• First residents: Late 2013
• Number of homes: 10,800
• Job potential: 16,800
• Acres involved: 4,800
• Enhanced eco-systems being created for Riparian rabbit, Swainson’s hawk
• Eight major public river access points with “bays” that will have peninsulas with enhanced natural landscaping
• Flood control improvements for the San Joaquin River
LATHROP — In less than a year you’ll be able to drive your Chevy across the super levee.
And when you do it’ll be on a $7 million mile-long road that will take you past the first neighborhood of Lathrop’s $5 billion baby to the state-of-art River Islands Tech Academy where classes will be capped at 25 students and iPads will be more common than books or paper.
Cambay Group - the subsidiary of the privately held Somerston Group headquartered in England - broke ground Wednesday on the first road within the 10,800-home planned community known as River Islands at Lathrop. The $25 million school campus currently under construction could be seen rising on the horizon behind those gathered for the ceremonial turning of the dirt. Also behind them were the cranes working in the distance on a $17 million bridge across the San Joaquin River that ultimately will connect Louise Avenue with the heart of the planned community that has been 23 years in the making.
Actually there are two miles of road that Top Grade Construction will be building complete with infrastructure. It involves a mile of pavement to access the school and another mile of streets bordering the school campus that also includes a large park area.
Beneath the street will be everything needed to accommodate the first 500 homes - sewer, water, and storm lines as well as power and communication lines. There will also be a natural gas line large enough to serve the entire development.
The street will be lined with decorative street lights and furnishings such as benches that are a continuation of the design employed in Mossdale Landing just north of River Islands and across the river.
And if you do take your Chevy across the super levee it will definitely be dry as the levee meets 200-year flood protection standards making them the strongest levees in all of California. It won’t be totally dry, though. The road being built will also access two 10-acre lakes that - much like Stow Lake in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park - will each have boat houses where you will be able to rent a myriad of watercraft to enjoy the two interior lakes. The lakes were engineered as storm run-off basins that allow water to percolate naturally.
“We expect to be ready to pour the foundations for the first homes in May,” noted Susan Dell’Osso who serves as the River Islands project manager.
Dell’Osso expects the first homes will sell in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. The initial 500 homes will also include 52 lots that will have perhaps the most stunning views in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. They will be built above the river on the 300-foot wide super levees with commanding views not only of Mt. Diablo and the Coastal Range but of the Sierra as well as River Islands itself. She doesn’t expect any of those 52 homes to be built for at least two years.
Based on 10,800 homes alone, the multi-use planned development has a build-out value in excess of $4.4 billion in today’s dollars. Add the sizeable business park, town square and other retail and the eventual finished value of the overall project easily soars past $5 billion in constant 2012 dollars.
The street being built isn’t yet named but for now it is the extension of Stewart Road.
The segment of Stewart Road that once cut across its namesake Delta tract was a narrow, crooked piece of asphalt that light traffic with a washboard ride while dodging a minefield of potholes.
All traces of the former roads have been buried beneath tons of earth moved over recent years to create a 300-foot wide super levee as well as prepare the former pumpkin and watermelon cropland for the first phase of the largest planned community ever undertaken in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
The 4,800 acre project also includes a town square, and an employment center plus numerous touches such as internal manmade lakes has been in the making since 1989.
Cambay Group meets challenges
To describe River Islands as a large challenge is a major understatement. Developers in California for years have avoided pushing forward projects of 500 homes or more. Under state law, they are required to come up with adequate water plus they also attract plenty of attention from anti-growth critics and environmentalists.
Cambay Group met those challenges head on essentially writing a check in advance to help pay for its share of Lathrop’s treated water from the South San Joaquin Irrigation District surface water treatment plant even though they have yet to use a drop. They also found ways to meet or exceed the goals of environmentalists by devising plans to essentially restore 14 miles of river and Delta habitat that had been wiped out by the original building of levees. That will involve creating “lips” or large swaths on land on the river side of the levees and to plant appropriate vegetation. It is believed to be the most effective project yet to address the needs of the endangered Riparian Rabbit that wasn’t even known to exist on Stewart Tract until Cambay Group undertook an exhaustive environmental study.
Cambay Group has worked overtime to make sure River Islands isn’t just another gigantic California subdivision.
They will require moisture sensors in all landscaping to reduce water consumption and are exploring requiring all homes to have gray water so bath and shower water can be used to water grass.
They are considering putting in place small solar farms that can power clusters of 100 homes.
The project creates unprecedented river access to 14 linear miles.