|Jan 22, 2015|The revolt of the people who lived in the City of Napa was as important to the preservation of agriculture as the Ag Preserve itself. In the long run, it was really more important, in my view.
- Ginny Simms, 2009 (Napa city planning commissioner & County Supervisor 1968-78)
The Napa County General Plan protects agriculture in the vast majority of the county under AP and AW zoned areas. It establishes that urban development be concentrated in the 5 municipalities and a couple of urban "bubbles". The basic attitude is "don't touch ag land and you can do whatever you want within the urban boundaries". The boundries of the municipalities, establisted under a slow growth attitude championed by Ginny Simms, John Tuteur
and others, are compact and well defined by Rural Urban Limit (RUL) lines.
Volker Eisele, Ginny Simms and others made a further effort to protect ag with the passage of Measure J
in 1990 and its extension with Measure P
in 2007. It required the change of zoning of ag lands to be voted by the citizens of the county. No longer could it be done by agreement of the supervisors and the city councils. Like the ag preserve of 1968, Measure J was a landmark piece of legislation, quickly adopted elsewhere to promote slow growth policies. Until I was exposed to Napa Pipe
, however it was hard to see that the protections of the Napa General Plan to contain urban growth have become paper thin.
Measure J's strength in 1990 is becoming its achilles heel in 2014, despite its renewal through 2058. A vote of the people can change ag use to urban use at any time - a simple majority of the vote. And the voters of Napa County are rapidly changing. Sean Scully of the NVR has done editorials on the changing demographics of the county here
. The outlook is not encouraging for agricultural protection.
The populations of American Canyon and Napa City have expanded to now constitute 70% of the county population. As the passage of Measure P in 2007 showed there were still enough urban residents in those cities committed to the idea of an agricultural economy to support passage. But the numbers continue to shift. Projects like Napa Pipe
, Watson Ranch
and the 500 units of the Tulocay Village
, a part of the huge Gasser Master Plan area on the east bank of the river just north of Imola, will bring a dramatic increase in the voters more concerned with shopping centers than vines.
The county, in an effort to relieve pressure on the up valley rural areas created the city of American Canyon in 1992 and both cities have had a free rein to suck up much of the development lust directed toward such an undeveloped county. But it was a faustian bargain and we are now at the point where the developers can get their due. It is a little more difficult for development interests to throw money at voters than it is to throw it at supervisors, but not much. As Keith Rogal showed in the "Keep Napa Napa
" campaign and happened again with the "costco-of-your-own" Measure A
campaign, convincing voters to approve urban development is a proven strategy.
In a meeting with Sup. Diane Dillon, she mentioned that the municipalities were always pushing for annexation of county land and the supervisors were always resisting. I replied by saying that a county vote under measure P would be required. No, she said: annexations, as opposed to changes in county zoning designations covered by Prop P, are just agreements between city councils and the BOS. I was stunned at my ignorance, and even more stunned at how little protection Prop P really affords.]
Those concerned about the survival of agriculture in the county need to move into the city planning debates post haste, just as Ginny Simms
has continued to do, seemingly forever.
2000-2010 Census Statistics
2010 Historical survey for the Soscal/Gateway East redevelopment project
NVR 2/18/20: Wine becomes a growing force in Napa County's downtowns
NVR 1/19/19: Wine Country comes to downtown Napa
NVR 1/19/19: Housing, civic center, watersheds among Napa council's priorities for 2019
NVR 3/12/18: Napa: Housing costs, supply are city residents' top concern
NVR 12/6/17: LAFCO opens door to piping Napa water to Carneros resort
NVR 11/28/17: Downtown Napa's newest luxury hotel opens its doors
NVR 9/29/17: Meritage Resort's massive expansion takes shape in south Napa
NVR 9/06/17: Napa, developer start talks on new City Hall, housing and hotel
NVR 8/22/17: Napa wrestles with affordable housing for service workers
Bertolucci LTE 8/2/17: Keep Napa for Napans
NVR 6/14/17: Napa planners to review Bounty Hunter's new downtown building
NVR 6/5/17: Napa Valley Wine Train owners plan $100 million resort development
NVR 5/17/17: Altamira family reviving plans for a winery/hotel project on Silverado Trail
NVR 2/20/17: Planned Napa apartment development sold for $34 million
NVR 2/20/17: Napa asks, How many hotel rooms are enough?
