By Tim Hunt
Patience and very deep pockets can pay offUploaded: Aug 19, 2014
Newspaper advertisements for the past couple of weeks have touted the new community in Lathrop of River Islands.
Lathrop is one of the San Joaquin Valley citieslike Tracy, Manteca and Newman, that grew rapidly when job growth in the Tri-Valley and Silicon Valley outpaced housing construction. They all took a major hit in the Great Recession, but, like unincorporated Mountain House west of Tracy, are now bustling again. Lathrop is located just beyond the intersection of I-205, I-5 and where Highway 120 takes off east for Sonora. The River Islands land is located west of I-5 and bounded by the San Joaquin River on the south and west sides.
To see that development finally reach the market is a testament to extraordinarily deep pockets and perseverance on steroids. More than 20 years ago, different developers wanted to build an amusement park there named Gold Rush City. When that didn't fly, plans shifted to retail and business uses along the freeway and thousands of homes.
There were many, many hurdles to clear, including a public vote and working with the levees and various agencies with responsibility for rivers and wetlands. The private engineers, well aware that the land was in the flood zone of the San Joaquin River, devised a new category of super-levees that are stable enough and wide enough to build homes on.
Notably, the initial proposals were being considered by Lathrop and San Joaquin County during the same time that Contra Costa County and San Ramon were weighing development in the Dougherty Valley. The Cambay Group owns River Islands and processed the Windemere portion of the Dougherty Valley before selling it to three homebuilders.
The Windemere portion is finished, while Toll Brothers (which bought Shapell Homes) still has lots to build in San Ramon.
River Islands is an 11,000-home master-planned community with four million square feet of retail and office space. That's roughly equivalent to the housing in the Dougherty Valley plus about 40 percent of Bishop Ranch Business Park.
Susan Dell'Osso, who led the Windemere entitlement process, moved over to River Islands in 2001 and now, in 2014, the project is selling homes. Fans of the giant corn maze and slides will know Susan better for the family business she owns with her husband, Ron, the Dell'Osso Family Farms.