Advice Please: Unincorporated Castro Valley Land

Ok, I know someone whose family owns a lot of land in unincorporated Castro Valley. I was chatting to her and she lives there on a ranch and she can see the building creeping up on the other side where I guess San Ramon is. One would think developers would be knocking down her door to buy all that land since there are nice home developments down the road from her. She is wondering too and I offered to help her find out why. The interesting question is why haven’t they come yet? What would be the reasons why they haven’t? Surely, money can be made even after all the necessary improvements to the land. We are talking acreage in the hundreds, not small land parcels. Is there something unique about the County of Alameda and how strict it is against development in this part of the county? Any guidance would be appreciated.

I have never done land before. So what I am about to say may be complete BS…

Have you look into starting the subdivision and entitlement process? Obviously it’s a fairly big expense. But for developers, land that has already gone thru at least part of the entitlement process is much more interesting than land that’s not. It removes a lot of regulatory uncertainty. And entitled land commands far higher price as well.

Maybe after you do some legwork you find out that land is impossible to build on, for whatever zoning or regulatory reason. Then you can think about other plans, instead of sitting there waiting for that knock on the door from @elt1 or @ptiemann .

Talk to the county planning department. …is it ag zoning. .160 acre min lot size? What about water sewer power?.
Road access

So, these are fairly large operational ranches/farms where folks have owned the land for over 100 years. My understanding is that Toll Bros built some monster homes across the ways. Link attached.

She doesn’t necessarily want to develop herself but if some major builder wanted to buy the family out of a few hundred acres, like their neighbors from years ago did for those Estate homes, they obviously would seriously consider it. I can’t imagine those lands weren’t agric zoning before too but that didn’t stop Toll Bros from coming in. She is seeing way increased traffic on the two lane road going by her ranch each day from San Ramon I believe.

My understanding is that they run on well water(?) but do have power supplied to the home. She indicated that years ago, it was a nightmare trying to convince the County to allow them to add a structure to their own ranch. Ridiculous. The closest neighbor is a few hundred acres away!!! Is this just a case of perhaps stricter zoning laws before (like in SF) but now perhaps the zoning laws are relaxed since housing is so needed in the area? Like @manch has indicated before, Castro Valley is a fairly desirable area. Well, here you are developers, acres of land for you. Contact me. I am working on a nice red envelope if I can pull this off for her.

Our question though is why haven’t developers at least inquired as to whether they would be willing to sell or not? Who doesn’t get flyers every other day from realtors around here asking if you want to sell, right? Why should this be any different? And I mean that seriously. These are large parcels of land that offer nice views.

The answer is politics. …The county is run by communists…go figure…Alameda may be more pro growth than Contra Costa. .which one are they in?

They are technically part of Castro Valley so Alameda County. I am thinking it is simply a matter of time before developers come a knocking. There simply is not a lot of open land around here anymore. Since you have experience, @Elt1, how much do you think a few hundred acres in that area is conservatively worth?

I would try to find out what the water situation is. Sure, the existing ranch can be carried by a private well.
And so could multiple houses if they sit on a couple of acres each. But if you were to develop with much smaller parcels (10,000 sqft) in mind, you might not be able to feed all those people with private wells. Not even with shared community wells.

I would look first which aquifer is in that area and then do some research how much water is in there and if there is a problem with the water. Around here in Santa Cruz County, we have some aquifers that are overpumped, some are in better shape (because population density is much lower there), and at least one guaranteed to suffer from salt water. I guess you won’t have the salt water problem in Contra Costa County :wink:

The next step is to find out which water company supplies the closest-by urban neighborhood. Ask them they would serve your land. You would need to present some sort of plan what you want to do when you ask for a “will serve letter”.

You could hire a land use consultant to help you with this.

He may be able to minimize your expenses and maximize your value-add.


Solid advice. I think there is little use to twiddle one’s thumbs. Need to be proactive and put together a plan…


Thanks for the suggestions. Pretty good stuff. I will pass along to the friend. I will confirm but it sounds like EBMUD serves Castro Valley.

My friend is also wanting to retire at some point, so chasing windmills and developing this land herself is probably not in the cards. Ideally, she wants a major developer to show up on her doorsteps and make her an offer that she can’t refuse. Again, the growth is happening there and she sees it creeping towards her way more and more, yet no developers. Why?

According to Alameda zoning regs…lot size is 100 acre min…The issue is political. …talk to planning and the bd of Stupes. …good luck…

Yes, she has 100 acres, several in fact. Maybe an inquiry to Toll Bros to spark a conversation is needed to gauge their interest…

Well, well, guess what I found out. She told me that it was determined that there is actually plenty of water under their property. Enough that apparently they have some kind of business relationship where they sell water to some of their neighbors. They dug deep enough to find seashells so perhaps millions of years ago this area was under water or something.