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Governor Newsom, do the right thing & tear down Deuel Vocational Institute
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

There is a toxic cancer coming to San Joaquin County courtesy of the State of California.

It is on Kasson Road just off Interstate 5.

The Newsom administration is shuttering the Deuel Vocational Institute later this year.

The prison, we are told, is superfluous at the dawn of the Era of Restorative Justice. That is in addition to the fact the 68-year-old prison 10 miles southwest of downtown Manteca needs a reported $800 million in repairs to be a viable modern prison.

Closing the prison will save the state $182 million in operating costs.

What the California Legislature should do but won’t because San Joaquin County is not Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose or San Diego is to use that first year of $182 million in operating savings to tear DVI down and eliminate all traces of the prison having ever scarred the landscape.

Anyone with a lick of sense knows what is going to happen if it stays standing. It will deteriorate, and create massive blight. Of course without a robust 24/7 security force the prison will become a haven for druggies, the homeless, and people who it might politely be called the dregs of society.

If anyone in Sacramento believes the 782 acre site is ever going to be purchased they need to take a drug test.

There is not 200-year flood protection for the site. It will not be bought by someone intent on creating a planned community like Mountain House or even put a massive business park in place.

California took care of that when they mandated steps to be taken by 2025 to get 200-year flood protection in place in order for new building to continue. DVI happens to be located along one of the most major flood prone stretches of river in the state. The San Joaquin River between the confluence with the Stanislaus River and the split into two channels with the Old River going westerly and the main channel heading north just behind the Mossdale Crossing literally boils over with seepage issues.

The River Islands act won’t work there and it is not just because of the size —782 acres versus 11,000 acres. There would need to be 200-year flood protection levee upgrades as far south as Vernalis. While River Islands has 17 miles of levees rated for 200-year flood protection, it took 11,000 acres out of danger that the cost of levee work could be spread across as it is developed

The biggest problem is the prison would need to be torn down. It can’t be repurposed for any economically viable use.

And right behind that is the second biggest problem. It likely doesn’t have riparian water rights that, if they do exist, would be big enough to supply urbanizing 782 acres.

Make no mistake about it. The only people in any position to buy the property and get rid of the prison would be a developer.

But unlike San Quentin where a developer could buy the prison and develop condos going for millions of dollars on a stunning point on the edge of the North San Francisco Bay, it would never pencil out on Kasson Road. Come to think of it a developer would have to be certifiable nuts to think they could develop San Quentin without putting a massive target on their proverbial back you could see from outer space for environmentalists to take aim at.

Farmers aren’t going to buy the DVI property and leave the prison standing as it would simply become a major headache and liability.

The state likely will lease the land to farmers but the prison would still stand.

More than a few people might ask the logical question. Why doesn’t the state repurpose it as a homeless shelter with services on site to help them be back on their feet?

After all the prison was built for 2,300 inmates to live there 24/7 so it could easily house the homeless, right?

Even if the state embraced such an idea the only way to make it work is to import homeless from other parts of the state due to the size of the facility in terms of operating and maintenance costs.

Then there is the issue of $800 million in repairs. Even if that could be whittled to a tenth of that amount to make sure the roofs don’t leak, the toilets flush, and the heating and cooling systems work good luck making sure homeless advocates don’t sue the state all the way to kingdom come.

After all, the indignity of making homeless sleep in converted cells even though they have flush toilets and working showers is likely to create and ear piercing howl from those that say nothing short of a nice apartment unit is acceptable.

There is no other repurposing that is likely as possible as diverting DVI into a homeless shelter that has the same odds of happening as the Golden State Warriors trading their starting five to Sacramento and the Kings then winning the NBA championship for the next 40 straight years.

DVI has no appeal as a tourist attraction such as Alcatraz.

Rest assured zilch thought has gone into what to do with DVI after the last prisoner is shipped out.

And by thought that is more than just locking the gates and posting rent-a-guards.

The only thing is certain is DVI will become a thorn in the side of San Joaquin County after it has served as the dumping ground for felons exported from other parts of the state for 68 years.

The state, according to its numbers, will save more than $1 billion in just six years by closing DVI. Why not do the responsible thing and take $100 million of the savings and put it toward tearing down and hauling off the concrete rubble to be crushed as road base, the metals to be recycled, and what can’t be converted into other uses buried.

If three home builders in Manteca can get rid of all traces of a 78-year sugar factory that included tearing down four 15-story concrete silos while recycling 98 percent of the plant a concern such as the State of California can do the same with DVI.

Governor Newsom, do the right thing and tear down that prison.