It was supposed to be the people of Del Webb who were upset about the idea of adding a three-story apartment complex to the north side of town that dominated the Manteca Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night.
But the Manteca Unified School District beat them to the punch.
More than a dozen people arrived at City Hall Tuesday night to voice their opposition to a project that would bring 140 new housing units to the city only to find that a noticing error led to the city to pull the item from the agenda after the school district objected to the matter moving forward because the city had not followed the appropriate steps.
In a unique twist, the letter that was sent by the Facilities Planning division of the Superintendent’s office – a relatively new position – was penned by Erika Durrer, who used to work in the City of Manteca’s planning office before migrating to the school district to assist with the large projects the district is currently managing.
Was the letter just a formality, or another indicator of an emerging tug-of-war between the booming city and the district that was left in the dark when decisions were made that will adversely affect their ability to house students that come into the district because of the growth.
With more than 9,000 new housing units expected to be built in Manteca in the next two decades and no new funding mechanisms in place to build schools to accommodate most of those students, the district has ramped up its involvement in making sure that all future development within the city that increase the number of students that the district must house takes their concerns into consideration before making decisions.
And building new schools is not a cheap undertaking.
The average cost of an elementary school, excluding the land needed to build it, is currently around $30 million while high school campuses cost more than $130 million each. The district is currently exploring various options to accommodate growth, including retrofitting existing campuses to hold many more students than they were ever designed to house – not ruling out the option of building two-story buildings at Manteca High School and other campuses if the funding were to be available.
Currently the district receives money from growth fees charged on a per square foot basis, state and/or local bond money, and community facilities districts (CFD) or mitigated agreements which all go into the pot that new school construction is drawn from. But as Superintendent Jason Messer pointed out in a meeting last year, having all three of those sources contributing what is necessary hasn’t been a reality since the housing crisis of 2008/09 and the subsequent fallout which led to government funding slashed universally across the board.
According to Durrer’s letter to Planning Manager Mark Meissner, “since there is potential impact from any new residential development that generates students, the District expects the opportunity to provide comments.” Because the district had formally requested to receive all public hearing notice mailings that affect their coverage area, that meant the district was required by law to receive written notice at least 10 days prior to the public hearing.
Meissner said that a copy of the agenda was mailed to the District, but noted that no public hearing notice was never sent to the district.
The matter will be up for consideration next month when the Manteca Planning Commission meets again – giving the district enough time to be properly noticed and respond to any concerns that may arise from their review of the necessary documents.
The 140 apartment units planned for six three-story buildings on 5.5 acres backs up to the Del Webb at Woodbridge neighborhood. The apartment site Lathrop Road just west of Union Road. The envisioned gated complex is known as Manteca Luxury Apartments.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.