A gunman in Thousand Oaks tore Alaina Housley out of the lives of her family and friends. But on Sunday afternoon, more than 1,000 people gathered in Napa to remember the friendship, song and laughs she had freely shared – and to try to keep memories of the woman vital and fresh beyond her 18 years on earth.
For nearly two hours – through equal measures of tears and laughter – those who knew Housley as a daughter, a sister, a classmate or a friend told their stories of how the woman had left such deep imprints in their lives. Beneath the scholar, the singer, the storyteller and the lover of Broadway tunes, they said, was a sympathetic ear and a loyal friend – a person whose memory they were determined to keep alive.
“Your overflowing love and support are truly lifting us as we grieve the loss of our one and only Alaina Maria. We are so grateful for all of you, and quite proud of our Napa community, her mother, Hannah Housley, a Vintage history teacher and activities director, told the audience with her husband Arik and son Alex by her side. “For me, your love and hugs and all of those stories will always, always fill me as we live on with Alaina in our hearts.”
“I am such a proud mama to say, she was so very strong and immovable,” she said, barely composing herself as she recounted a Biblical verse from the First Book of Corinthians she recently had shared with her daughter. “I am standing up here today knowing she is saying that same thing to me now. I am going to be strong and immovable, Alaina Maria Housley, because you are my truest example to follow.”
Held in the gymnasium at Vintage High – the school from which Housley graduated in June on her way to Pepperdine University in Malibu – Sunday’s celebration of life was the culmination of a series of tributes that began shortly after she and 11 other people died Nov. 7 in a shooting attack in a Thousand Oaks country-western bar.
Townspeople gathered for candlelight vigils on the Vintage campus and in downtown Yountville less than 24 hours after Housley’s death. A fleet of law-enforcement patrol cars accompanied Housley’s journey to Tulocay Cemetery Nov. 11, and the nonprofit Hero Foundation organized a march the next day from Memorial Stadium to downtown Napa in remembrance of Housley and other victims of gun violence.
“It’s about the strength and character her family instilled in her, the beauty and personable nature she carried herself with,” Vintage social sciences teacher Todd Pridy said before the event, sharing recollections of Housley going back to her young childhood being brought to campus by her mother “just happy, bouncing around and smiling.”
Organizers asked those in attendance to wear bright colors, and a chain of rainbow-hued balloons arched over the lectern and a backdrop of posters honoring Alaina: a black ribbon bearing her name, the No. 15 of her Crushers soccer jersey, the message WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. But amid the red and pink jackets and tops were a greater number of blue T-shirts being one simple and forceful word in front: ENOUGH.
“We must end these senseless acts of violence because they are just that – senseless,” Arik Housley told the audience, urging members to “put down your phones” and take an interest in their families and those around them – including those as troubled as the Marine Corps veteran that Ventura County authorities say killed the 12 people in Thousand Oaks before taking his own life.
Meanwhile, various students who had gone to Vintage with Housley described the numerous ways she had become their support – with many still directly addressing their lost friend.
“Alaina was the girl to be around, whether you needed a friend or a hug,” said Kelsey Bridewell. “When you hugged her, you immediately felt her love and happiness.”
“Alaina, your decision to call me over that day, you probably didn’t even think about it, said Jack Dinsmore in recalling the friendship that began on his first day of class at Vintage. “But that decision changed my life.”
“Alaina Housley was my best friend. And not only that, she was the one of the best people I’ve had the privilege of knowing,” said Maria Texeira, recalling how the Vintage schoolmates bonded over a shared love of Harry Potter books and musical theater. “… While I’m angry and saddened that I didn’t get more time with her, I’m thankful for the time we had.
“I promise to fight for your and all the other people who lost their lives that night. I love you endlessly and I hope to see you someday.”
It was left to Housley’s younger brother, Alex Housley, to ask Napans to keep the memory of Alaina alive – by continuing to share stories of how she touched others.
“These next few weeks, months and years are going to be difficult for many of us,” Alex told the audience. “… My task for all of you is to share stories about Alaina with anyone, and it will truly help with all the grief.”
As a fad for more and fancier eateries on wheels apparently has run its course in Napa, so has a drive that began earlier this decade to update the city rules that govern them. Yet even with an ordinance that planners concede is outdated, food trucks continue to ply their trade on local streets.
A longstanding rule requiring lunch wagons and other rolling vendors to move their vehicles every 15 minutes remains on the books. However, planning officials say there is no city effort to aggressively enforce the rule – and that overhauling that part of Napa’s peddling law is a low priority.
“These rules are dated – they were meant for vendors who would walk around and sell items, not for those who set down and sell,” said city assistant planner Jose Cortez recently, pointing to older forms of vending like ice cream trucks.
