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Time for a reality check for Manteca

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POSTED January 6, 2017 1:03 a.m.

Ever look reality in the face?
It’s when you look in the mirror and you are completely honest with yourself.
You might indeed be a bit pudgy. Being a spring chicken was a season or two ago. And that hair — what you have left — is greying.
But if you’re honest you’re probably doing fine. It is clear, however, that for the past several years perhaps you’ve been living a semi-fantasy world. That said there is nothing really wrong with reality and you’re adjusting to it according. After all, it can’t be 1974 forever, right?
It’s too bad that Manteca collectively doesn’t take a good hard look in the mirror.
At 99 years of age the City of Manteca has its share of warts and winkles. All in all it’s not bad.
But there is one fantasy world we are living in that our denial is so great that it will lead us down the same path of many other California cities that have become unlivable for honest, hardworking people. That fantasy? That everyone should be able to secure a head of household job that given the cost of living in close orbit to the pricey Bay Area is a fulltime job making $30 an hour with full benefits and being able to live in at least a semi-McMansion.
The reality is there will never be enough $30 an hour jobs generated in Manteca, Lathrop, Tracy, or anywhere in the Northern San Joaquin Valley that’s being economically annexed by the Bay Area economy.
A $30 an hour job would gross $62,400 a year. It would allow the comfortable renting of a decent two bedroom apartment or small older home. With a bit of sacrifice and financial discipline you could buy an existing home.
The best paying average distribution job , the sector of the economy with the most growth and promise, pays $15. There are those that pay more — and significantly so in the case of Ford Motor Company’s Small Parts Distribution Center in Manteca — and there are those barely above minimum wage or are subject to wave employment such as Amazon where they will work for eight or so weeks as temp workers, be laid off, and then rehired in an ongoing vicious cycle.
Blame what you want — healthcare costs, cut-throat retail competition, greedy corporate America or any other boogeyman — but the reality is just that, reality.
As things stand now we have 9,700 affordable housing units coming down the pike that will be secured by those primarily with higher paying Bay Area jobs. There is nothing inherently wrong about that on the surface given people have to live somewhere. But just as they are being squeezed out of the Bay Area where they work so will people working in Manteca be forced to live elsewhere.
The writing on the wall has been there so long that it can almost be classified as ancient petroglyphs.
Against that backdrop, Manteca’s general plan is up for its 10-year state mandated update.
What if this time around instead of doing the same-old, same-old general plan designed to serve as a blueprint for growth to meet the bare minimum state requirements Manteca stepped up to the plate.
There is plenty of affordable housing for Bay Area workers and move-up valley buyers in various stages of the approval process. And while the city has “adequate” area on maps colored for apartments no one can live in colored paper. It costs $200,000 today to build one apartment unit in Manteca once construction costs, land, infrastructure, as well as city development and growth fees are tossed in the mix. Banks are leery to lend such sums of money that can run as high as $30 million for a 150-unit complex given it can take a good 13 years before such property is considered financially out of the woods in terms of paying down the loan.
What is needed to take care of most people with Manteca jobs — as well as jobs in nearby valley communities — are smaller, higher density free standing homes. They may be row houses with common space or a version of what Raymus Homes built on Mikey Place. They could be 1,100-square-foot homes with carports on 3,000-square-foot lots. They could be cluster patio homes where four units share some common walls.
There are a variety of non-cookie cutter housing options that would work much more effectively than apartment complexes given financing issues and the higher costs associated with such type of attached housing.
While you can’t make such housing exclusively available to local workers, it is clear those forced out of the Bay Area housing market for the most part can afford most of the 9,700 homes that will be built and would likely steer clear of smaller homes.
Manteca needs to sit down with builders and developers and devise a zoning that has specific rules designed to make such housing feasible and more affordable. A two-car garage costs much more money than a two-car carport. Two homes on 6,000 square feet reduces land costs and it also reduces infrastructure costs per running mile.
We know what a consultant will do if they are not given specific instructions. Manteca will have a new general plan that reads just like every other city’s general plan in the Central Valley.
The next 10 years will be pivotal given the city could easily add 25,000 people to hit the 100,000 population mark.
That is why we need a general plan that is valley centric while addressing what essentially are the affordable housing needs of San Jose, Pleasanton, and Livermore.

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