By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
More than 13,000 visitors tour home models so far
Crews build a new home at River Islands at Lathrop. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

River Islands at Lathrop — the largest ever planned community in the Northern San Joaquin Valley — is off to a strong start.

After an opening weekend a month ago  that brought 12,000 people through the River Islands Visitors Center the 4,800-acre planned community is averaging 200 visitors a weekend. Contracts for new homes are being signed at a rate of two a week between the building firms of Del Nova and Van Dale. A third builder — Brookfield Homes — will open their models July 26.

“It’s going real well,” noted Susan Dell’Osso, project manager for River Islands.

Dell’Osso said River Islands has deliberately not advertised anywhere else besides the Manteca Bulletin in order to give Northern San Joaquin Valley residents first crack at buying homes in the planned community. They will start advertising in Bay Area publications when the traffic count weakens. For now, 200 visitors a week is a fairly high number by industrial standards.

Projections are for 90 homes to be built this year with 250 homes breaking ground in 2015. Then in 2016 the target is for 500 homes with production expected to continue at that level in subsequent years.

There are a lot of draws for the 10,800-home community. They include:

uUniversal river access via a linear park along the edge of 14 miles of San Joaquin River and Delta habitat. That’s in addition to 400 acres of lakes within River Islands.

uA park of some type within a quarter of a mile of every home in River Islands. The first interior park being built will have soccer fields, extensive tree plantings and a wide expanse of steps leading down to the water’s edge of a lake. It is being named Michael Vega Park in honor of the first Lathrop resident killed in the Global War on Terror.

uService by an independent district that will provide electricity at rates ultimately 25 percent below what PG&E charges.

uWater sensors built into front yard landscaping

uPublic schools designed with cutting edge 21st century education in mind including one campus that was built and up and running well in advance of the first home even being sold — a rarity in California.

uA plan to make the community the Central Valley’s first transit community as Cambay Group is working on a plan that would put an Altamont Corridor Express station adjacent to the development’s employment center on a proposed route that would ultimately serve as a connector for high speed rail service.

uA plan to finance future maintenance costs for the community that caps all taxes at 1.8 percent of a property’s value. That includes the base one percent property tax that is collected on all California homes now. The cap contrasts with other nearby developments where Mello-Roos taxes have risen to 3 percent of value and more as property values declined.

uAn in-place purple pipe system that will use river road and treated wastewater to irrigate common landscaping — most of which is low water use — and parks. Given the water table and proximity of the river it would fairly quickly cycle itself back to the river.

uLicense plate scanners will be placed at all four bridges that ultimately will serve as the only access to River Islands to alert authorities of stolen vehicles. Security will be further enhanced by other cameras throughout the 4,800-acre planned community will monitor a stolen vehicle’s progress along streets as officers respond.

uA marketing director will be hired not to sell homes but to organize community activities ranging from Fourth of July celebrations complete with parades to farmers markets.

That’s the short list of things River Islands — a development 27 years in the making — offers potential residents.

“We’re not just selling homes to people,” Dell’Osso said in March. “We want the people who live here to live not just in homes but in a community.”

Home prices in River Bend — the initial neighborhood — start in  the mid-$300,000s. Ultimately River Islands will have 10,800 homes in the form of single family houses, apartments, condos and even condos above restaurants and stores in the future town center.

The higher density housing such as  apartments and condos  will surround high use community areas such as schools.

Streets are being kept narrow to de-emphasis vehicles and slow traffic down. And instead of deploying traffic signals, most intersections where traffic volume is higher will have roundabouts.

No sidewalks will abut streets. Instead there will be landscaped mow strips between the curb and sidewalks.

Long-term upkeep and maintaining standards aren’t being left to chance. Areas that traditionally are neglected in a neighborhood such as corners and other spots will not be sold with lots. Instead they will be kept in control of the community for common area maintenance and upkeep.

Adequate water for the development of the entire project has been secured.

The entire community has the highest level of flood protection possible — levees designed to withstand 200 year event.

They are the most secure levees of their type in the nation.

Standards will be enforced by a community oversight board similar to what is done in Del Webb communities but not as restrictive.