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SSJID may hide new district office
Extensive landscaping part of plan for new site
The future South San Joaquin Irrigation District headquarters may be built on 31 acres on the northeast corner of Austin Road and Louise Avenue. - photo by HIME ROMERO
South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s future headquarters could be both an easy-to-find location but hard to spot.

That’s because if SSJID builds a new headquarters complex on 31 acres on the northeast corner of Louise Avenue and Austin it will have extensive landscaping. It will include earthen berms sporting a solid line of trees similar to what can be found along Spreckels Avenue blocking the view of much taller distribution buildings than anything the SSJID is planning.

SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields stressed no final decision has been made on whether that is the right site for the district. He emphasized if the district board opts to pursue the location after a $12,370 site master plan is devised by an architectural firm they hired, they will then start working with neighbors to make sure concerns are addressed.

Shields said the district would heavily landscape the site along both Austin and Louise and possibly place a water feature near the intersection. They might even use part of the property to put in a demonstration water efficient landscaping project.

The actual yard where trucks and other equipment and parked would be tucked away in the far northeast corner of the parcel where it borders orchards. The main access to the yard would be along the northern and eastern edge of the parcel. On the east the road would go atop a buried pipeline that replaced an open canal to the east of a fenced off pump station for the surface water system that delivers water to Manteca, Tracy, and Lathrop.

SSJID counsel Steve Emrick noted there are two time periods Monday through Friday when most yard traffic would be coming to and from the proposed headquarters - 20 minutes in the morning and another 20-minute window in the afternoon. Most of the vehicles are pick-up trucks while a few are construction dump trucks. The district has one large flat bed truck that hauls an excavator that is used fairly sparingly.

If SSJID goes into the retail business, the amount of vehicles they use will be increased. They will be similar to PG&E vehicles with a mixture of pickups and construction trucks.

Emrick noted the district’s present location on East Highway 120 has seen a sharp increase in commute traffic since it was built in 1960. As a result there are safety concerns about turning across steady highway traffic moving at 55 mph.

The proposed site has a four-way stop at the corner. The yard driveway would not have to deal with heavy commute traffic nor traffic moving at 55 mph or faster.

If the district does locate on the 31-acre site, Shields noted they would add the proper turning lanes as part of the project.

The actual headquarters would be closer to the corner with a public parking lot. Both would be located behind berms and landscaping.

“Right now we don’t get all that many people who come by from the public (to the SSJID office),” Shields noted.

If the district does enter the retail power business, they plan to place customer service centers in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.

“It makes no sense to have it (a service center) out here because we are away from population centers and transit systems,” Shields said.

The district has yet to approach the county over zoning or anything else to do with the project. First they want to make 100 percent sure the site will work for them which is why they hired the architectural firm.

Based on current and short-term needs, the district needs 17 acres. The site is almost twice that size. That means there is room for growth.

The SSJID originally made an offer to buy the land due to large amounts of dirt they had left on it after working on converting the nearby water canal to a buried pipeline.

They immediately responded to a neighbor’s concern on the north side of the property and removed trees infested with white flies. They also cleared the corner at Louise and Austin that for years has been a spot for illegal trash dumping among a thicket of trees.

The district had wanted to save a giant oak tree on the corner but then discovered not only was the inside rotted out but that people had stuffed garbage inside it including a TV set.

Shields pointed out the site is central to the SSJID service area.

You can reach it from the Ripon area via Austin Road or Manteca and Escalon via Louise Avenue. It works well for water customers who are primarily farmers as well as future retail power customers. The site is just a mile north of the district’s current office that was built in the 1960s at 11011 East Highway 120 adjacent to the PG&E construction yard.

The site study by WMB Architects would be done by sometime in the next 30 days.

The firm has down similar work to master plan the Manteca municipal corporation yard expansion as well as the Lodi electric utility office and yard complex master plan among others.

The cost of the master plan - and eventually the construction of the buildings - will be covered by the district’s growing unrestricted reserves pushing $60 million.