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Goran Kosanovic 

If you can find turnips with their greens attached, your options just got more interesting. 

Public Art
Murals beautify Napa Valley Vine Trail, but graffiti not yet vanquished

Graffiti painters are still making their presence known along the Napa Valley Vine Trail’s urban sections in central Napa. But local artists and advocates say the arrival of murals seem to be keeping away the most flagrant tagging incidents – with occasional exceptions.

The Vine Trail’s array of outdoor artwork is entering its second year, with large-scale paintings appearing beside the bicycling and pedestrian route. The backs of various buildings – and even the fence of the city’s corporation yard – have become canvases for artists from Poland, Argentina and Napa itself, adding visual zest to what had been one of the trail’s most gritty industrial stretches.

But while such murals may be the foundation of a hoped-for district filled with public art, the majority of still-unadorned buildings remain a vandalism target, city officials reported.

The murals have not been exempt from attack. In mid-January, a major work by professional muralist Felipe Pantone, “Chromadynamica for Napa,” was tagged.

The mural had been installed with a coating that makes tagging easier to clean off. Napa Valley Wine Train, a sponsor of the Rail Arts District, dispatched a worker to remove the spray paint. In short order, the mural was restored to near pristine-condition.

Napa’s Parks and Recreation Department continues to devote an average of three hours a week removing spray-paint vandalism visible from the Vine Trail, according to parks manager Dave Perazzo. Such tagging included a spike in activity during November, he added, when graffiti was left on the studio building of the local artist Mikey Kelly – and even on the art installation he created nearby on the fence of the city corporation yard. Another tagging incident marked Felipe Pantone’s “Chromadynamica for Napa,” another Vine Trail installation at the back of the Matthews Mattress showroom.

Last week, Perazzo reported, Napa’s newly hired park rangers, who help oversee city recreation spaces, began once-a-week evening patrols of the Vine Trail to discourage graffiti sprayers – both in and out of the 1.7-mile pathway section reserved for a future Rail Arts District. Any fresh tagging is removed by members of The Father’s House church in Napa.

J.L. Sousa, Register 

There has been a marked increase in graffiti along the Napa Valley Vine Trail through the Rail Arts District, with at least one mural having been vandalized in recent weeks.

The areas being watched by park rangers include the sites of large-scale artworks that began debuting in early 2017, the start of a beautification effort for the Vine Trail’s more industrial stretches. Among the installations are “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” on the Napa Valley Register building, by the Polish artists Natalia Rak and Bezt; Pantone’s abstract “Chromadynamica”; and Cinta Vidal’s “Floating Napa” near the back of NAPA Auto Parts.

The latest addition to the hoped-for linear gallery is “Begin and Continue,” which Kelly unveiled on the fencing of the city corporation yard at Jackson Street. Replacing standard green plastic on a 710-foot-long fence section are multicolored patterns of crisscrossing strips, angled against one another using a coding system that assigns angle numbers to the letters of uplifting words like “active,” “caring” and “home.” Metal silhouettes depict the joggers, cyclists, dogs and others frequenting the pathway.

Kelly’s creation, while celebrating the best in Napa residents, is – like the murals just south on the trail – designed to withstand the worst behavior. Like those paintings, “Begin and Continue” is finished with a coating designed to resist spray paint and allow it to be cleaned off without damaging the underlying art.

That feature was tested on Nov. 20, barely a week before Kelly’s installation debuted, when, he recalled, someone left graffiti on the art piece. The defacement was cleaned and removed in time for “Begin and Continue” to receive its first public showing on the 28th.

“I think the public art along the Vine Trail is (a case of) people doing good things for the city of Napa, and I hope people respect that, including the taggers, to not deface that work,” he said last week. “Painting over someone’s artwork is very different from tagging a building.”

Napa flood bypass gates to get fix that motorists, cyclists can appreciate

Massive metal gates that seal off the Napa River bypass at McKinstry Street during flood stage will receive a minor makeover to benefit motorists and cyclists.

