In a first for a Napa business, Sciambra Bakery will expand bread production and build apartments to house some of its workers.
This unusual plan to mix commerce and housing on a 1.7-acre site at 685 Freeway Drive won unanimous city council approval Tuesday night.
"I think it's a model for the future," said Councilman Harry Martin, who supports more mixed use developments in Napa's future.
The bakery, known for its baguettes, will build a 5,435-square-foot addition to handle additional automated breadmaking equipment.
The building will get a unified facade to mask the fact that this will be the sixth addition to a structure built in the 1950s for meat packing.
The owner, Carl Sciambra, will build 23 apartments on vacant land on the west end of the property. The apartments will be placed between the ball fields at Harvest Middle School and adjacent apartments and condominiums.
Sciambra said he would not have gotten into the apartment business but for the fact that housing in the Napa Valley had become too pricey for his employees.
"Throughout the years we've lost a lot of good employees because they couldn't afford to live in Napa," Sciambra told the council. His workers will have priority when the two-bedroom apartments are built, he said.
Neighbors complained that the three-story apartment buildings would ruin views, add vehicles to an already congested area and perhaps reduce property values.
"It will be bringing an intrusion into our privacy," said William Ross, who lives next door.
Several neighbors said they supported the bakery expansion, but wished the apartments were two stories instead of three.
Project architect Warren Hedgpeth of Santa Rosa said the project could not be financed if the third stories were eliminated.
Council members were reassured that the three-story apartments would be far enough from existing housing — at least 60 feet from the property line — that the visual impact would be lessened.
The project will have 60 parking spaces for bakery workers, apartment residents and visitors to a planned retail shop.
Hedgpeth, working with the city's design consultant, Bruce Race, said an important view corridor from Walnut Village condominiums to Harvest Middle School had been preserved.
Two of the 23 apartments will be priced to be affordable to low-income families, but the rest will be market rate. Hedgpeth estimated that two-bedroom rents would be $1,300 to $1,400.
The price of building materials has gone through the roof, increasing the cost of the project, he said. The apartments, which will be built after the bakery expansion, should be at the "mid-low" range of new Napa apartments, he said.
With expansion, Sciambra Bakery will reopen a retail shop. Several neighbors said they would enjoy again being able to drop in to buy coffee and bakery products.
The retail operation will be small, without indoor seating, but there will likely be some seats outside under a canopy, Hedgpeth said.
"It won't be a six-star Zagat experience, but you can get your tummy full," he said.
As a condition of approval, the apartments cannot be built until the developer of another south Napa project, the Sheveland Ranch on South Jefferson Street, installs traffic lights on Imola Avenue at the Highway 29 on and off ramps.
Kevin Courtney can be reached at 256-2217 or at firstname.lastname@example.org