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Growth management ordinance tweaked to point of ineffectiveness
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
In the mid-eighties Manteca experienced a financial crisis worse than the Depression of the 1930s; a building moratorium occurred that resulted in no building permits being issued for new homes for almost three years. The building moratorium was necessary because the city’s sewer plant had run out of processing capacity due to the 1,000 to 1,200 homes were being built annually.
In response, the City established a Growth Management program that restricted the number of building permits that could be issued annually for new homes. After considerable discussion and negotiation involving the community, the developers, city staff, the Council, and community activists, an annual growth limit was set at 3.9 percent. However, over the decades the Program has been tweaked so often to benefit the developers that it no longer represents a growth limit.
Over the decades the critical aspect of the program that would allow the City to manage and to assimilate a known number of new homes without overburdening city services and infrastructure capacities was lost. Over time the developers convinced Management and Council that an annual “average” approach to governing the number of new homes would be better. (This meant a larger number of new homes could be built if the average number did not exceed 3.9 percent.) This particular tweak introduced a form of “checkbook kiting” to the program. The developers also convinced city hall that Development Agreements would be a cash cow and would raise lots of money for the city, while locking in the City and developers to certain conditions (usually to the benefit of the developers.)
I reminded Management many times over the years that the growth management program was not working as originally set; consequently the city was losing ground on its ability to maintain service levels.
Finally, Dennis Wyatt’s recent column clearly represents where this community is today with respect to the growth management program. I can only add that the growth management program as construed today has painted the City into the proverbial corner, so much so that the City cannot respond to declined public service levels and infrastructure maintenance appropriately and in a timely manner. The only thing left to say is, I told you so.

Benjamin Cantu