By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Teeming sidewalks in Sausalito, bare concrete in Manteca
Placeholder Image

Walking along sidewalks in historic Sausalito you get stunning views of the San Francisco skyline.

You also get something else: dining al fresco.

Sidewalks that are narrower than the ones you will find in downtown Manteca offer small tables and chairs to enjoy everything from a cup of coffee to a meal.  Two people walking side-by-side can barely file by. They obviously attract a lot of tourists but there are a good number of locals sitting along the main drag known as Bridgeway. The same is true for a number of cafes and such alongside streets.

So why can Sausalito do it and not Manteca?

The answer: Attitude.

At least four times in the past decade the issue of allowing chairs and tables on downtown sidewalks has been brought up. Each time advocates were told point blank it is a liability issue. There was a time, though, when former Planning Director Gene Raycraft tried to cobble together a city policy allowing such uses if specific requirements were met but it went nowhere when he departed city employment.

Sidewalks downtown once were as narrow as those in Sausalito. That was until the 1970s when the city widened them and added the original tree wells by taking out part of Yosemite Avenue.

The City of Manteca - to its credit - has invested in streetscape, plazas, and even assisted with the mural project to give downtown more ambiance.

Now if they can just get off their bureaucratic high horse and set downtown free of suffocating regulations the central district of Manteca might just have a chance to save itself from fading into oblivion as the city grows.

There is a lot of viable businesses downtown but there are also a lot of vacant storefronts. Part of it has to do with the economy but part of it has to do with the rules.

The last time a big surge of private sector investment occurred in downtown was when the city lifted the parking restrictions.

Yes, the city should worry about liability. But guess what? If liability was a reason not to go forward then why did the city put in the skate park or the BMX park? In both cases risk management folks and lawyers had coronaries warning about the liability considerations. Being an incorporated city in itself is a liability. This is California where parents sue schools for disciplining their kids for cheating on tests.   

Sausalito is no different than Manteca in that it  is subject to the same liability concerns.

Manteca is not Sausalito with its hordes of tourists amid a playground of wealthy households. But downtown Manteca will never secure its future if burdensome regulatory chains aren’t lifted.

People need a reason to go downtown. There are good reasons to go there already if you’re looking for things such as a good deal on mattresses, specialized office supplies or gifts and a host of other things. But what really gets things to critical mass are reasons for people to go there for leisure activities such as dining, browsing, and entertainment. Look at Lodi. Look at Pleasanton. Look at Livermore.

The city - or a trade organization - can devise all the fancy plans they want. But until rudimentary issues are addressed such as the ability to have sidewalk dining nothing is going to happen.

The assumption is if you create a grandiose plan and then devise the rules that something great will happen. After 40 years one has to ask the question: So how is that working for everyone?

The better way is to peel back restrictions to encourage entrepreneurship. You might just be surprised at what happens..

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 or 209-249-3519.