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Christina Yan just opened Camino at 1270 First St., directly across from Compline in Napa. The store offers 'bespoke' florals, decor and more. 


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Property values
Napa County assessment roll hits record $45.5 billion
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Two devastating wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop Napa County’s property tax assessment roll from rising to an all-time high of $45.56 billion.

That’s the total assessed value of all local homes, wineries, hotels, businesses and other taxable properties as of Jan. 1, 2021. The roll grew by $1.48 billion, a 3.35% increase.

Napa County last saw its assessment roll value fall in 1978 amid Proposition 13 restructuring. Ever since then, the issue hasn’t been whether the roll’s value grew, but by how much.

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“This was a healthy increase given the impact of the pandemic, the $200 million reduction to the roll from the 2020 Glass and LNU fires and a Proposition 13 inflationary adjustment of less than 2%,” county Assessor John Tuteur said.

Reports done for the county by Constant Associates show how much damage two massive fires wreaked within Napa County last year:

-- The Glass fire burned 40,650 acres, destroyed 1,022 structures and damaged 83 structures. Structures can be everything from a home to a winery to a barn to an out-building.

-- The Hennessey Fire, part of the LNU Lightning Complex fires, burned 165,643 acres, destroyed 522 structures and damaged 54 structures.

And that’s only the latest gut punch from fires in recent years. The Tubbs, Atlas and Nuns fires of 2017 destroyed about 650 homes in Napa County, most of which have yet to be rebuilt.

Still, the assessment roll value used to determine property taxes grows. Of that $1.48 billion increase, $560 million comes from the Proposition 13 inflationary increase on homes and other properties.

Voters by passing Proposition 13 in 1978 capped property tax increases on homes and other properties that don’t change hands at 2% annually. Tuteur said the increase for this roll is a little over 1%.

New non-residential construction added another $254.5 million in assessed value. The balance of the increase comes from change of ownership that reset Proposition 13 base years, and from new residential construction.

All five municipalities saw their total assessed value rise. The city of Napa’s rose 3.59%, American Canyon’s 4.18%, Calistoga’s 7.65%, St. Helena’s 3.4% and Yountville’s 0.9%, a county press release said.

Tuteur shared the assessment roll information with the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Board of Supervisors Chairperson Alfredo Pedroza said the assessment roll value is more than just a number. Property tax is one of the most stable revenue sources for Napa County.

"As assessment values go up, it means more revenue potentially for the county of Napa, which means we get to invest in our community," he said.

Tuteur, who is elected by voters as assessor and not appointed, has previously stated his job is to make certain local property owners receive fair values that reflect market conditions. 

For the latest 2021-22 assessment roll, his office's certified appraisers reviewed every single-family home and condominium on less than 5 acres throughout the county. That means residential owners receive fair values reflecting market conditions as of Jan. 1, 2021, he said.

The Assessor's Office also reviewed commercial and industrial properties after owners supplied current income and expense information, he said.

Online value notices are available to property owners in a decline-in-value status; properties with business and farm equipment assessments; agricultural properties under California Land Conservation (Williamson) Act contracts and properties under construction between Jan. 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020.

Notices can be searched by assessor parcel number or property address at countyofnapa.org/150/Assessor-Parcel-Data .

Tuteur encouraged property owners to compare their latest 2021-22 value notices with their 2020-21 property tax bills to see the nature of the changes. They can notify the Assessor's Office for an informal review before Nov. 15.

People with questions can contact the county at john.tuteur@countyofnapa.org or (707) 253-4459.

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Photo flashback: Go back to 1966 with these photos of a well-traveled Napa shopping center on Jefferson Street


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Entertainment
Napa Porchfest music festival may become a single late-September free concert
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The porches of downtown Napa will be music-free this weekend — but organizers of Napa Porchfest may recast this year’s summertime music crawl as a downtown concert in the early fall.

In their effort to bring Porchfest back to live audiences for the first time since before the coronavirus pandemic, directors are attempting to recast this year's festival of local and regional musicians as a free showcase for up to a dozen acts at the Oxbow Commons park.

The event, tentatively scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 26, would take place on the temporary set that will host this year’s Oxbow RiverStage concert series, which begins next month and will run into October.

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Porchfest’s music director Micah Malan on Monday confirmed the proposal for the Porchfest concert, as did managing director Ken Tesler of Blue Note Napa, which produces the RiverStage concerts.

“We’re just so ecstatic at the thought of being able to bring free live music to Napa at that magnitude,” said Tesler. “Everyone is looking for a breath of fresh air, and that’s one of them.”

Concentrating a festival that normally sprawls across several blocks of Old Town Napa into one concert offers a potential way to bring audiences back to the event — which state and county social distancing rules forced into a series of virtual, live-streamed performances last July — while still setting a limit on the number of spectators at the free event. A concert also opens up the chance for organizers to fund a 2022 Porchfest with sales of festival T-shirts and other souvenirs, the event’s main source of revenue.

Porchfest musicians would appear on the same stage Blue Note Napa will set up at the Oxbow Commons for the RiverStage concerts, which begin Aug. 14 with performances by Trampled by Turtles and Mt. Joy. Stage and sound setup would begin about a week before the opening concert, according to Tesler, who said the venue has a city permit for up to 5,700 spectators — just over a third of the festival’s maximum attendance on Napa streets.

“We know it’s an important event for the city of Napa, and we think it’s a good fit,” he said of the potential partnership.

Napa city officials have talked with Porchfest and Blue Note staff about using electronic ticketing for the event, even with no admission charge. “We’re looking for RSVPs so we can control the numbers,” the city’s recreation supervisor Pete Hangen said Tuesday.

