When the Napa Pipe development was heading for the city ballot, I thought it would be an uphill fight to win voter approval.
Nearly 1,000 homes, a hotel, a fair amount of commercial. How would they ever get slow-growth Napans to support bringing something that big into the city limits?
In the city’s history — indeed, in the entire county’s history — there’s never been a development of such scale. Perhaps 154-acre projects fly in the Central Valley or Las Vegas, but here, in the Napa Valley?
That was my thinking last summer. Now, with the vote on Napa Pipe just a couple of days away, I am repudiating my early skepticism. I predict Measure A will pass handily.
Should this comes to pass, credit the crafty brilliance of the Yes on A campaign.
There are many well-reasoned arguments the “yes” people could have used to persuade us that Napa Pipe merits future annexation. For example, it makes sense to place urban uses on a former industrial site as a way to protect ag lands from development. Also, the homes will be built over many years, not all at once.
There also this trump card: The county Board of Supervisors has already determined the project will be built whether it comes into the city or not.
Did Yes on A tout these points? Hardly. They preferred to play their Costco card.
My Facebook feed has been jammed for weeks with Yes on A ads in praise of this big box discounter, which is a planned, but not assured, element of the overall Napa Pipe project.
The ads do not mention Napa Pipe’s 700 to 945 homes or various water and traffic issues. As far as the ads are concerned, the merits of Napa Pipe all boil down to Costco.
If the pro-Measure A campaign were your sole source of information, you would come away believing that Napa Pipe is a gift to Napa from the shopping gods.
My favorite online ad features a radiant, Pop art-like image of a hot dog in a bun with gorgeous squiggles of mustard and neat rows of relish and catsup. “Costco combos still just $1.50,” the ad says. “Bring Costco’s low prices to Napa.”
Another ad shows a cute, open-mouthed child in a stroller. “Costco in Napa! Vote Yes on A. I cannot,” the caption reads.
There are allusions to the larger Napa Pipe project, without mentioning any of the details. When they say the project will bring 1,000 construction jobs, 700 permanent jobs and $2 million a year in new revenue to the city, they’re talking about more than a Costco.
The Yes on A people are not dummies. Over the years, the Napa Pipe project has run into all kinds of static over its immensity. Along the way, the number of housing units got reduced significantly, yet public concerns remained high.
Then the developers pulled a magic trick. Reaching into the hat, they pulled out a Costco bunny. Virtually overnight, the political climate warmed 50 degrees.
Nobody doesn’t like bunnies. And apparently nearly as many of us love Costco.
While I’m not much of a shopper, I’m married to one and she loves Costco too. She likes cheap. She doesn’t mind no-frills. We both like sampling new granolas and salsas while pushing around those over-sized Costco carts.
We make Costco runs to Vallejo or Fairfield a dozen times a year. We sleep on Costco mattresses, drive on Costco tires, crunch on Costco tortilla chips. Maybe someday we’ll even take a Costco vacation.
The backers of Yes on A must know that there are thousands of Napa residents who feel about Costco as we do. Thus their decision to use Costco as a Trojan horse of sorts to get us to buy the other Napa Pipe elements hidden inside.
The Yes on A folks apparently know a simple truth about us: We may have a spectrum of opinions about urban growth and traffic congestion, but at our core we’re all bargain shoppers.
When push comes to shove, I bet we’ll vote for $1.50 combos.