Complaints spur review of downtown park policy

The original vision for McClatchy Square in downtown Modesto hasn't panned out, so city officials have developed a new plan for the gardenlike park.

The small park, at 15th and I streets, was a gift to Modesto from McClatchy Newspapers -- The Bee's corporate parent -- in 1995 and is graced by a rose garden dedicated to Julio and Aileen Gallo.

What was intended as a quiet place for downtown workers to have lunch or take a break has become a gathering place for the homeless.

The park has no restrooms and the city often hears complaints about public urination, alcohol use and drug deals there.

Tuesday, the City Council will consider a proposal to essentially make it private property and available for use only by reservation.

The plan also calls for a "full-court press" from police to enforce park rules.

According to a staff report, the McHenry Mansion Foundation is open to handling the reservations. City officials believe the park could be used for small gatherings or incorporated in weddings held across the street at the McHenry Mansion.

It looked like a good plan to Nick Bavaro, who runs an employee benefits firm a block from the park.

"You can't go there during lunch to have a sandwich and enjoy reading a book," he said. "If you go there now, you are going to be accosted."

Councilman Dave Lopez said something needs to change but will listen to Tuesday's discussion before deciding how to vote.

"It is not so much (the homeless people) hanging out, it's the damage they are doing," he said. "It has not made the park friendly to the public."

Officials said an organization has given food to homeless people in McClatchy Park. The city may study other parks that have no restrooms and determine whether charitable groups should feed the homeless in those parks.

The Modesto City Council meets Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chamber at 1010 10th St.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or 578-2321.

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