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River Islands: Ultimate job lure?
Planned community South County game changer
Workers building homes at River Islands. - photo by Bulletin file photo

The weather outside may be frightful but potential buyers are flocking to River Islands at Lathrop as if it is the heighth of the summer new home hunting season.
And — if all goes according to plans — much coveted better paying jobs will follow.
That’s because the River Islands business park located within walking distance of 900 plus highly sought river view lots that already have a waiting list of hundreds even though not one lot has been released yet is just that — a business park.
It is prohibited from having warehouse or distribution centers.
“Amazon type centers take a lot of space but don’t really generate that many jobs,” noted Susan Dell’Osso who serves as River Islands project manager.
The strategy of Cambay Group is to develop a desirable community with easy access by passenger rail to the Bay Area to serve as an enticement for firms that want to move out of the high cost Bay Area to take advantage of a pool of 80,000 workers — many in the tech fields — that commute each day from the Northern San Joaquin Valley to San Jose, the Silicon Valley, and San Francisco.
Between executive style housing planned on rare river view lots to condos above restaurants in the planned town plus traditional single family homes the goal is to make River Islands appealing to the cross-section of all employees a successful firm — tech or otherwise — employs. The ability for a reverse commute with an Altamont Corridor Express station at the business park’s edge is expected to add to the appeal.
As home sales cool off for the traditional winter respite in many parts of California, the contracts continue to roll in at the first five neighborhoods of the 10,800-home planned community. Some 160 families have already moved into completed homes.
Dell’Osso indicated each neighborhood continues to get between 1 to 2 homes a week under contract.
But perhaps even more telling of the housing sales that serve as a barometer of sorts for the Northern San Joaquin Valley economy, sales continue to be split in thirds between buyers from Mountain House-Tracy, Manteca-Lathrop-Modesto-Stockton, and the Bay Area.
Historically since the 1960s when the economy picks up Bay Area buyers dominate new home sales and as prices push up, existing home sales as well.
But what is happening at River Islands reflected Livermore home buying trends in the mid-1990s and Pleasanton in the mid-1980s.
The buyers are former Bay Area residents who lived in the valley for the past five to 10 years. That is especially true of buyers from Tracy and Mountain House who are primarily selling their homes to Bay Area residents being squeezed out due to high prices exacerbated by a housing shortage and a surging tech economy and/or those that seek the family lifestyle that the Northern San Joaquin Valley offers.
That means the South County specifically is becoming even more wedded to the Bay Area economy especially in Tracy, Manteca, and Lathrop. If previous trends hold, when the economy does retreat again it will hurt the South County less than it did in 2008 to 2012 just as it did in Livermore in the early 1990s and Pleasanton in the 1980s.