Drive Lathrop Road from Highway 99 to beyond Airport Way on any given day.
You will find speeding, lots of traffic, and a large number of trucks.
So, you might say, what in the name of Sam Hill is the City of Manteca doing by simply requiring a developer to install a traffic signal as a condition for building 150 apartments along Lathrop Road just west of Union Road?
The location aligned with the entrance next to Raley’s to the shopping center on the south side of Lathrop Road is way too close to the signals at Union and Lathrop roads.
It will have a negative impact on traffic flow, create back-ups, and could even be a safety issue given the short distance between the signalized intersections in relating to traffic — but especially trucks — being subjected to whiplash stop and go movements.
When faced with the same conditions on Louise Avenue west of Cottage Avenue to deal with residential development that would generate sufficient traffic that reaches the threshold requiring signals, the city required a roundabout.
The only difference is there actually more spacing between the intersections on Louise Avenue as opposed to those on Lathrop Road.
Let’s hope the reason the more expensive upfront solution of building a two lane roundabout with adequate area to accommodate trucks wasn’t pursued wasn’t due to the cost the developer would incur or that it would reduce the allowed units given more land is needed for a roundabout solution that Manteca has promoted as the best option for traffic slow and safety in a virtual carbon copy situation on Louise Avenue.
Yes, the zoning allows apartments at the location but that land use designation doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
The city should not sacrifice maximum traffic flow and safety in order to avoid saddling a developer with more costs (the roundabout work could easily top $1 million based on the Louise Avenue project) or maximize how many housing units they can cram on a parcel.
Housing of all types is essential for a city to have. That said it is also essential that Manteca remain livable as it grows.
The Manteca Luxury Apartments as designed fail miserably on that count when it comes to livability.
The roundabout might require 5 to 10 less apartment units to be jammed on the parcel.
Maximizing a developers’ profit or keeping housing costs down are not the most overriding issue in this case. It is how tolerable, safe, and effective Lathrop Road will be as a major traffic corridor not just today but 30 years from now. The city only gets one shot at doing it right.
There is also the question of layout. Why not put the three-story units so they are as close to Lathrop Road as possible with the lower profile clubhouse and the main parking area in the back? We are told such high density housing serves as a buffer for lower density housing. In this case wouldn’t the best buffer be to block the increasing truck traffic noise on Lathrop Road and to address the sight line issue as well?
Let’s be blunt. The biggest issue besides planting the seeds for traffic Armageddon on Lathrop Road is the privacy issues of Del Webb at Woodbridge residents. Developers elsewhere in the city have stepped up with designs to minimize such impacts. They’ve been implemented where a new subdivision is being built against an existing neighborhood of single-story homes. City rules allow for two-story homes. Developers, at the city’s insistence, worked with neighbors. The highest profile example is Curran Grove on the southeast corner of Yosemite and Powers avenues where the developer restricted all homes being built to single stories to address the concerns of Powers Tract residents. In other cases developers agreed not to build two-story homes next to existing single story homes.
The proposed apartments are even higher at three stories.
Either in conjunction with repositioning the apartment buildings or allowing the project to proceed with the existing proposed layout, the city should impose the obvious solution and require the planting of mature Italian cypress with a minimum maintained 40-foot height planted to create a solid barrier along the northern edge of the parcel. Approval of the project would be conditioned on the cypress being maintained at a height 40 feet or taller with the requirement the loss of any cypress must be replaced with one of at least 40 feet within 60 days. They also should be required to initially plant Italian cypress that are at least 20 feet tall at the start of construction giving the trees the ability to add upwards of three feet of annual growth before the first apartment is rented.
Also, what about the city’s great bicycle path plan and it’s stated objective? Why isn’t direct access to the bike path that runs along the northern boundary a condition of approval given at least 300 people would be living in the apartments?
The access would need to be via a controlled gate.
Too often development moves forward in a vacuum. Future traffic safety and flow conditions matter. Encouraging people to bicycle on a separated bike path system that actually connects with amenities does matter. Having existing and new development mesh also matters.
Manteca as it grows needs to become more livable instead of less livable.
The city seems to have a roundabout way to make that happen.
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.