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Andy Wilcox, EAGLE  

Napa Valley College freshmen Alexia Stewart (11) of American Canyon and Candice Turk (3) of St. Patrick-St. Vincent try to block a kill attempt by Los Medanos College sophomore Vei Finau (15) during their Nov. 6 match at NVC.

Napa County begins crafting rural marijuana laws

Napa County supervisors are moving cautiously as they decide whether to allow marijuana product manufacturing businesses and outdoor marijuana cultivation in rural areas.

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday began updating the county marijuana law in light of Proposition 64. State voters last year approved the measure to legalize recreational marijuana.

Supervisors agreed that marijuana dispensaries should be in the cities, not the rural county. They see that as in keeping with the county’s agricultural preservation laws that already funnel most businesses to the cities.

They wanted additional information on outdoor commercial cultivation and manufacturing and postponed their conversation until Nov. 21. Their questions ranged from marijuana crop water use to soil depletion.

Access is a key issue for those who favored Proposition 64, Supervisor Ryan Gregory said.

That means the county should support local cities that allow dispensaries, Gregory said. But he doesn’t think having the Board take more time to look at outdoor commercial cultivation and manufacturing will hurt access. Santa Cruz County alone grows almost enough marijuana for the entire state, he said.

“I have no doubt our dispensaries will be stocked,” Gregory said. “No doubt.”

Gregory and Board Chairwoman Belia Ramos said they thought the county might move more quickly on allowing outdoor cultivation for personal adult use in unincorporated areas. Proposition 64 allows people to grow up to six plants indoors, with outdoor growth up to the communities.

“I’ve never liked the idea of shoving six plants into a house,” Gregory said. “We have an affordable housing problem. Those six plants with lights and irrigation taking up living space just doesn’t feel right.”

Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, while not saying “no” to outdoor personal cultivation, called Gregory’s housing argument a “red herring.”

“If we have housing issues, we have housing issues,” Pedroza said. “But let’s not comingle cannabis and indoor grows.”

Gregory disagreed with Pedroza’s disagreement. Six indoor plants can take up an entire living room, he said.

“It’s just not right to shove six plants into a house when we need housing for people,” he said.

Still, Gregory saw difficulties that must be addressed with allowing outdoor, personal-use cultivation. For one thing, a few unincorporated, residential areas are surrounded by the city of Napa, which might choose to ban outdoor cultivation. That could mean different laws for what is basically the same neighborhood.

Ramos said she wants to look at setbacks, security, visibility and steps that should be taken when backyard marijuana plants are at homes with children.

Supervisor Diane Dillon said she doesn’t want to make a snap decision on even personal, outdoor cultivation. Maybe the county would want to allow two plants instead of six, she said.

“Act in haste and repent in leisure,” she said. “And the repenting is much harder to do when it’s an ordinance.”

Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht asked how commercial, outdoor cultivation might be handled. For example, he said, some county permits are attached to the land rather than to an individual who might sell the land.

“Who’s doing it and how they do it is maybe as important as where they do it,” Wagenknecht said. “I’m interested in seeing what we can do on that.”

Ramos said indoor, commercial marijuana cultivation might be feasible in the county’s airport industrial area. But she’s concerned about allowing it there, given the existing industrial demand for scarce warehouse space.

The existing county marijuana law applies to medical marijuana, which voters legalized in 1996. But Proposition 64, besides decriminalizing adult recreational marijuana use under state law and allowing people to grow up to six plants indoors, brings a new array of choices.

Beyond the Nov. 21 discussion, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to do further work on an updated marijuana law at its Dec. 5 and Dec. 19 meetings.

Homes gone, mail now collects at the Napa post office

The night the Napa wildfires began, Napa Postmaster Juliana Davison said her first inkling of the disaster came via a phone call in the middle of the night.

The Trancas Street post office had no power, she was informed.

She arrived at the post office around 3:30 a.m. “At that point, we were largely unaware of how bad the fires had gotten,” said Davison.

“We were in the dark, literally.”

It would be another day or two before the full extent of the disaster became known, but in the meantime, the mail for thousand of residents and businesses still had to be processed.

