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Call mega development plan south of Tracy for what it is: The Gateway to Hell
pacific gateway
Nearby residents in rural South Tracy are making their opposition to the Pacific Gateway project known.

Just how much is enough?

Perhaps former Tracy Mayor Robert Rickman will be able to answer that question.

Rickman, who is now the chair of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, is in the hot seat.

Or maybe he isn’t.

The bulk of Rickman’s core consistency as Fifth District supervisor are Tracy city residents.

And it also includes a sprinkling of others south of Tracy to the Stanislaus County line and those as well in rural south Manteca and Ripon.

He also represents Mountain House.

But Mountain House isn’t in the fallout zone for what could be the biggest nuclear option ever queued up in San Joaquin County history.

Some see it as “the bomb” as in the somewhat archaic urban lingo for “cool.”

They would use it in a sentence like this: “Pacific Gateway is ‘the bomb’ for jobs and economic development.”

Others see it as “a bomb” as in an instrument of mass destruction.

They would use it in sentence like this: “Pacific Gateway is ‘a bomb’ being dropped on rural south Tracy to obliviate agriculture and the countryside lifestyle while providing the City of Tracy truck traffic fallout while at the same time undermining their economic future. It also will have a negative ripple effect on the quality of life in Manteca and Ripon.”

The goal is to turn 1,600 acres of almond orchards and row crops into a place that can support the equivalent of eight of the Mother of All distribution centers — Amazon’s Project Big Bird.

If you have not seen it, “Big Bird” was the project name for the 5-story highly automated distribution center at 1500 East Grant Line Road in Tracy that opened earlier this year.

It is a 3.5 million square-foot behemoth.

Known as a fulfillment center, it includes 1,800 vehicle parking spaces and 230 truck trailer parking spaces.

Assuming whatever concerns Pacific Gateway lands and they are as automated as Amazon’s massive center, that means developers will be bringing no less than 14,400 cars at peak daily use into the Tracy area with parking for 1,840 semi-trucks.

That’s based on dividing Pacific Gateway’s 26.75 million proposed square feet of industrial space by 8 of the Amazon Big Bird projects.

The developers say that they expect to generate 24,462 jobs.

But such a figure is as abstract as is 26.75 million square feet.

If the Amazon Big Bird does not do it for you, envision 21 Wayfair distribution centers the size of the 1.1 million square-foot facility along the 120 Bypass in Lathrop that’s snuggled up against the San Joaquin River.

As for the number of cars that Pacific Gateway will be sending down congested freeways, city streets and narrow country roads, consider that 14,400 vehicles is a sixth of the average daily traffic count for the 120 Bypass.

Yes, this is conjecture because we don’t know exactly what traffic fallout will rain down on Tracy, Ripon, and rural south Manteca should Rickman and his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors learn to love the bomb.

It’s all abstract.

And to keep people in a trance, Pacific Gateway developers are dangling a 29-acre college campus and a new Tracy VFW Hall as baubles.

Rest assured the developers and their traffic consultants will say “no worries”.

They will have their tidy little models and tell you that they can predict the future with great accuracy. After all, they projected the current traffic messes in the South County.

That’s no joke.

Every project from the West Valley Mall/Walmart/Costco area in Tracy with its delightful Saturday molasses traffic flow to the long running Chick-Fil-A fiasco in Manteca were all blessed by traffic consultants as having reasonable impacts.

They were the same folks over the years that approved distribution center after distribution center in East Tracy that never thought of the possibility that people in Modesto would be bypassing the 120 Bypass in large numbers to take the backroads through Ripon and across the Airport Way bridge to reach Kasson Road and Chrisman Road to get to work.

As for how big of a need there is for Pacific Gateway, someone might just want to reference the business park study the county recently commissioned.

With all the projects in play, is Pacific Gateway going to do anything but dilute the market?

On the surface, that is a “huh” question.

But let’s be clear with what is going on. 

The City of Tracy has two significant business park areas with plenty of land to grow within the triangle coming along just fine on both the eastern and western flanks of the triangle.

Then there is Stockton, of which the county has a huge stake with Stockton Metro Airport that ties together two major business areas east and west of Highway 99.

And let’s not forget Lathrop-Manteca and all of the land that is in close proximity of both the Union Pacific and Santa Fe railroads intermodal facilities.

Smart growth means maximizing what you already have and not overextending infrastructure.

It involves “infill”. And there is plenty of it for large business parks to be developed elsewhere in the county where they are already in play.

There is a reason why Tracy has never pushed to have the area included in its sphere of influence for possible future annexation.

It is too far out there.

It is leapfrog development at its worst.

It will undermine other well-thought out long-range business park zones driven by the forces that are forging urbanization in San Joaquin County but by a rogue developer who — if allowed by the county — will undermine efforts to engage in smart growth efforts going forward.

It also will undermine agriculture and the tightrope the county has been walking for more than three decades but to piecemeal growth or prematurely urbanize rural areas.

More than a quarter of a century ago when developers envisioned creating new cities, county leaders wisely had a “contest”.

They welcomed three projects to make their pitch but would only allow one “planned community” to go forward.

That decision led to Mountain House.

But it also pulled the plug to urbanize the north banks of the Stanislaus River across from Riverbank and east of Escalon.

It also deep-sixed a bid to create a massive housing development dubbed New Jerusalem in the basic area Pacific Gateway is being proposed.

Both were rejected based on they’d create urban sprawl severely impacting existing communities with traffic as well as start a cancerous blight on productive farmland.

Pacific Gateway may be devoid of housing but the radioactive fallout it will create in terms of traffic issues, undermining smart growth, and destroying farming will linger for centuries.

Now the question is what type of future does Rickman see for the City of Tracy as well as the rest of San Joaquin County?

Is it one that undermines cities and farming or is it one that stays focused on economic development that protects the quality of life as much as possible?

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at