The latest development to get Napa’s approval will add to the city’s shrunken supply of lower-cost housing. But for some families, the Redwood Duets townhouses could mean something more – they may be a rare chance to hold on to the town where they have grown, lived and worked.

As the City Council prepared to vote on the project’s future Tuesday night, two local women – both Napa natives and mothers of three – asked their leaders to think of the people who someday might live in the 34 attached homes at 2033 Redwood Road in the north of town.

“I’m sad that after growing up in Napa, after contributing to my community, my family is now thinking about moving away” because of crushing housing costs, Nereida Arroyo told the council at City Hall. “I’m sad that my children won’t be able to see their grandparents as much if they have to move to another city.”

“I have always had the dream of owning my own home,” added Jerrica Saldivar, a grandmother of two who works as a financial specialist for the Napa-based Mentis nonprofit mental health service. “Today, that dream is out of reach. This project would put it back within my reach.”

All five council members took the side of Arroyo, Saldivar and Burbank Housing Development Corp., the Santa Rosa firm that took over Redwood Duets and reshaped it as a more affordable option for homeowners of modest means. With Napa’s approval in hand, Burbank Housing plans to break ground on the 2-acre site in March and complete the work in about a year, according to the nonprofit’s chief executive, Larry Florin.

The dwellings would be sized specifically for families who often struggle to find suitable rental housing in Napa, as each unit would enclose about 1,200 square feet and include three bedrooms.

Fourteen homes will be priced for families earning no more than 80 percent of the local median income, 10 will be attainable for buyers at median income or less, and 10 will be reserved for households making up to 20 percent over the median.

Under a 45-year pact with the city, Burbank will base the allowable resale prices on the current owner’s income level and annual cost-of-living adjustments, Florin said. Prospective buyers will be required to affirm both their incomes and the use of their home as a primary dwelling, not a vacation residence.

Burbank Housing, which earlier built Napa’s Oak Creek Terrace and is planning the Stoddard West apartments near South Napa Marketplace, has made several cost-saving changes to the never-started plan the city approved in 2008 for RMCI Group as a market-rate project.

The original blueprints for three-story townhomes were scaled back to two floors, and Burbank scrapped the den planned in each unit in favor of a third bedroom. Balconies were dropped from the plan, as was a small park intended as a children’s play area, and a new street serving the homes will be maintained by the city instead of a dues-charging homeowners’ association.

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Although the city Planning Commission endorsed Redwood Duets last month, its members had some concerns about the lack of dedicated park space and the tight fit on the property, which Burbank is buying from the Kolbe Academy & Trinity Prep Catholic school next door. (The academy is using the $1.7 million payment to cover a mortgage on its remaining 3 acres.)

Despite such issues, Councilman Scott Sedgley concluded that “because the need (for affordable housing) is so dramatic, certain concessions have to be made.”

Though more than a decade will have passed from Redwood Duets’ original approval to their opening, Mayor Jill Techel declared the outcome to be the best one possible in a city chronically short of homes within workers’ reach.

“It’s nice to have something at market rates come back to us as affordable, because that doesn’t happen very often,” she said.


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.