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Bed-and-breakfast at historic Napa mansion stirs debate, but gains city permit
Tourism

Bed-and-breakfast at historic Napa mansion stirs debate, but gains city permit

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A historic Napa home’s possible future hosting vacationers may not have universal support from its neighbors – but it will gain a city permit.

Two months after delaying a decision on refashioning the George E. Goodman Jr. house into a bed-and-breakfast inn, the Planning Commission on Thursday voted in favor of the conversion, despite the opposition of neighbors who argued the incursion of more tourists would erode their quality of life in a historic neighborhood.

The 3-1 decision by Napa’s land-use authority keeps alive the plan by San Francisco resident Patty Theodorides and her family, who have owned the 129-year-old mansion at 492 Randolph St. since 2016, to open it to overnight guests – a step they consider the only way to pay for its long-term preservation.

Nonetheless, the bed-and-breakfast project faced close scrutiny from commissioners who called for more documentation to ensure the building’s integrity – particularly because of its links to Napa’s 19th-century past and to the surrounding Napa Abajo-Fuller Park Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

“I am not asking the applicant to provide anything we wouldn’t ask any other applicant to provide,” said Paul Kelley before casting the only dissenting vote against a B&B permit.

But because of its historic environs, he added, “it needs to be held to a higher standard. Not a single historian has looked at this. They said there won’t be any external changes – we don’t know that.”

While Alex Myers ultimately voted for the permit, he too urged the owners to take the home’s historic integrity more seriously.

“I’ve heard things in the tone of ‘I’ve checked all the boxes, now give me my permit,’ or asking forgiveness instead of permission,” he told Patty’s son George Theodorides.

“I’m hearing the words ‘historic preservation,’ but other than saving the bones, I’m not seeing what makes it unique and special that’s being restored.”

Theodorides and her family earlier brought their plans for the Goodman house to the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission, which must approve changes that may affect a building’s historic character. However, the heritage agency did not rule on the B&B’s historic appropriateness but only on granting owners a property-tax break through the Mills Act, a California program that abates taxes in exchange for owners preserving historic properties.

The Goodman house project did not require a certificate of appropriateness because it included no exterior changes, only interior renovation, according to Planning Manager Erin Morris.

The family has spent more than $1.5 million dollars renovating the mansion on top of the $1.3 million it paid to former owner Charles Knill three years ago, Patty Theodorides’ daughter Kiki said in January. Work has included a new foundation, repairing dry rot and fresh paint, along with new electrical, plumbing, climate control and sprinkler systems.

While agreeing that plans for a B&B will need better documentation, Commissioner Beth Painter was content to let the city’s planning staff work with owners to fill the remaining holes – possibly including a fuller accounting of the building’s past.

“I know there’s more you need to do,” she said before joining Myers and Michael Murray in voting for the project (Gordon Huether was absent). “I would rather put it in the hands of staff to move it forward.”

In January, various Old Town residents urged the commission to block the arrival of a B&B at the Goodman mansion, warning it would permanently chip away at the area’s residential character and deprive the city of badly needed rental housing. The home had been subdivided into seven units in the 1930s but was damaged in the 2014 earthquake, and city officials have said a return to rental use would require a new permit because of the neighborhood’s zoning for single-family homes.

Planners at the time accepted a B&B as the most practical reuse of the landmark but held off on a decision, instead asking the Theodorides family to come back with a revised plan containing fewer guest rooms and more interior detail.

The updated plan features nine rooms instead of the original 12, and includes space for seven vehicles on-site to reduce the demand on curbside parking spaces on the block – changes Patty Theodorides said she made after meeting with local homeowners.

Still, at least one area resident remained unmoved by the changes, despite the smaller capacity of the proposed inn. “We should view it as going up from seven units and not down from 12,” David Graves told commissioners, referring to the mansion’s longtime use as apartment dwellings.

The prospective B&B did have its defenders, including Karen Lynch, who followed a similar path in restoring a 19th-century Napa home one block south of the Goodman mansion.

“I understand the money, the time, the stress it takes to take a historic property in Napa and restore it to its glory,” she said of her own experience buying the circa-1860 Hannah Moore House and renovating it into the Inn on Randolph. “It’s a fabulous, fabulous job and I think it will do Napa proud.”

The three-story home dates to 1890 and is named for the son of George Goodman Sr., founder of the Goodman Library on downtown First Street. After his marriage, the younger Goodman and his bride moved into the Randolph Street mansion and lived there until his death in 1903 from tuberculosis at age 35.

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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