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Slipping toward the housing abyss: San Jose knows the way to Manteca, Tracy, & Lathrop
san jose house
This is what $949,000 buys you in San Jose: A two-bedroom, two-bathroom home built in 1905 with 1,068 square feet on a 5,858-square-foot-lot on a corner lot.

You arguably can’t get a residential address on ground in Manteca that once represented Manteca to more people than Oakwood Shores.

The gated community’s homes sit on land that once was home to the likes of Hawaiian Falls, the V-Max Super Slide, and the Oakwood Amphitheater where more than a few name acts rocked or twanged their guitars.

The land is where 50 years ago big holes were left after dirt was sold to elevate sections of Interstate 5 and the 120 Bypass out of the floodplain and to — at least for a while — do double duty as emergency cross-levees by plugging freeway underpasses with dirt.

It is here where farmer R.H. “Fudge” Brown created Manteca’s first mega-region draw relying on the community’s location on Northern California equidistant from San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento.

Brown is the founder of “the waterslides” known far and wide from 1974 to 2004 as the Manteca Waterslides. They were actually just outside town as is today’s gated community. The irony back then is that the Manteca Waterslides had a Lathrop address.

Brown created the Manteca Waterslides on “problem” ground. The farmer had created a gigantic hole that he had to do something with.

On the thinking out-of-the-box scale it was on par with the City of Manteca taking 30 acres attached to its wastewater treatment plant and doing the ground work to snare Great Wolf — a 500-room indoor water park resort.

Great Wolf — that is slightly taller than the height California’s tallest super slide V-Max once reached — is less than a mile away from the former entrance gate to Manteca Waterslides on the western end of Woodward Avenue.

What today are cutting edge waterslides and a resort that is light years away from Oakwood Resort & Manteca Waterslides is the only symbol of the “New Manteca” fueled by the rising tide of the Bay Area tech wealth washing over the Altamont Pass.

The site of the Manteca Waterslides hammered into oblivion by rising workmen’s compensation costs and the building of other waterslides such as Raging Waters in the Bay Area and Sacramento region also is on the frontier of Manteca’s future fueled by the spillover from Silicon Valley where San Jose stands at the heart of it all.

Oakwood Shores is the answer to the satirical statement made on Facebook to the Manteca Bulletin story on a former model home in a cookie cutter newer neighborhood in southeast Manteca that has a pending offer of $999,000.

The 3,201-square-foot house from the outside is nothing to write home about. The $200,000 worth of interior upgrades and interior furnishings that come with the deal are stunning.

Among the expected remarks about how housing costs are getting out of control and how some posters were thinking about packing up and moving to the Ozark Hills, was one that stated the buyer was going to regret buying a $1 million house in Manteca.

Whether the poster was among those who think Manteca is the pits or thinks housing prices are about to melt like a block of ice left on the corner of Yosemite Avenue and Main Street at high noon on the Fourth of July, both counts would be wrong.

They may not like the valley ambiance — read that heat and the real world trappings of farming and a climate where there isn’t enough moisture in the air to keep wild landers greener beyond the rainy season. However, there are at least 150,000 people in the past 25 years that have moved from the Bay Area to Manteca, Tracy, Lathrop, and Mountain House that might disagree.

Oakwood Shores passed the $1 million mark for resale homes months ago.

The two current Oakwood Shores pending sales — a 3,523-square-foot home on Como Drive with a $1,175,000 offer and a 2,289-square-foot home on Castellina Way with a $998,000 offer — reflect the “new Manteca”.  While both back up to manmade lakes, other homes away from the lake are now pushing the $900,000 mark.

Nothing disparaging about the following remarks, but you’d think that the prices would be way out of line for a community with a commanding view of the often snake crawling 120 Bypass, has a rail line passing by, is next to the City of Manteca’s outfall where treated wastewater is returned to the river, and is a stone’s throw or two from close to 5 million square feet of distribution centers under construction or already built.

Since this is 2021 and not 1961, most of the aforementioned are not problems thanks to quality stands and architectural touches.

But still that’s not where you’d expect a neighborhood that has seen prices steadily climb for six years from the $500,000s to $1 million plus.

However, when it comes to what you are getting per square foot, Manteca is the “promised land” — along with Tracy, Lathrop, and Mountain House — for single family housing for the cradle of modern tech.

For $304 per square foot in Manteca you can buy a four bedroom, 3.5 bathroom stucco house with a tile roof and three-car garage built in 2012 that has a five person saltwater spa in your backyard overlooking a manmade lake.

Or for $889 per square foot in San Jose you can buy a two bedroom, two bathroom bungalow with wood siding and a composition roof with no garage built in 1905 on a corner lot.

As for prices collapsing as they did 13 years at the onset of the Great Recession as opposed to cyclical adjustments, the liar loan wildcard isn’t in play.

Prices will come down a bit at some point — they always do. But the real litmus test is the long haul.

The median sales price of homes closing escrow in Manteca is $568,000. That compares to $125,900 in 1991.

The median sales price of homes closing escrow in San Jose is $1,225,000. That compares with $245,670 in 1991.

Both Manteca and San Jose prices are roughly five times what they were three decades ago.

As long as the Bay Area economy keeps growing and as long as the region’s housing deficit expands in the long-term, prices will keep heading upward.

Much of the South San Joaquin County’s growth — this area has five of the 10 fastest growing communities in California based on 2020 numbers — is driven by household with fat Bay Area paychecks that can no longer afford to buy inner Bay Area homes.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email