MANTECA -- When Debbie Alejo bought her retirement home two years ago, she knew there was a big draw to living on Pillsbury Road in Manteca. Just across the street, surrounded by acres of green vineyards, is a home known as the Hat Mansion.
“I knew then it would boost the properties up here. But my number one concern was the quietness, and the peacefulness,” Alejo told FOX40.
At 30,000 square feet, it’s one of the largest homes in San Joaquin County. Built by grape grower Michael Hat in the early 1990’s, the property boasts a heli-pad, a wine cellar, and even a movie theater. Inside, high ceilings soar over rooms covered in Italian marble, and dark cherry wood. On the second story, bay windows offer sweeping views of surrounding farmland, and an 80-foot-long pool. It’s a vision of opulence.
But soon, it will be gone.
“I think there’s a little bit of a sad note anytime you need to tear down a house built to this type of standard and size, and as well done as it is,” said Greg Showerman, Manteca's acting city manager.
He says Richland Communities, the company that owns the Hat Mansion property, has submitted a proposal to demolish the mansion. In its place would be an 18-acre public park, surrounded by roughly 1,000 single family homes.
“They would use the park, which would be located where the house is, as a central focal point. And then the residences would radiate out from the park and around it, in various patterns,” said Showerman.
The area already offers several parks—at least three within a mile of Pillsbury Road. As neighbors say, there’s only one Hat Mansion.
“There’s a park around the corner, there’s a park over there, why do you want to make a park out of this property?” Alejo said. “It’s so beautiful! The Mansion is there… isn’t it?”
Richland Communities couldn’t go on camera, but told FOX40, “Richland and the City of Manteca rigorously evaluated options for converting the existing Hat Mansion into a community facility, but estimated construction and upgrade costs exceed $25 million. Operations and maintenance costs also are anticipated to be high. We jointly concluded for these reasons that such a project is infeasible. As a result, we’re proposing to remove the existing Hat residence and convert it into a public park.”
The city had considered purchasing the property, and turning it into a community center with a library and day care. But other needs, including hiring more police officers and building another fire station took precedence over buying the Hat Mansion.
“So really, it just came down to a fiscal decision,” said Showerman. “It was in the best interest of the citizens of Manteca not to move forward with the purchase.
But Alejo isn’t ready for the noise and traffic a thousand new homes will bring to the neighborhood. She doesn’t want to see the Mansion disappear. It’s the neighbor that brought her to Pillsbury Road in the first place.
“We’re so sad about it,” Alejo told FOX40. “And I think it would be a waste, because this Mansion has existed here since we moved in. It adds peacefulness to this place, and beauty.”
Richland Communities told FOX40 their plan is currently under environmental review from the city. They expect the review and approval process to take about a year.
Currently, the previous owner of the property, Michael Hat, still leases the home from Richland Communities. FOX40 reached out to him, but has not heard back.