I know that this isn’t going to be a popular opinion, and I’m okay with that.
But for the life of me I can’t see what the big deal is with the idea of the Hat Mansion being torn down and replaced with a housing tract.
When I first learned that the house was going to be razed and possibly replaced with high-density single-family homes – it’s important to make the single-family home distinction – my first thought wasn’t about a local “landmark” leaving the rural Manteca skyline, but rather which young family I knew would be able to buy a house in a community they love after believing for years that they had been priced out.
Manteca’s NIMBY contingent shot that possibility down in fine fashion earlier this month, but the fact still remains that somebody is going to do something with that property that involves building houses (maybe not though – more on that later) and ultimately that will mean that the Hat Mansion as we have come to know it will cease to exist.
I must say that those that are declaring the house a “landmark” aren’t completely off-base – it used to be fun to try and spot the 28,000-square-foot house when coming down the Altamont on a clear day, and the speculation about who was building the house as it was going up was tremendous fun.
You didn’t hear? Garth Brooks is moving to Manteca!
But for reasons that I’m not intimately well-versed in – I don’t personally know the Hat family, and I don’t think it would be right to speculate – it’s life as a permanent fixture of a community that remains fascinated by its existence proved to be short-lived.
And therein lies the majority of the reason that the odds of it being renovated for any use other than a single-family home – a salon or a bed-and-breakfast or any one of a number of ideas being thrown around – rests between slim and none. Because of California’s building regulations, it would cost as much $18 million to convert the building into something that could be utilized by the public, and that would put whoever is bankrolling the venture that wishes to capitalize on its grandeur somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million in the hole before they welcome in their first customer.
If I’ve learned anything in my brief time here on this earth, it’s been that people with money don’t like to part with it, and nobody in their right mind would take that gamble unless they were willing to walk away from a life-changing amount of cash.
I know for a fact that interest exists in people that would love to live there – I got a phone call from a local gentleman asking how to get in touch with the developer because he would like to purchase it from them as his home, and he appears to have the means to do so – but then you run into the issue of land value and how much a completed housing tract with hundreds of homes would be worth to the group that currently owns it.
So for all of those reasons, and more, the gargantuan house on the outskirts of town is eventually going to be no longer. It has captivated us for decades and even in its last days as a relic of the agricultural boom that spawned it continues to do so.
Time to say goodbye.
It just keeps on getting better
I went to the Manteca Unified School Board meeting on Tuesday to find out whether 40 kindergarten aides were going to be laid off, and whether the board would accept the highly-publicized contract with its teachers.
What I didn’t expect was that the board would be replying, yet again, to the San Joaquin County Grand Jury over – wait for it – Weston Ranch.
This is at least the third time that the Manteca Unified School District has had to reply to the Grand Jury over an issue in Weston Ranch, and this time the report – which focused heavily on the poor job that the Stockton Kids Club did in managing the afterschool program there – included some details that I was not privy to prior to its publication.
I didn’t know that Ashley Drain’s spouse received a $12,750 check from Give Every Child a Chance for his sports program that served the afterschool program in Weston Ranch when she was still involved with its operation. The split was ugly, and the ensuing fallout was, according to the last Weston Ranch Grand Jury report and the most current, one of the reasons that the acclaimed tutoring program withdrew from the South Stockton community.
While there’s nothing illegal about the payment, I do find it interesting that there was a time that Drain was not only working for GECAC but the organization also employed other family members as well – something that makes the ensuing split, the withdrawal of GECAC, her attempt at starting her own program (a flashpoint in district relations), and the Stockton Kids Club riding in to, ahem, save the day, that much more intriguing.
And until she’s sentenced, and former Trustee Sam Fant has his day in court later this year, the story that has been the gift that keeps on giving looks like it will continue as such.
Isn’t there tremendous irony in the fact that the reason that the Stockton Kids Club was even brought into the fold was because at least two board members, one of whom has been sentenced and another is awaiting trial, created the circumstance in which it was all possible? And the fact that the organization that came in is now embattled in their own legal woes? And that it may be the Manteca-Lathrop Boys and Girls Club that will have to come in at the end of it all and provide a source of stability?
For those that didn’t know, the Stockton Kids Club used to be the Stockton Boys and Girls Club, but the organization was forced to give up its charter when Executive Director Anthony Silva refused to open its books for an audit. He’s now being accused of bilking “millions” from that organization, yet remained involved with the Stockton Kids Club until his arrest, and even after the fact.
It’s a tangled web. It’s even more tangled than I can even begin to formulate. It’ll be a shame when it’s all over.