These gates close at two locations across the road to keep floodwaters inside the bypass and people out. Rubber at the base of the two-ton gates is supposed to form a seal against metal bars embedded within the concrete surface of the street.

The two-ton flood gates are almost always open because bypass flooding is rare. The metal bar at the northern McKinstry Street bypass entrance became loose. People driving along the street over the bar received a jolt.

“Cars would go over it and you’d hear it really go over the bump,” said Richard Thomasser of the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. “It would really rattle.”

Plus, the metal bar proved to be an annoyance for cyclists riding over it.

The loose metal bar has since been removed and asphalt put down over the gap in the street. That means the gates can no longer seal when shut.

“We can still close the gates,” Thomasser said. “That particular gate we would just have to sandbag.”

The metal bar remains at the southern entrance, where it causes its own problem. It protrudes a couple of inches from the pavement to form the seal with the gate, which can be an annoyance to cyclists.

The city of Napa decided the section of bar in the sidewalk didn’t meet Americans with Disabilities Act rules because it posed a tripping hazard, Thomasser said.

Placing a small amount of asphalt near the protruding part of the bar on the sidewalk smoothed out the problem. But flood officials would have to chip away the asphalt to close the gates.

All of this is some minor jerry rigging for the two-and-a-half-year-old flood control bypass. Flood officials said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that oversaw bypass construction, will make the permanent fix.

The idea is to have removable bars. When floods threaten, local flood officials would bolt them down to the street at the bypass entrances and shut the gates. Then they’d take out the bars after opening the gates.

“During the dry season, there won’t be anything at all there for cars or bicycles,” county Deputy Public Works Director Phillip Miller said at a recent county meeting.

“Wonderful,” biking enthusiast and county Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht responded.

Miller said he’s heard cost estimates of a couple hundred thousand dollars for the project, though he’s uncertain of the final price. The Army Corps of Engineers must go through certain steps to secure the money and could do the work in summer 2019 — or maybe sooner.

“We would like it done this year,” Miller said. “We’d like to have it in place for the next rainy season coming up.”

Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Tyler Stalker on Monday was gathering information on the project at the request of the Napa Valley Register. That information will be added to the online version of the article when available.

Barriers to stop post-fire debris at Milliken dam, protect Napa water supplies

Additions coming to one of Napa’s two city dams are meant to keep the city’s water pure, reducing contamination risks from debris washed into reservoirs after the October wildfires that blackened huge swaths of local woodlands.

The containment system will be installed at Milliken Reservoir northeast of the city, the smaller of Napa’s two local water supplies after its larger source at Lake Hennessey. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will cover three-fourths of the estimated $336,000 cost and Napa the rest, under the federal disaster declaration Napa County received shortly after the Oct. 8 eruption of three major fires that consumed tens of thousands of acres and killed 44 people across the North Bay.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a contract with Worthington Products Inc., the Ohio-based maker of Tuffboom devices that act as floating chains to stop waterborne debris from accumulating against – and damaging – dams. Contract terms call for Worthington to complete its work within 10 days of signing.

Since the wildfires and the damage they did to Napa County forests, the city Water Division has kept an eye both on the amount of silt and sediment entering Milliken Reservoir as well as the entry of logs, tree trunks and other larger detritus, according to Water Division manager Joy Eldredge.

Wood, leaves and dirt entering reservoirs increase the carbon levels in water. When such organic materials mingle with chlorine used to disinfect the water and make it safe to drink, they produce by-products known as trihalomethanes that, in very high concentrations over decades, can raise the risk of certain cancers, city officials have previously said.

Buoyant barriers are intended not only to keep out plant matter from Milliken Reservoir, but to lessen the chance of immediate damage to the dam, Eldredge wrote to the council in a memorandum. Large objects floating toward the dam can chip or spall the dam face, water intake and other concrete structures.

The main risk from heavy objects striking the dam would follow periods of high-intensity rain, although Eldredge noted most of this winter’s Napa County rainfall has come at a slower per-hour rate less likely to shake loose large-scale debris.

Communities including Napa, Yountville and Calistoga have eyed the possible effects of last fall’s fires on water supplies, including increased erosion and ash from flames that reached the shores of various reservoirs.

