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Manteca is excelling in luring housing developers while Tracy’s forte is massive distribution centers
Housing growth could see Manteca overtaking Tracy by 2030 in terms of population.

If there is a promised land for home developers in San Joaquin County, it might just be Manteca.

Lathrop thanks to the 15,001-home planned River Islands community was — once aberrations involving Paradise and Santa Cruz growth due to people returning to rebuilt homes after being  burned-out in a PG&E sparked wildfire and the return to in-person learning at University of California campuses — the fastest growing city in California in 2021.

It now has a population of 31,331.

And if it were incorporated, Mountain House to the northwest of Tracy would be right behind it. They are expected to surpass 30,000 residents this year as the community moves toward an incorporation vote.

Lathrop, however, is somewhat boxed in by Manteca and the San Joaquin River. It can still grow to the north toward Stockton.

Building west of the river is highly unlikely given it is prime Delta land. It is the same reason Lathrop is unlikely to cross the Paradise Cut on the south and west sides of River Islands. To develop required flood protection would take a company with the vision, deep pockets and extreme patience of Cambay Group. And in the development world that is California, you can probably count the number of such developers on one or perhaps two fingers.

Mountain House will likely be checked to a large degree by water. It needed a 10,000  acre-foot water transfer from the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to try and weather the drought this year after the state cut off their water deliveries.

Tracy, like Manteca, is unchecked on at least three sides.

However, Manteca is somewhat better situated with water.

That said the growth cap Tracy is under has substantially more teeth than Manteca’s.

It is why in 2021, as an example, Tracy added 914 residents while Manteca added  1,864 residents.

Manteca had the 14th largest numerical gain for population in California as the state’s 25th fastest growing city last year right behind Lathrop that was 13th numerically with 1,947 additional residents.

Manteca has consistently been adding between 1,600 and 2,200 residents during the past 7 years.

During the Great Recession, Manteca for five straight years built more new homes than the rest of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties combined.

Tracy, meanwhile has been adding large distribution budlings in the 500,000 to 1 million square foot range both on its western and eastern flanks making it well positioned to snare even more employers.

Manteca — up until the early 1990s — was larger than Tracy.

The 1990 census put Manteca’s population at 40,773 and Tracy at 33,558,

Ten years later by Jan. 1, 2000, Tracy’s population had soared by two thirds to 56,929 while Manteca’s increased just under 25 percent to 49,258.

By 2010, the gap between the two South County cities had widened to 15,888 with Manteca at 67,134 and Tracy at 82,992.

In recent years growth in Manteca started accelerating. By the 2020 census, the gap was down to 9,502 residents. Manteca had a head count of 83,498 compared to 93,000 for Tracy.

Based on the state Department of Finance estimates for Jan. 1 of this year, Tracy was at 94,538 and Manteca at 86,859. The gap has been narrowed to 7,779.

If the trend continues Manteca will overtake Tracy as San Joaquin County’s second largest city in 2030.

While some might see that as civic pride, it underscores one undisputable fact: When  it comes to approved housing units being processed in the development pipeline, Manteca still has more backlog — and more being added — than Tracy.

As of Nov. 10, 2020 — the last housing inventory map posted by the City of Manteca — there were 9,160 housing units or lots in the development queue.

Since then, more than 900 more homes have actually been built or under construction. But at the same time the city has received plans for upwards of 3,200 more homes and apartments.

Manteca has been steadily moving up in terms of its ranking in size based on the state as a whole, the San Joaquin Valley as well as San Joaquin County.

Back in 1990, Manteca was the fourth largest city in the county behind Lodi. Today Lodi is the fourth largest behind Manteca. Lodi is now 20,000 behind Manteca with a 2020 population of 66,570.

 Manteca was the 153rd largest city in California 32 years ago. Today it is the 93rd.

It is now the ninth largest in the San Joaquin Valley. If growth in recent years continues it will bump Merced out of the No. 8 spot this year or in 2023. And if trends continue it will replace Tracy as the seventh largest city in the San Joaquin Valley by 2030.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email