Monday, January 30, 2006

Community Spawns First Wave of Growth in Rio Vista

Community Spawns First Wave of Growth in Rio Vista
By Brad Stanhope

RIO VISTA - The Trilogy housing development changed everything in Rio Vista, longtime resident Eddie Woodruff said.

"Anytime you take a town with 3,000 population for most of its history and double it in 10 years, it's going to have an impact," said Woodruff, Rio Vista's mayor. "Some is good, some is not all good."

But most of the change, at least from Woodruff's perspective, is positive. He said Trilogy - a planned community for people 55 and older - "renewed the vitality" of Rio Vista, spurring growth and new development.

Along with that, the community brought a huge influx of new residents to town. It was the first wave of a growth tsunami that is expected to drive the population to about 24,000 residents by 2020 - an eightfold increase in 25 years.

Trilogy changed Rio Vista.

"It is of incredible significance," Rio Vista City Manager Brad Baxter said. "It's the wave of the future as the baby boomers retire. You're going to see more and more active-adult communities."

The impact of such development is widespread, he added.

"Not only do we get the tax base from the houses, but there's an increased demand for services," Baxter said. "It spurred 27 community projects that are on the drawing board. There's a big need for medical and other services."

First wave of growth

Leaders in Rio Vista - the Sacramento River town that was home to a few thousand people for most of its history - made the decision to embrace growth in the early 1990s and the first major development was what became Trilogy.

Blackhawk Corp. built the first 350 homes, then sold the 1,100-acre development to Shea Homes in 1999. Since then, Trilogy grew to 1,500 homes, with another 1,500 planned over the next five years.

Construction continues year-round - with about one home a day being finished and new residents moving in as homes are completed. And most residents at the gated community - which features two large clubhouses, an 18-hole golf course and plenty of other amenities - love the combination of retirement living and the small-town feel.

"Somebody said that if you like it quiet and rural, go to Rio Vista," said Donna Chambers, who moved to Trilogy seven years ago after she and her husband, Jim Chambers, finished their careers as investment bankers in New York. "A friend told us about (Rio Vista) and the next thing, we were here and bought the house."

Jim Chambers was born and raised in the Bay Area and wanted to return to his roots - particularly because his family owns a historic cabin near Pinecrest. Donna Chambers just liked the area of living in Rio Vista.

"I was born in a small town," she said. "Coming here and meeting people, they were friendly. There's just a nice feeling about Rio Vista."

Delia Phillips, 55, moved from Danville with her husband, Bob Phillips, eight years ago. She wanted to come to Trilogy because of the huge clubhouse - which was still five years from completion when they moved - and because the proximity of cities and relatives made Rio Vista a logical place to live.

Phillips works in the homeowners association office and said she gets a lot of feedback from people who like the feel of the community.

"They love the privacy of the gated community, they love the limited number of people," she said. "And there aren't too many kids wandering the streets. We love them dearly, but this is for us."

Who the residents are

Trilogy calls itself an "active adult community," but don't make the mistake of calling it a retirement resort - nearly half the residents still work.

"People who retire often think of coming to Trilogy for the lifestyle and amenities," said Gary Spear, Shea's marketing director. "All the things it has appeals to people who are going to retire or who are retired. We also find that people who reach 55 and are still busy and well tend to focus on how they want to spend their time."

The people who move to Trilogy fit a profile, said Steve Hextell, an area vice president for Shea.

"They're about age 60 and lived in their previous home 15 to 20 years," he said. "They're from the outer Bay Area and their family is still close. They're ready to move on, their kids are raised, but they want to stay close and active."

Because of the booming California housing market in the past 10 years, many Trilogy residents were able to turn equity in their homes into a residence for their retirement. Prices range from about $348,000 to $528,000 for the 11 different models, which range from 1,100 to 2,500 square feet.

Homeowners are part of an association and must abide by covenant, conditions and restrictions - the same type of CC&Rs that are usually enforced at other housing groups. The small plots - averaging about 5,500 square feet, according to Spear - sometimes include small gardens or lawns, but they must be maintained by the homeowners.

Although the golf course is the most obvious attraction, fewer than half of the residents are regular golfers. Two large clubhouses - the Vista Club and the Delta Club - are more likely gathering places for residents.

The Vista Club, particularly, is a popular attraction - a 27,000-square-foot building that operates as the community center for the estimated 3,000 residents. It features a fitness center, swimming pool, indoor track, ballroom, billiard room, cybercafe and numerous meeting rooms for the 60-plus clubs that serve the residents as well as ongoing education.

The Delta club features a library, offices, meeting rooms and other opportunities. Outside, there is a croquet course, golf driving range and tennis and bocce courts.

'They're fabulous residents'

While Trilogy is physically removed from downtown Rio Vista by a few miles - the city has approved other developments that will fill in the gap during the next few decades - the residents consider themselves a part of the little river town.

"They have a market in town. It's not Super Safeway, it's not open 24 hours a day, but it's a nice market," Spear said. "There's a great pharmacy and a couple of great places to eat. And if I want to go to Target, Nordstrom's or the mall, I go to Lodi, Fairfield or Antioch."

The Chambers - who lived in Middletown, N.J., before moving to Rio Vista - regularly visit downtown Rio Vista and participate in events.

"We're active downtown," Jim Chambers said. "We support the schools, police department, charitable organizations."

That's the biggest impact of Trilogy, according to city manager Baxter.

"They're fabulous residents - educated, very involved, active," he said. "There's a real spirit of volunteerism. They love to recreate and be involved in the community. What they've brought is volunteerism, participation. What they bring to the table is a working group of professionals."

Donna Chambers agreed, saying she and her husband changed their involvement when they retired.

"When we first came here from the East Coast, we came to somebody's town," she said. "We wondered how do you get involved. People volunteer at the library, schools, helping needy people."

A recent example is a group of Trilogy residents who raised money to buy instruments and uniforms for the Rio Vista High School band.

But a big concern - that the arrival of thousands of 55-and-older residents to the community would totally change the social fabric of Rio Vista - doesn't worry Woodruff.

"If it was the only development to happen here, it would be a big concern," he said. "But there are four other developments - two already with agreements, two that are near - so there will be another 6,000 homes to be built. That's 6,000 general, family homes."

And it will bring an additional 10,000 to 17,000 people, completing the surge of growth that started with the wave of Trilogy.

Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6925 or


Location: A 1,100-acre development on the west side of Rio Vista

Homes: 1,500 built, another 1,500 planned in next five years

Residents: Must be 55 or older, or one person in a marriage must be at least 55

Cost of homes: $348,000 to $528,000

Monthly homeowner fee: About $100

Amenities: 18-hole golf course, two large clubhouses, tennis courts, walking and bike paths, fitness center, bocce courts

Info: or call (800) 685-6494

(Source: Shea Homes)

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