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Mantecas home grown economy
Fortunes of housing top story of decade
The decade started with developers having 400 plus people on waiting lists to buy homes and ended with homes in foreclosure with some being sold at auctions. - photo by Bulletin file photo

The decade started with McSizing the American Dream.

It ended with Manteca and the rest of America on an economic diet.

Housing fortunes for better and for worse dictated Manteca’s economy throughout the past decade.

It is what helped send money by the wheel barrow load to City Hall and it is what forced layoffs that are the precursor to the re-structuring of municipal government.

Manteca – and the rest of the South County – is no different than most of America when it comes to housing and excess except for two things: This is where it all started and this is where the recovery is expected to come first.

Manteca’s unique position in The Great Recession has everything do with its status as de facto affordable housing for the high cost Bay Area as it does being at the hub of the third largest 100-mile radius market with 18 million consumers topped only by New York and Los Angeles.

The decade started off with homes literally being sold in two days. It ended with more than 1,500 houses changing hands including 1,200 existing homes. Roughly 90 percent of those existing homes sold either as foreclosures or short sales. Instead of sellers making $100,000 to $200,000 in three year’s time they were losing that much in three years’ time.

On the way to the summit of housing prices when the median resale price reached $413,000, housing affordability for those who worked in Manteca and the Northern San Joaquin Valley dropped to an all-time low. The median price of homes selling was 7.5 times the median household

income. Economists believe anything 2.5 times or less than the median is affordable when it comes to buying a home. As 2009 started drawing to a close, Manteca’s affordability had finally slipped down to that magic level.

It is why one out of every nine existing homes in Manteca has changed hands in the past two years.

Against that backdrop, here are the Top 10 stories in Manteca for the first decade of the 21st century:

1. THE MORTGAGE MELDTOWN: The lack of affordability made Manteca and the rest of Northern San Joaquin Valley the early testing grounds for so-called liar loans as well as low introductory loans that went sky high after two or three years.

It is what kept housing sales going long after affordability should have slowed them down. As a result, Stockton-Manteca-Modesto ended up No. 1 in the nation for a number of months as the foreclosure capital.

Manteca’s get tough ordinance with foreclosures left vacant prompted national coverage. In the end, though the tide was already starting to turn as the amount of homes being destroyed, stripped of wire, fixtures and appliances, and were being used as homeless encampments started to drop even as foreclosures picked up steam.

During those dark days the First Assembly of God – now The Place of Refuge – offered a shining light of hope. They went against conventional wisdom and bought the home that had become the foreclosure mess poster home in Manteca. Located in the 500 block of Grant Street the home had as many as three police calls a week from neighbors complaining about people crashing in the home as well as trashing it.

Since the bank owning it couldn’t be tracked down, the police were powerless to make arrests.

Then along came Pastor Mike Dillman and his congregation who bought the home 21 months ago as the foreclosure mess was accelerating. They were ridiculed for making “a stupid move” by some.

Dillman called it – as well as the foreclosure whirlpool that was accelerating – the “opportunity of a lifetime.”

Just over two months later the congregation had invested elbow grease and money turned a profit selling it to a stable family. It was a sign of good things to come.

2. LOCAL GOVERNMENT BUDGET BOOM AND THEN BUST: Manteca and its neighboring cities of Ripon and Lathrop rode the wave of growth at the start of the decade and expanded services and added amenities accordingly. The spigot, though, was reduced significantly as the decade drew to a close forcing cutbacks and prompting some to start rethinking how government provides services.

The mortgage meltdown triggered significant drops in property tax and hammered sales tax – the two biggest sources of municipal general fund income – forcing $14 million in budget cuts for the City of Manteca during the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Manteca’s overall assessed valuation dropped $500.3 million or 14.7 percent. Tracy’s property value was down 18.1 percent, Lathrop down 15.7 percent, Stockton down 12.9 percent, and Ripon down 9.6 percent. Overall San Joaquin County dropped 10.7 percent or almost $6 billion.
The state’s financial woes forced Manteca Unified to slash teaching staff, drop class size reduction, rethink busing, and do assorted other cuts to trim $32 million.

3. BASS PRO SHOPS & PROMENADE VALLEY AT ORCHARD VALLEY: Manteca landed the whopper of outdoor retailing – Bass Pro Shops – as part of a 746,000-aquare-foot regional retail center dubbed The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. Bass Pro picked Manteca for its freeway locations and the fact it is at the heart of the third largest 100-mile radius market in the country with 18 million consumers behind New York and Los Angeles.

The drawing power of Bass Pro Shops which soared past 2 million visitors at the Manteca store in 2009 was responsible for work starting on adjoining upscale outlet stores as the decade drew to a close.

4. SURFACE WATER TREATMENT PLANT: The partnership with the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to build the state-of-the-art Nick DeGroot Surface Water Treatment Plant helped Manteca secure a water source for up to 160,000 residents plus reduce groundwater over drafting.

5. BIG LEAGUE DREAMS: Manteca saw its park system grow by a third in terms of neighborhood parks as the city ended the decade with 52 such sites.

More significantly, the city developed 82 acres of community parks including the 52-acre Woodward Park complete with lighted soccer fields and the 30-acre Big League Dreams sports complex with six replica Major League Baseball fields and an indoor soccer arena.

The BLD complex has out-of-town tournaments booked every weekend of the year to bring in visitors dollars plus has softball and soccer leagues making almost 100 percent use of the complex during the week.

6. DISTRIBUTION CENTERS: The strategic location of Manteca and Lathrop at the center of 38 million consumers that can be reached within eight hours by truck helped establish the area as a prime location for distribution centers. It also helps that the two communities straddle Interstate 5 and Highway 99 with access directly to the Bay Area via Interstate 205. The area also boasts of two major intermodal rail to truck operations with the Port of Stockton and Stockton Metro Airport close by.

7. SSJID MARKS 100 YEARS: The South San Joaquin Irrigation District marked 100 years in 2009. The SSJID was what provided the fuel for Manteca’s growth as a major agricultural center a century ago. Today, they serve 72,000 acres and are using hydroelectric and water sources that they built without federal or state aid and now own debt free to spur Manteca’s growth in the 21st century by trying to significantly reduce retail power rates.

8. RIVER ISLANDS AT LATHROP: The privately owned Cambay Group out of Great Britain has invested well over $170 million to prepare River Islands at Lathrop to take advantage of the next economic upswing. The firm has secured sewer and water, put in place 300-foot wide levees that will also provide million dollar views for future upscale homes on Stewart Tract.

The multi-use project – which includes 10,800 homes – is the largest residential project ever envisioned in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

9. DEL WEBB: Pulte Homes selected Manteca for one of its age-restricted Del Webb communities. It has effectively brought into Manteca older residents who have a fair amount of disposal income. Not only has that helped Manteca to weather the economic downturn but it positioned Manteca in the 2008-09 fiscal year to have almost six out of every 10 new homes built in San Joaquin County to go up inside the city limits. One of every four homes built in Manteca in 2009 was a Del Webb home. Del Webb has topped Manteca new home construction now for three straight years.

10. TWO NEW HIGH SCHOOLS: The decade marked the first 10-year period that Manteca Unified opened two comprehensive high schools – Weston Ranch High and Lathrop High.