By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Zoning in on Central Manteca
Rule changes take aim at bringing more people, business
Proposed new zoning rules could make private investment in Manteca’s central district easier. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Sweeping changes in zoning for central Manteca could inject new economic vitality into the heart of the city.

The Community Development Department is moving forward with proposed zoning changes designed to entice more private sector investment by adopting flexible land use rules, higher densities, and encouraging mixed use such as condos above ground floor retail.

Mark Nelson – Manteca’s hands-on community development director – noted that the right municipal guidelines eliminate the need for public assistance to encourage investment as the private sector can find ways to make projects work for both the community and the developers’ bottom line.

Manteca did not adopt zoning changes when the general plan – the municipal blueprint for growth – was adopted in 2004. The city is turning the failure to do so into a plus by rethinking the best ways to encourage new life in central Manteca.

Nelson expects to move forward with proposing the zoning changes in the coming months. The changes would do things such a raise the height limit on buildings, allow flexibility with setbacks and parking requirements, and encourage an infusion of higher density housing.

The zoning is expected to apply to a much wider swath that just the core of downtown that for years has been defined as roughly the triangle formed by the railroad the north side of Center Street and Sherman avenue.

In surveys of merchants and others, people have expressed a desire to have the central Manteca designation expanded as far east as Powers Avenue and as far north as Alameda Street.

The four blocks of Yosemite Avenue that flank Main Street are problematic for allowing significant redevelopment due to restrictions imposed by how tight existing buildings are  to sidewalks and streets.

Center Street, as an example, has a number of areas where developers can put together parcels to create new projects or take homes and convert them into uses such as restaurants with outdoor dining.

The overall goal is to make it enticing for the private sector to invest in the downtown district and to have it gain strength as a retail center and entertainment/gathering place that can hold its own with newer commercial areas by providing a larger concentration of customers - new residents in higher density development as well as a different experience.

Similar transformations have changed central areas in cities such as San Jose turning them into thriving places after offices close.

Municipal restrictions have been notorious in past years for placing a tourniquet on private sector investment in parts of Central Manteca.

For example, before parking requirements that were more appropriate to strip malls were lifted on the core blocks in downtown private sector investment was non-existent.

It created problems as people couldn’t use existing buildings to open restaurants unless it was a pre-existing use or merchants and professionals had difficulty securing loans to buy buildings they were renting due to banks not wanting to loan money to purchase structures restricted to only one use.

It also prevented things such as an old mortuary from being used for other purposes even if they generated less parking needs.

Once the parking restrictions were lifted, there was a spat of private sector investment in the central district in the late 1990s.