A community group called the Coalition to Preserve Copia is appealing city staff’s determination that part of the former Copia property can be used as commercial office space under the current zoning of the property.
The appeal means that planning staff will not act on an application by Copia representatives to carve out leasable space from a former gallery on the second floor. The request will be heard at a public hearing before the Planning Commission on May 16.
In late December, property developer Keith Rogal announced preliminary reuse plans for the long-shuttered building at 500 First St.
In March, the Coalition, led by Napa developers John Salmon and Harry Price, asked the city to halt modifications of the Copia building until there is a city-approved reuse master plan for the entire 12-acre site. According to Tooker, a master plan has not yet been submitted.
Correspondence between city and Rogal indicate that the first proposed reuse tenants at the campus will be business offices providing financial or real estate services. Such tenants “are consistent with the applicable zoning for this property,” Rick Tooker, the city’s community development director, said a letter.
Tooker’s determination prompted the Coalition to file its appeal on April 15. “It is vital for the community to have input into that process,” said a letter signed by Price and Salmon.
If building owners Copia Liquidating Trust and ACA Financial Guaranty Corporation intend to “piecemeal convert this civic/cultural building into an office building, that intention should be made known to the public and reviewed through the appropriate zoning process,” Salmon and Price stated. “We want to assure that whatever happens to the Copia building and adjoining property only happens after a complete land use plan has been presented.”
Prior to the appeal, a building permit application was filed with the city’s building division for tenant improvements to the second story interior spaces. This application was placed on hold because the proposed new windows triggered the need for a design review permit, Tooker said. Because of the appeal, both the building permit and the design review permit have been put on hold , he said.
Tooker urged a spirit of collaboration. “If the Coalition and the (Copia Liquidating Trust) could try to work together to address what they think is in the best in terms of the larger community, that’s our preference.”
“We, like most people in downtown Napa, are eager to see some signs of life in and around the building, so we've not waited for the final lease signing to begin planning the work,” Rogal said.
“The proposed users have not signed leases but seem likely to do so,” Rogal said.
One 5,600-square-foot space will be for a financial services professional office, the second 1,300-square-foot space will become a management office for the property, and the third 1,300-square-foot space would be for an as-yet unspecified office user. In total, these spaces add up to about 10 percent of the building, Rogal said in an email.
“The planning commission will have to decide whether there needs to be a discussion and a land use plan presented or further information about what the future of the property is,” Salmon said.
Salmon was part of a group that presented an offer to ACA to buy the building in 2009, but that offer was not accepted.
“We are not doing this with an intention of acquiring the property,” Salmon said this week. “We have some ideas about how the building might be used to be of benefit to the community,” but he said he couldn’t elaborate at this time.
The Coalition’s efforts have been made “on behalf of the community, Salmon said. “As altruistic as that may sound, that’s truly what it is.”
A misattributed quote in the original posting has been corrected.