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Shifting Yosemite thru traffic to Moffat via extension is needed to change downtown
yosemite avenue
Shown is the north side of the 100 and 200 block of West Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca.

Toby Wells does not have a dog, per se, in the hunt for downtown’s future.

How he tackles the issue that has been the bane of city management since at least 1962, however, could be a decisive factor in whether he can outlast the Carl Ripken of Manteca city managers, Bob Adams, before he was benched after 12 years.

Wells with just a month under his belt as city manager is just barely into the “getting his bearings” stage.

To be clear in the overall scheme of things, downtown’s transformation beyond what it is today with seven financial institutions, a strong presence of furniture stores, thriving ethnic businesses, and the private sector doubling down big time on its being Manteca’s traditional celebratory and community fundraising event venue is not at the top of the list of the voters’ a concerns when it comes to issues the City Council has some say in.

Downtown is easily topped on the issues list by homeless concerns, street pavement upkeep, traffic congestion, public safety, flooding, affordable housing for paychecks earned in Manteca or the valley, growing train traffic, and even the sleeper issue of adequate water supply.

Wells knows a thing of two about redirecting the path downtowns take. He had a hand in the initial foundational work for successful transformations of the downtowns in Turlock and Livermore as a public works engineer. The downtown Ceres redo was during his watch as that community’s city manager.

Wells clearly can’t lead the charge for downtown in terms of what it should be or securing buy in.

There are two practical reasons for that based on 50 plus years of realty.

Despite talking it up more times than Tom Brady has won Super Bowls, property owners and business tenants have steadfastly resisted “taxing” themselves via a business improvement district to finance even the most rudimentary marketing and upgrade strategies. Real buy in occurs when you put your money on the table.

The other has to do with what Mayor Ben Cantu astutely calls a lack of political will over the years by councils when it comes to downtown. Some would not be as kind as Cantu and simply say councils historically have lacked backbone to follow through not just in downtown but a whole list of community upgrades that don’t involve sewer, water, or new interchanges.

It is why before staff and council get all giddy about doing their once, sometimes, twice a decade taxpayer contribution to the world cruise funds of consultants for either central district traffic or a downtown plan, elected officials need to get a consensus on the one issue that needs to be resolved before consultants are hired.

That one issue is overall city traffic flow given downtown is smack dab in the center of two key arterials — one that goes south-north and the other that goes east-west — just like it has been for more than 103 years.

While Community Services Director Chris Erias is confident that such a traffic study will provide the key to the riddle of downtown, it is highly doubtful that will be the case without the council weighing in first on a general directive they can agree to and champion instead of simply leaving it to city hall to try and sell.

Wells alluded to the need when he talked last week about community leaders deciding the purpose of Main Street as it relates to downtown. It needs to be deemed either a roadway to move traffic from one end of the community to the other or to bring people to a downtown as a destination.

Wells has the right debate but the wrong street.

The street that decision must be made for is Yosemite Avenue.

There are two reasons.

Main Street clearly has to move volumes of traffic.

Take a look at Manteca today and the land use pattern the general plan update is being molded to support for the next 20 plus years. It puts all growth to the north and south until some point in the future where urban reserves to the northeast are developed.

That means no more north-south arterials will be built. And while Airport Way and Union Road will clearly see jumps in traffic counts, transforming Cottage Avenue beyond its hybrid status of collective street/arterial would be an all-out nightmare.

We already know thanks to the seven years it took the city to secure vacant land needed to simply build the missing link to connect Industrial Park Drive to Spreckels Avenue there is no way anyone on the current or future councils would have the stomach to force the sale of land from no less 50 homeowners along Cottage between Yosemite Avenue and Lathrop Road. And that doesn’t include the expensive little detail of needing to widen the Highway 99 overpass.

The other reason is there is no way to have Main Street traffic bypass downtown and to cross the train tracks without going to Cottage Avenue/Spreckels Avenue or wiping out hundreds of houses to create a corridor with the Walnut Avenue railroad crossing.

Yosemite Avenue is a different story. Plus when you look at how it can create another access to the growing southeast portion of the city, it has numerous pluses with minimal impact on property in terms of acquisition.

The idea has actually been floated by Cantu and Councilman Gary Singh although in somewhat different visions.

Both see Yosemite between Library Park and possibly as far east to Fremont Avenue as an ideal place to lay the foundation for trendy dining and such by widening the sidewalks significantly, planting real shade trees, having little or no parking, and perhaps making it a one way. It certainly has the lion’s share of buildings that are “downtown-ish” instead of Main Street that looks more the 1950s, 1960s stand-alone and/or strip center mentality.

Cantu envisioned couplets at both ends of the downtown Yosemite segment.

Singh, who likes the idea, has added a congestion solution. Simply send Yosemite Avenue to the south behind the 100 and 200 blocks of West Yosemite Avenue and connect it with Moffat Boulevard.

Given most of the land in question is city owned, there are only three privately owned properties that would be affected. The two lane street would have no parking and would run alongside the Tidewater Bikeway.

Perhaps the best part is it would connect with Moffat that was upgraded 15 years ago and is wide enough to accommodate four lanes of traffic and turn lanes.

Not only would it connect with Spreckels/Industrial Park Drive but the new alignment with Woodward Avenue that is part of the 120/Bypass/Austin Road interchange Caltrans project breaking ground next year will have a robust connection to Atherton Drive and Austin Road.

It would put the transit center that will be a complete transit hub when Altamont Corridor Express service starts in 2023 at the corner of two key arterials.

As for the downtown properties in the 100 and 200 blocks of Yosemite Avenue there would be an incentive to create two attractive access points with one facing Yosemite Avenue and the other that would essentially be an extension of Moffat.


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