Manteca is growing.
Today there are 81,450 residents.
Back in 1991 when I first moved here there were 39,500 less people who called Manteca home.
In 32 years — assuming I make it to 94 — I could very well be living in a city of 130,000 if not as many as 200,000 people.
Why does this matter? It’s simple. The decisions now being made in terms of working to put amenities in place will determine what type of city Manteca will be for the elderly as much as it is for the first grader today who’ll be 38 years old and raising a family or for kids yet to be born.
Mayor Steve DeBrum in citing projections made by University of Pacific economist Thomas Pogue makes the point we can’t just live in the present when making decisions about our community.
“We can’t afford to wake up in 2040 and starting working on what we want Manteca to be in 2050,” DeBrum said. “It will be too late by then.”
How the city spends money today is the key to Manteca’s long-term livability as well as viability as a community. It’s a tough thing to keep in mind given the pressures that every municipality has dealing with the present need and demand for services and amenities against revenue and the need to buffer itself somewhat against the inevitable economic downturns.
Keeping that in mind is what set Manteca apart from many other cities in California during the Great Recession. While places like Stockton went into 100 percent survival mode, Manteca’s leadership elected to take a “survive and thrive” approach.
It explains why, based on Pogue’s research, Manteca for the last three years has seen 30 percent of the county’s population growth despite having only 10 percent of its population.
If that trend continues Manteca would add 132,000 people over the next 32 years bringing the population to 213,000 by 2050. That would make Manteca the same size Modesto is today.
Pogue noted it might be difficult to sustain Manteca’s growth rate of the past three years given development is picking back up in Stockton as well as Lathrop and Tracy seeing more new home sales.
That said, the real issue that will dictate growth in the next 32 years is water or more precisely the lack thereof created by political decisions whether they are driven by sustainability issues such as the neutral groundwater pumping mandate handed down by the state or Sacramento’s attempts to manipulate water commitments and even senior water rights adjudicated by the courts.
Manteca, thanks to surface water commitments by the South San Joaquin Irrigation District tied into the second phase of the Nick DeGroot Water Treatment Plant, can sustain a population of 166,000 residents based on 2002 projections. Given per capita water use was falling in Manteca well in advance of the drought, Manteca could realistically support a population of 213,000 and still have wiggle room.
Tracy and Lathrop have a part of the second phase as well. Stockton is not similarly positioned neither are most cities in the greater Bay Area — or most of California or that matter — with water to grow.
Given that water is the absolute foundation to support civilization, Manteca is extremely well positioned.
While 132,000 Manteca residents — more than a 50 percent increase beyond today’s population — by 2050 looks extremely likely as a conservative projection, having 213,000 residents when we wake up 32 years from now might be a reasonable expectation.
That has as much to do with the ability to support growth and Manteca’s position equal distance from San Jose/Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Sacramento as it does with the emerging passenger rail network. The extending and expansion of Altamont Corridor Express service rolling out by 2023, the bid to connect the South County with BART, and more robust Amtrak commute service also will play a big role.
Arguably the South County is the closest area to the job-rich Silicon Valley that is positioned for growth to handle Bay Area needs to provide affordable housing for workers laboring west of the Altamont Pass.
There are some that might be tempted to start a push to close the door a bit or slam it shut entirely when it comes to growth.
There are plenty of textbook cases where cities in high growth areas have done that only to see housing prices and rents go into orbit.
If you think the ability to secure housing has gone south in Manteca in terms of affordability for people who depend on the salary of Northern San Joaquin Valley jobs it’ll go deep south if you put a tourniquet on the ability to expand the housing supply.
It is why the best possible outcome for 2050 rides in fashioning game plans and putting them in place now.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.