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Contrary to conventional wisdom of 1985 Manteca hasn’t gone ‘BAT-ty’
The Curran Grove neighborhood in Manteca is shown in this photo taken in 2010.

Four decades ago the welcome mat was not exactly out for BATs.

BATs was the acronym an extremely small yet vocal group of people in Manteca used to call the people they blamed for all their woes — Bay Area Transplants.

Traffic is bad. Blame BATs. Crime is up. Blame BATs. If you can’t get a good paying job, blame BATs.

You get the picture.

Ironically most of the folks slamming BATs weren’t Manteca natives. They were those who moved here 20 years or so earlier from San Jose during the early 1960s when that city was the same size Modesto is today with 204,000 residents. That’s not to say “locals” didn’t have misgivings about growth. It’s just that they actually weighed the positive with the negative in most cases resigning to the old adage that change is inevitable.

There were actually people who painted homemade signs and placed them along commuter routes in and out of Manteca as well as painting graffiti on overpasses reading “BATs go home.”

It is safe to say it wasn’t exactly an Age of Enlightenment as far as the conduct of some people.

Fast forward to today. San Joaquin County is arguably becoming the modern-day melting pot in California that is the ultimate melting pot when it comes to states. Yes, Los Angeles Unified has officially identified 92 different primary languages spoken by its students. From that perspective LA County and San Francisco are way ahead of San Joaquin County when it comes to ethic variety just as they are on the economic spectrum.

A true melting pot, however, combines most of the ingredients into common stew with unique elements floating around such as carrots, potatoes, as well as beef and does not separate them into distinct layers.

That is not to say we don’t have our poor and the extremely wealthy but we have a broader based social-economic mix thanks to two inescapable elements that are sharpened by our geographic location: With each passing year we are moving into a closer orbit to the world’s 13th largest economy — the nine Bay Area counties if they were grouped as a separate nation. We are also the seventh most productive farm county in the United States smack dab in the middle of the planet’s most bountiful valley where more than 400 fruits and vegetables are grown that helps feed much of the nation and a good chunk of the world.

The $535 billion gross national product of the Bay Area has given San Joaquin County the most diverse economy in the Great Central Valley outside of neighboring Sacramento County that is largely propped up by state government jobs.

The economy in San Joaquin County is diverse not because of physical considerations within the county such as agriculture, logistics, manufacturing, and such but by the jobs that power much of the local economy that are west of the Altamont Pass.

In a three block stretch of neighborhoods such as Woodward Park you will find bread winners that work at one of the planet’s most cutting edge labs in Livermore, Oracle employees, truck drivers, first responders for cities such as San Francisco and San Jose, nurses at Stanford University, as well as post-secondary educators. The bulk of Manteca’s ethic mix is split almost evenly at 40 percent apiece between whites and Latinos with roughly the same pie chart when it comes to having a slice of the economic pie based on household income and home ownership.

This doesn’t make San Joaquin County or more specifically Manteca, Lathrop, Tracy, and Ripon utopia but it underscores that we are making a stew in one pot as opposed to a bunch of small pots with only one or two ingredients.

Once you understand what is at work on a large scale you might be able to wean yourself from preconceived notions about expectations.

A fairly unique economy and lifestyle — on the whole — is being created in the South County. It is not one that replicates Madera that is in the heart of the fertile San Joaquin Valley nor does it mirror what you will find in San Jose, Dublin, or Livermore.

It also isn’t an exact replica or Modesto or even Stockton.

Look at what we have put in place over the last 40 years when the “BATs” started coming home to Manteca.

Manteca has the highest number of parks along with accessibility in terms of being close to where people live in the region. There are three high schools instead of two that you’d see serving a similar city population in most other places. The city has virtually turned Woodward Park into a soccer Mecca for youth. Manteca not only secured a Big League Dreams complete with an indoor soccer arena that before the pandemic there were teams playing until midnight, but it is the most successful complex among BLD sites in terms of use and revenue for 13 years running.

It is true there is more to a community than just parks, schools, and recreation for adults and youth. There is more to Manteca and there are things lacking in Manteca.

That said, you will not find what Manteca offers in many cases in places like Pleasanton. Besides housing at half the price, there is a more intense melting pot experience across the socio-economic spectrum. We are not a replica of the Bay Area lifestyle and that is a good thing. We are what we are — Manteca. The Family City moniker makes sense in the overall scheme of things given finding a place they could afford to raise their family in a family friendly community is what brought most people here. Family, and the desire to raise their own family here as well, is what has kept or brought people back.

Much of the Bay Area amenities that some say we need to tax ourselves to the moon and back on top of our existing tax burden to secure are actually in our own backyard.

Within 20 to 30 minutes we have renowned symphonies, teeming Millennial night life, entertainment venues such as the Gallo Center and Bob Hope Theatre, live theater, pro sports, nationally acclaimed art galleries, and a top-ranked private university complete with all of the cultural touches that a community can access, to enrichment programs in arts and sports for both youth no adults.

In Manteca and neighboring communities we have the best of both worlds — the cosmopolitan and cutting edge Bay Area as well as the family friendly and agrarian rich Northern San Joaquin Valley.

The quality of living most people enjoy that live here is because those two worlds mix.

There is nothing wrong with Pleasanton.

That said there is nothing wrong with Manteca.

Rest assured both have issues and challenges but when push comes to shove each offers a unique lifestyle and a unique sense of community.

Pleasanton can’t duplicate what draws people to Manteca nor can Manteca replicate what lures people to Pleasanton.

Forty years later, it is clear the much maligned BATs of yesteryear haven’t remade Manteca in their image as much as joined forces with people already here to make Manteca a better place on its own terms.