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City is now creating standards to spur high density housing/commercial combos downtown & elsewhere
the wall
The Wall” and property on both sides of it owned by the city could be transformed with new downtown zoning standards.

Manteca has thrown in the towel of its most recent effort to encourage the owners of The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley to basically complete the development in some form or fashion.

In doing so, it bodes well for downtown as well as areas throughout Manteca such as Yosemite Avenue and Airport Way that have a commercial mixed use designation in the updated general plan.

What it means is the city is directing resources into a project that would allow the tearing down of “the wall” left standing in downtown after a deadly 1970s fire to develop a possible mixed use endeavor with high density residential and commercial.

The City Council this week approved  a Professional Services Agreement with AECOM for $207,960 to prepare documents to improve processes to accelerate housing production in response to the funding received from the Local Early Action Planning (LEAP) Grant.

In layman’s lingo, that means state funds are being used to devise new zoning standards ranging from building heights and open space needs to rethinking off-street parking requirement for the CMU zone as well as a separate downtown zone.

The goal is to make projects pencil out in terms of it making sense for the private sector to be able to financially pursue them as well as improving Manteca’s livability via smart growth.

Smart growth, in this case, is a concerted effort to create concentrated areas centered around transit — including street arterial crossings — along with commercial, dining and services and wed them with high density residential.

The goal is to make walkable “village” areas within Manteca, reduce car trips, improve the quality of living, and make housing more affordable in the context of the market as well as reducing continued upkeep costs through things such as solar initiatives.

The Manteca Planning Commission Thursday approved a project that gives an inkling of the concept.

It was the one-structure building with 24 apartments in the three-story portion and a ground floor family market with commercial office space in the two-story portion that was approved on the northwest corner of Davis Street and Walnut Avenue.

What Manteca conceptually has in mind is along the lines of what some call transit villages in urban areas.

And to make it work, as the Davis Street project is expected to demonstrate it does not have to be a full-blown major development.

The repertoire of zoning tools the city hopes to create for downtown and CMUs will allow the concept to advance piece by piece.

An example is the current endeavor to fashion a project with the private sector on city-owned land on the northwest corner of Sycamore and Yosemite avenues in downtown.

One vision could involve a 3- or 4-story building with commercial space in the ground floor and affordable senior housing on the upper floors.

The location is on transit routes, three blocks from the transit center/ACE stop coming in 2026, as well as less than a block to the library and adjoining park.

Within three blocks there are no less than three specialty markets, six dining spots, and four financial institutions among other offerings.

The LEAP grant originally was awarded the city to devise zoning rules that would allow the conversion of a large segment of Orchard Valley — in line store space and building pads unused since Bass Pro Shops opened in 2008 as well as excessive parking space — into high density compete with supporting commercial.

As such, it was intended to be a model for the state to encourage other cities to employ to accelerate a new trend that is in its infancy — the conversion of shuttered or under-utilized shopping malls into residential neighborhoods and commercial uses.

It was seen as a way to spur more housing construction.

It was the city’s goal to develop planning standards to be applied to other commercial areas of the City to encourage housing production in underutilized centers.

Delays in the general plan that required the recirculation of environmental documents and the impending Delicato referendum, the consultant was unable to complete the work.

The new scope of work will develop two zoning districts to implement the Commercial Mixed Use (CMU) and Downtown (DW) land use designations.

These zoning districts will facilitate multi-family housing development in mixed-use areas. The updates will include zoning-level development standards, mixed-use performance standards, building heights, setbacks, lot coverage, density standards, open space requirements, and off-street parking requirements.

AECOM will also collect data required to support environmental review to provide additional coverage for infill housing.

 The scope also includes a parking survey to show parking supply and demand in the downtown area.

As such, it will develop an estimate of parking demand that considers the existing and future mix of land uses and takes into account parking demand that peaks at different times of the year for different uses.

The Orchard Valley quagmire

City officials for years have been trying to get the owners of the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley to complete the development at Union Road and the 120 Bypass.

It opened in 2008 anchored by Bass Pro Shops, JC Penney, and a 16-screen theater and one of eight free-standing restaurant pads developed.

There were three shops in in-line space that also include three other restaurants and several concerns.

Roughly a third of the overall planned square footage has never been utilized even though much of that space was built in 2008.

Over the years the city has explored everything from establishing a police substation in the space to opening a library.

The owners would engage but then things would go nowhere.

Private sector concerns interested in the available space have reported similar issues in terms of leasing agents not getting back to them or an unwillingness on the part of the ownership to negotiate workable deals.

As an example, the backers of the comedy club opening downtown later this year tried for months to get a dialogue going for a potential lease before giving up.

The city has a 35-year sales tax split with the development’s owners that was used to allow them to lure Bass Pro Shops.

In exchange for that, the city has use of the center’s 1,507 parking spaces for ride sharing as well as events they may schedule during the course of the 35-year deal.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email