Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu is 100 percent correct.
The current Manteca growth management is useless. Actually it’s worse than that. It’s a bad joke.
It doesn’t manage growth. It manages sewer allocations. Always has and always will.
Meanwhile two nearby cities — Escalon and Tracy — have actual set caps on the number of residential units that can be built in any given year as opposed to Manteca’s 3.9 percent sewer allocation cap that actually increases the number of residential units that can be built every year.
Escalon basically limits the number of new homes that can be built in a given year to 75 but allows the council to carve out exceptions that would allow a maximum of 100 residential units annually.
Tracy’s is a tad more complicated. The bottom line, however, based on how the pie was divvied between affordable housing and development agreements puts a maximum annual lid on residential growth allocation at 750 units although an exception is carved out for active senior community housing.
Compare that to Manteca. There were 28,250 residential units in the city as of Dec. 31, 2020. Assuming there is sewer capacity which there is, 3.9 percent more housing units can be built in 2021 or 1,101. The actual number is likely to be a bit over half that but for the sake of explaining how Manteca’s growth management is so loose that its inconsequential let’s say 1,101 housing permits are issues this year.
That means at the end of this year there will be 29,390 housing units in Manteca. Multiple by that 3.9 percent and 1,144 homes could be built in 2022. Then at the end of 2022 there are 30,495 housing units multiplied by 3.9 percent that gets you 1,189 housing permits that can be issued in 2023.
That means Manteca’s annual housing growth limit within three years would go from 1,101 to 1,189 annually while Tracy’s stays at 750 and Escalon at 100.
With all due respect to the mayor, nothing will change until someone builds a community-based movement such as in Tracy where set numbers were put in place by a ballot measure instead of Manteca’s escalator growth cap that was under 600 sewer allocations when it started in 1988.
Cantu’s vision is to tie all infrastructure to the growth management ordinance as opposed to just sewer capacity.
But that is not a growth cap that a lot of people seem to say they want. It is simply a growth management tool no different than what the general plan update being reviewed does in making it possible for the city to eventually add another 36,000 housing units under the council’s preferred land use option.
Tracy is larger than Manteca yet their growth cap allows 351 less homes annually than Manteca’s sewer allocation management hawked in deceptive packaging as a growth management ordinance as opposed to just doling out sewer capacity.
And no matter what happens next, if anything, given talk is cheap and the only ones who can force tweaking of how Manteca allocates housing units per year is the council majority, there are 9,000 or so “little problems”.
Those “little problems” are housing units fully invested to be built but yet to break ground as well as other projects within the approval process.
Trying to include those in any type of new and improved growth management plan or growth cap going forward is going to be messy as in legal messy.
That doesn’t mean city leaders should roll over but it behooves them to keep in mind there are consequences — intended and otherwise — that will come from tweaking growth management to include other infrastructure or actually doing the real McCoy and putting in place a growth cap like Escalon and Tracy have done.
To be honest, based on statements they have made there appears to be no real stomach on the council including Cantu for a growth cap per se.
That said it’s a safe bet there is an appetite among the populace for a growth cap with set annual numbers for allowed housing unit permits.
Cantu’s idea of managing growth by infrastructure is what city growth fees should be doing. If those fees and not adequate they should be updated post haste with construction inflation indexed as opposed to just the San Francisco consumer price index. And if there is some fee that needs to be collected yet is not in place then elected leaders need to make that happen now and not 15 years from now.
Cantu has essentially opened Pandora’s Box. The question is whether he is going to keep dealing cards to force the other players on the council to show their hands or is Cantu’s growth management utterance simply full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Capping growth can be dangerous.
But then again it is likely what a lot of people would like to see.
Those two observations are made against what growing evidence seems to imply Manteca is a house of cards built on growth. If the 3.2 percent annual housing growth rate of the last 20 years was reduced to a trickle the city’s general fund would collapse or at least require service cutbacks.
All of this is why the No. 1 issue in the 2022 when Manteca will be selecting the majority of the council — the mayor and two council members — needs to be exactly what each council plans to handle growth.
The voters should not let any candidate — incumbent or otherwise — just talk in platitudes or political mumbo jumbo. They need to specifically say what they want to go about managing or capping growth unless, of course, someone is able to get a measure in the ballot as Tracy voters did in 2000.
There is nothing wrong with those that want to lead the city to say they are against capping growth but it sure would be nice if they could all agree on finding a way to manage it better.
Manteca is figuratively and literally at a crossroad when it comes to growth.
We are now on a course to hit 100,000 residents at the current growth pace within five years. The question that needs to be answered is simple: How big and how fast should Manteca grow?
It doesn’t get any more basic than that.
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 email@example.com