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Napa County wants to protect Upvalley from wider roads

A revised Napa County transportation plan places more emphasis on reducing solo car trips than on building new roads and widening existing ones in rural wine country.

“Napa County’s roadway system reflects its primarily agricultural character,” states the plan for the unincorporated county outside of cities.

To keep things that way, proposed major road projects are focused on the more-urban south county. Elsewhere, the county is looking at such strategies as adding roundabouts and promoting walking, biking, carpooling and other solo-driving alternatives.

On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors adopted a revised traffic circulation plan for its general plan. The Board launched the venture in the wake of a March 10, 2015 “growth summit” attended by several hundred residents, given that participants identified traffic as a pressing concern.

Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said he appreciates that the updated plan emphasizes multiple forms of transportation. He also noted that 77.6 percent of county residents commute by driving solo.

“I think that’s the biggest challenge we face in Napa County,” Pedroza said. “It’s more convenient to get in your car and go from A to B.”

Planner Dana Ayers agreed. But traffic will grow worse and the county needs to have such things as safe bicycle paths available to provide an alternative, she said.

“We need to make the other transportation options more convenient,” Ayers said, adding that frustrated motorists sitting in traffic might decide to join the bicyclists they see passing them by.

Supervisor Diane Dillon pointed to a plan section that said the county could require pedestrian-scale lighting as part of bicycle/pedestrian paths. She asked if that meant the evolving Napa Valley Vine Trail might someday have lights from Yountville to Calistoga.

“We have night skies issues in the rural area already...It’s creating an urbanized outlook to the upper valley area,” Dillon said.

Ayers said these bike path lights might be three feet tall and placed in certain areas, such as intersections.

“The concept is facilities need to be safe if people are going to use them,” Ayers said. “If it’s not safe or even if it doesn’t even feel safe, people aren’t going to use the facilities.”

Thoroughfares aren’t the only roads experiencing traffic woes in the Information Age. The transportation plan said drivers using smart phone apps and GPS are going off-the-beaten path to avoid congestion, placing strain on minor roads and in neighborhoods designed for less traffic.

Napa County will try some new congestion-fighting methods.

For example, proposed commercial developments are to present traffic demand management strategies to reduce the solo-driver trips they would generate. They might do such things as participate in shuttle programs and offer subsidized transit passes.

There is an exception to the county’s reservations about dealing with congestion by seeking major road projects. The county reaffirmed its commitment to support road improvements along Highway 29 in the south county. Among the proposed projects are improving Highway 29 intersections at the Carneros Junction, at Highway 221 and at Highway 12 near Jameson Canyon.

One idea in recent years has been to someday widen four-lane Highway 29 to six lanes in the congested American Canyon area. Napa Valley Transportation Authority Executive Director Kate Miller said Caltrans isn’t supporting highway-capacity boosting projects, which means the money might not be available.

Still, supervisors left a Highway 29 widening item in the transportation plan. County officials said widening can also mean adding passing lanes for buses and adding bike paths.

The county in most cases is aiming to have at least a level-of-service D on its major roads and at its signalized intersections. Level-of-service rankings go from A through F, with A being the best and F being the worst.

Many local commuters experience level D congestion every morning. That’s the rating assigned in a recent Caltrans study to the intersection of highways 29 and 221 south of Napa near the Grapecrusher statue, with average morning rush-hour delays of 54 seconds. Evening rush hour there operates at an F.

Accepting Level D best aligns with the county’s desire to balance its rural character with the need of supporting economic vitality and growth, the transportation plan stated.

However, the transportation plan makes exceptions to that Level D minimum standard. For example, the county will accept level F on Highway 29 between Yountville and Calistoga and on Highway 12/121 between the Sonoma County line and Carneros Junction.

Also Tuesday, the county changed its standards for Devlin Road in the airport industrial area. The only sections that will be four lanes are the four-lane sections that exist. The rest of Devlin Road is to be two lanes with a center turning lane and have a bike path along it.

