Dilapidated trailers. Debris stacked in piles. A rundown picket fence. And on some days there are more shopping carts than at a Dollar General Store.
It’s all part of Manteca’s $8.3 million view.
It can be seen from Manteca’s gleaming new and stylish grand central-themed transit center. It’s the trailer park on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Moffat Boulevard that has seen better days.
There’s no sharper contrast in Manteca that captures the two extreme ends of the local economy: One is fueled by the inflow of Bay Area commute dollars and commercial/industrial development capitalizing on Manteca’s location at the heart of one of the nation’s fastest growing and lucrative regional markets. The other reflects the underbelly of economic reality in the San Joaquin Valley of people struggling to make ends meet in a fairly tight local job market while dealing with living costs driven upward in part by growth.
It’s too easy to fault the city on this one. Manteca has done a Herculean job with the Moffat Boulevard corridor in the past 12 years. What was once a strip of old rundown buildings attracting transients, illegal truck parking, dumping of trash along the road, an old feed lot and a street with few sidewalks and almost no curb and gutters is now a viable corridor. Today, you will find many of the dilapidated buildings gone. In their place is the tree-lined Tidewater Bikeway, a storm basin doubling as a mini park, the new transit station, sidewalks along with curbs and gutters, a BMX track, the southern entrance to Spreckels Park, Manteca Commerce Park, and Crossroads Community Church with its modernistic and inviting architecture.
While there is work still to be done, it is no longer your father’s Moffat Boulevard.
Part of that work is what to do with Manteca’s poorest. Some work, some are retired, some are disabled, and some are on government support.
The more hardcore down-and-out find a helping hand at the HOPE Family Shelter. The city has taken steps to provide affordable workforce housing — read that housing for people that make the traditional prevailing private retail sector wages in Manteca — in the form of upscale looking apartments on Atherton Drive with subsidized rents. Those in between are left to their own means.
And those means often require them to rent space from landlords for efficiency apartments such as boarding rooms or space in an aging trailer park. In some cases, the landlords either are absent or have little means to police their property or let alone make improvements.
A decade ago when some of the landlords involved with renting second floor rooms in downtown Manteca became particularly derelict in their basic landlord duties, the city unleashed a multi-department and multi-agency team to address and correct fire, health and safety code violations as well as crime. The end result was a massive clean-up. It benefited not just merchants downtown and those who patronized them but honest, hardworking folks caught up in the mess and who were among the renters.
That has been done to a degree at the trailer park.
What is needed is a long-term solution that will encourage investment in the central district to create jobs and other economic opportunities.
Although the city has lost redevelopment — arguably the most effective tool it ever had in its arsenal to implement such charges — the city still holds some cards.
The willingness of developers such as Atherton Homes to bring back bonus bucks in exchange for sewer allocation certainty offers a golden opportunity. That assumes the city stays away from using them to supplement overspending in the general fund.
Those bonus bucks could be parlayed instead into investments in affordable housing projects that include street level retail and office space in areas in the central district such the trailer park property.
It would involve creating partnerships between property owners in the central district and developers.
Instead of paying bonus bucks, the developers could build multi-use structures in the central district free of the need to provide parking, paying sewer and water connection fees, and paying for other growth-related amenities. That way the equivalent of bonus bucks could be directed into building new housing and other space. The property owners could either sell to the developer or become a partner. Either which way, the housing created could be required to meet affordable housing rent standards for perhaps a 40-year period.
It will take a lot of work and time.
But if something like it isn’t done, blighted property and deplorable living conditions will continue to be part of the $8.3 million view.
Manteca has shown it has the moxie to blaze creative ways to lure retail and other investments. It needs to also step up efforts to transform the city’s core and to address serious housing needs.
Let other cities use the excuse that transit and bus stations tend to be located in less desirable parts of a city. Manteca can do better than taking the same cavalier attitude that may other jurisdictions do.
Thinking out of the box and finding ways for new growth to truly raise the standard of living for all in Manteca is needed.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.