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Sales pace picks up during pandemic thanks to ‘neighborhood nesting’ design approach
boat house

The pandemic has made living in River Islands at Lathrop even more attractive.

In the past four months new homes sales at the 11,000-home planned community have soared with 315 homes sold in May, June, July and August. Sales will hit 915 homes on a yearly basis if that pace continues.

River Islands for the first time ever is now selling more homes on a 12-month basis than in the entire City of Manteca. Builders in Manteca have sold 191 homes in the last four months. River Islands for the four-month period sold 36 percent more new homes than all Manteca new neighborhoods combined.

River Islands Project Manager Susan Dell’Osso credits the surge in a large part to how the COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping both the workplace and family life.

The fact many Bay Area companies led by tech firms are allowing employees to work primarily from home has prompted a number of renters to head east of the Altamont where they can trade $3,500 apartment rents for a $2,364 mortgage on a new $500,000 home.

And the fact the commute is eliminated or minimalized makes it even more affordable than before to make the move as well as less stressful.

River Islands’ overall design strategy of creating livable neighborhoods with narrower streets while significantly increasing useable open space that has made it a walkable community devoid of major traffic and heavy retail is enhanced by paid staff that homeowners pay for through a capped community facilities district fee to stage events and organized interest groups to help bring neighbors together.

Dell’Osso said an example was the creation of a bocce league. Once the River Islands community staff organize the residents took over.

“That’s the way it should be,” Dell’Osso said “Ideally people get involved with their neighbors.”

A recent survey where 400 of the 1,600 households on River Islands replied re-enforces Dell’Osso’s assessment of the planned community’s overall appeal.

“Overwhelming what most people like about River Islands is how they are able to get involved with their neighborhoods,” Dell’Osso said.

The River Islands strategy — for want of a better term — has led to “neighborhood nesting” where a number of families are doing things with their neighbors at a significantly higher level than they were in previous communities where they lived.

The trends of the last four months have seen buyers clamoring for home office options to a point there are now River Islands builders getting ready to roll out floorplans that offer the option of two home offices.

To further enhance the throwback small community feel Dell’Osso is hopeful that River Islands voters on Nov. 3 will approve the unification of all schools within the community.

That would mean when the third K-8 school that has just broken ground and the new high school now ready to start site work is opened in 2022 children from River Islands homes won’t be bused to Tracy to go to high school.

“Having a one high school town helps build a strong sense of community,” Dell’Osso said.

Also working to the advantage of River Islands is its close proximity to the Lathrop/Manteca Altamont Corridor Express station that provides commuter service to San Jose and the Silicon Valley. There is actually a state bike path that runs beneath Interstate 5 and along the 120 Bypass that makes it possible to bicycle to and from the West Yosemite Avenue station.

Adding to a sense of self-containment is the fact there are only five access points planned for River Islands allowing license plate scanners to detect if stolen vehicles that are typically used to commit crimes enter the planned community.

River Islands Parkway that now crosses the San Joaquin River will eventually span Paradise Cut and connect with a new interchange on Interstate 205. Golden Valley Parkway that will serve the envisioned business park and a transit village planned for the proposed Valley Link station for rail commuters to connect with BART in Pleasanton will cross the river and cut to the east.

The existing access point from Mathney Road would be the fifth access point.

River Islands is the process of adding the 11th manmade lake and further development of the 18-mile greenbelt trail circulating the islands atop of a 300-foot wide levee that provides protection against 200-year flood events. Thanks to a design that has trail bridges spanning both River Islands and Golden Valley parkways there will be only one place that there will be potential conflicts between cars and pedestrians on the entire 18-mile loop.
At the same time the solar mandate for all new homes built in California coupled with Lathrop Irrigation District electricity that is sold at rates 10 percent below PG&E with a goal of being 15 percent lower help make day-to-day living at River Islands more affordable.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email