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Who is at the wheel in Manteca?

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POSTED January 10, 2017 10:31 p.m.

Is Manteca breaking its own law and thus imperiling the city by perpetuating a myth that the 3.9 percent growth management ordinance is actually being used as intended?
Unless there is a development agreement all housing projects seeking sewer allocations in a given calendar year have to submit requests for allocations to the city by the second Friday of that year. Then if there are still allocations left, a second application period takes place in October. The only exception are affordable housing projects that can seek allocations any time of the year.
Section 18.04.120 does not have any language saying developers without development agreements can skip this process if the city appears to have ample sewer allocations. The only way to interpret the ordinance based on the section is a builder can only get the OK for sewer allocations twice a year— once in March and once in October — and not at will unless they have a development agreement or are building affordable housing.
While you can argue that should be viewed as procedural issue and not a substantial breach of the public’s trust given the city is not close to pushing the 3.9 percent sewer allocation that doubles as a growth cap, Section 19.04.080 is definitely a political can of worms should someone decide to open it.
The section sets aside 67.6 percent of the current wastewater treatment plant Phase III for residential use. It breaks that down to 42 percent of phase capacity for low or very/low density (basically everything being built now), 12.6 percent for age-restricted senior housing, 9 percent for medium/high density housing, 3 percent for affordable housing and 1 percent for infill.
Is the Manteca Planning Commission or Manteca City Council being given an up-to-date tally on how projects they are approving are drawing down the maximum sewer allocation allowed for specific residential uses? And does the percentage apply to the yearly allocations or for overall allocations from Phase III?
These are not rhetorical questions by a long shot.
Manteca currently can legally award a bit over 900 residential sewer allocations in a given year.
For ease of discussion let’s say that allocation number has reached 1,000 a year which it will do in the next couple of years.
If Section 18.04.080 is meant to be an annual yardstick, then only 420 typical single family homes can have sewer allocations awarded in a given year. Did we surpass that in 2016? Are we tracking it for 2017?
And if it is meant to apply to the entire phase, how much is left for traditional single family homes? That is a question that folks who might organize because they think growth is out of control could use to inflict some serious damage on the development community if they seek a legal challenge.
It is absolutely clear the city will exhaust its 42 percent plant capacity set aside for single family homes long before any other category.
Based on the April 1, 2016 housing inventory of approved or proposed housing projects there are 7,921 finished, entitled, or under application single family lots, 73 age restricted senior housing, and 785 apartment units. Since then more than 1,000 more homes have been proposed. For ease of making the point, let’s stick with the April 1, 2016 numbers.
If Phase III still has enough capacity for 20,000 residential units — which is on the high side — that means under city law the city can only set aside allocations for 8,400 single family homes based on the 42 percent stipulation in the growth management ordinance.
That means there are only 479 available allocations assuming everything on the books as of Apirl 1, 2016 moves forward.
Meanwhile that 20,000 sewer allocations would translate to 2,580 age-restricted senior housing units, 1,800 apartments, 600 affordable housing units, and 200 infill units. Manteca is nowhere near those numbers. And if they were, perhaps rents wouldn’t be so high.
So what does the city do when they reach the ceiling for non-age restricted single family homes? Fudge the numbers and essentially admit affordable housing and apartment housing policies in the general plan’s housing element are an empty shell designed to appease critics and get a rubber stamp from the state clearing house that signs off on the mandated planning documents?
Certainly they wouldn’t add expensive capacity with allocations for perhaps 4,000 housing units left when the single family homes gobble up their overall allocation.
Statements by Mayor Steve DeBrum that the city is leaving money on the table in terms of growth fees is a sign the city has been overwhelmed when it comes to its ability to manage growth for at least eight years if not longer.
By walking back from their own rules on sewer allocations it has emboldened national builders now flooding the Manteca market to not just dismiss development agreement options but to ignore new school financing.
These are major policy issues that cry for a monthly tracking of sewer allocations so elected leaders can make informed decisions
Where does Manteca stand today in terms of sewer allocation management for residential purposes?
If you ask an elected leader and they can’t answer that question without asking staff — assuming staff can produce the answer without hiring a consultant — then it is clear there is no one at the wheel when it comes to growth management in Manteca.


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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