Elevations reported in printed documents and on websites ranged from 16 feet (way off the mark) to 61 feet, a lot closer, with readings of 48 and 52 feet in between.
Pete Mitracos, the local builder and planning commissioner, responded with numbers that seem, to me at least, to make a lot of sense.
“I looked up the elevations on my USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) quadrangle maps,” Pete wrote via e-mail.
Here’s what Pete found, moving northward with each reading:
n Tracy Boulevard and Schulte Road: 75 feet.
n Bow Tie (the original Central Pacific Depot): 60 feet.
n 11th Street and Central Avenue: 50 feet.
n Eaton and Parker avenues: 45 feet.
n Grant Line Road and Tracy Boulevard: 25 feet.
Pete concluded: “This town isn’t flat, after all!”
The elevations Pete sites show the slope of the valley floor from the Altamont Hills toward the river. The 60-foot mark at the old SP depot corresponds to the 61-foot elevation cited by the Chamber of Commerce for many years.
The 60 (or 61) feet above sea level is the reason Tracy has been here since the railroad founded our town in 1878. Central Pacific surveyors found a place that was safely above the known extent of periodic winter-runoff flooding from Delta waterways.
Banta, on the other hand, is listed at 27 feet, and that’s why the junction of two railroad lines wasn’t located there. The flood danger was too great (and still is).
Henry Banta, who founded the village that still carries his name, bought up a lot of property around the original Altamont 1869 rail line that ran through Banta in hopes of cashing in when he thought the junction would be established there in 1878.
But alas, the junction was located 3 miles to the west — on higher ground in the new town of Tracy — and Henry lost his shirt.
On a positive note
While we’re dwelling in the world of numbers, information provided to the City Council recently by the Tracy Police Department underscore the importance of the recent sweep of known gang members.
The cops reported there were 750 identified gang members in Tracy or having a connection to a Tracy gang. They included 552 Norteños (including Southside Tracy), 120 Sureños, and 78 “others.”
The recent arrests have the potential of greatly reducing the level of gang activity in Tracy. Gangs will never go away completely, it has been commonly understood, but aggressive police work can keep gang activity — and violence — at a greatly diminished level.
The gang arrests, which followed a decline in gang violence in recent months and several notable convictions and a lower crime rate, should send departing Chief of Police Janet Thiessen on her way next week on a positive note.
Janet may have encountered some rough seas internally before her departure, but she was well-respected throughout Tracy. She made an extra effort to get out in the community, meet people and talk about law enforcement and public safety. Her predecessor was a veteran law enforcement officer with honed organizational skills, but his interaction with the community was minimal. Not so Janet.
Best of luck, chief.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-423 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.