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Home buyers pay into $55M fund to lure 16,800 jobs
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Every time a home closes escrow at River Islands at Lathrop, $5,000 is paid into an account designed to lure employers to the planned community’s envisioned 350-acre business park.

That fee — along with the housing mix and lifestyle Cambay Group is creating in the 4,800-acre project and efforts to secure an Altamont Corridor Express station adjacent to the business park — could be the key to help Lathrop do what no other Northern San Joaquin Valley city has done. And that is to create a large business park devoted exclusively to research and development, office headquarters and laboratory space.

The goal is to create 16,800 jobs to balance the 11,000 homes being built.

“The park will not allow distribution centers,” Project Manager Susan Dell’Osso told the Manteca Rotary during a meeting Thursday at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room.

In fact, language approved by Lathrop voters explicitly prohibits warehousing or distribution centers. The street patterns and other flows such as for pedestrians are designed not to accommodate truck traffic save for local deliveries to future stores.

Breaking the mold of San Joaquin County being the domain of distribution centers either moving out of the Bay Area or opting to locate close to it and be able to serve the Sacramento market at the same time is being done by design.

River Islands will offer the 209 region’s largest concentration of executive-style home with 990 lots atop a 300-foot wide levee with access to a 17-mile continuous greenbelt park with commanding views of the San Joaquin River as well as apartments, and single family homes built around numerous lakes.

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 of whom are in the tech fields — that commute each day from the Northern San Joaquin Valley to San Jose, the Silicon Valley, and San Francisco. The ability for a reverse commute with an ACE station at the business park’s edge is expected to add to the appeal.

So far 500 homes have been sold and families moved in meaning the incentive account for future business park employers already has $2.5 million set aside. Another 800 lots are now being developed. Overall, the 11,000 homes that ultimately are being built will generate $55 million to help lure employers.

Housing sales at River Islands 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 are 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.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email