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River Islands building 1st of 10,800 homes
River Islands at Lathrop Project Manager Susan DellOsso near the Commercial Drive archway. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The second a stolen vehicle rolls onto one of four bridges that will access River Islands at Lathrop law enforcement will be alerted.

Cameras that instantly scan license plates and compare them against a DMV data base of vehicles reported stolen will instantly flash the information to law enforcement personnel at a dispatch center or in mobile units.

Other cameras throughout the 4,800-acre planned community that ultimately will sport 10,800 housing units will monitor the vehicle’s progress along streets as officers respond.

Security joins a long list of details that Cambay Group is putting in place to assure that buyers of homes won’t simply be purchasing housing but rather acquiring a community.

• A 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.

• Universal 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.

• A 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.

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

• Water sensors built into front yard landscaping

• Public 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.

• A plan to make River Islands 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.

• A 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. The cap contrasts with other nearby developments where Mello-Roos taxes have risen to 3 percent of value and more as property values declined.

• An 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 high water table and proximity of the river it would fairly quickly cycle back to the river.

That’s the short list of things River Islands — a development 27 years in the making — will offer potential residents when the first homes go on sale this spring.


Not just selling homes but selling a community

“We’re not just selling homes to people,” noted Susan Dell’Osso who serves as project manager for the biggest planned community ever moving to fruition in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. “We want the people who live here to live not just in homes but in a community.”

River Islands sits on an outer Delta island that has been known for years as Stewart Tract. It started in 1987 as a combination housing project and amusement park dubbed Gold Rush City as envisioned by Norm Jarrett. It morphed for a short time into Califia featuring housing shared with a nature preserve. Over 18 years ago, England-based and privately held Somerston Group of Companies that’s been in business since 1854 and operates Cambay Group as a wholly owned subsidiary, started zeroing in on the River Islands concept. They then set about planning a community that would build upon the reputation they established developing the 11,000 home Dougherty Valley in the East Bay. But this time around  instead of just selling off segments to other developers and builders they wanted to control important details and oversee the development until the last home is built. That could take another 25 years.

Three builders — Del Nova, Van Dale and Brookfield Homes — have been selected for the first neighborhood dubbed River Bend. Work has already started on models with the first sales expected to start in May.

Actually, they wouldn’t be the first sale per se. 

Ron and Susan Dell’Osso’s son’s family — Brian and wife Brittany along with their children Christian and Brayden —  have bought the first home. The site is on a lake where the family will have their own boat dock just like their neighbors. It is within easy walking distance of River Islands Technology Academy that opened in August and currently has a waiting list of 200 students. They are also several doors down from the Michael Vega Park as well as a park designed not for the community per se but adults that live there. That way the clubhouse can serve alcohol for parties and other gatherings. The adult park will also have amenities such as sand volleyball courts, bocce ball, and horseshoe pits.

They also are a quarter of a mile way from access to a linear park/promenade that will wrap around River Islands overlooking the San Joaquin River and Paradise Cut. The family could go fishing on fishing piers that will be located between groupings of private boat docks on the river that will belong to the more than 900 families that will ultimately live in homes overlooking the river from atop a 300-foot wide super levee.

Their home — and others in River Bend — will reflect craftsmen styling as part of an effort by River Islands not to mix architectural types.

Home prices in River Bend will 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-emphasize 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.

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

Nothing has been left to chance.

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.

A desire to create a community that is inviting for families and young professionals alike led to the decision to deploy security cameras and license plate readers.

“It makes sense to have law enforcement officers be as efficient as possible,” Dell’Osso said. “The idea is to have (the cameras) monitored in real time.”

River Islands in the coming months will stage workshops designed to determine how far the community should go with security camera placement along streets, parks, schools, the town square, and along the river.