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Does Manteca’s future hold the anti-McMansion?

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Does Manteca’s future hold the anti-McMansion?

Here's what the smallest room at 90 square feet including bathroom looks like in the new boarding house in Seattle.

Photo contributed/


POSTED September 5, 2009 3:02 a.m.
Imagine – if you will – living in a 90-square-foot residential unit just 13.62 square feet bigger than a Volkswagen Beetle.

It consists of a bedroom – complete with desk, chair, bed, and refrigerator – plus includes a private bathroom.

It is the residential boarding house of the future and could be a partial solution to Manteca’s chronic affordable housing problem.

The City Council Tuesday gave their blessing to an updated housing element being sent to the state that indicates the city shall update the zoning ordinance to “explicitly define single room occupancy units as a residnetial use that is allowed by right in R-4 zoning districts and all commercial zones.”

Such boarding houses are now being built in cities like Seattle where Videré – a 46-unit project of Kauri Investments – is now renting for $465 to $650 a month depending upon the size of the unit that range from 90 to 168 square feet.

It is aimed at young singles who have lower paying jobs such as working at Starbucks and who are rarely at home. Videré has full kitchens with units clustered around them that are available for tenant use plus an on-site laundry room and BBQ area as well as parking. There is also lofty-style storage above the bathrooms accessible by a ladder. The units are cable ready and come with all utilities including Broadband Internet access paid as part of the rent.

It is an update on an old idea. Downtown Manteca has a number of old-style second floor boarding houses first built 70 plus years ago that consist of separate rooms with communal bathrooms.

There is also an old-fashioned boardinghouse that was originally built for single teacher housing that still stands in the 100 block of North Maple Avenue.

And arguably the best of the central district’s boarding housing is the recently remodeled Sycamore Arms on the southeast corner of Sycamore and Yosemite. The owner – who hails from Marin County and has experience in similar housing in the Bay Area – completely remodeled the complex, updated the two bathrooms, put in place free communal Internet access plus hired an on-site live-in manager to keep tabs on things.

Manteca Police for years have had issues with other such boarding houses downtown being a source of crime and other issues. Even so, they are the only place that many law-abiding residents such as single mothers with one child or farm workers can afford to live in Manteca.

The rents aren’t that much less than low-end single bedroom apartments. The big difference is no need to pay a security deposit.

In vibrant downtown cores the updated version of the old-style boarding house are breathing in new economic life as it provides a stable population.

Size-wise, five of the units are equal to a typical 450-sqaure-foot one bedroom apartment. You could fit 49 of them in the floor space of a 4,400-square-foot McMansion you can find on Pestana and Vasconcellos avenues in East Manteca in the Heritage Ranch neighborhood near Joshua Cowell School.

The single room occupancy unit policy is incorporated in the state-mandated housing update that is now being received by bureaucrats in Sacramento.
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