Section 10.36.180 of the Napa municipal code restricts peddlers from standing any vehicle, wagon or pushcart from which food, produce or other goods are sold “on any portion of any street within this city,” unless the vendor lingers no longer than 15 minutes at any site and stays at least 1,000 feet away for at least 24 hours.
Despite such strictures, lunch wagons in recent years have continued doing business on local routes such as Soscol Avenue, where such trucks routinely are stationed for full work days on the curb or on patches of private land just off the roadway.
As with other kinds of code enforcement, Napa tracks complaints about alleged food-peddling violations but does not go on patrol to find such scofflaws, according to Cortez. “Actively patrolling it would be time-consuming; we do respond to complaints but to proactively enforce it is kind of tough,” he said last month.
Napa Police officers have the power to cite food truck operators lingering in public rights of way longer than 15 minutes but instead simply advise them of the ordinance and ask them to move in most cases, according to Sgt. Mike Hensley.
“We explain the time limit and (that) they need to keep in mind that we may not actively patrol, but if someone calls to complain we will be asking you to move,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t see many food truck citations get written; most (operators) have been very cooperative after we explain the code. We want to give them alternatives and help them be successful.”
The absence in recent years of obvious action on food-truck regulations is a sharp turnabout from 2011, when vendors, the Planning Commission and the City Council debated who to govern the estimated 14 mobile eateries then doing business in Napa. City officials pondered requiring vendors to set up hand-wash stations and portable toilets, as well as allowing mobile food stands to do business as close to 300 feet to a school or park instead of the still-current limit of 1,000 feet.
The discussion unfolded as new players with fancier culinary offerings – reflecting an increasingly diverse menu at food trucks elsewhere in the U.S. – entered the Napa market, including Crossroad Chicken, the deli-on-wheels Pastranomy and Cousins Maine Lobster, a rolling purveyor of lobster rolls. Meanwhile, Food Truck Fridays, a monthly gathering of mobile vendors, began in September 2010 on downtown First Street and attracted a guest list of as many as 400 people.
In the years since, however, some of the rolling eateries have closed down, and the city shut down Food Truck Fridays after six months over code violations. The lower profile of food stands may have eroded interest in overhauling Napa’s food truck laws, according to city senior planner Michael Allen.
“The stakeholders went away and inquiries for such events also waned,” he said in an email last week. “Our focus turned toward other endeavors and updated regulations didn’t go anywhere, so the city’s regulations remain unchanged.”
In the past three years, the only such request to reach city offices was the permit granted to the Gasser Foundation to open a temporary food-truck corral on vacant building pads of the South Napa Century Center, according to Allen. Mobile vendors at the corral, which opened in July 2016, formed a de facto food court as the shopping center off Gasser Drive was gradually built out and populated with permanent eating places.
Among the more established rolling eateries in Napa is Tacos La Esperanza, which has dished out tacos, burritos and other lunch fare since 2006 from a curbside spot in the 1500 block of Soscol Avenue. The taco truck did not receive any complaints for violating the 15-minute rule until this June, according to owner Rene Gonzalez.
However, Gonzalez worried that an increased concentration of food trucks near his favored spot on Soscol could increase city scrutiny – especially with other vendors searching for new locations after South Napa Century Center’s corral closed Oct. 31. The Gasser Foundation, which developed the shopping center, had fostered the corral as a temporary food court to serve customers before permanent restaurants signed leases at the complex.
“What we’re afraid of is now that other trucks are parking on Soscol, they’ll complain about us again,” Gonzalez said earlier this month.
The city of Napa will take the lead among local governments in funding a new plan to help the county cope with California’s next drought emergency.
Napa would assume $138,966 of the $230,193 to be provided by Napa County’s five cities, plus the county and the Napa Sanitation District, toward a drought contingency plan. The City Council on Tuesday accepted its share of the $430,193 budget, which includes a $200,000 federal grant from the Bureau of Reclamation Napa officials expect to see approved by month’s end.
Each government’s payment toward the drought plan will be based on its population and water use, with the city of Napa paying about 60 percent of the local share, according to a city memorandum. American Canyon would provide the second largest share at $31,652, followed by the county with $22,567, St. Helena with $15,120 and Napa Sanitation with $10,132. Calistoga would commit $8,502 and Yountville $3,254.
A contingency plan reviews the water supply and consumption in each city and agency, and recommends potential projects to make up supply deficits during a drought. The most recent plan stemmed from a 2005 study by Napa Valley governments, and led to the city of Napa improving its Barwick Jamieson Treatment plant and buying more rights to state-supplied water from Yountville and St. Helena.
All of the Napa Valley governments are interested in completing a new regional study in 2019, according to Napa city utilities director Phil Brun.
Brown and Caldwell, a Walnut Creek design and engineering firm, will partner with local governments to create the drought plan. The company originally contracted with Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties last year on a water shortage strategy for all three counties, but Marin and Sonoma ultimately pursued their own plan, Brun said in a pre-meeting memorandum.