A slate of votes the Napa City Council is scheduled to take on Tuesday may affect wide swaths of local life, from the look of downtown and its traffic flow to the availability of low-cost homes and the arrival of legal marijuana sales.

Dwight Murray Plaza

A major overhaul of Dwight Murray Plaza on downtown First Street may win City Council approval on Tuesday. The $1.5 million freshening, which the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission accepted last month, would transform the look and function of a square that opened in 1974 as Napa’s hoped-for public gathering space, but has since languished with a dated design and the shift of major festivals elsewhere.

Dwight Murray Plaza’s brick-like pavement and pit seating and long-disused fountain would disappear, to be replaced by a single-level surface with movable tables, chairs and umbrellas, new London plane trees for shade, and a flat-surface fountain that can be switched off to create more ground space. The square also would receive 14-foot-tall light standards, as well as LED illumination for the fountain area.

With the council’s acceptance of the conceptual plan, the city would move ahead with project documents and construction. Completion is planned in the spring of 2017, at about the same time as the opening of the Archer Napa hotel to the west.


A conceptual plan to build three traffic circles joining California Boulevard, First and Second Streets, and Highway 29 is up for council approval.

The roundabouts would control traffic flow from the freeway and California onto the two major east-west routes into downtown, which also would have their directions reversed; First would channel eastbound vehicles while Second would carry drivers toward the highway. The plan combines improvements earlier sought by the city and Caltrans, which agreed to use a rotary instead of a traffic light for its redesign of the Highway 29 interchange with First.

Medical marijuana

Councilmembers are slated to weigh an ordinance that could allow a medical marijuana dispensary within city limits, a plan that Napa passed but then dropped earlier in the decade.

In a memorandum to the council, city staff recommended allowing a cannabis seller to do business in areas zoned for medical offices or light industry. The city also should require the dispensary to be based at least 1,000 feet from any residential zones or “youth population uses” such as schools or parks; ban displays of marijuana that are visible from the street; and meet minimum lighting standards, wrote Community Development Director Rick Tooker and City Attorney Michael Barrett.

City officials also called for limiting a dispensary’s hours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and barring visitors younger than 18 except for minors with a physician’s recommendation for cannabis products.

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The recommendations apply only to a potential marijuana seller, and staff declined to support freeing cannabis distributors or testers from city zoning laws.

Napa is rethinking its marijuana rules even as more than a dozen statewide ballot measures seek to let Californians go beyond medical uses, by decriminalizing recreational pot to varying degrees. Two of the initiatives are under state review to confirm that they have reached the minimum number of signatures to appear on the November ballot.

Affordable housing

Nearly a year of city discussions may culminate in a range of fee hikes for developers to boost revenue for scarce affordable housing in Napa.

The increases to housing impact fees would touch all forms of construction, but single-family homes and hotels would see the largest hikes – from $2.20 to $4.75 per square foot for freestanding houses and from $1.40 to $6 for new lodgings.

Impact fees would move from 50 cents to $3.50 on industrial projects, 80 cents to $3.55 on retail developments, $1 to $3.55 for offices and $2.20 to $4.75 on condominiums. The smallest fee boost would affect multifamily housing – only 30 cents more per square foot, to $4.05 – to encourage denser housing more likely to fall within reach of lower-income renters.

Raising builders’ fees is expected to provide Napa more revenue to support affordable housing developments, which saw one of their main supports cut down in 2012 when California dissolved local redevelopment districts across the state.


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.