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Mantecas problem: Silicon in Bay Area
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Manteca’s destiny is sealed but its fate isn’t.
The city with each passing year is being drawn into a tighter orbit around the Bay Area.
Resisting the inevitable can be messy. Letting the gravitational pull guide growth is reckless.
The distance between Manteca and the Silicon Valley and San Francisco is a constant in miles but not in economic reality.
The Tech Revolution is clearly anchored along the bay that has been luring wealth seekers since May of 1848 when an excited Sam Brannan — who happens to have been the leader of the group of Mormons who attempted to farm and develop the Manteca area six years earlier near the confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers — appeared at San Francisco’s Portsmouth Square. Brannan was carrying a bottle of gold dust and small nuggets while yelling at the top of his lungs. Brannan went down in history as the Paul Revere of one of the nation’s most seismic events, the California Gold Rush.
Today silicon has replaced gold. The lure of San Francisco and the Bay Area still resonates strong among the new miners of wealth.
In 1995, Dow Jones Venture Source noted roughly 30 percent of all venture capital in the United States went to companies based in the Bay Area. Today venture capital investment in Bay Area start-ups and firms is approaching 50 percent of the nation’s total. The Bay Area’s share continues to grow by 1 percent a year. The Tech Rush continues to lure gold seekers to the Bay Area.
This is happening despite the fact today Trulia reports 57.4 percent of all homes in San Francisco and neighboring Marin County are valued at more than $1 million apiece. Four years ago that percentage was 19.6 percent.
Those two factors — continued growth powered by what was $68 billion of venture capital investment in Bay Area firms in 2015 and soaring housing costs — are driving Manteca into a tighter orbit of the San Francisco-Silicon Valley economy.
And that influence isn’t waning.
There have been three economic retractions since the 1970s when the initial wave of Bay Area inspired housing growth slammed Manteca eventually leading to implementation of the first growth cap in the Central Valley in 1985.
Each time they have occurred, a reverse migration took place involving people who could afford to live closer to their jobs thanks to tumbling housing prices. The first time many who had moved to Manteca and were employed in the Silicon Valley moved to the San Jose area. The second time those inclined to live closer to work moved to Pleasanton/Livermore as prices in San Jose didn’t retreat far enough. This time there was very little retreating even with the biggest housing crisis since the Great Depression as prices in the Bay Area didn’t drop into what one might call a reasonable range. That’s because the days of large, relatively inexpensive subdivisions and other housing being built in the Bay Area that is constricted due to greenbelt efforts, high costs of what land is available, and jobs not taking as big as a hit in the tech sector made moves westward across the Altamont is difficult to achieve even with Bay Area paychecks.
Now we are seeing a new trend: Holders of decent Bay Area jobs that pay $60,000 to $75,000 and who are single or young couples fleeing to Tracy and Manteca to rent an apartment. It is why top tier apartments in Manteca and Ripon and commanding $1,590 for a one bedroom unit while in Tracy they are approaching the $1,800 mark.
Against that backdrop Manteca has plans submitted by the private sector for nearly 10,000 homes at various points in the approval process.
Once approvals and entitlements are granted they are next to impossible to take away. And the odds of “maps” expiring as they would in the go-go days of Golden State housing in the 1960s when rampant speculation created paper lots and aberrations such as California City in the Mojave that is the state’s third largest city in terms of land mass but today has a few hundred less people than Ripon are virtually nil.
That’s because for all practical purposes the days of new single family home subdivisions in the Bay Area that a household with a gross income of $150,000 or less can afford to buy are gone.
Almost all of those 10,000 housing units will be built in Manteca likely in 20 years or less along with 11,000 housing units in River Islands at Lathrop and numerous others in the region.
The cows are out of the proverbial barn. You can’t get them back in. What you can do, though, is make sure they don’t run wild and tear up the pasture as well as making sure there presence in once cow-free fields benefits everyone.
Like it or not, Manteca will have 105,000 residents in fairly short order.
The question now is making sure there are elected leaders at the wheel that steer the growth in a beneficial direction for Manteca instead of putting it on autopilot, taking their hands off the wheel and having their eyes glued to a DVD player streaming Harry Potter.