The aftermath of a previous firestorm showed how water quality can be threatened long after flames are quenched. In early 2017 – nearly a year and a half after the 2015 Valley Fire that devastated parts of Lake County – powerful winter storms washed ash from the scorched Putah Creek watershed into Lake Berryessa.

The contaminants shut down treatment plants serving the Berryessa Estates and Berryessa Highlands communities for two weeks, although both were able to subsist on stored water. “Once it came, it was goo – ash is a very, very fine material,” Phillip Miller, engineer for the two water systems, said at the time.

Steak ‘n Shake coming to American Canyon?

AMERICAN CANYON — Motorists looking for a quick bite to eat in south Napa County may have the chance to grab both a steak (burger) and a milkshake all in one location.

The city of American Canyon has been working for years to develop an empty westside parcel located at the intersection of South Kelly Road and Highway 29, near the northern edge of city limits.

The project has gone through multiple iterations, with one fast-food restaurant after another seemingly interested in the location on the southwest corner of the intersection, but then backing out.

Currently, city planners have been working on a proposal to use the 3.5-acre parcel to build a:

  • Large gas station with 16 pumps
  • Truck refueling station with four pumps
  • Self-service car wash
  • AM/PM convenience store
  • Quick-serve drive-thru restaurant.

The restaurant would be a Steak ’n Shake franchise, a fast-food chain that began in the Midwest and has been gradually growing in other parts of the country.

“It will be like a Mel’s [Drive-In] version of a quick-serve restaurant,” said Surina Mann with Norcal Cajun Foods, Inc., the company proposing the development.

Steak ’n Shake locations — of which there are more than 500 presently — feature a diner-style interior design and a menu specializing in steak burgers and a variety of milkshakes.

“It is more of a Midwest brand that’s slowly moving to California,” Mann told a joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission on Jan. 30 to hear about the project.

The Steak ’n Shake would offer food options just off the west side of the highway in south county, where none currently exist before entering the heart of American Canyon.

Mann told council members and planning commissioners that Steak ’n Shake would be the restaurant if the city approves the project.

“We have franchise documents ready to sign” for Steak ’n Shake, she said. “It will definitely be these brands” [Arco and Steak ’n Shake].”

Most officials at the meeting did not express any reservations with the fast-food franchise.

However, Councilmember Mariam Aboudamous said the low-wage jobs associated with such businesses would not be in line with the city’s economic development strategy of attracting higher-paying employment opportunities.

Aboudamous also said she was concerned that the development might turn into a de facto truck stop, given that it would include a refueling station for commercial vehicles.

Mann said they have designed the project without parking stalls for trucks to avoid it turning into a truck stop.

Interim City Manager Jason Holley noted that while the jobs from a Steak ‘n Shake might not be high paying, the presence of a refueling station for trucks could mean more sales tax revenues from diesel purchases.

The choice of having a truck refueling station at this location is intended to take advantage of other developments in the area.

South Kelly Road connects with Devlin Road, which is being developed into an alternative route for vehicles — particularly trucks — to avoid the highway.

Plus, Napa Logistics Park and Napa Airport Corporate Center — two large commercial developments featuring warehousing, e-commerce and other businesses — would produce new truck traffic that would pass right by the refueling station on their way to the highway.

Officials expressed other concerns with the project regarding vehicle circulation in and out of the gas stations and restaurant.

As proposed, the site would have only one entry and exit for cars and truck, located just off South Kelly Road.

Holley said the city does not want an access point directly off Highway 29 because it might cause safety issues with vehicles slowly getting off or on the corridor while the rest of the traffic is going 55 mph.

Still, Planning Commissioner Bernie Zipay said having only one way in and out of the development might “create incredible chaos.”

“It looks like a bottleneck” potentially, said Zipay. “I can’t see a real easy flow for the trucks to get through” there.

Neither the City Council nor the Planning Commission took action on the proposal at the Jan. 30 meeting, which was intended to be an information sharing session.

The council and commission will formally consider the plan at future meetings.