By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Residents speak out against building of high-density homes
MANSION HAT4 2-14-14 copy
A proposal to demolish the 30,000-foot Hat mansion and turn 184 acres of land into high-density housing has been turned down. - photo by HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

The proposal to turn 184 acres of land just outside of Manteca’s city limits into a high-density, single-family residential home track has been defeated.
But the developer, Richland Communities, has been encouraged to reformulate a proposal that the council feels would be more in line with the spirit of the neighborhoods that surround the area — developments that are transforming what was once agricultural land south of the Highway 120 Bypass into the new economic driver of the city.
In what was expected to be a relatively straightforward consent calendar item Wednesday evening, the council was bombarded with statements from residents of the new housing tracts along Woodward Avenue — including Woodward Park, where at least three of the members of the council have connections — urging them to go back to the previous proposal that would have turned the property that houses the 30,000 square-foot Hat Mansion and the land that surrounds it into an age-restricted senior community or something similar.
“I just felt like this was the wrong project for Manteca,” said Councilman Rich Silverman, who pulled the item from the consent calendar and was the first to announce the item wouldn’t have his support. “We need affordable housing here in Manteca – that’s something that I’ve always said – and this is not low-income housing like some people have said.
“But it is the wrong project for the wrong place.”
Comments from the public in opposition to the project focused on two core issues – putting in high-density housing right next to some of the most expensive properties in the city, and approving a project that will include tearing down the mansion that has captivated the community since it was under construction.
And some, like Donna Strange, just felt like Manteca was growing faster than the resources intended to support it.
“We do not have the resources to bring more people into this city,” said Strange, who believes that both the Manteca Police and Fire Departments are understaffed as it is. “It’s impossible to build more houses in this city until we grow the resources to meet that growth.”
And while the Hat Mansion itself was initially a draw for developers who considered transforming it into a clubhouse for a golf course that was considered surrounding the massive property as well as a clubhouse for the age-restricted community, a representative from Richland said that all avenues have been exhausted in the search for a way to keep the home.
According to Trevor Smith, who was representing Richland Communities, it would have costed anywhere from $18 million to $22 million to bring the house up to code suitable for a use other than a single-family residence. Silverman compounded on this statement in his comments to the public, addressing that additional struts would be necessary according to the engineer’s report, and the HVAC system would have to be torn out and completely retrofitted in order to be California compliant.
But Smith also said he would take the concerns of the public back to the company and see what other formulation could be worked out that would be better for all involved parties.
“I’ve never seen a response like this to the proposal and I will take this back to the team. I believe that it speaks to their passion and their concerns for their homes,” Smith said.
Smith also said that the privately-owned company will soon be setting up a website to allow the public to follow the developments with the property, and noted that he himself spent more than a year trying to save the iconic house that was at one time rumored – falsely – to be the future home of country superstar Garth Brooks.
If the project were to have been approved, it would have been the first new housing project in Manteca where rear-alley loading would have been a dominant feature in order to make the configuration work. Other nearby communities have embraced the formulation, but Silverman said it was one of the features that he was opposed to because of issues that exist in the older part of town that features an alley system for rear-access. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.