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A quick memo on how to build a better Manteca

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POSTED April 8, 2014 12:27 a.m.

In the coming 210 days at least five men are going to be vying for your vote to elect them to the Manteca City Council either as a council member or mayor.

They are going to tell you that we need/want a lot of things as a city. Those needs and wants cost money. They also cost a lot of money to maintain and operate. At the same time, they are going to promise to keep the cost of government down.

It’s kind of like sweet talking someone to go on a date by promising to take them to the Four Seasons and then telling them you’re the thrifty type who thinks a night at McDonald’s is a splurge.

They obviously want your vote. But before you give it to them, ask them exactly how they plan to pay for all of this while avoiding having to push for higher taxes.

They may say something about making growth pay its own way. That’s fine. But here’s a dirty little secret: New growth can only legally be required to pay for the increase in services/infrastructure that new growth needs. It’s state law. At the same time, Manteca has been hammered relentlessly by many in the home building industry not to impose more growth fees. The leading culprit is the Building Industry Association of the Greater Valley. Every time a fee has been suggested or an existing growth fee has been proposed to be increased to reflect higher costs, the BIA has been there to do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen and even has gone to the point of litigation.

The argument is always the same. It will drive up the cost of housing. Guess what: Everything drives up the cost of housing. But does that stop suppliers, sellers of land, financial institutions, shareholders, and others from getting more money? The only entity that the BIA routinely works overtime slamming to keep costs down are the very folks that are saddled for virtually eternity with the ongoing expenses to handle the additional services that building houses create – cities.

Many developers claimed bonus bucks – unrestricted money collected by Manteca on every new housing permit in exchange for sewer allocation – made the cost of housing in Manteca prohibitive.

That’s laughable on two levels. First, if it’s so cost prohibitive how did Manteca add almost 7,000 homes during the time they were in place until the council put bonus bucks “in abeyance” through June 2015?

Second, KB Homes proved the fallacy of the BIA’s argument that bonus bucks were putting firms at a competitive disadvantage for selling homes in Manteca. KB Home bought a Jim Williams subdivision that had yet to be built southwest of Airport Way and the 120 Bypass. Williams had already paid the subdivision’s share for extending sewer and water trunk lines. At the same time, KB Homes started building another neighborhood in the Mossdale Crossing area west of Interstate 5 in Lathrop.  The buyer of those homes had to agree to pay for putting sewer and water trunk lines in place for the next 30 years through a community facilities district tax. KB Homes built the same models in each location yet the Lathrop versions – at least the largest homes – sold for almost $200,000 more than the same exact model that was being built new in  Manteca. Do you think KB Homes was building and selling homes at a loss in Manteca? 

Of course not.

Manteca obviously has something that developers want. There are 14,310 homes in various stages of approval for this community. It costs serious money even to start submitting plans. If developers paid an average of $7,000 in bonus bucks that would be $100 million. Assuming just 300 homes were built a year, that would generate $2.1 million annually. It would be enough to virtually pay cash for the fifth fire station planned for Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue. And that is just in one year’s time.

Manteca in a way squandered bonus bucks it collected previously. Instead of using them for one-time expenses such as fire stations, park and recreation upgrades, and such, some $11 million went to balance budgets and more money went to pay for development services. Was growth subsidizing everything else via bonus bucks? No since Manteca was adding municipal staff to serve growth.

Now that Manteca has righted the financial ship after being hit by the tsunami known as the Great Recession-Housing Meltdown they are in a position to do bonus bucks right.

First and foremost the council has to have the fortitude to stand up to bullying from the BIA.

They need to remember that most developers and home builders in Manteca today aren’t your fathers’ developers and home builders. The day when community-minded firms such as Raymus Homes and Atherton Homes, whose principals live and work here, dominated the development scene are gone. More and more Manteca builders have stock traded on Wall Street. Unlike homegrown developers, they could care less about Manteca once they’ve built their last home.

Thank the BIA for giving Manteca the wake-up call.

Instead of the market being dominated by developers building a community, we have more and more builders that are only interested in maximizing their profits at the expense of Manteca residents.

 

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 dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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