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Fast-growing Lathrop on the rebound
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LATHROP – While the economic downtown may have hit Lathrop harder than most, all signs are pointing towards a city that will recover strotnger than it was before the market collapse that left the city millions of dollars in the red.
Last week, the Lathrop City Council approved a pare of Site Improvement Agreements for the East Village neighborhood located in the Community South River Bend neighborhood a total of 76 homes when they clear all of the necessary permits and get the final development agreement approval of the Lathrop City Council.
The item seemed like minor housekeeping on the consent calendar of the council’s second November meeting, but it represented the larger theme that Lathrop is rebounding strongly and serves as a major reason why the South County is one of the fastest growing region in the State of California despite facing an inordinate amount of foreclosures less than a decade ago.
And that rebound is music to the ears of civic leaders who faced the direst of circumstances when projects dried up, housing values plummeted and future development that was supposed to help carry the city forward dried up seemingly overnight.
Take, for example, the area referred to as the Central Lathrop – the vast swaths of land between I-5 and the San Joaquin River to the north of where Lathrop’s existing development in the area ceases. When Richland Communities pulled out of an existing development agreement with the city to develop the area, kicking off a lawsuit that involved more than a dozen parties who are all seeking to recuperate money invested in the project in some fashion, it left the city’s first high school without a sewer lift station or a hookup to the city’s existing system.
But Saybrook LLC – the development company that purchased the property and the plans that Richland abandoned – has since taken the reins on the project, invested the money to complete the sewer lift station, and even put up a significant amount of money towards the city’s cost required to get a finding of adequate progress from the State of California that will allow them to build in existing flood plains as plans to renovate the levee that protects the community from a 200-year flood are worked out.
And while many of these issues left staff scrambling, it also presented the city council at the time with a dilemma – how to course correct a proposed $16-plus million deficit while laying off the fewest number of employees.
Even the Lathrop Manteca Fire District was hit hard when the reassessment of property values plummeted their tax base and forced them to go out to voters and ask for a property tax increase, which ultimately failed. A number of firefighters were laid off and stations were browned out until a tax agreement with the City of Lathrop guaranteed the department got 40 percent of a one-cent sales tax increase that has presented them with more than the $800,000 that was estimated at the start of the year.
But with the success of the long-awaited River Islands development and new commercial and industrial properties driving the city’s recovery, those lean times appear to be a thing of the past.
Both of the new subdivisions that were approved last week are part of the River Islands master planned community, which will bring more than 4,200 new homes during the first phase of development and 11,000 new homes when fully completed.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.