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Napa Pipe

Napa Pipe developer Keith Rogal leads a tour of the property in September 2017. The former industrial site, once home to a Kaiser Steel plant, is being targeted for a planned community to include 945 homes -- including affordable dwellings Napa County will need to meet state requirements for below-market-rate housing.

Facing a roadblock to joining forces with Napa County to create affordable housing, the city may look east for a solution – toward Sacramento.

Napa city officials will consider seeking special state legislation to ease the creation of below-market-rate rental homes at Napa Pipe, the mixed-use development that would transform 154 acres of a dormant pipe manufacturing plant off Kaiser Road with up to 945 dwellings, as well as retail space, parks, a hotel and a Costco store.

If accepted by the California Legislature, a rule change would allow Napa County to receive credit for permits on affordable housing built within city limits or on city-annexed land and thus meet its state-required quota of lower-cost housing, city Planning Manager Erin Morris told the Napa City Council on Tuesday.

Under the Regional Housing Need Allocation program, California communities must plan for a set number of below-market-rate homes in eight-year cycles. For the 2015-23 period, Napa County and its five cities are required to plan for 1,482 dwellings, including 180 in the unincorporated county.

Napa Pipe is expected to host 140 of those affordable homes: 70 units for families making less than half the local median income, and the rest for households that earn less than 80 percent of the median. Another 50 dwellings would be reserved for households with “moderate” incomes no more than 20 percent above median level.

However, the annexation of unincorporated Napa Pipe lands into the city of Napa would throw a snag into the plan, according to Morris. While the county is relying on the project’s size to fulfill most of its affordable housing requirement, state law currently blocks the county from claiming credit for housing permits issued within the city, she told council members. (A pact with the county transferred most of the Napa Pipe tract into the city two years ago, with the remaining 43 acres to follow by the end of 2022.)

Should city and county leaders head to the Capitol to seek a remedy from state lawmakers, Mayor Jill Techel will offer to represent the city in that effort. “I’ve been there, and I’d be willing to go there again,” said Techel, a Napa council member for two decades.

A promised infusion of home construction amid historically high sale prices and rents is one of two highly anticipated features of Napa Pipe, along with a Costco membership store that executives have said may open in the spring of 2021 if enough of the project’s housing is complete by then.

The development also is to include 150 units of senior housing, a 150-room hotel, 90,000 square feet of office space and 40,000 square feet of other retail areas, along with commercial and light industrial construction and 34 acres of parkland.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. 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.