Reward offered, vigil planned for Napa homicide victim attacked on Vine Trail

A vigil is planned Wednesday night for Douglas D. Davis Jr., the 54-year-old Napa man who died after being attacked while riding his bike on the Napa Valley Vine Trail.

The Napa Police Department is continuing its investigation into last Wednesday night’s homicide on the Vine Trail, just south of the intersection of Main Street and Central Avenue. Police have not divulged additional information about the investigation since announcing Davis’s death.

Family members said they will hold a vigil at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the site of the attack, where friends and family have set up an impromptu memorial. Relatives, friends and coworkers from Safeway are expected to attend, a family member said, but the event will be open to the public.

“I want this to be loud,” said daughter Andrea Davis, 22, of Napa. “I don’t want Napa to forget. Just because it might seem like old news to you, it’s still rocking my world.”

Neighbors in the area said that part of the path is pitch black at night, and is occasionally a hangout spot for drunk or rowdy visitors. Davis often rode his bike along the Vine Trail and felt safe doing so, father Doug Davis, Sr. said last week.

His family has offered a $5,000 reward for anyone whose tip to Napa Police helps solve the murder.

Andrea hopes to work with the city and Vine Trail to raise and secure grant funding for better lighting along the path. She said she’s been told by someone with the Vine Trail that such improvements could cost $100,000 to $250,000.

“I need my dad’s death to start change,” Andrea said. “I need his death to mean something.”

Papa Murphy’s pizza shop and ice cream sandwich shop CREAM will be raising money next week for the Davis family’s efforts, said owner Money Sangha. The family will receive $3 of every pizza purchased at Papa Murphy’s Monday and $1.50 of every item purchased Tuesday at CREAM.

Davis was a regular customer at Papa Murphy’s who loved toppings, Sangha said. He preferred to order the pie stacked with salami, pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, olives and onions.

Sangha recalled Davis trying to cheer up stressed staff on Fridays, the restaurant’s busiest day.

Davis Sr. described his son as witty, “happy-go-lucky,” good-natured and a sports fanatic. Davis had lived in Wisconsin and Maui, but spent most of his life in Napa.

“If you met my dad, then he left an imprint on your heart,” Andrea said.

Son Sammy Davis, 27, remembered Davis as a kind, humble man who would help anybody who was struggling because he knew what that felt like. He had a way of connecting with everyone and making people feel important.

He recalled visiting his father on Maui while his wife, Jessica, was pregnant. Sammy said the island dramatically changed his father and he had never seen him so happy — he glowed from the tropical sun and told everyone he could that he would soon be a grandfather.

Sammy said he spent more time with his dad in the last couple of years than he ever had in his life. Davis would call often, ask about Sammy’s daughter or come over to drink a couple of beers and head to a football game.

“He appreciated the time that he had on this earth,” Sammy said.

Davis struggled with drug use, but had committed to getting clean and strengthening familial relationships in recent years, his family said. He had three children and three grandchildren, with another grandchild on the way.

The most important thing to Davis’ family, said daughter Erika Orejola, 25, is getting closure by finding who is responsible for her father’s murder.

“He loved his kids very much; he had a really good heart,” she said, through tears. “No matter his struggles, he always remained a good, loving person.”Andrea is the youngest of Davis’ three kids and has taken the lead for her family in searching for information about his death. Andrea’s brother, Sammy is busy running his business, and Orejola is pregnant, she said. Her grandparents are heartbroken about their son’s death.“I really feel that I’m the only one who can do it,” she said of the family’s outreach for information to help solve the crime. “I know my dad would do the same.”

Andrea, who says she’s addicted to crime shows, said her obsession has taught her that people on the streets are the most likely to know what might have happened in this case that evening.

