American Canyon’s ambitious plan to remake the areas along Highway 29 in the city — what’s known locally as the Broadway District — would produce significant and unavoidable impacts on traffic and air quality, according to a draft environmental impact report.
A blueprint to fully develop the Broadway District foresees the addition of 1,200 new residential units — mostly apartments or condominiums — plus 840,000 square feet of new commercial or office space by 2036.
But adding this many new homes and businesses would create more traffic and air pollution in American Canyon that couldn’t be avoided even with mitigation measures factored in.
The draft EIR for this project shows it would generate 1,918 new vehicle trips a day during the afternoon commute. Additionally, the report included information on new traffic loads generated by other developments being considered by City Hall.
These other projects — including Canyon Estates, Napa Airport Corporate Center, Napa Logistics Park, The Village at Vintage Ranch, Valley View Senior Housing, and Watson Ranch — would produce 2,119 new vehicle trips during the afternoon commute.
The Broadway District Specific Plan would also result in important impacts on air quality that couldn’t be entirely overcome, according to the EIR.
Despite these negative consequences, the city wants to do more with the dozens of undeveloped or underdeveloped parcels that line both sides of the highway.
Officials see development of these properties as a way to “transform an auto‐oriented highway commercial district into a livable, mixed use, small town neighborhood” and improve the city’s image, according to a staff report prepared for the American Canyon Planning Commission.
“It is the face of the city,” said Community Development Director Brent Cooper. “Highway 29 is, for good or ill, what will define American Canyon to most people who travel through” it.
The Broadway District is essentially the “front door to our city,” Cooper told the Planning Commission on Dec. 13. Making it “presentable in a very positive manner” is key, along with turning it into an “economic engine of our city.”
Aside from new residential and commercial opportunities, the plan calls for widening the highway from four to six lanes, and adding bicycle and pedestrian lanes separated from traffic by new landscaping.
The city also wants to lower the speed limit from 55 to 35 mph to “humanize” the corridor, according to Cooper, and help businesses attract more customers off the highway.
The draft EIR, released on Nov. 27, is currently available for public review and comment until Jan. 10. It is available online at the city’s website.
As of Dec. 12, the city had not received any comments on the report.
Planning Commission Chair Eric Altman wondered about the wisdom of asking the public to comment on the EIR when the holidays are in full swing.
“Releasing the draft EIR right about Thanksgiving and having the comment period expire shortly after New Years is not the time of year I think the general public is focusing on things like this issue,” said Altman.
“So I’m a little puzzled at that timeline,” he added. “I understand wanting to get it out quick as possible.”
Since no comments so far had come in for a “major development priority for the city,” Altman asked if the city should extend the deadline beyond Jan. 10.
Cooper responded by saying comments on draft EIRs often are submitted near or just before the deadline. With several weeks still remaining in the comment period, he said it might be premature to extend the deadline now.
One group did inform the Planning Commission that it would be submitting comments.
Patrick Band, executive director of the Napa County Bicycle Coalition, said at the Dec. 12 meeting that they intend to address “safe options for cyclists and pedestrians” as part of the Broadway District plan.
He also endorsed lowering the speed limit to 35 mph, calling it “a big step in the right direction,” as well as adding Class 1 bike lanes along the highway.
American Canyon will need to get the approval of Caltrans to reduce the speed limit. Cooper said the city has kept the agency informed of its plans for the Broadway District.
“The higher level folks [at Caltrans] understand our concepts and the direction we’re going, and they agreed it was a good idea” about the speed limit, said Cooper. “But Caltrans is a big agency with a lot of rules so there definitely is a process to undergo.”