It was arguably the worst crystal ball prediction in the annals of Manteca history.
In the early 1990s a planner at City Hall told a Modesto Bee reporter that Manteca would never grow south of the 120 Bypass as the freeway was an insurmountable barrier for the extension of municipal infrastructure.
It was back when almond orchards, vineyards, and dairies outnumbered rural homes along a sleepy country road dubbed Woodward Avenue.
The two-lane Union Road crossing of the 120 Bypass had neither onramps off ramps.
Rodeo grounds greeted Bypass travelers as they headed east.
What is today’s Woodward Park was 51 acres of almonds.
Traffic was a mere trickle on Airport Way.
Few cars ventured south on Main Street beyond the east bound on and off ramps.
Today the last almond orchard that can be found on the western end of Woodward Avenue is about to become history. The other remaining almond orchard along what was once a lightly traveled two-lane country road near Moffat Boulevard will have an access road cut through it to connect with the new Austin Road interchange that is part of the first phase of the $154 million overhaul of the 120 Bypass/Highway 990 interchange that will get underway late next year.
The last dairy disappeared nearly two decades ago.
In just over two weeks Union Road — that didn’t even have ramp access to the Bypass until 1996 — will boast of California’s first diverging diamond interchange designed to move high volumes of traffic more efficiently and smoothly.
The rodeo grounds are long gone. The 120,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shops store now stands where bull riders dreaming of following Manteca’s Ted Nuce to world championship status were bucked off bulls.
Woodward Park has become a Mecca for Northern California competitive youth soccer tournaments as well as local leagues.
Airport Way is a traffic nightmare.
Cars on weekday afternoons and weekend are a solid line on Main Street between the Bypass and just south of Woodward Avenue.
It is what happens when a town that had 42,051 residents in 1990 has spent the past 21 years without experiencing a single year when less than 300 new housing units — mostly single family homes — being built.
Today’s population projected to be 86,064 is being fueled by a new reality — growth is accelerating.
There have been 234 new homes started in August, September, and October. That’s up 50 percent from the same three-month period in 2019 when there were 156 new home starts.
City building officials have 70 permits for new homes they are currently reviewing. That is a jump of 25 percent from the 56 homes they were reviewing in November of 2019.
Manteca builders have sold 525 new homes this year through Oct. 31. They are currently on pace to have enough sales to end the year with 650 housing starts. That is in addition to two apartment complex projects — one on Atherton Drive next to Bass Pro Shops and the other on Lathrop Road east of Union Road — when their first phases of a combined 340 units are completed in mid-2021.
Based on current yields for single family homes and apartments, the new homes started in Manteca this year will increase the population by 2,000. The apartments will add about 700 residents next year. That means only two thirds of the number of new homes being built this year will need to be built and sold next year to add another 2,000 residents.
That would put Manteca at 90,000 residents sometime in early 2022. There is now a strong likelihood the city could breach the 100,000 population barrier by 2030.
Manteca’s population has more than doubled in the past 30 years. That reflects adding an average of 1,466 more residents a year.
But after growth really started taking off in 1999 when the first tract home was built south of the 120 Bypass by Atherton Homes across from what is now Woodward Park, Manteca has gone from 50,564 residents in 2000 to 86,064 today. That represents an annual average of 1,800 new residents.
Even during the Great Recession when home building dried up elsewhere in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, Manteca was adding more than 300 housing units a year. In the depth of the housing crisis from 2009 through 2011, Manteca by itself built more new homes than all other jurisdictions in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties combined.
And now during the pandemic it is building homes at a pace that is more than double what it was during the last economic crisis.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com