She’s been talking to groups of people she meets on the street, and visiting a homeless shelter, soup kitchen and The Salvation Army to learn more about who could have killed her father. Her interest in the case has spurred her father’s friends and coworkers to try to figure out what happened too, Andrea said.

Andrea has posted flyers with a photo of her dad, information about her family’s reward and the department’s phone number along the Vine Trail and across town.

“My biggest goal was to make it personal for them,” she said.

Andrea has decorated the trail memorial with family photos, candles, a cross, balloons and hearts. Others have left objects such as flowers and mementos. Neighbors who reside along the trail have given her permission to paint a mural along their back fences in his memory.

She wants the site of Davis’ attack “to look alive” with tributes to his life — and make it clear to whomever killed her father that he is missed.

“I love you daddy,” Andrea wrote in a Facebook post tagged #justicefordoug. “I’m never gonna stop fighting for you.”

Snow rings the tops of hills bordering the Napa Valley

The highest elevations bordering the Napa Valley were dusted with snow Monday night, creating wintry scenes when dawn came and the fog lifted Tuesday.

The frozen whiteness didn’t descend as close to the valley floor as some forecasts had predicted Monday, but the sight of snow — any snow — drew looks of appreciation.

The high-altitude snowfall came with a drop in temperature. Many motorists struggled Tuesday morning to open their outdoor vehicles. Their doors had frozen shut.

No serious traffic collisions were reported early Tuesday in Napa County. It was a different situation in Lake County where road ice caused a flurry of crashes.

It’s doubtful if anyone in Napa found enough snow for a snowman or a snowball fight. They had to be content with snow visuals.

Tuesday night was forecast to be colder, with temperatures dipping into the upper 20s in many locations. But without the prospect of precipitation, don’t expect snow.

Residents were urged to protect delicate plants from what could be the coldest night of the year.

Wednesday and Thursday were expected to be sunny, with highs in the mid-50s and lows in the low 30s.

Light rain could return by Friday, with showers through the weekend.

Napa Senior Center to reopen in June after first phase of renovation

Napa’s community center and meeting place for older residents is on track to again welcome visitors this summer, the city has announced.

Programs will resume at the Napa Senior Activity Center as soon as the end of June following the first stage of a two-part renovation of the facility at 1500 Jefferson St., according to recreation manager Katrina Gregory. The building, which opened in 1976, has been closed since October for a $2.1 million interior makeover that will include improvements to its entrance, kitchen and multi-use rooms.

Workers were set to begin installing new drywall this week inside the Senior Center, Gregory said Wednesday. In the coming months, updated fixtures and appliances will be installed to complete the project, which is intended as a prelude to a multimillion-dollar expansion that will add more amenities – including a fitness room and library – as well as more than 8,000 square feet to the complex, bringing its capacity to 19,985 square feet.

More than 50 recreational, social and assistance programs shifted to alternate sites with the start of construction last fall, Gregory said. Most of the groups relocated to other city-owned facilities including Las Flores Community Center on Linda Vista Avenue, the Pelusi Building at Kennedy Park, and two small houses that share the Jefferson Street property with the Senior Center.

Other programs have found interim homes at privately owned venues. Dance groups are gathering at Napa’s Arthur Murray studio, Methodist church and Native Sons of the Golden West parlor, and Community Action of Napa Valley’s lunch program is operating from New Life Tabernacle on First Street west of downtown.

Napa first approved the Senior Center’s renovation in 2016, but delayed work after a first round of construction bids came in well above the city’s original $1.9 million estimate. Ballooning construction demand across the Bay Area then led Napa to raise its estimate to $2.55 million before it shaved more than $400,000 from the project, mainly by deferring work on the outdoor grounds. The City Council also approved shifting $1.2 million into the project from funds originally meant for upgrades to Kennedy Park, which are not expected to start until at least 2020.

CNW Construction Inc., based in El Dorado County, won the rebid of the Senior Center remodel’s first phase, allowing work to begin last fall.