San Joaquin County back in the early-1990s used eminent domain to force an elderly Manteca woman out of her long-time home in the 200 block of North Sherman Avenue.
Garth Stapley - who was a reporter for the Manteca Bulletin at the time - asked if she thought the price the county gave her was fair. Her reply was to the point: It didn’t matter if it was fair or not since her home had been paid off and at her age she was unlikely to be able to buy anything comparable in Manteca given the prices. The forced sale of her home ended up forcing her to move away from Manteca.
The county wanted the home so they could add parking to the adjoining Manteca courthouse branch fronting Center Street.
Fast forward almost 20 years.
The home is still standing and is now a rental. It was used for a while for courthouse storage.
And now the county is in the process of replacing an existing portable with a larger permanent 7,000-square-foot structure adjacent to the courthouse. Still the house stands and there is no parking lot.
What the county did was ruthless and obviously unneeded.
And if off-street parking seems to have been a big deal at one time, then why isn’t the county being required to add it now that it is putting in a permanent building?
It is a legitimate question, because government agencies obviously get preferential treatment in Manteca. If you doubt that, ask a chiropractor who bought a home on Center Street to the east just a few years ago.
His intent was to take an existing house and convert it into offices as the zoning allows. But guess what? He was told by the city in no uncertain terms that he needed more off-street parking and there was inadequate room on the lot. So he graveled the front yard and rented the house out.
The City of Manteca has, over the past few years, talked about becoming more business-friendly, whether it is for the little guy, the big guy or someone wanting to make an improvement to their home.
That’s not saying that they haven’t improved things, but they still haven’t really busted the chains that arguably are holding back a transformation of areas near downtown, such as along Center Street, that they have said for years they want to see happen.
There needs to be a relaxation of parking standards or perhaps ultimately a conversion of part of Center Street to diagonal parking in order to allow the spread of business, professional and - in appropriate areas - retail investment along the corridor.
The city never gets to addressing Center Street or other peripheral areas around the city’s core because it has dumped so much energy into Manteca’s version of the 100 Year War battling with merchants and property owners in trying to reach common ground on what to do with the old downtown.
There’s a lot going on in old downtown but the writing is on the wall. As areas like the North Main Street complex anchored by Coldwell Banker Real Estate and Oak Valley Community Bank pop up on the perimeter as well as shopping areas on the four corners of Manteca it is going to become more and more difficult to keep the area vibrant.
A comprehensive “downtown” plan is impossible to cobble together and implement based on what hasn’t happened over the past 35-plus years. That is why the city needs to take the first step and lift off-street parking requirements for uses designed to add new life to the central district, whether it is retail, business, professional or high density residential.
There is a tremendous amount of existing street parking.
Drop the parking requirement until such time as it is needed.
As things stand now, the city obviously doesn’t really believe that more off-street parking is necessary.
The courthouse is a testament to that.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.