Malan predicted the Porchfest concert likely would feature 10 to 12 acts, each playing sets of up to 30 minutes through the afternoon and evening. How musicians would be selected for the event is yet to be decided, since the Oxbow Commons stage would accommodate only a fraction of the several dozens of performers who normally play in Old Town and at Fuller Park.

“It won’t be the traditional Porchfest; since there’s no porches, we can’t do 120 bands on one stage in one day,” said Malan. “But we’ll have an eclectic list of music from all genres to represent the (diversity) of the Porchfest event.”

A Porchfest concert’s format and safety rules may remain a moving target depending on the progress of COVID-19, for which a faster-spreading Delta variant has caused an increase in infections in California and elsewhere in recent weeks. On Monday, Napa County’s Health and Human Services agency recommended that indoor businesses and events reinstate their mask-wearing requirements, though no such step was announced for outdoor assemblies.

“Everything I’ve heard is that we’re moving full steam ahead under whatever the regulations are,” said Malan. “We will continue to follow regulations; if they ask us to mask up, we will mask up, and if they ask us to cancel, then we’ll cancel.”

“At this time, we are strongly recommending that everybody be vaccinated, and if you’re not vaccinated we are strongly recommending you wear a mask,” Tesler said. “We’re trying to figure out the best way to give everybody access, but we have to keep it safe — that’s priority number one.”

Concerts on the RiverStage set would not be covered by California’s guidance for so-called “mega-events,” which the state Department of Public Health defines as gatherings of more than 10,000 people outside and 5,000 people indoors. At larger outdoor events, the state recommends that spectators confirm they have received a COVID-19 vaccine or show proof of a recent negative test for the virus in order to attend (inoculation or a negative test result are mandatory at large indoor events).

Music concerts and other mass gatherings have slowly returned to Napa this summer, following California’s relaxation June 15 of crowd size, mask-wearing and social distancing rules imposed in March 2020 early in the pandemic’s spread.

Blue Note Napa’s calendar includes concerts at its Napa Valley Opera House on Main Street, starting with a Sept. 2 show by Jimmy Eat World, in addition to several Blue Note-promoted performances this summer at St. Helena’s Charles Krug winery. Elsewhere in downtown Napa, the Uptown Theater on Third Street has announced the return of performances starting Aug. 20 with a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert.

The largest event on the Napa Valley schedule this year will be the BottleRock festival, which has attracted about 120,000 spectators in recent years and is returning to the Expo Sept. 3-5 after its cancellation in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Napa Porchfest has been based in Old Town since its 2011 inception, steadily growing from 300 spectators to as many as 15,000. The most recent live festival in July 2019 drew about 13,500 visitors and featured 113 musical acts on 58 stages, according to Porchfest organizers.

Photos: Napa Porchfest 2019

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Pandemic recovery
North Bay transportation firm teams with kidnap survivor to help students, unemployed
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With in-person learning returning to area schools, requests are mounting daily for certified school bus drivers to deliver students safely to and from schools in districts from Napa to Fairfield, Stockton, to Watsonville and beyond, says Michael Brown, founder of Michael’s Transportation.

At the same time, millions of people are looking for well-paid jobs/careers, having lost theirs to the pandemic. Brown and the Midsi Sanchez Foundation have teamed up to create solutions all around, they said.

“The challenge right now is getting people back to work,” Brown said. “There was a driver shortage before the pandemic shut the schools down, and some people have retired and others have moved on to other careers. But, we need to get the children back to school, so we’re stepping up our efforts to recruit drivers.”

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Founded in 1982 and an employee-owned company for more than a decade, Vallejo’s Michael’s Transportation offers training in bus and truck driving and certification in school bus driving, all of which can be free to the applicant. They also provide placement for graduates, many of them with the firm itself.

As of early this week, the company has requests for 75 drivers, including eight for the Napa Valley Unified School District, and openings are increasing weekly, Brown said.

“Before the pandemic, there were 1,200 state certified school bus driver instructors, and now there are about 600,” Brown said, adding that becoming an instructor is one career path trained drivers can opt for. He describes transportation as a crucial part of the education system, helping reduce truancy and traffic congestion around schools.

For every driver recruited and hired through this effort, the Midsi Sanchez Foundation gets a $500 donation. Sanchez, now 28, was abducted by convicted serial child killer Curtis Dean Anderson, on her way home from school in Vallejo when she was 8, and managed to escape after some two days in captivity by unlocking the chain with which she was bound to the steering column of her abductor’s car, and jumping out the window. Her efforts following her escape helped authorities track down Anderson, who subsequently died in prison.

Sanchez is now a mom herself, and an advocate for missing and exploited children, through her foundation.

“I’m passionate about being in service; about helping people, and this seemed like a great opportunity to help people recover from the pandemic,” Sanchez said. “I’m excited about the response I’m already getting and how desperate people are to get back to work.”

A fortuitous connection between Midsi and Pastor Anthony Summers, Michael’s director of development, lead to the partnership, Brown said.

“Midsi has a following, and we asked for her support, and she’s gotten us 15 referrals already,” Brown said. “We hope to help the kids get to school and make a dent in the unemployment situation at the same time.”

Besides school buses, Michael’s trains and provides drivers of trucks and other kinds of large conveyances, Summers said, adding that once certified as a school bus driver, a person can be hired to drive nearly anything.

“If it has wheels on it, we can get you licensed,” he said. “We serve the transportation industry, providing drivers.”

It’s a career that pays well and offers advancement opportunities, Brown said.

“(What we offer) is the equivalent of a master’s degree in transportation industry,” he said of the training provided.

And you never know where it could lead, he said, pointing out that President Joe Biden worked his way through law school driving a school bus.

Photo flashback: Go back to 1966 with these photos of a well-traveled Napa shopping center on Jefferson Street