Mountain House could become San Joaquin County’s eighth city on July 1, 2024.
The community that didn’t even have one resident 20 years ago, got the go-ahead Tuesday by the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors to place the question of incorporation for the planned community to the northwest of Tracy on the March 4 ballot.
And if approved, with 28,000 residents it would become the county’s fifth largest city after Ripon and Escalon and roughly the 250th largest among what would then be California’s 483 cities.
Mountain House — if it were a city — would have been right up with Manteca, Tracy, and Lathrop as being among the state’s 10 fastest growing jurisdictions in recent years.
The last city to incorporate in the Golden State was Jurupa Valley in Riverside County in 2011. That Southern California city currently has a population of 106,941.
Lathrop was the last city in San Joaquin County to incorporate. That was in 1989 when it had 7,006 people. Today it has 35,080 residents.
Besides deciding on incorporation, Mountain House voters will have two other measures on the March 4 ballot.
*The election of a mayor for four years, two council members for two years, and two council members for four years.
*Whether to have council members selected only by those voters within the district or by voters citywide.
The “from district” option is different than what Manteca opted for when the city switched to district elections for its council members starting with the 2022 election.
Mountain House could decide to require a council member to live within a district they represent and only voters within that district can decide who would be elected.
Or they could require a council member reside in a specific district but all voters citywide could determine who would be elected from each district.
Currently, Mountain House is a free-standing community services district formed under the auspices of San Joaquin County.
Steve Pinkerton — a former Manteca city manager — has served as general manager of the Mountain House CSD since 2019.
Mountain House voters elect CSD board members.
As a general law city, though, the governing council would have full autonomy from San Joaquin County.
A $70,000 study analyzed the financial ability of Mountain House and determined it could stand alone as a city.
Mountain House has more per capita than
Manteca to cover municipal services
Based on how the city was set up with a special tax that assesses all square footage — residential or otherwise — roughly 70 cents a year, it generates around two thirds of the Mountain House Community Service District’s $24 million annual operating budget.
Between that and property taxes, Mountain House generates $900 per capita for municipal services.
That compares to Manteca with a general fund of $67.8 million that generates $753 per capita from various sources such as property and sales tax revenue to cover the cost of day-to-day city services each year.
With roughly 30 percent of Manteca’s residents, Mountain House has about 20 percent more than Manteca does to cover general fund services.
It is because of how heavily property is assessed. That special tax on the 3,400 square foot home that sells for $2 million will generate $2,380 a year in taxes on top of what portion of the $20,000 property tax bill Mountain House receives.
At the same time a home that may be assessed at $650,00 under Proposition 13 rules that hasn’t sold for years and also has 3,400 square feet would also pay $2,380 a year based on the 70 cent per square foot added tax on top of an annual property tax bill that would come to $6,800 and is split between the school district, county, Delta College and other agencies.
The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors in the 1990s purposedly set up Mountain House to not be a drain on the county budget. It is why the 70 cent per square foot tax was put in place before Shay Development turned dirt. There is an annual 4 percent cap on increases.
It means Mountain House — unlike most California cities — would not be reliant on taxes of retail sales to help cover a large share of municipal operating costs if it incorporated as a city.
Mountain House gearing
up for 5,000 more homes
Mountain House developers are getting ready to move forward with 5,000 more lots north of Byron Road.
A large share of the homes will be age-restricted to reduce stress on local schools. Mountain House High already has 2,000 students.
The community roughly five miles somewhat to the northwest from Tracy along the wind-swept lower reaches of the Diablo Range foothills is nudged up against the Alameda and Contra Costa County lines.
The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors in the mid-1990s made a decision to award the Mountain House the privilege of being a master planned community in a rural area of the county.
The project was the victory in a three-way race for the opportunity the county was creating. San Joaquin County — in a bid to protect agriculture — years prior had imposed zoning that made it difficult to break 80, 40, and 20 acre parcels into smaller parcels. It was enough to thwart developers from trying to amass rural land to cobble together large subdivision projects.
The idea was to not simply direct urbanization into cities but to prevent pockets of urbanized incorporated areas such as Raymus Village to pop up wily-nilly across San Joaquin County’s 1,426 square miles that stretch from the heart of the Delta to the rolling terrain of the lower Sierra foothills.
It was an early version of “smart growth”.
Instead of allowing growth demands to slowly break down larger parcels into smaller ones for housing or to create more pockets of urban areas away from urban areas well established to handle higher densities, the goal was to address growth pressures with minimum impacts on agriculture as well as existing cities.
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