NVR 2/14/17: Major changes in the works for downtown Napa
NYTimes 2/1/17: A Waking Giant or a Monster? Developers Eye Once-Sleepy Napa
NVR 1/7/17: Napa marks off retail areas to join major apartment complex
NVR 12/29/16: No. 3 story of 2016: Oxbow District becomes ground zero for developers
NVR 12/7/16: San Diego developer making a big play in downtown Napa
NVR 10/7/16: Napa County selects ambitious developer to buy Oxbow property
NVR 9/4/16: Planners endorse 37 east Napa homes despite privacy, tree concerns
NVR 9/6/16: "Foxbow" mixed-use development proposed for Oxbow area
NVR: 8/4/16: Napa builder pans parking fee hike planned for downtown
NVR 7/22/16: Napa planners endorse 282 apartments near Napa River, with more to come
NVR 3/6/16: Napa planners put neighborhood tasting room on hold
NVR 2/19/16: Napa proceeding cautiously on hotel-apartment plan
NVR 2/7/16: Developer cleared to build condo project
NVR 1/20/16: Hotel apartments prosed to replace historic rail car barn
NVR 12/23/15: Beth Painter chosen for city Planning Commission
Who pays the costs of growth?
Fordor cost of growth report
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|Bill Hocker - Jul 11, 2016 9:00AM Share
NVR 8/1/16: Napa to seek more parking funds from downtown builders
NVR 7/11/16 Napa to lift parking requirements on six downtown properties
$20,000/stall is the amount mentioned as an in-lieu fee. Since the cost of parking structures is $30,000/stall (the $12 mil, 400 stall structure mentioned in the article) to $50,000/stall (if undergrounded as would be required on the exempted sites) at the $20,000 rate the city and residents will end up subsidizing the profits of the developer.
On July 7th, 2016, the Napa City Planning Commission is reviewing a proposal for a parking exempt overlay on 6 more properties downtown, similar to the Wiseman building with in-lieu fees to be paid instead. The staff letter for the proposal is here
. It is highly unlikely that the city will assess the $50,000/stall needed to actually build new parking garages and the residents of the city will be expected to make up the difference, thereby subsidizing developers' profits. In reality the projects will be built now but the parking garages will only come in the distant future (if at all) and parking problems will become a major issue in the city. An exhortation from Harris Nussbaum to attend the meeting is here.
NVR 4/19/16: Napa planners to weigh downtown buildings, senior home
Re: the Wiseman building, please look at this 2009 cost estimate for a parking structure (now apparently hidden after my link to it)
. The estimate was $30000 per stall excluding land costs.
The cost of an underground garage was $50000 per stall. If the developer actually were required to provide the parking on the site the costs would probably be higher given the necessity to integrate it into the architecture of the building. And this is 2016. The in lieu fee, rather than $15,500/ stall, should be the actual cost of providing the parking on site.
As in all development projects, whether for industrial or commercial developments or housing projects (or wineries) developers are quite happy to pay in lieu fees because those costs are much lower than actually meeting ordinance requirements or providing mitigations. Guess who pays the cost difference: taxpayers in one form or another. Regardless of the public revenues touted at the planning commission phase, as Volker Eisele said, development never pays for itself, never. Residents are saddled forever with fee increases, tax increases and bond measures to pay for the unfunded costs of urban development. The developers take their profits, including the money saved on parking, and move on to another project - which governments are eager to approve because they need the windfall of new in-lieu fees to pay for the infrastructure needed for previous projects.
This rant is not about this specific project, which appears to be an attractive addition to the downtown. But urban development is ultimately a costly undertaking for the residents that will eventually be asked to pay more to maintain it. And we never ask ourselves, are we interested in living in a more urbanized world and willing to pay for the privilege? For me, and perhaps for others that enjoy their quasi-ruaral life in Napa, the answer is no.
|Harris Nussbaum - Jul 10, 2017 7:15AM |
[statement to the Napa Planning Commission 7/7/16]
You are our friends, but with some of the decisions you are making, it doesn't seem like it. Many people moved here from Los Angeles to get away from the madness and now it is being created here. Please think about what you want Napa to be in 10 years? Your actions are heating up an already heated Napa economy. It is like cooking food, you burn it and it is ruined. You are here making decisions that will greatly impact what it will be and if you are wrong, you can't go back and change it. I talked with about 100 people in the area. Most are concerned, but said you won't listen, your minds are made-up, so why even bother to come to your meetings. The process feels flawed. Most people didn't know about it.
