I am responding to Joe McGrath's letter ("Fires exacerbate severe housing shortage") published Nov. 16.
First of all, I think it is offensive and disingenuous for Mr. McGrath to use the tragedy of the recent devastating fires to promote his eight-unit, market-rate multifamily project on McCorkle Avenue. His attack on those who are concerned about his project, which will legally add 44 people to our substandard street (no storm drains, few sidewalks, current overflow parking from the existing 10-unit multifamily complex on our street), in addition to the 40-plus people and their cars coming into the Brenkle Sweat Equity project, is irresponsible and vainglorious.
Our neighborhood group welcomes the Brenkle Project and appreciates the diversity that is already part of our neighborhood. We have developed positive relationships with the owners and sponsors of both of these developments. Mr. McGrath's self-serving analysis of our motivations is inaccurate and ludicrous.
Mr. McGrath initially told those of us who live on McCorkle Avenue that this project is his "retirement" investment for him and his family. We informed him that our homes are our retirement investments, and that we don't want our neighborhood compromised by the impacts of a third multifamily project on the already over-parked, over-strained, fragile, dead-end street.
Mr. McGrath attempts to demonize those of us with legitimate concerns, that include points mentioned above, and toxic soil impacts, by saying things like: " ... the actions of a few actors, acting with impunity, can hold hostage the interest of many." As such, they have " ... the power to greatly shape the future of St. Helena." "Please don't let them take that future away from you."
There is no place for such divisive, hate-mongering rhetoric in St. Helena.
The high-density zoning on the north side of McCorkle Avenue is the result of poor planning in years past. It is the feeling of most people in our neighborhood, and many others, that we need to stop any development on this side of St. Helena until we can conduct a comprehensive review of the zoning and land use throughout the town after our Updated General Plan is certified.
That is the best context in which to decide what our housing goals are, and how to implement them with fairness to every neighbor in town, including those who will be living in this housing. Taking the time to carefully consider issues such as on site open space, general open space (parks), auxiliary dwellings, small-sized developments dispersed evenly throughout the town, innovative ideas, such as "tiny home villages" for farm workers and others, is a necessary component to responsible planning.
Let us slow down, establish a dialogue, really listen to each other, stop the name calling, and work together with as much congeniality as possible.