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Austin Road project’s 797 homes largest concentration of smaller lots in Manteca
yosemite square
A rendering of the street view of envisioned homes in Yosemite Square.

Yosemite Square looms as the first Rorschach test of how the current City Council will handle what some see as problematic new development advancing in Manteca.

The 137.7-acre project featuring 797 homes northeast of the Austin Road and Highway 99 interchange is before the City Council when they meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

*It is a clash involving the historic failure of Manteca to convert and adequately maintain  former country roads that the city urbanizes.

*It sharpens focus of an emerging housing market — lots almost half the size of the 1970s traditional 6,000-square-foot lots after decades of adding an abundance of lots as the city converted hundreds of acres of farmland  into McMansions.

*It has the potential to open an entire new area on Manteca’s eastern flank for urbanization.

Given state laws passed in recent years to remove the obstacles to build more housing that is attainable — essentially lower than the median cost of a new home — as well as the city’s own general plan, killing the development per se is clearly not an option.

The challenge is for the council to take a project the Manteca Planning Commission rejected on Aug. 18 based on their view of the proposed general plan amendment, tentative subdivision map, and master plan rezoning and balance it against:

*State mandates.

*The city’s adopted general plan policy to encourage more affordable housing.

*The council’s commitment to make growth pay for issues it directly creates.

*The perceived need to make sure the first project in “a new urbanization frontier” sets the right tone.

The re-envisioned project features the largest concentration ever of high density single family lots in Manteca with minimum lot sizes of 3,290 square feet.

That compares to 6,000 to 7,200 square-foot  lots typical in older neighborhoods such as Powers Tract, Shasta Tract, Mayors Park, and Vintage Estates on Mission Ridge Drive as well as typically 6,500 square feet and larger in most of the development south of the 120 Bypass.

The 797 proposed homes at Yosemite Square include:

*211 lots that are 3,290 square feet.

*194 lots that are 3,450 square feet.

*169 lots that are 4,000 square feet.

*107 lots that are 4,950 square feet.

*116 lots that are 5,250 square feet.

None will be as large as any  lots in 1960s thru 1990s tract development in Manteca while almost all homes built south of the 120 Bypass since 1999 dwarf the Yosemite Square lots in comparison.

As such, it is the poster child of sorts for pushback against other higher density de-attached development in neighborhoods that has surfaced in recent years in Manteca.

It should be noted it is not higher density as defined by apartments and such. The smallest 3,290 square-foot lots proposed for Yosemite Square are considered low density in planning jargon while the development’s largest lots of 5,250 square feet are considered medium density.

The is also notable pushback against the Hat Ranch project where the four-story 28,000 square-foot mega-Mansion of the same name stands in south Manteca.

 The Hat Ranch has a number of smaller lots — including duplexes — being proposed next door to existing neighborhoods where the lots are typically are 7,000 square feet to as much as twice that size.

On paper, the Hat Ranch meets expressed goals in the city’s general plan — the state mandated blueprint cities have to direct their growth policies — as well as newer state laws adopted to prevent not-in-my-backyard (NIMBYism) opposition from blocking housing development.

In reality, it triggers a whole series of quality-of-life issues that basically will decide the future direction of Manteca as a community.


Roads are a big issue

As such, one big sticking point is roads: Handling increased traffic, upgrading corridors, and funding to maintain roads that were built for light rural traffic as opposed to the heavy vehicular traffic pounding that comes with development.

It isn’t by chance the worst maintained streets in Manteca over the years have been country roads converted on a piecemeal basis into major city arterials such as Airport Way and Lathrop Road.

At the same time the clash between semi-rural housing  in place and newer development has created a hodge-podge of Sybil-style roadways with multiple personalities that often have stretches of several miles going back and forth between narrow country lanes, broad four-lane arterials, soundwalls, and housing facing the street.

Airport Way and Woodward Avenue are prime examples.

And when the follow through isn’t 100 percent, you get former country roads such as Louise Avenue where the chokepoint of two lanes in the middle of one of the heaviest travelled east-west four-lane arterials’ in Manteca — as demonstrated by the segment between Main Street and the Cottage Avenue overshooting of Highway 99 — that are never addressed.

Austin Road has the potential to suffer the same such mistakes as other country roads that have been converted into major city arterials over the years.

Some — such as some  planners and developers — dismiss such concerns as growing pains. Others — existing residents newcomers. and even some planners — see it as poor planning and development.


Some tweaks being offered

It is against that backdrop the City Council Tuesday must decide how to go forward.

Legally, it likely can’t be argued the development can’t proceed in some manner.

Politically, they can’t ignore community concerns.

Practically, the solutions to bring the legal and political issues that are constantly raised when it comes to development tend to cost lots of money and are often rooted in past development decisions that can’t be undone.

Community Development Services working with the Yosemite Square developer has come up with a number of project tweaks to address a number of concerns that were brought up by the planning commission and community members in August.

*The number of lots have been reduced from 814 in the map the planning commission rejected to 797. The larger lots offer a more seamless transition between existing large-lot residential property that are a half-acre to an acre.

*Internal streets have been realigned to make a future connection to Vasconcellos Avenue that ultimately could be another traffic outlet from the area as it develops to reach Yosemite Avenue. It is already in place as a four-lane street south of Yosemite Avenue.

*The applicant has agreed to construct improvements on Austin Road up to Yosemite Avenue to create a more seamless transition in traffic lanes between Yosemite Avenue and the project site.

*Once the Austin Road interchange ramps are closed, the developer will provide timing adjustments at Austin Road and Yosemite Avenue to account for increased traffic.

*They also will improve signal coordination using  GPS clocks between Highway 99 and Jack Tone Road (Yosemite Avenue/East Highway 120) once the interchange is closed. That will address backlogs created by peak highway traffic flows heading to and from Escalon/Oakdale and destinations in the Sierra

*The signal effort will include lane stripping to  convert the eastbound right turn lane only at Austin Road on Yosemite Avenue into a through or right turn lane that merges into a single lane after passing thru the intersection.

*The developer will make $7 million worth of improvements to Austin Road.

*The buffer between an existing truck yard has been enhanced so that a street borders the property instead of homes backing up to it.


To contact Denis Wyatt, email