To start, the approval of the Wiseman building will create problems. Here are a few if the problems this proposal creates.
1) Parking is already a problem in the area and you don't know what it will be like until after what is already in process is completed, so why the urgent rush to make this change now?
2) You greatly underestimated the parking need for the Wiseman building and are doing the same for the entire block. The assumption is mixed use will solve the problem, but there is already a problem. You will need 4 to 5 times what you think will be needed and developers are paying a relatively small % of the real costs when you include land, upkeep, etc.
3) How many parking garages will you need and some of the lots you are building parking spaces on you don't own. They could give you 30 day notice to vacate- like the Cinedome property.
4) Parking garages are ugly and expensive and you really don't have the money to build enough. If you did that money could used for much more worthwhile needs.
4) Local businesses are being forced out by high rents as these new buildings are built.
5) If you change this block, what is to keep you from doing the same to the next one and the next one?
6) You are losing the historic character of the area.
7) There can be to much traffic into, out of and around Napa now-I recently saw a fire truck stuck in traffic on 1st. This will get worse and people will die. I hate to think about what will happen to 1st street when the giant Archer hotel is completed.
8) The business model is good, but it has limits. Reasonable development with parking fits the area better.
9) How do you think this will affect the Church, the schools and people who live in the area?
10) Over development is expensive, It puts stress on the residents emotionally, but also puts pressure on the schools, police, fire, and other services. These costs can be far more than the income they produce for the city.
There is so much more I could say if I had more than 3 minutes. Now it is up to you. I hope you let your conscience help you decide and let it be for the people who live here. Please wait until what is in process now is completed to make this change.
|Bill Hocker - Jul 1, 2015 12:00AM Share
NVR 6/10/14: Wanting an improved image, Napa will change logo
(lots of comments)
The article above is a very old piece of news, but seeing the new logo for the first time today I had to weigh in.
I am alway a bit mystified when someone feels a need to redesign a well-known logo. The logo's purpose is brand recognition - it's costly to rebuild that recognition; sometimes it never gets rebuilt. Was there a purpose in getting rid of Mobil's flying red horse? I'm not sure what their logo looks like now. (Of course being the most profitable corporation on earth they may not care what their logo looks like. But they may not have become so profitable without the horse.)
Anyway, the city of Napa has a new logo and I again ask myself why. It's on the left next to the old logo. The old one is technically more accurate since most of the vineyards within the city limits are flat. I like the memorable use of the 2 typefaces in the title of the old one as well. And the restraint in the use of color. I don't quite see the point to the change other than to remove the church from the center of town life. Perhaps that was it - a church-state concern. And I don't think the new one carries an appropriate air of governmental authority - not that I'm into governmental authority.
When I heard about the change last year I decided to make my own proposal. I never submitted it - I don't know why. It was certainly a better reflection of the changes going on in the city. Maybe I should have eliminated the church.
|Bill Hocker - Feb 11, 2015 9:39AM Share
Council retreat will look at big picture
This is an ominous quote from the article: "Council members will discuss strategies for increasing economic development, especially in downtown, and review the city's long-term financial picture."
Development projects full steam ahead - a lot of fees to be made ( to help pay for the unfunded costs of previous projects, no doubt). The economy of the city seems to be thriving, the article adds, but thriving is obviously not good enough, more development is needed.
The Napa County General Plan has always been a punt on fending off development interests in the county. Leave our vineyards alone and you can do whatever you want in the municipalities is the attitude. But the kick-the-can-down-the-road policy has run out of road in the form of too much traffic and not enough water and yet all the developer-controlled city of Napa can think of is more development. The urban-rural dichotomy, designed to appease developer lust for those wide open spaces of the county, doesn't seem to acknowledge that urban development not only creates the impacts of traffic congestion in the rural areas, and the need for the endless suburban mitigations of more signals and more left turn lanes, but also continues to increase pressure to expand the urban rural lines and imports the urban voters necessary to allow that expansion to happen. How does Napa City see the county in 2050? It seems to be looking in the mirror.
|Bill Hocker - Feb 6, 2015 3:46PM Share
Announcement of a buyer for Copia may occur soon
A major missed opportunity if Mr. Price & Co doesn't get this. Hopefully more steroidal developers will run into a buzz-saw of enlightened opposition just as Keith Rogal did in his Napa-Pipe-on-Oxbow proposal.
