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Manteca needs to create Moffat transit village

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POSTED July 26, 2009 2:36 a.m.
Transit villages are supposedly cutting edge concepts in urban planning.

It’s where shopping and housing is densely clustered near rail or transit hubs.

Such transit villages are being pursued on various legs of the BART system.

One, however, doesn’t have to live in an East Bay or a San Francisco Peninsula city to take advantage of such a concept that is actually rather old. Before the mass production of the auto, most people and businesses naturally gravitated to be near mass transit.

Manteca has an excellent opportunity to do the same and tackle affordable housing issues and clean up the Moffat Boulevard leg of the Tidewater Bikeway at the same time. It has the tools and the resources in the form of Measure K money, redevelopment housing funds for affordable housing and the land.

Manteca is pursuing a transit station. They call it an “intermodal station” but that is bureaucratese for what it really is - a transit station with rail, bus, taxi and other services.

It will be located roughly to the southeast of the former Union Ice Co. site that the RDA purchased to convert into parking. Further down Moffat, the city owns a large amount of land it acquired from the railroad when it bought the Tidewater right-of-way. Some of it has existing businesses, much is vacant.

Manteca is mandated under state law to set aside 20 percent of its RDA money for affordable housing opportunities. In the past, the money has been doled out in various forms such as $2,500 grant to seniors to make housing repairs, first-time buyers assistance, and partnering with non-profits (such as Eden Housing) to renovate or build apartment complexes for the low income that have subsidized rents through state and federal programs.

Manteca a few years paid a consultant $150,000 to devise a surprisingly remedial plan of offices, industrial, and commercial. Too bad no one is encouraging out-of-the-box thinking instead of the same-old, same-old from a consultant. Why not explore how city-owned land could be developed into affordable housing along Moffat where residents could walk to catch a bus - SMART, the Manteca Transit bus, or Greyhound - bicycle or walk to a job using the emerging bikeway loop or, in the future, go aboard an ACE train to reach Bay Area jobs.

Some may argue no one wants to live along train tracks. Really. There are homes - some expensive at that – already built along train tracks in Manteca.

The city has two things to entice developers. They own the land and they can reduce building costs by using RDA money for infrastructure. The caveat would be what is built would have to be affordable housing for sale or rent.

No, these would not be single family homes with yards. They would need to be condos, townhouses or apartments that are developed to a different drummer instead of the ones Manteca has for suburbia. This should be treated like an urban development.

At the same time, funding could be included to construct a wrought-iron security fence - much like along the railroad at the skate park - between the tracks and the Tidewater and pay for landscaping as well. Redwood trees could provide visual and sound screening.

A Moffat transit village removes a number of albatrosses hung around the city’s neck.

It provides more affordable housing.

It brings more residents into downtown to help turn it into a vibrant city core instead of one that closes at night or is turned over to the second floor population along the 100 and 200 blocks of Yosemite Avenue.

It develops Moffat Boulevard.

It puts land back on the tax rolls.

It solves the dilemma of how to landscape the balance of the Moffat leg of the Tidewater Bikeway.

Why not look to find a bold solution, especially one that is powered by land already owned by the city and the forced commitment of 20 percent spending of all RDA money collected for affordable housing?

It can literally do double duty fighting blight and promoting economic expansion as well as helping provide affordable housing opportunities.
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