Manteca is about to lose another round to the criminal homeless.
Its first loss is celebrated every day on the sidewalk by the East Yosemite Avenue McDonald’s. If you don’t think this is a loss name another city that allows the homeless to openly BBQ on a major commercial street.
The next loss has even bigger consequences than the city essentially conceding control of a city sidewalk because they are worried what a pack of San Francisco lawyers may do to them on behalf of a trio of homeless men who are toiling mightily to sour the good nature of Manteca residents against their law-abiding homeless colleagues that are struggling to survive.
Manteca is about to lose a park and the only standing tribute to Spreckels Sugar — the Spreckels Historical Plaza behind the Chevron at Yosemite and Spreckels avenues.
The plaza was a $250,000 gift — not a requirement — to the City of Manteca and its residents by Mike Atherton and Bill Filios along with then partner Bing Kirk. They each essentially gave up $83,333 in profits they realized for helping the city erase a potential cancerous blight at its front doorstep by taking a risk that no one else would. Not only did they tear down the old factory unlike shuttered versions near Salinas and in Tracy but they gave it new life and in doing so triggered a Manteca commercial and business park boom.
The three men — who came within a week of losing their collective proverbial shirts in the early going when mounting environmental remediation costs almost did them in financially before Porter Homes of Lodi closed a deal to buy the land where the Curran Grove neighborhood now stands — felt a real kinship with the Manteca residents that depended upon the processing of sugar beets for more than 75 years to raise their families.
It was from that reverence that the four pseudo sugar silos created from up-ended storm culvert pipe were put in place to represent the four 15-story silos that once dominated Manteca’s skyline. At their base bricks from the old sugar processing factory were used to create sidewalks and raised planters doubling as benches. It was accented with tasteful landscaping. This not only was it done on the dime of the three developers but it has been maintained for the past 14 years from their pockets.
The Spreckels Historical Plaza is now doomed to go the way of the Spreckels Sugar plant thanks to the criminal homeless.
After battling the destructive tide of criminal homeless for the past few years, they are throwing in the towel.
Atherton and his partners decided it was time to face reality last week. Manteca’s out-of-control homeless have essentially turned their vision for a historical plaza to celebrate Spreckels Sugar into the nicest looking homeless park around although the criminal homeless have worked overtime to trash it up.
The removal of landscaping in favor of bare ground behind Chevron last year ended the use of the park as an open air bathroom for the homeless. They have long since ripped all copper wire from the plaza. The homeless still sleep there and gather on a daily basis parking their carts, tossing their trash, and doing what they wish.
And just like areas in other cities that the homeless have seized control of, it has attracted other criminal activity. Besides destroying some of the improvements, graffiti is being painted on the bricks and even the silos. Blight is taking hold despite the constant effort by Atherton and his partners to keep it at bay.
Sometime in the coming weeks a cyclone fence will go up. It will be tasteful — just like other endeavors associated these days with the names of Atherton, Filios and their partners. Plastic slats will be placed in the fence. It will stay that way until such time as they figure a way to repurpose the site for another venture.
That makes the score Criminal Homeless 2, Manteca 0.
Before you dismiss these as minor losses, you might want to look at the bigger picture.
Unlike every other city whether it is Stockton, Modesto, Livermore, Pleasanton, San Jose — you name the place — the criminal homeless aren’t seizing control of older parts of the city.
Instead they are slowly but surely taking over one of Manteca’s prime business parks and retail areas that is barely 16 years old.
If you doubt that ask people who work at Food 4 Less how the covered walkways in front of the other stores in the center — including directly in front of the Chase ATM — become Motel 6 for the homeless at night. Unlike in other cities, the homeless in Manteca have become so bold they take up quarters not behind older stores but in front of new ones.
Their homeless encampments border Spreckels Park and the 120 Bypass leaving a negative impression of Manteca on the 100,000 plus travelers that whiz by each day. They set up housekeeping in the landscaping along the Spreckels Avenue bike path and in the shrubs behind the Spreckels Park brick monument signs facing Moffat Boulevard.
In short they are telling the business world don’t locate in Manteca as the city is unable to keep a lid on the homeless.
So when will the Manteca City Council say enough is enough?