As has been suggested here
Copia could and should be a major part of a revised wine and tourism equation that has spun out of control in the last few years. Tourism development is moving into the vineyards with many tourism event-centers now slated to pave over the vines. The nominal justification: the vintner needs to place his/her product into the hands of the drinker him/herself in order to turn a profit - direct to consumer. For many, DTC its just the economic excuse necessary to justify building a winery-of-ones-own as a symbol of aspiration to the good life - actually making money is something one does elsewhere.
It's time to end ego statements nibbling away at the vines, and confront the DTC excuse. If there are honest small winemakers that need hands-on DTC to survive, let it happen at the Grand Napa Wine Market located at Copia. It doesn't mean ending winery tours and tastings, but it does mean ending winery "marketing events", with their many community impacts, as a principal marketing tool. Using Copia as a major element of the small-label wine industry to reduce the desirability of vineyard-to-event-center conversions would be an eminently suitable use of this temple to wine. And all those 500-person banquets that wineries around the valley want to host - let them do it at Copia. Need a conference center to go with that new tacky downtown hotel? Copia's perfect. And the bewildered tourists milling around Oxbow Market wondering "Is this really Napa?" would have a wine tasting and buying experience to write home about right next door. Using Copia as a wine market and conference-event center is the right thing to do.
|Bill Hocker - Jan 21, 2015 11:53PM Share
Commercial projects break ground on Gasser Foundation properties
Planners want a more 'Napaesque' car dealership
Another shopping mall with corny franchise buildings floating in a sea of asphalt. Another car lot. I keep wondering why the development along Soscol, the gateway to the city, has to be so strip-mallish. I bite my tongue while saying it, but why can't Napa be more like Walnut Creek. The new 'Micheal's' mall is, frankly, an instant piece of suburban blight. The Home Depot mall across the street is the archetype of franchise environmental destruction. And I have always wondered, in the 20 years I have been here, why the entry to a region of sophisticated, some might say overly taste-conscious, citizens would be a bunch of used car lots.
The answer: Peter A. Gasser.
Working on this website I learn something every day about the history of Napa that long time residents already know. But for those of us first generation residents the stories need to be retold. And one of the most important stories is laid out in great detail in the Gasser Foundation history
I am critical on this site about the role that development (which I should begin calling 'growth' as a less loaded term) has played in diminishing the rural life that I came here to find. But growth is what America is all about, from its roots, and Peter Gasser was a prime, larger than life, exemplar of that history - perhaps even better than most in that philanthropy, boosterism and profit making seemed to be tied throughout his career, just as they are now in his legacy.
The many good works of the Gasser Foundation being acknowledged, I still look at the for-profit developments being done by the Foundation and ask, if urban development is going to happen in the city of Napa, is the best way to do it one franchise mall or car dealership after another.
I now pontificate on projects like Napa Center
, Napa Pipe
and Watson Ranch
, because the survival of an agricultural economy, and my rural paradise on Soda Canyon Road, is not just threatened by specific projects - but by the impact of urban growth as a whole. Without greater protection than we now have on the books and more elected officials committed to that protection, urban growth will cover the vines.
I know I am being elitist, overly taste-conscious. I know that these major projects already close to fruition will not be stopped. It is sad. As a former architect, I know that the right designer can make a difference in the appropriateness of architecture for a specific place and context. The franchise design departments in Kansas city or wherever that decide what the urban fabric of Napa will look like don't care what the urban fabric of Napa looks like. I suspect that Peter Gasser would be promoting franchise malls if he were here and that these projects may be an accurate reflection of his character. But he's gone and times change. Napa should become a better city than it is becoming.
A 2007 article from the NVR: The goods on Gasser
I have just ordered this book: Napa: The Transformation of an American Town
Required reading, I am guessing, for those concerned about the future of the city of Napa.
|Bill Hocker - Jan 15, 2015 12:42PM Share
NYTimes 2/1/17: A Waking Giant or a Monster? Developers Eye Once-Sleepy Napa
This site is about the future of the unincorporated areas of Napa County. But now that I have to peruse the Register every day to find out what new threat is being posed to our rural way of life, I can't help stumbling across municipal issues. The two are related, of course. The Napa County General Plan relegates to the municipalities the responsibility to house, and until recently to feed, the millions of tourists it is trying to attract to its wineries. With an ever increasing number of tourist event centers now being planned to occupy the vineyards, the need to accommodate tourists is the number one priority in the municipalities.
