Make no mistake about it.
The general plan update land use option Manteca’s elected leaders are pursuing will plant the seeds for the city to grow to 206,381 residents and increasing traffic on the 120 Bypass by 174 percent.
Several council members trying to soothe rattled nerves over the sticker shock of the price for their preferred option point out it won’t happen overnight and it likely won’t happen in the next 20 years.
True. But it is also true Manteca can’t reach 206,381 residents without the council’s preferred land use option being adopted. As for happening overnight, based simply on the 3.1 percent growth rate of the last 20 years by 2040 Manteca will become a city of 145,000 well on its way to 206,381 residents.
And that can’t happen without the council pursuing their preferred option.
But if the council backed another option they identified which was simply leaving the current general plan intact which they can legally do, the city would hit a wall at 116,545 residents and basically grow no more.
They were sold on the preferred option from the start as a way to possibly generate more jobs. And an argument can certainly be made if market pressures continue as they have in the last 40 years, having a more limited growth potential as part of the foundation a general plan pours will only increase housing prices even more.
The city’s hired textbook planners and their accompanying magical bean counters find ways to justify whatever growth plan a city puts in place by assuring taxes that have yet to be collected will make a city whole, or in the case of the preferred option, have Manteca swimming in money.
The reason why people are giving council members negative feedback has everything to do with how the city forked over $200,000 plus to cookie cutter consultants that have made millions and will make millions more as Manteca continues to grow doing endless environmental and traffic documents.
The consultants essentially led Manteca as they do every other city in a general plan update process by starting with what landowners — read that developers or people that want to sell their lands to developers — want to see their land zoned.
There is nothing in state statutes that prohibits any city from starting with the target of not growing beyond a set number of residents such as 120,000 people.
In that case the size of a city a community can stomach would then dictate land use as opposed to land use dictating the size of a city.
City officials politely lament what they see as either a Johnny-Come-Lately interest in the general plan update as it nears the finish line or the lack of deeper community participation in the overall process.
What has caught a lot of people’s attention of what has basically been a planning snooze is finally providing numbers of what all of the coloring in on land use maps will generate in terms of population and in terms of traffic.
And to be honest, how does anyone keep a straight-face while expecting the general public to buy into what basically are white lies in terms of what growth will deliver?
The skepticism includes astute observations by people like Planning Commissioner Leonard Smith who notes the breathtaking absence of strategies and such to reduce greenhouse gasses that is a driving force of California mandates impacting cities yet an analysis proclaims it is only possible for Manteca to improve air quality if it grows to 206,381 residents as opposed to stopping at 161,545 residents.
This is being accomplished by reducing vehicle trip mileage by planning for more job centers in Manteca. The trend of the last 20 years when Manteca — along with neighboring Lathrop — has significantly increased the amount of jobs within a 10-mile radius of downtown Manteca. Yet surprise, surprise commuting to better well-paying jobs on the west side of the Altamont Pass has accelerated even more.
The Bay Area’s real and growing impact on Manteca clearly doesn’t fit into the square peg planning assumptions of DeNova’s Planning models that were forged in a more typical commuter ecological system that is the Sacramento region.
Then there is obviously wide-scale failing of assumptions made in 2003 when the current general plan was put in place. The same assumptions such as growth will pay its way, reduce traffic congestion, and generate a boatload of year-of-household jobs obviously didn’t pan out because a consultant said so the last time so why should anyone assume they will this time because consultants again assert it can happen?
Mayor Ben Cantu nailed it on the head. It is the lack of political will.
Yet the lack of political will is created by the backlash to the very foundation general plans have laid in Manteca over the years when it comes to growth.
People are not buying in when they see what the general plan made possible — fairly rapid growth. Stagnant growth and anti-growth movements can be as destructive as putting growth on steroids.
However, the point is the lack of political will and the “last minute” attempts by those sufficiently alarmed at what the end results of the general plan update process has generated in tangible numbers such as the potential for 206,381 residents and sending traffic counts soaring such as quadrupling the vehicle traffic and doubling the truck traffic on Airport Way where it passes the Daisywood entrance to Del Webb at Woodbridge. That has come about because of how the city approached the general plan update process courtesy the one-size-fits-all template DeNova Planning employs because it is cost effective for them to do so.
And if everyone was honest, nothing save for perhaps a minor tweak here and there, will happen to the general plan update document as presented when it is adopted in a few months from now.
It is based on the reality there is no one on the City Council with the stomach or the desire to play with fire and basically plan in a manner that undermines market forces on a wholesale scale. Even the mayor fits into that category despite what some assume. Cantu is perhaps the most transparent of them all insisting that growth is done right given his planning background. But he is definitely pro-growth.
And growth done right in the world of an old school planner is making sure it pays its way and not limiting it as the new wave thinking of many in the 21st century.
In all honesty given there is no well-organized grassroots force to temper growth in Manteca what you see today in the general plan update is likely what you will get more or less over the next 20 to 40 years.
That means for the next few months the city will go through the motions of listening to dissenting views on where the general plan update will take Manteca.
And as the general plan in coming years unfolds tremendous pressure from citizens irked by growth will bore holes in the political will and/or the follow through of elected leaders assuring the rosy future painted by the assumptions in the preferred general plan land use update will be anything but rosy.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org