Commercial mixed use projects — the Northern San Joaquin Valley version of the much heralded transit villages now popping up in the East Bay — is a conceptual vision in the current Manteca general plan adopted in 2003 that ended up being forgotten.
The general plan adopted every 20 years is supposed to serve under state law as the blueprint for growth. Manteca is currently gearing up to update that plan with the target of being completed and in place by 2020.
The commercial mixed use concept calls for multiple family residential to be woven into neighborhood commercial with plazas along with a “village green” — a small park with enough space for a backstop and ball field. That is then ringed by single family homes on smaller lots that is all connected by paths including a pedestrian promenade. Softening parking lots and streets would be an increased tree density.
The goal was to locate sales, services, and activities that residents may need on a daily basis with paths enabling people to walk or bicycle short distances for many local errands instead of driving for convenience trips. Sound walls — that now force residents in homes adjoining commercial to sometimes drive as much as a half mile to reach stores — would be virtually non-existent.
It would lead to less traffic congestion, improved air quality, and less long-term maintenance costs for streets.
During the past 14 years while Manteca has added around 5,000 housing units and started processing plans for 9,000 more, there hasn’t been one commercial mixed use project proposed. The only exception is the Austin Road Business Park that is no longer moving forward.
The commercial mixed use is one of a long list of policies tucked into the general plan that were adopted with no follow through on the part of the city.
The de facto position was essentially hoping for them to happen through osmosis.
But with no incentives offered by the city through aggresive density bonuses, regulating the distribution of sewer allocation to encourage such development strategies, or any other device developers have simply followed the same development patterns rooted in the 1960s. Without the follow through many general plan policies are regulated to wish lists and nothing more.
Transit villages have emerged in the Bay Area in cities that have actively pursued them and worked with developers to make them more financially enticing.
Assuming the market will change to make commercial mixed use projects appealing to the private sector is essentially wishful thinking given Manteca’s proximity to the job rich Bay Area that has an acute housing shortage.
Less and less traditional single family homes are being built in the Bay Area each year meaning those that hold good paying Bay Area jobs that want to buy them head east over the Altamont Pass. As such a perfect storm of conditions has been created in Manteca for developers to profit from pursing only the traditional single family neighborhoods as demand — thanks to Bay Area pressures — seems to always exceed supply.
The general plan called for the commercial mixed uses to be deployed in two ways. One was a residential only approach adjacent to existing commercial as infill projects along the Main Street, Yosemite Avenue and Airport Way corridors. The other was to incorporate them into new development instead of just having neighborhood commercial that is walled off from adjacent residential uses.
Such projects, according to the city’s current general plan, would be allowed a density of 15.1 to 25 dwelling units per acre.
The Vision 2020 Task Force — the 1997 counterpart to the general plan update citizens advisory committee the council will form in the coming weeks — placed a lot of stock in commercial mixed use as a way to make Manteca more livable as it grows.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com