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Coming to a neighborhood near you: A half-plex litmus test 125 times over
halfplex design
This halfplex design features two units featuring 1,800 square feet of living space apiece.

Close your eyes.

Take a couple of deep breaths.

Now think of a half-plex.

Any thoughts come to mind?

If not, try this: Think about half-plexes being built down the street from your home in your neighborhood?

Enraged yet?

Perhaps you need some more visualization stimulus.

What about 125 half-plexes just down the street from you?

If you are not hyperventilating so much that your blood pressure is flying higher than the City of Seattle on 4-20 that you can’t talk, share what words have popped into your mind.

Do they include words such as crime, trash, slums, traffic, and noise?

There is no need to make an appointment with a doctor to get your heart rate under control or to get a prescription for severe anxiety. What you are suffering from is a classic case of NIMBYism or, for those unfamiliar with the acronym that allows you to discriminate freely while claiming you want the opposite thing; it stands for “Not in My Backyard”.

NIMBYism will be in overdrive in about six months from now.

That’s when the third reincarnation of the Hat Ranch subdivision being pursued by Richland Communities will be into the full-scale public venting phase.

Yes, it is supposed to be “vetting” but based on past reactions of neighbors and others in the community it will be unadulterated venting.

The problem is Richland Communities is the first developer to have the audacity to put forth an affordable housing project that doesn’t just offer a few crumbs or shave a couple thousand dollars off the price of new housing to make it affordable to people who can’t afford $450,000 homes.

They aren’t going Full Monty by proposing all homes built on 189 acres surrounding the temple to McMansions off Pillsbury Road better known as the 30,000-square-foot Hat Mansion will be smaller and more affordable than in the neighborhoods surrounding it. They’re just proposing that just about a sixth of the 739 housing units they want to build would be within the financial reach of a family whose breadwinners hold two decent paying jobs that are based in Manteca.

By the way, the temple reference isn’t a joke. The last time Richland proposed simply smaller homes on smaller lots on the property, more than a few neighbors demanded the city not approve the project as it would endanger or destroy the Hat Mansion they believed deserved historical landmark protection. Forget the fact that it’s 12 years newer than the Manteca Walmart and that is was never finished.

Proposing 125 half-plexes no matter how nicely they are designed is akin to a Manteca developer having a death wish.

Local builders know the real score. They’ve been there before. They know the city’s historic commitment to affordable housing lavishly described every 10 years in the state mandated general plan that serves as a blueprint for growth are just hollow words.

It’s true Manteca has applied the right colors on maps to satisfy the state that they are serious about encouraging and making more affordable housing a reality but that’s about it. Affordable, by the way to those that disdain the word as somehow being interchangeable with the concept of subsidized housing for the working poor or those in welfare, means high density and smaller homes with less land footprint that can be sold at-market rates.

Developers have been burned before when they’ve tried to propose minor tweaks to reduce the cost of developing subdivisions and building homes so they could pass on the savings to buyers in a bid to increase the pool of qualified buyers. The city in the past hasn’t resisted as much as thrown up every roadblock possible. Any proposal that deviates from what has evolved from 1960s development patterns in Manteca is approached with “a why you can’t do this” attitude instead of one where the city will work to see if there is a way to make it work.

Those that have tried little tweaks such as two-car tandem garages where space for both cars at “stacked” meaning there is only a car-wide garage door has seen the city take six months or longer to decide whether to allow it adding time to a project’s approval and further driving up the costs.

The local builders behind the 1,301-home Griffin Park neighborhood west of South Main Street south of Woodward Avenue expected to break ground in October got approval to build a variety of neighborhoods that address various price points. It is a well thought out project with a design that is very livable on a neighborhood level.

They had envisioned one neighborhood being even more attainable for at market values with smaller lots and smaller homes than those they submitted and gained approval for by the city. But when they saw how quickly the city caved to NIMBYism on Richland’s last proposal that contained smaller homes and smaller lots plus how vicious the opposition was they quickly regrouped. They had wanted to go with smaller homes and smaller lots to serve a more localized buyer and to do what the city was encouraging. It didn’t take a genius after the city crumbled quicker and more completely than a Yugo slamming into a semi-truck to the NIMBYism mob that pursing smaller homes and smaller lots in Manteca was the equivalent of embarking on a suicide mission.

Half-plexes can be stunning in design and fit seamlessly into an area of single family homes. And having a lot of the “same” type of housing dynamics can be pleasing as the French Collection is just a block or two off Mission Ridge Drive in South Manteca.

It is also true it is an effective way at providing attainable housing at market prices for more families.

For it to happen, the majority of the council will not only have to essentially believe in what they have said over the years and adopted as policy when it comes to pursuing a greater mix of housing for various price points but they will have to stand up to NIMBYism.

Manteca is about to take a long hard look at itself in the mirror.