Business and downtown issues were the star of the third and final scheduled public forum for the Napa City Council election.
The forum, held Wednesday by the Napa Downtown Association, included all seven council candidates and the two running for mayor.
When asked what aspects of the Downtown Napa Specific Plan they'd prioritize, candidates provided several answers. Scott Sedgley said the city needs to start at the beginning.
“I would take the necessary steps to introduce the regulatory actions that will be required to implement the Downtown Specific Plan,” Sedgley said. “You have to implement the impact fees. ... The operational maintenance and ongoing funding has to be identified before some components are implemented. Before we can identify what parts of the plan we will do, we need to get this out of the way.”
Bill Bopf said the city needs to focus on the Shops at Napa Center and bring housing to the upper floors of downtown buildings.
“My major concern is getting the Town Center back, getting it operating at a profitable basis and making it a pleasant place to shop,” Bopf said. “We should ask the city manager to assign a major department head to create a team to make sure the developer’s needs are met and it serves the community as best possible. I’ve done this in the past in other communities.”
Councilman Peter Mott, who is running for mayor, said the city needs to look at opening First and Second Streets up to two-way traffic west of Jefferson Street. Work is underway to open the streets between Main and Jefferson to both directions.
“(On First Street) you pass the Victorians, some of the most beautiful parts of our city,” Mott said, explaining that a new gateway should be created. “Currently, the gateway to our city is Soscol. ... Everybody complains about the stores being empty downtown. The way to fill them is to create the environment businesses want, and that’s two-way streets.”
When asked how he’d fund improvement projects without redevelopment money, Councilman Jim Krider brought up action he and the rest of the council took last week. The council approved a sales tax revenue sharing agreement with the developer of the Shops at Napa Center under which the developer will receive a portion of the tax revenue generated by his project to be used to pay for common area improvements.
“The public-private partnership is the best way for us to replace redevelopment,” Krider said. “Redevelopment money that I have been responsible for doling out has gone to flood control improvement projects. If you need an example of what that money did, go to the Third Street Bridge, stand on it and look around. ... As far as the Soscol corridor ... we need to have public-private partnerships there.”
Alex Pader disagreed with Krider and all the other candidates who expressed support of tax sharing, saying that money should go to local businesses.
“I’ve been working with the state legislature for almost three years now on higher education issues, so I understand why they got rid of redevelopment agencies — because it didn’t provide an economic benefit for the state of California,” Pader said. “We just put a new park in on Third and Soscol. ... That money could have gone to better use by creating financial incentives to bringing businesses downtown.”
Alfredo Pedroza said the city needs to work harder to fund redevelopment projects.
“We have to do more with less, just like many local families when we lose a job, we still have obligations and we find ways to work smarter,” Pedroza said. “We need to focus on enhancing our revenues. If we had more property tax, more sales tax, if we had more (visitor tax), we’re going to have more money that we can allocate to projects. It’s just understanding how to encourage that.”
An audience member asked what the candidates would like to see happen at the former Copia property. Mayor Jill Techel, who is seeking reelection, said she is helping bring the property back to life.
“We’re going to see it open more,” Techel said. “They’re developing some plans, and I think within the next two months you’re going to see some proposals come to the City Council about that property. ... If you’re interested in what’s going to happen there, I encourage you to come down, get involved and see what the vision is.”
Charlie Rose shared big plans.
“I would like to see Copia revert back to its original purpose, but transformed,” Rose said. “You could go wine tasting for wineries Up Valley that are difficult to get appointments at or have no tasting room, have it downtown and draw people there. Let’s attract food. Have food stands there that will compliment the wines. ... Let’s get back to holding events at that facility.”
Doris Gentry said she'd like it to be available for meetings.
“What a beautiful building,” Gentry said. “I’m very excited to look at future opportunities for Copia. It’s not something the city owns, bond owners own Copia right now and developers are working on it, so I’m very excited about what is going to unfold and I hope the city is going to be able to use it for events, and nonprofits will be able to use it for events like we used to use it for events. ”