Two subjects of interest recently:
Napa plans study session to expand vacation rentals
Napa hosts debate on allowing more vacation rentals
Clarifying remarks on Napa vacation rentals
Has anyone considered the possibility that the entire housing stock of Napa, worth more to the city and to owners as short term rentals, might become just a collection of condos managed by a few large corporations? It gives a new meaning to bedroom community.
The Future of Napa Center
was just linked on the NVR. It is a very pleasant ride through the center of town, but while the video is great, the vision for the center of Napa is lousy. There is in fact no center to the town of Napa. The shopping center built in the 80's disastrously broke up the comprehensible grid of streets and the town has struggled to find itself ever since. Where is the grand rectangle of public space, like that in Sonoma or Healdsburg or San Francisco, that tells the weary traveller that they have arrived at the real center of the city?
The height and bulk of the new hotel makes us think that the the center is near. But we arrive to find only what, the maze of a shopping mall. The tallest building in a town generally tell us where the animating spirit of the population is. Tradtionally churches in most places, grain silos in farm country, skyscrapers in the profiteering capitals. In Napa it is obviously to be hotels. (Lets just hope the 10 million people don't arrive on the same day.)
The design of the hotel also does little to connote civic grander appropriate for a town center. Think of the St. Francis on Union Square or the Biltmore on Pershing square. This hotel and the new store next to it are styled in the tacky retro 50's pastiche that is now in fashion but will just as quickly become dated nonsense. It is a style that has nothing to do with the turn-of-the-20th century spirit of the town. Although it kills me to say it, the Disneyland Riverfront project does a better job of integration. Can Napa's future not be better than this?
City of Napa Logo
A while ago I remember reading in the Register that Napa was looking for a new logo. I don't know if they found one, but if not I would like to make a proposal:
|Carl Bunch - Dec 8, 2014 8:41AM Share
Interesting articles in the Napa Register today: The City Council is "attacking" Altamura's proposal to develop a large "wine center" at the corner of Trancas and Silverado Trail (size, traffic noise, aesthetics, etc.) and he was found to be a likely party to the "fraudulent transfer" of $500,000 to the Uptown Theater, (owned by Altamura) from BR Festivals, the organizers of BottleRock in 2013, for the purpose of shielding that money from creditors' claims in BR Festival's bankruptcy proceedings.
City begins tackling Altamura wine center projectl
Uptown must return $500,000 to BR Festivals' creditors
|Dan McFadden - Aug 17, 2014 11:13AM Share
[letter-to-the-editor published in the NVR on 08/20/14
A Register article on July 11 by Janelle Wetzstein reports on the Planning Commission review of development plans by the Copia Liquidation Trust for conversion of the Copia building to mixed use including commercial office space. Napa will lose a major economic and cultural opportunity, and a distinctive landmark building, if this development proceeds. Napa Valley has become a world center for wine, an event that Copia was originally designed to celebrate, but is still struggling to balance wine tourism with the lives of its residents and the operations of its wine producers. Both the residents of Napa County and businesses in Napa city will gain if wine tourism, and its accompanying hospitality services, are concentrated in the city and along the Highway 29 corridor, rather than spread over the rural areas of the county. Could a new Copia become the focus for this?
While Copia's previous incarnation was obviously not a viable business model, there is ample evidence that tourists will flock to facilities that provide the services they are looking for. Oxbow Market is one example, but a better example is how Beaune, at the heart of France's Burgundy region, promotes its wines. At its center is the Marche aux Vins, located in the 15th century Cordelier Church, that offers visitors the opportunity to learn about, taste, and purchase wines ranging from vin du pays to the grand 1st cru Burgundies. Organized like an exhibition of wine, with an opportunity to sample the finest products of the region, rather than as a bazaar of individual tasting rooms, the Marche effectively promotes the large and small vintners and négociants that produce these wines. It is a destination for international wine tourism, and efficient marketing tool for the region's wine producers. Readers can learn more from its website at http://www.marcheauxvins.com/.
What an asset it would be for Napa if Copia became a new world version of Marche aux Vins, encouraging wine tourists to come to the city to taste, eat, and stay. Napa vintners and the City of Napa will be the winners if they have the vision to negotiate development of the Copia property with an exposition of wine at its center, with affiliated restaurants, shops, and wine-related enterprises.
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