Bill Hocker | Sep 26, 2017
2300 Soscol, $2179-$2807 /mo
NVR 9/26/17: Napa seeks looser reins on multifamily housing permits in city
With the onslaught of hotel development
beginning to become a concern to all who have valued the quality of life in "sleepy Napa" (the NYT's expression
), a second tentacle of urban development is rapidly taking shape in this age of the developer. Already over 2000 units of housing are under review, approved and under construction within the Napa city limits. Now, just as developers have demanded that small wineries not have to go through the public review
process, they are also demanding that small housing projects also escape the public scrutiny of the impacts that such developments are having on residents' small-town way of life.
The excuse for the fast-tracked approval process is the need for affordable housing, a very real shortage brought on by years of increasing full-time agricultural workers and the ongoing expansion of the tourism workforce. A handful of the new units will be affordable for hotel or vineyard workers, but most will be market rate units being built for whom? Second homes? Short term rentals? Empty nesters? Perhaps for the construction workers needed for Napa's urbanization. Not for the burgeoning number of modest-wage workers needed for the tourism and agricultural industries that make up the bulk of the economy.
Reading the copy promoting the pictured units here
, such projects appear to be speculative development intended to cash in on the same image of the good-life extolled by the wine and tourism industries hoping to fill the vineyards with life-style wineries and the cities with hotels. Such projects are not supplying the needs of existing Napa workers - they are inducing an increase in Napa's affluent and tourist populations, who will then need more low-wage commercial development, adding to rather than reducing the housing need of the county's work force.
Unfortunately we are in a speculative development boom happening everywhere, manifested in Napa County by the expansion of the tourism industry and the promotion an opulent life style. Such speculation is how rural places are urbanized out of existence. To developers, the resistance of impacted residents through government review has become a real bottleneck in their effort to wake up sleepy Napa County - and, as we can see in the proposal to drop public review of some housing projects, they are obviously hoping to do something about it.