Davison said that in the early morning hours of Monday, Oct. 9, even without power, overnight shift postal workers continued sorting the mail, wearing headlamps for illumination.

“They just don’t give up,” she said of the staff.

Unfortunately, when road closures prevented the mail from being delivered, it immediately started accumulating inside the facility, she said.

“We had to come up with an elaborate system of holding that mail here,” she said.

Setting up large racks that resemble bread or pie racks, “we had trays and trays of mail,” that was unable to be delivered, she said.

At one point, more an estimated 4,009 individual mail boxes were off limits to letter carriers. Due to the power outage, retail services at the Trancas Street location were closed for two days.

In the days after the fires, customers began picking up their mail at the post office. Because of the temporary system, “it was a little slow,” she admitted. While the post office processes thousands of pieces of mail, “We’re not built for storing mail” over days, she said.

“People seem to be very understanding and patient even though they’ve been though a lot,” said Davison.

“We’re all very sorry for what they’ve gone through and we’re trying to be as helpful as we can.”

After roads began to reopen, mail delivery to many Napa homes resumed. The postal employees wanted to get back to their routes, she said.

“They are proud of what they do,” she said. “They want to provide some normalcy in the community.”

However, mail will not be delivered to a home that was destroyed, even if the mailbox itself survived, said Davison.

Those residents will continue to pick up their mail at the Trancas Street station, she said. That process will continue for about two more weeks until a set of freestanding rotary boxes, which look like P.O. boxes, will be installed at the station.

At that point, each resident will get a key to a box where mail intended for their home address can be picked up.

For those who complete a change-of-address form, that request can take up to 14 days to be processed, Davison noted. During such a transition, the mail may be delayed, but it will get to the destination, she said.

Davison said that because some residents have already started forwarding mail to a different address or a P.O. box that about 280 temporary boxes will be needed.

In some regards, the lessons learned from the 2014 earthquake left the post office better prepared to handle this emergency, officials said. In August 2014, a 6.0 earthquake caused the city’s main post office and all of its post office boxes to be closed. The downtown facility never reopened.

“We had some understanding of what we need to do and how to prepare,” said Davison. “We knew we need to come up with long-term solutions.”

While the wildfire emergency reminded her of the aftermath of the 2014 quake, this disaster “was worse than the earthquake because it was more emotional,” she said.

“We had several employees that were evacuated.” The smoke was also difficult, she said. Some employees were unable to work.

Luckily, no Napa postal employees lost a home, she said.

More than a month after the fires, Davison said she’s already noticed that fewer packages are being delivered to addresses affected by the fires. But because the holiday mailing season is right around the corner, parcel lockers will also be installed, said Davison.

Napa senior housing complex to receive upgrades, stay affordable for 55 years

The owner of the Vintage at Napa seniors’ apartment complex has the city’s go-ahead for a bond issue that will pay for renovations at the 115-unit complex – and keep its rents below market rates more than half a century into the future.

A City Council vote last week opens the way for a $25 million bond issue by Vintage Housing Development Inc., owner of the apartment hub at 2360 Redwood Road. About $3.4 million of that total will cover upgrades to the dwellings, common room and laundry, as well as providing full access for disabled residents at 12 of the units. Revenue also will help retire existing bonds on the Vintage property, which opened in 2001.

The refinancing deal also assures that Vintage rents will remain at affordable levels for at least 55 more years – a key attraction in a city with a vacancy rate of 2 percent or less. As of Thursday, a website for the property listed a one-bedroom, 498-square-foot apartment available at $958 per month, and a two-bedroom dwelling of 702 square feet offered for $1,143, well below prevailing rents.

Vintage tenants will be able to stay in their apartments during the renovations, according to city Housing Manager Lark Ferrell.

Vintage Housing Development will get its bond funding from the California Statewide Communities Development Authority, a joint-powers agency that includes Napa and more than 500 other cities. The authority provides tax-exempt financing for local projects that provide a public benefit, and repayment of bonds are the responsibility of the borrower, not Napa or other member governments.

Apartments at the Vintage at Napa are reserved for tenants at least 55 years old.