hook to correct a problem created by growth years down the road using the expensive eminent domain process that also comes with political liabilities.
uIt avoids seeking input from elected leaders on possibly implementing policies that other high growth cities have employed over the years when land didn’t develop in a smooth fashion along major corridors.
Other cities do the work
and then get reimbursed
when development occurs
What other cities have done is to put in place policies that assure the smooth development of major corridors such as Union Road to avoid the creation of what know exists on Louise Avenue east of South Main Street.
Manteca currently has a policy that requires a developer of any street — including major arterials — that are on the edge of their project to put in place all of the improvements touching their property to the centerline including curbs, gutter and sidewalks. They are also required to put in a travel lane on the other side of the center line if it doesn’t l exist. The balance of street improvements is installed when a developer develops the land across the street.
As cities like Roseville discovered years ago some property may not develop for years creating situations where heavily travelled four lane roads go down to two lanes and then back to four lanes.
How some other cities get around the situation is by requiring the developer of property adjacent to a planned arterial to secure the entire right-of-way easement. They are required to only pay for improvements to the centerline. The city then borrows from growth fees collected for major roads — in Manteca’s case it would be the transportation portion of the Public Facilities Improvement Plan (PFIP) fees — to put in the rest of the section of the street in question.
Then — at some future point when the undeveloped property is improved — the cost of making those improvements is reimbursed by the next dev eloper based on what the city paid.
If the property in question has existing homes or is too small to develop on as scale large enough to cover the costs of the roadway, some cities will simply dip into road fees that are slapped on growth to complete the work.
Municipal staff in Manteca — at least not in the last 27 years — has never presented the council with such an option to consider.
The Union Road situation is not the only place such issues are emerging. It has happened on South Main Street between Tannehill Drive and Pear Tree Lane. The same situation will be created elsewhere south of the 120 Bypass as there are smaller parcels not under the control of developers that will be sandwiched between new neighborhoods as development occurs along designated arterials and even collector streets.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org