Manzanita Family Apartments

This artist’s rendering shows the entrance to the Manzanita Family Apartments, a cluster of 51 affordable rental units to be built at 2951 Soscol Ave. in Napa north of La Homa Drive and facing the Old Soscol Way split.

Submitted graphic

In the next few years, 50 lower-income families will have a new place to call home in Napa.

The Manzanita Family Apartments, a rental project slated for 2951 Soscol Ave. north of the La Homa Drive intersection, cleared its last hurdle Tuesday with the unanimous approval of the City Council. The $25 million project is expected to break ground in the spring of 2019 and be ready for occupation by the end of 2020, according to its nonprofit developer, Berkeley-based Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA).

Manzanita is the latest development intended to put apartment rentals within reach of households unable to cope with ever-rising prices in Napa’s open market. SAHA will offer apartments in the 51-unit complex (with one dwelling set aside for a property manager) to tenants making less than 60 percent of Napa’s median income – thus setting rents as low as $523 a month for a one-bedroom unit for a person in the lowest income tiers.

SAHA, which also is building an American Canyon apartment center for lower-income seniors, has promoted its Napa project as a landing spot for those working in Napa who otherwise cannot live close to their jobs.

“This is for your favorite barista, your favorite teacher, your nurse,” the company’s project manager Katie Fisher told the city Planning Commission in August before the land-use authority endorsed the plan.

Napa, which owns the vacant 1.85-acre site off Soscol Avenue’s west shoulder, opposite Old Soscol Way, chose SAHA in 2015 to develop affordable housing at the site. The builder produced plans for two three-story buildings around a central courtyard, with a stucco-and-wood façade, open balconies and staircases set away from nearby streets.

Amenities at Manzanita will include a bicycle storage room, vegetable garden, outdoor dining tables and seating, and a small play area for children, according to Glen Simmons, senior architect with the Dahlin Group.

Apartments will be a mix of 25 one-bedroom units and 13 each of two- and three-bedroom dwellings. Tenants will pay rents based on their income levels, ranging from $523 to $1,047 for one bedroom, $628 to $1,257 for two bedrooms and $726 to $1,452 for three. Prospective renters will be interviewed by SAHA staff and then chosen by lottery, according to Fisher.

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While city officials have welcomed the arrival of lower-priced housing amid chronically low vacancy rates, some north Napa residents have expressed worry about pedestrian safety – particularly for the young and old – around an apartment complex opening onto four-lane Soscol, which has a 40 mph speed limit and passes east of McPherson Elementary School.

“The design of the project is fine; the problem is it’s in the wrong place and has the wrong tenant mix,” said Sue Kesler, who predicted the three-story buildings would reduce visibility at a bend on Soscol Avenue and leave children leaving the apartments on foot at greater risk.

Tim Wood, city senior development engineer, replied that Napa will install a traffic signal and a crosswalk with crossing lights at the Manzanita entrance, which will directly face the Soscol-Old Soscol intersection. The crosswalk would be placed on the north side of the intersection, and may replace an existing crossing on La Homa Drive south of the apartments.

While few multifamily housing sites will draw unalloyed support from neighbors, the Manzanita project will have more advantages than most – and require fewer car trips of its tenants – because of its nearness to a school, hospital and shopping center, predicted Councilman Scott Sedgley.

“It’s about location, location, location, and this location fits very well,” he said. … “I think it’ll look it’s always been there, once it’s completed.”

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Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.