By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Are Manteca’s elected leaders & top brass up to the homeless challenge?
homeless map
An aerial view of the 8.04 acres at 682 South Main Street.

There may very well be a way to get a homeless navigation center with a drop-in shelter in Manteca up and running by June 30, 2022.

All it takes is marrying political will in Manteca with convincing Gov. Gavin Newsom to take a common sense approach.

It involves revisiting an idea Newsom rejected just over a year and a half ago but the California Legislature embraced unanimously. More specifically it involves the state agreeing to sell 8.04 acres on South Main Street to the City of Manteca for $1 by Feb. 1, 2022.

In exchange Manteca would agree to put in place the infrastructure to initially establish a homeless navigation center and drop-in shelter for 218 homeless using Sprung Structures and running both programs.

Manteca would also have to commit to working with a non-profit housing agency to build 100 units of subsidized housing on more than half of the property.

How would this be different than the last time around when Newsom’s staff thankfully convinced the governor to veto the sale of the money pit also known as Qualex to the city for a $1 for it to be converted into a homeless navigation center? In one word: Execution.

Assembly member Greg Flora did an admirable job working on the measure — Manteca, not so much.

It started with then City Manager Tim Ogden acting as if the council’s directive was a joke. And then when they hammered him on it, the city did an overwhelmingly half-baked job and had to be prodded by Flora’s staff.

What you do this time, is do it right. Once you get a basic framework of an idea in place, reach out to Congressman Josh Harder, State Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, and Flora. Tell them what you want to do.

Invite them — along with key community representatives — to a 15-minute gathering at the site. Provide a concise presentation making the case. Then ask for their help to not just sponsoring another bill but to start making contact with key housing and governor’s office staff at the outset.

Keep those contacts up and step up friendly pressure.

Someone of Newsom’s staff clearly had a problem with selling surplus RDA land to the city although no one in the legislature did. Newsom’s veto message of the Qualex sale touched on how important it was to get property back on the tax rolls.

Pump up Manteca’s case by embracing two of the governor’s top priorities — addressing homeless issues and affordable housing.

But first get the land issue out of the way.

Explain that property owners in Manteca paid $2.6 million to buy the land through the now defunct redevelopment agency. Point out that Manteca coming up with $2.4 million to again buy the same 8.04 acres at today’s market value would make it tough for the city to secure the land and put in place a navigation center given how the pandemic is slamming revenues.

The city is likely in a position to put together $1.6 million for the infrastructure and actual facilities. Note that the state could consider the sale of the land for $1 as being in lieu of a potential grant to help buy the site and get a homeless center going.

You might mention that state grants distributed so far have barely trickled down to communities in the San Joaquin Valley under 100,000. Remind Newsom politely how in his first week in office he made it a point to say the state has got to do more to help this region that is the poorest in the state.

At the same time provide data on how local non-profits working with the city in the past two years such as Inner City Action have managed to get people off the streets, cleaned up, secure jobs, and housing. All that is missing to step that effort up significantly is a central location and being able to tend to day-to-day issues the homeless face.

As for the subsidized affordable housing portion, show the governor the city is serious.

For starters whatever agency they get to partner with the city would not have to pay more than $1 for the land.

Develop the framework for a fee program to generate funds to assist the non-profit in building a complex.

This calls for out-of-the-box thinking.

Determine the median price of all new home sales in Manteca during 2020. Whatever figure that is all homes that are being marketed above the median pay a $1,000 affordable housing fee at the time a building permit is issued. Homes that are 150 percent of median would pay $2,000. The fee would be adjusted annual to reflect the median new home sales price of the previous year and to adjust the actual charge by the same percentage that the value of new home construction went up in Manteca.

Given Manteca is building roughly 600 new homes a year, half of the homes would be subject to the fee. That means the fee could generate $400,000 a year. If the same number of homes are built and sold the next year but the construction value went up 5 percent, the assessed affordable housing fee would go to $1,050 and $2,100.

Assuming a deal can be worked out where such a complex could start construction within four years there would be $2 million to go toward the project. Future fees collected could be committed to help the non-profit retire tax-free bonds or whatever financing they can secure. The land essentially being free will give them a fighting chance of making it work.

Manteca’s leadership — both elected and staff — say they want to think out of the box. They’ve borrowed a page from the Jack in the Box playbook of yesteryear and figuratively blew up city hall.

Now they need to show the moxie that allowed past city leaders such as Jack Snyder and replicate the David vs. Goliath act that got the 120 Bypass built decades before the state had any intention of doing so.

And if they accept “no” on the Qualex deal that was a true blessing in disguise as a final “no”, they really need to think about packing up their bags and moving on.

If you can get every voting member in the California Legislature to go along with the basic premise of not soaking taxpayers twice and to help a community in the struggling San Joaquin Valley help itself to address the vexing problem of homelessness, the right approach with a non-superficial effort should be able to get Gov. Gavin Newsom on board.

This would not be Don Quixote tilting at windmills. This would be elected leaders working all angles to tackle community concerns in a bid to deliver effective solutions with the lowest practical price tag.