BETHEL ISLAND -- When the first homes will be built in the largest and most upscale housing development ever designed on Bethel Island remains guesswork, although there are small signs that Delta Coves still might become a reality.
Since buying the 310-acre property in June, the developer that put in the roads, sewer and water lines along with pads for the homes has been cleaning up the site, assigned a security guard to patrol the area, and started preparing for the time when it makes sense to start selling the lots.
"I think the great news is that we've come out of a pretty desperate state of the economy," said Nick Kosla, a planner with SunCal, the project's owner.
He estimated that it could be another 18 months before SunCal starts marketing the property to prospective homebuilders.
"You're clearly not going to see something soon," Kosla said when asked to project when the first homes might go up.
Situated around a manmade lagoon bounded by Gateway and Stone roads, Delta Coves will comprise 494 single-family homes and 66 condominiums along with 416 docks and 310 boat slips if the construction company adheres to the current plans.
It's been a long and rocky road for the project, which was approved by the county in the 1970s but became bogged down when subsequent conflicts with that permitting agency led to a federal lawsuit.
Work came to a halt several months before the international investment bank Lehman Brothers, the largest of its three lenders, filed for bankruptcy in September 2008.
Large equipment operators disappeared and a chain-link fence went up around the property.
In liquidating its assets to pay off creditors, Lehman Brothers sold Delta Coves and another master-planned community to its former partner.
Over the past seven months SunCal has removed eyesores that were dumped on the property -- an abandoned car here, a mattress there -- as well as hired a security guard to crack down on trespassers who were fishing in the lagoon.
The Irvine-based developer also has begun a detailed market analysis in an effort to determine what features prospective buyers want in a Delta Coves home and how much they're willing to pay for them -- information that will factor into when SunCal decides to begin selling the lots.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.