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City Manager's Blog

Oct 14

State Route 99 Cleanup

Posted on October 14, 2020 at 2:31 PM by Thomas Reeves

Highway 99 is the “front door” to Modesto: Anyone and everyone who drives the route should be able to get a general sense of the quality of life and well-being of its residents in a drive past, whether that’s the abundance of thriving small businesses, family homes, or agricultural land. In some unfortunate cases, homeless encampments paint a different picture of the City.

The highway is the State of California’s jurisdiction and is maintained by state funds through Caltrans. Typically, the debris from homeless encampments is cleaned up on a regular basis by Caltrans; however, in March, encampment cleanups were suspended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in individuals displaced by the service.

Requests can be made for exceptions if there are immediate safety concerns with risk to life. To be accepted, the requests must show prior efforts to engage with the individuals living in the encampments.

“MPD’s Homeless Engagement and Response Team (HEART), along with Stanislaus County Social Services, has provided extensive outreach at known encampments to shelter the homeless, but unfortunately, most have refused offers of shelter or assistance. Due to the imminent danger these encampments pose, we will continue to be proactive to ensure the safety of all residents,” Assistant Police Chief Brandon Gillespie said.

On September 23, the three-mile stretch on Highway 99 between the Tuolumne and Briggsmore exits was granted an exception based on three immediate safety concerns: Pedestrian fatalities; excessive debris; and a dangerous and potentially explosive item, a honey oil butane drug lab, found in one of the encampments.

City officials and residents alike were concerned with the accumulation of furniture and debris along the freeway that could endanger motorists if any fell into the roadway. Additionally, there have been 16 calls to law enforcement regarding pedestrians on the highway, resulting in the deaths of three homeless individuals since the beginning of this year.

With the risk to life and safety clearly established,
State Route 99 Underpass before cleanup Caltrans approved the exception for the three-day cleanup on September 29. They posted signs 72 hours in advance, notifying campers to relocate and take their belongings with them. Any abandoned materials left at the site were removed, leaving a clean and much safer highway. 

This is the second successful exception request Modesto has received, and our police department will continue to be both proactive in their outreach and vigilant in requesting additional exceptions, if needed.

State Route 99 Underpass after cleanupResidents are encouraged to report trash, homeless encampments, and other issues through the GoModesto! app or our website to continue making Modesto a safe place to live, work, and play.
Oct 08

Why the City's Communications Plan is Important

Posted on October 8, 2020 at 11:19 AM by Thomas Reeves

The City recently released a new Communications Plan, detailing priorities, strategies, and tools the City uses when communicating with you, a Modesto resident. But why should this matter to you?

Transparent government can’t happen if residents are not notified of upcoming projects, services, and changes within the City. Transparent government also can’t happen if these notifications are meant to simply check a box, yet don’t actually reach residents.

The plan’s goal is to increase community understanding of City services, initiatives, and resources in order to better inform future communication.

Think of making a phone call in an area with spotty reception. The person you’re calling may be able to get the gist of what you mean, but they’re not getting every detail.

The Communications Plan is an effort to increase reception so that the person on the other end of the line knows exactly what we, the caller, are saying and how it affects them. It lays out the most efficient ways to contact our diverse population to ensure that every resident is fully informed.

And even then, good phone conversations aren’t single-sided.

That’s why we’re proud to be working on an Engagement Plan—to be completed by the end of 2020—to help perfect the two-way conversation between residents and the City.  This will allow the City to get resident input and determine what levels of engagement work best for various projects.

This is all part of the Five-Year Strategic Plan, which outlines ten long-range goals and specific strategies for reaching those goals to continue to better the community.

Resident input and feedback is invaluable to City leaders and staff. It’s the residents that make Modesto, where our community is inclusive and our innovation prospers.
Sep 30

Starship Technologies Partners with Modesto Save Mart for Grocery Delivery Robots

Posted on September 30, 2020 at 8:50 AM by Thomas Reeves

Save Mart Starship RobotSmall, six-wheeled delivery robots from Starship Technologies have roamed City sidewalks in past weeks, mapping out neighborhoods to learn the best delivery routes. Starting today, these robots will offer contactless grocery delivery services to Modesto Save Mart shoppers, in the first program of its kind in California.

The City held a socially distant public launch event on Tuesday, September 29 to introduce the robots and announce the program to residents.

We are honored that Save Mart and Starship wanted to roll out this program here. It speaks to the City’s good working partnership with Save Mart that we can support partners and businesses with such wide varieties of goals.

Starship’s delivery robots are in use at a number of universities and corporate offices around the nation, but this is the company’s first partnership with a supermarket chain in the U.S.

Users order their groceries within the Starship app and can monitor the robot’s entire journey from store to drop off point. Each robot is equipped with an array of cameras and sensors to help it navigate streets, sidewalks, and obstacles through an Artificial Intelligence (AI) machine learning process.

The insulated robots can carry up to 20 pounds, the equivalent of three bags of groceries, up to four miles roundtrip. Upon arrival at the drop off point, the user unlocks the robot from the app and retrieves their groceries. The robot then returns to the store, ready to make another cost- and energy-efficient delivery.

This is an extra level of convenience for residents who may not want to make another trip to the grocery store or are trying to maintain minimal contact with others due to the coronavirus. The robots provide a safe, low-cost and contactless delivery alternative for Save Mart shoppers, since the first three deliveries cost only $0.99. After that, the affordable service fees vary based on distance.

To start, delivery is available only from the Save Mart in The Marketplace shopping center at the corner of Oakdale Rd and Sylvan Ave, with plans to expand to more area Save Marts.

This partnership is yet another example of how our City Council, staff, and community partners are dedicated to helping residents adapt to the unique time in which we live.