ABC News, Thursday, August 5, 2004
By Leslie Brinkley
Homeowners Flock to New Bay Area Suburb
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Mountain House, CA – A new Bay Area suburb is springing up, almost overnight it seems. It's a future city of 16,000 homes that's out in the middle of nowhere right now, but Bay Area homebuyers are looking east for cheaper housing. ABC7's Leslie Brinkley explains in this Assignment 7 report.

East of the Bay Area, over the Altamont Pass and beyond the windmills, new homes are sprouting up and quickly crowding out the cows, the corn and the alfalfa fields.

Mountain House is one of the most ambitious developments ever attempted - taking a piece of San Joaquin County agricultural land with no services or infrastructure and turning it into a full fledged city. Five hundred homes are now occupied. Eventually there will be 16,000 houses, creating a city of 44,000 people.

Eric Teed-Bose, Tri-Mark Community development director: "Neighborhood parks, golf, church sites, fire stations, everything you can imagine."

Paul Sensibaugh, Mountain House general manager: "The water, sewer, all those utilities.... water treatment plant and a waste water treatment plant."

Each of 12 separate villages is built around a K-8 school. The first one opens this fall. Eventually there will be a commercial district or town center, but that's still 15 years away.

Joe Runco, SWA Group Land Planning: "This is probably more like Walnut Creek, although it's designed to be more dense, vibrant and active than even that."

But this is still primarily farmland today, miles from the nearest grocery store. Many of those who have moved here commute to Bay Area jobs, adding lots of cars to a farm road that goes to the freeway.

J.R. Fletcher watches them from his country homestead every morning.

J.R. Fletcher, landowner: "From four to five to six in the morning, sometimes they're bumper to bumper, way down."

Fletcher says developers want to buy a 35 foot strip of his land to expand the road, but he's holding out.

It takes this new homeowner 50 minutes to drive to work every day in Pleasanton, but he says he wouldn't go back to Castro Valley.

Jeff Francis, homeowner: "We more than doubled our lot size and doubled our house moving out here."

Jamie Ussery, homeowner: "We were paying $1350 for a small 2 bedroom apartment in Danville. Now we're paying $1450 for the mortgage out here. For $100 a month more, we get a whole house and equity, so it's great."

Many homes are worth $100,000 more than they were a year ago. But some homeowners have complained of hidden costs. Developers say they've got obligations to not use more than the historic supply of agricultural water, so there's an allotment per home and steep penalties for over use.

But pros and cons aside, these settlers seem happy to be on the cutting edge of growth.

Bernice Kingtingle, homeowner: "When you say a pioneer, maybe one day if my genes are as good as my mom's I'll be able to look back and say I remember when Mountain House first started."

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