By Rose Albano-Risso

LATHROP – The days of the old rustic red barn along the San Joaquin River at the end of Towne Centre Drive are numbered.

The Lathrop City Council earlier this week voted unanimously to authorize city staff to begin eminent domain proceedings leading to the acquisition of a portion of the Silveira Farms for the construction of the Bradshaw’s Crossing Bridge over the river.

The bridge, named after the late community activist and leader Mike Bradshaw, will be an extension of River Islands Parkway. It is designed to connect the rest of Lathrop east of the San Joaquin River to the future master-planned River Islands development on the west side where 11,000 homes will be built along with other commercial and recreational projects.

The city is interested in acquiring about seven acres of the Silveira property – 5.53 acres for right-of-way, 1.20 acres for slope easement, and 0.22 acres for a Reclamation District 17 levee easement.

Additionally, the project will need a 10.41-acre area of the property as a temporary construction easement to be used during the construction of the bridge. This will be returned to the Silveira Farms at the completion of the project.

There was no extensive discussion prior to the council’s unanimous vote which was done by roll call. The only extensive comment came from Mayor Kristy Sayles who said that she, too, was raised in a farm – in fact, right next to the Silveira property – but that the council was being asked to consider the greatest good for the public with the least private injury.

Council member Robert Oliver shared the mayor’s sentiment and logic, adding he also empathized with the Silveiras.

Their comments were addressed to a plea from Charles Steidtmann who represented property owners J.W. Silveira and his wife Barbara O. Silveira who now live in Oakland at the public hearing.

“They asked me to come here,” he said, and to ask the council to “restudy this matter.”

Steidtmann, a real estate attorney, said the Silveiras want to see the ambiance of the family’s 230-acre farm preserved.

“The family is not interested in anything but farming; they want to preserve the beauty of the land,” he said.

In a follow-up telephone conversation with Steidtmann, he said the Silveiras, who are now in their 80s, “are obviously disappointed” with the decision of the council.

“They wanted to maintain the integrity of their ranch and preserve the beauty of the riverfront and preserve their historic barn and early California house.”

He said the ranch house was originally the home of J.W. Silveira’s parents. “He spent a lot of time there when he was a child. He has a lot of memorable memories of the place.”

The barn will be demolished to make way for the road or bridge.

“The road is gonna go right through that red barn; the bridge is going to be right next to the house,” Steidtmann said.

A caretaker currently lives in the old house.

He said the Silveiras have no intention of selling or subdividing their property.

Prior to the eminent domain action by the city, the previous developer of River Islands – Califia – also made an effort to acquire part of the Silveira property but were unsuccessful.

Constructing the bridge will take approximately two years, staff told council, with the work expected to start in July of next year. Part of the reason for pushing through with the eminent-domain acquisition of the property is the critical timing for proceeding with the bridge construction. Due to climate conditions and legal mandates, bridge workers will only be able to work on the project during a narrow time span – that is, in the summer months from July to September. Construction is expected to take place during the two consecutive summers.

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