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Proposed apartment project not following rules adopted by city

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POSTED April 18, 2017 12:51 a.m.

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
The following is a copy of a letter sent to the Manteca Planning Commission regarding the proposed Manteca Luxury Apartments on Lathrop Road west of Union Road:
The Union Ranch Specific Plan (USRP) was prepared to give developers and City staff clear guidance in land use and the design character of Union Ranch. The URSP, now a Council adopted ordinance, is an overlay to the City’s General Plan and supersedes all other zoning laws while being limited to the scope of the Plan’s boundaries. The proposed Manteca Luxury Apartments do not comply with URSP in the letter of the law nor the Plan’s spirit.
Union Ranch has 21 Commercial Mixed Use (CMU) parcels totaling 38.9 acres. The URSP allows but limits the CMU acreage that may be used for High Density Residential (HDR) to 35% of the total acreage, 13.61 acres. Two CMU parcels have been developed or are fully permitted for HDR: The Commons at Union Ranch has 98 apartments on 3.6 acres and Woodbridge Apartments are fully permitted to build 128 apartments on 6.5 acres. The proposed Manteca Luxury Apartments would be 144 apartments on a 5.66-acre parcel.  The use of this parcel for the proposed Luxury apartments far exceeds the allowable acreage for HDR – it’s over two acres too large. The project should be denied on this basis alone.
The URSP also limits the number of units (apartment, condos, townhouses and loft residences) on the CMU parcels. The limit is 341 total for all of the combined CMU acreage. The addition of these proposed 144 new units would take the total units in Union Ranch to 370. That’s 29 units too many above the allowable limit. The project should be rejected on this basis as well.
URSP requires a distinctive character for the buildings in Union Ranch. It clearly announces that these standards must be fulfilled and that some of the standards are more restrictive than elsewhere in the City. This proposed project is supposed to blend in with the intended “small town…Norman Rockwell” theme of Union Ranch. The proposed project does not come close and sadly the developer does not seem to have made a serious effort to design a compatible complex. There are six cookie-cutter three story buildings. They are painted in gray tones not the mandated cool Earth tones. Varying building heights are required, but the six main buildings are all a uniform three stories. The longitudinal and end walls seem overly flat without the desired indentions creating softening shadows. The buildings’ design more closely resembles a prison/warehouse design than an integral component of Union Ranch.
The proposal also mentions that solar panels will be installed at a later time. URSP provides that solar panels may not be installed on these buildings that are visible from any public right-of-way. This restriction is to maintain the character of Union Ranch. The Lakeview Clubhouse at Woodbridge has the same restrictions but a work around was authorized in URSP. The work around was to allow small shingle like solar panels to be incorporated into the tile roof, thereby preventing the black ping-pong tables on the roof look.
There is virtually no open/green space designed into the project. It is a huge parking lot with warehouse/prison styled buildings. There are some plantings and trees in the parking lot dividers but they are required by the EIR for mitigation and preservation of the local aviary population in general and specifically raptors. There needs to be some designated open space for the tenants’ enjoyment, perhaps a communal garden.
The sparse plantings for the project claims compliance with 17.48 Landscaping, of the Manteca Municipal Code which would generally apply to this project elsewhere in the City, but this project is in Union Ranch. The URSP’s Master Plant List supersedes 17.48. The proposal offers eleven tree varieties but only three of them are authorized for use in URSP. The proposal offers 27 shrubs varieties but only eight of them are listed on the URSP Master Plant List. 
There is concern whether further HDR use within Union Ranch is needed at all. HDR is authorized for CMU parcels at Union Ranch, but not mandated. There are 226 HDR units already authorized for Union Ranch parcels. There are 213 one and two story apartments on Union within sight of the proposed project. There are two nearby parcels that are designated for specific HDR development by the current General Plan. One is a 1.98 acres parcel on the S/E corner of Union and Lathrop. The other is an estimated eight-acre parcel abutting Woodbridge, that is addressed on Airport.
This proposal needs to end with you Commissioners.

Mike Spence
Manteca

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