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Ready for Manteca to grow by 3,000+ residents a year?
home building
Manteca builders have built or started 523 homes this year through Oct. 31. That is in addition to plans for 70 more homes currently being processed by the city.

Buckle up your seat belts.

And get ready for a bit of whiplash.

Manteca’s growth is about to step on the accelerator.

It is highly likely than within a year or so from now Manteca will be adding between 900 and 1,000 new housing units a year.

This is not conjecture. The signs — in-place infrastructure, trends, buying patterns, and private sector investments — are all there. And many of the time-consuming environmental hurdles have been cleared to make it possible.

Manteca is among the handful of Greater Bay Area communities that has purposely positioned itself for growth. More importantly it is along the corridor that moves the most commuters and goods into the heart of the region’s economic engine that is centered in San Jose and not San Francisco. That also includes commuter rail services that will reach downtown Manteca in three years.

There are those that may believe the people running the City of Manteca have been inept for years when it comes to forward planning and implementing such strategies. But when it comes to three things absolutely essential to fueling growth, Manteca has excelled.

Not only did they wisely secure surface water working with the South San Joaquin Irrigation District, but there is a plan in place to expand treatment capacity using water ultimately “generated” by the increased efficiency of agricultural users.

Manteca nearly 20 years ago bit the bullet and spent extra money up front on design so the wastewater treatment plant now in place can essentially be expanded by a mirror footprint without starting from scratch or going through massive re-engineering. Just like with the water treatment plant expansion, future growth is bankrolling the expansion when it comes.

Although it may not seem that way, a major street system is the third key.

Maddening traffic flow issues aside that were supposed to be addressed with state-of-the-art control  systems Manteca landed a federal grant to put in place five years ago but has nothing to show for it, Manteca is about as close as you can get to traffic flow nirvana in this neck of the woods.

The 120 Bypass — when the McKinley Avenue interchange is completed — will have an interchange every mile along the freeway connected to arterial systems that are basically in a grid pattern. The state’s solution for the 120/99 mess in a few years will give Manteca a well-designed replacement interchange on Highway 99 at Austin Road that will have the replacement overpass clearing the railroad tracks as well. Toss in the Lathrop Road interchange that was upgraded a few years ago, and no city in the Northern San Joaquin Valley has a road system backbone along two freeways that can access as much developable land.

Manteca has basically been building at least 300 new housing units a year since 1999. And that includes during the Great Recession where for a three year period Manteca was building more homes than every other jurisdiction in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties combined.

The extension of — and a more robust — Altamont Commuter Express service and the targeted 2028 extension of the Valley Link from the BART station in Pleasanton to a station at River Islands in Lathrop was already in play to make Mountain House, Tracy, Lathrop, and Manteca more appealing to commuters.

The paradigm shift in where people work that the pandemic has sharply accelerated dovetails into the growth trend. Besides Manteca having in excess of 7,000 entitled housing units approved along or near major infrastructure lines that could literally be in a position within a year’s time to start pouring foundations, the more robust commuter rail options coming down the line wedded within the strong likelihood the post pandemic world will not require a substantial number of people to “drive into” work every day to go to work will fuel Manteca growth.

As for any effort arising to try and stop or slow the coming surge of housing starts, good luck with that one.

First of all, there are already 7,000 plus housing units that have the legal right to be built. That is enough housing to add more than 21,000 people to the city’s population or the equivalent of the cities of Ripon and Escalon.

Toss in recently enacted state laws that effectively de-fang not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) justifications to derail housing projects that are of higher density or essentially more homes, trying to stop even more housing units from being approved in Manteca will be impossible. That’s because the only legitimate ways they could be denied — inadequate sewer capacity or inadequate water supplies — have been covered.

Making it all the more ironic is that Manteca in 1985 adopted the first growth management plan in the Central Valley stretching from Bakersfield to Redding. Ordinance 800 restricts the number of housing units a year to 3.9 percent based on the number of housing units in existence or under construction as of Dec. 31 the previous year.

That means if Manteca has 28,000 housing units on Dec. 31, 2000, the city can only allow 1,092 more additional housing units to be built.

There is, however, an asterisk to that. Ordinance 800, for whatever reason, was tied to the actually assignment of sewer allocations. So if a 500 unit housing project was approved one year with all allocations assigned but only 100 homes built those additional 400 homes could be built on top of the 1,092 housing units allowed in 2021 under the growth cap.

It is how Manteca in 1999 with the growth cap at less than 700 housing units based on 3.9 percent growth rate, was able to issue building permits for more than 1,000 new homes.

So what does mean in terms of feet on the ground?

When 300 homes a year were being built, that translated roughly into 900 to 1,000 more residents a year. Manteca now — thanks for the shift of work under the pandemic that makes it financially and physically viable for many longtime renters in the Bay Area to become commuters by being able to buy homes east of the Altamont Pass — is on a 600 plus pace of building new homes. That will add 1,800 or 2,000 people a year.

When Manteca hits 900 homes a year, the city’s population will be growing at a minimum of 2,700 to 3,000 people.

Given we are now at 86,000 plus residents, it is conceivable Manteca could reach 100,000 people by 2025.

It is why the new council taking office with the re-election of Gary Singh and the election of Charlie Halford needs to take whatever steps they can to make sure growth happens in a manner that doesn’t overwhelm the community.

And given the likelihood that when 2022 rolls around and Manteca is at 90,000 residents, people will become more acutely aware that we are on the cusp of 100,000 residents and all of that ramifications that entails.

That in itself will make the race for mayor in 2022 — the person who will set the tone as the elected face of Manteca — a watershed moment in city history.