Burning question: This landscaping is OK?

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, 2019-08-13 03:03:45

How can a major commercial property that went through an extensive review process that mandated the planting and maintaining of landscaping not only allow it to die but turn into one of the city’s most high profile fire hazards?

Something obviously isn’t working.

If there was a contest for the largest eyesore in Manteca when it comes to sporting the most dead vegetation, Manteca Bowl at Cottage Avenue and East Yosemite Avenue would be the runaway winner. Manteca Bowl happens to be owned by Bowlero Corp., the largest 10-pin bowling center in the world with more than 300 centers.

The dead landscaping is primarily shrubbery along Cottage Avenue and Cottage Court although there is rather one tall and dead pine tree along Cottage Court. There is a significant difference between a few weeds and untidy property and what Bowlero has unleashed.

Whether this has gotten the attention of Manteca Fire isn’t the main issue although it certainly is a serious question.

It conjures up a point Mayor Ben Cantu made during his 2016 campaign, two years prior to being elected.

He had rattled off a number of projects the city had placed conditions on when he worked as a city planner that were well vetted at public meetings and — in some cases — were made to placate honest concerns of neighbors. What they had in common was the fact the property owner subsequently had ripped out landscaping and replaced it with cement, asphalt or converted it to dirt. None of that had been approved by the city. The actions essentially were in open defiance of the conditions for approval of the project.

Cantu in 2016 vowed, if elected, to work to put in a system that held property owners accountable. Whether he still believes it is something the city must follow through on, the very least someone on the council might want to do is ask what is going on.

Shortly after Bowlero purchased the bowling alley they cut water off to shrubs along Yosemite Avenue and yanked them out. They left the trees in place. The ground was left as dirt. Compare that to the landscaping next door at Habit Burger, Panda Express, and even the 1950s era shopping center anchored by Grocery Outlet.

They all have landscaping behind the sidewalk that includes bark on top of the dirt to reduce dust, conserve water, and improve aesthetics.

I say “even the 1950s era shopping center” not only because it is a good 50 years older than Bowlero but Councilman Gary Singh’s family has business interests in the complex.

If Mom and Pop businesses can strive to beautify what they can of a 1950s-style center built when asphalt was king and landscaping an afterthought if considered at all, you’d think a major international corporation could either step up or be held accountable to city rules without someone having to rat fink to the city.

In fairness to City Manager Tim Ogden and municipal employees, we get the city that the council allows.

Manteca, contrary to the maddening Greek chorus that populates Facebook, gets a lot of things right. But it often falls short on the little things. 

This requires time and money which means more manpower and perhaps tapping into nearly $2 million stockpiled in an economic reserve.

It’s kind of priceless the City of Manteca has invested in wayfaring signs directing visitors to places like Manteca Bowl, which judging by the TLC they have given an extremely large swath of highly visible landscaping, looks like a dump.

At the very least if Bowlero’s intent was to cut cost by not watering or having to pay for a landscaping service they could at least of had the decency to rip the shrubs out.

And whether Bowlero indeed has plans to replace dead grass, dead shrubs, and dead trees as well as knock down three-foot and higher weeds you’d think they would at least be worried about the fire hazard they have created and step up the timetable.

There are a lot of older buildings in Manteca that have little or no landscaping. More than a few homes — in older and newer neighborhoods alike — have allowed not just a few things to die but their entire yard to flat-line.

No one should expect Manteca to look like a perfectly manicured city such as the fictitious town of “Seahaven” in the movie “The Truman Show” starring Jim Carrey. But something is amiss when a city not only tolerates large scale dead landscaping but dead landscaping that is a serious fire hazard along one of the city’s major commercial corridors.

The question is what will Manteca do about it, if anything?

Perhaps the city may want to revisit the logo contest. This time they can try and go with three monkeys, trash “The Family City” slogan and replace it with “See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.”

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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