The big story of 2017 – the October wildfires – will also be a big story in 2018. The new year should see the completion of a cleanup job that involves hauling the charred remains of more than 600 burned-out houses to the dump.
Then comes the rebuilding efforts that will go on for years. People who lost homes must deal with insurance companies, have plans approved by the county, find contractors – all the while maintaining temporary residences amid a tight housing market.
A fire-scarred landscape must heal too. A few months will tell whether big storms roll in that could cause mudslides along hills devoid of vegetation.
Lake Berryessa this coming year could see a new attempt to launch a resort renaissance. Five of the seven resorts along the massive reservoir in the east county are either operating in stripped-down fashion or closed.
A master plan calls for redeveloped resorts with new marinas, lodgings and other features. But the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over several years has failed to find the private concessionaires needed to bring about this transformation on federal land.
Napa County will decide whether it should oversee the resort redevelopment effort with the Bureau’s approval. It is testing the waters by seeing if it can find resort companies interested in coming to Lake Berryessa.
The fate of the now-vacant county Health and Human Services Agency campus along Old Sonoma Road in the city of Napa could be decided in 2018. Napa County owns the 8.6 acres and wants to see affordable housing built there. A plan for building 172 apartments and townhouses and removing three century-old buildings and the crescent-shaped front lawn proved controversial with the surrounding, residential neighborhood.
But the city of Napa sees a possible, temporary use for the property. It is exploring whether to buy the campus from the county so city offices can move there while a new City Hall is being built in the downtown.
Napa County will likely resume efforts to enact a new winery audit program and a grace period for wineries to come in compliance with use permits. The goal is to make certain wineries are following production limits and other rules. The Board of Supervisors delayed taking the final steps in 2017 after the disaster of the October wildfires.
Two Napa County Board of Supervisors seats will be on the June 5 ballot. They are 1st District seat held by Brad Wagenknecht and the 3rd District seat held by Diane Dillon.
Other county offices on the ballot include sheriff-coroner, district attorney, auditor-controller, assessor-recorder-clerk and treasurer-tax collector.
Voters could also decide the fate of measures to tighten oak woodland and watershed protections and ban new private, rural heliports. Supporters say they have enough signatures to qualify their respective initiatives.
Drivers on Highway 221 will see a new, 72-bed reentry facility take shape. Napa County will use the facility to help inmates learn life skills and find jobs in attempt to keep them from reoffending and returning to jail.
The county could also put the finishing touches on a plan to build a $128 million, 304-bed jail next to the reentry facility. A major step would be taking out a $50 million loan to help cover the cost.
Much of the discussion about the city of Napa’s changing face in 2018 will revolve around the city’s geographic – and civic – heart.
The city last year approved an ambitious replacement of its undersized, antiquated City Hall and police station with a glass-walled, four-story civic center on downtown First Street, just west of the current headquarters. Plenary Group, the developer behind the plan, is continuing to flesh out a 130,000-square-foot building that will centralize city offices now spread over seven sites, while giving visitors easy access to housing, youth and homeless services as well as law enforcement.
Designers are working toward a possible 2019 groundbreaking, with city departments to move into their new digs about 2 ½ years later. Construction, financing and temporary office space are estimated to require $110 million.
Downtown Napa’s newest hotel, the Archer, is expected to gain its belated next-door companion in 2018, when the first of about 40 new tenants are scheduled to open their doors at the First Street Napa retail arcade. The complex once known as Napa Town Center is being overhauled to host a mix of national and regional merchants
Following the footsteps of busy, transformative hotels like the Andaz and Archer, developers are continuing to pursue other projects announced last year in hopes they, too, will cash in on Napa’s boom in wine and food tourism.
The site of the Napa Valley Wine Train’s depot on McKinstry Street is slated for a second life as a five-story resort with a rooftop restaurant, pool, spa, tiki bar and retail market. Nearby, an expansion of the Westin Verasa is proposed to add 32 rooms and another rooftop eatery, this one operated by the celebrity chef Ken Frank.
As early as this summer, south Napa’s Meritage Resort and Spa is expected to cut the ribbon on The Village, an annex that will add 145 new rooms and suites to the existing 322 along with a food and wine “village”, boutique market and demonstration kitchen, among other amenities.
Away from downtown’s burgeoning hotel and restaurant scene, on a 20-acre finger of long-empty land west of the Soscol Avenue auto row, a grid of streets is taking shape. These streets will become the way into the Vista Tulocay Apartments, a radical addition to Napa’s airtight housing market that will create at least 282 dwellings and possibly as many as 483.
Drivers heading into downtown and beyond from Highway 29 eventually will follow a completely new path – a round one – after the completion of a trio of roundabouts linking the freeway to California Boulevard and First and Second streets. Construction on the $6 million project is expected to start in 2018 and last three years –a period of disruption and detours in which Napa will seek pieces of eight properties to fit the new traffic pattern.
Two council seats are up for election in November 2018 – a seat formerly held by Juliana Inman and the seat held by Peter Mott, who has yet to announce whether he will run again.
Four city residents have already stepped forward to declared themselves candidates, including Ricky Hurtado, a community engagement manager with Cope Family Center; community activist Liz Alessio, business owner Bernie Narvaez, and attorney and former City Council member Mary Luros.
Editor’s Note: This story had been modified to correct the name of Napa City Council candidate Ricky Hurtado.