Having been a homeowner in St. Helena since 1999 and a full-time resident since 2014, I empathize with my fellow residents’ concerns regarding traffic and environmental issues that may arise if a new hotel is built on the city-owned Adams Street property, and the impact such a project might have on our wonderful small-town atmosphere.
Knowing our needs as a city and the financial realities that will continue to grow with or without a hotel, reality now dictates that it’s time for our city’s leaders to be flexible and consider options and opportunities to maintain our financial base and the creative addition of a hotel might be just the answer. It’s similar to the power of compounding interest and we’re way behind the times in collecting the interest on this property.
Also, listening to many residents and serving on two SHAPE subcommittee forums, it is also evident to me that we as a community have become locked into a black or white mentality of problem solving, Yes versus No. Neighbor versus neighbor and that is not OK. Thus, as I noted above we need to move beyond black and white and see all the colors of that rainbow by opening our minds to new ways to address the same question we have been asking ourselves, and our residents, for decades.
That said, several things have emerged in conversation that might move us forward in creating mindful growth.
1. Let's consider leasing not selling the land we decide to develop, based on our needs (not the developer’s needs). We maintain possession. Many cities would never consider permanently letting go of their valuable assets. Many successful examples are out there including the Gasser complex in neighboring Napa where the Cinemark and shops are and I recently learned the Hampton Suites only owns the pad that the hotel sits on.
2. It’s very “easy”, again as in other cities, to create and demand builders create an environmentally and LEED certified building.
3. Let's proceed with the same open-minded thinking for parking and traffic patterns. These issues aren’t easy, but doable!
4. Let's also create and include an affordable housing scheme in the plan which is becoming common now within Bay Area development projects, If we can hire locally, we will right away take a small bite out of our traffic problems.
5. Might we also include a restaurant on the property that meets the needs of our citizens and the hotel complex.
This is not rocket science and there is no way this should still be going on, especially since our city’s leaders have taken a great deal of residents’ time over the years to ask for input, only to then ignore it.
Let's get off our assets, stop overthinking and arguing, move forward, use some common sense and get something done.
Bret K. Johnson, Ph.D.