The “Ya think?” story of the week

… Is surely this one about the Hotel Earle fire being a wake-up call to city leaders — as in, snap out of your decades long paralysis over blighted downtown hotels and do something with them.

First, the city failed to enforce the codes applying to these hotels. If you wanted to start a business in Stockton the business-unfriendly code enforcers would heap every conceivable requirement on you. But toward the most egregious violations in the hotels they turned a blind eye for decades, allowing them to become Third-World shabby.

The only mayor to move the ball forward, Gary Podesto, overplayed his hand by launching such an all out code enforcement assault it triggered lawsuits. Not the one claiming discrimination – ha – the one by lawyers for the poor alleging the city was conducting not blight abatement but de facto urban renewal and should therefore compensate the poor tenants losing their homes as the law requires.

Then the recession.

Then the lawsuit by Save Old Stockton.

So there are tough challenges. But the real reason the hotels have not been renovated or demolished has been the lack of will by City Hall. It allowed the city’s core to rot because the development community preferred sprawl and because infill requires the sort of work, creativity and resolve city executives simply couldn’t be bothered to provide.

They were busy turning pension spiking into an art form. And not at all inclined to restore a historic city center into a healthy district, as any self-respecting municipal government should do.  

We need to be fair to the current city administration. They are not their predecessors. But we need to stop accepting any more excuses and demand a plan and action. Of course, if you prefer the city to be a laughingstock with a diminished quality of urban life, disregard this rant.

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  • Blog Author

    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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