One-Of-A-Kind Waterfront Community Springs Up Atop Levee In Bethel Island


Atop a double levee in a Delta island, the wooden frames of the first wave of 494 waterfront homes are starting to rise next to private, individual docks — more than four decades after the massive marina community was envisioned.

In addition to luxury homes ranging in price from $700,000 to $1.2 million, the new man-made lagoon community in the heart of Bethel Island — population 2,300 — will feature a clubhouse, swimming pool, outdoor event center and 230-slip marina.

“This is going to be a really beautiful club for a wonderful life on the water,” Nick Taratsas, general manager of DMB Development, said of Delta Coves, the long-awaited project that weathered zoning battles and saw a parade of would-be developers struggle to make it happen.

Though it’s not the only water-based community in the Delta — Discovery Bay lies just to the south — Delta Coves’ location on top of a levee makes it one-of-a-kind in the Bay Area and beyond, Taratsas said.

“We are very lucky to have this one in this state — it’s wildy water-centric, it’s the combination of these things — I don’t know that there will ever be anything like this again,” he said.

In an unusual twist, Delta Coves is surrounded by water but isn’t in a flood zone. As a result, homeowners perched high above the water won’t have to purchase flood insurance, Taratsas said. And the homes won’t have to be built on stilts or restrict living quarters to upper levels, like many of those on the lower island.

Ranches and farms once dotted sparsely populated Bethel Island, but after World War II it became a haven for anglers, retirees and many others who built homes along the water. The rural island sprouted expansive homes, mobile home parks and everything in between.

Although environmental and lifestyle concerns early on led some residents to fight the project, many today see it as a way to attract new business and needed revenue.

“At this point, the project is going to come,” said Lisa Kirk, who lives in the floodplain. “There are some benefits we will get for the community, and now we will ask how do we limit the liability?”

Kirk spent years fighting the 310-acre development but later joined the Bethel Island Municipal Improvement District to ensure the levees remain safe. Engineers and state and local officials are working together to solve possible drainage issues for those in lower areas, she said.

“I don’t have any qualms about Delta Coves now,” she said. “It will, though, change the peacefulness of the island, but development is happening all around us.

“As far as benefits, we are starting to get extra money from the project, seed money that we can use to help fund projects through the Department of Water Resources like reinforcing the levees,” she added.

Mark A. Whitlock Sr., president of Bethel Island Municipal Advisory Committee, which advises Contra Costa County on island matters, agreed that the new development is bound to change an island known by outsiders mostly for its striped bass fishing and the annual Frozen Bun Run for waterskiers on New Year’s Day.

“I think it will breathe new life into the community — it’s 90 percent positive,” he said, noting the town’s strip mall has a number of vacancies. “That has been a ghost town for all intents and purposes, and we would like to have businesses fill in,” said the former longtime owner of the Rusty Porthole.

“I believe adamantly that Bethel Island provides an atmosphere that Discovery Bay never could — the infrastructure, the marina, the number of places to get fuel, the number of restaurants nearby. You can pull out of your berth in Delta Coves and go to two nice restaurants on the water ….”

For business owners, it will be good to have more customers, he added.

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Susie Saladino