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Napa Pipe

A water truck works to eliminate dust at Napa Pipe in September 2017. Groundbreaking on the development, which is to feature a Costco store and more than 900 housing units, could start earlier if the Napa city and county governments strike a deal to move up city land annexations currently scheduled for the end of 2022.

An agreement between Napa city and county – fostered by a bill working its way through the state Capitol – may kick-start work on the Napa Pipe housing and retail development as soon as next year.

Annexation by the city of the remaining county-controlled lands at the former industrial site off Kaiser Road in south Napa could take place by year’s end, well ahead of the scheduled transfer date in December 2022, officials of the two governments told the City Council on Tuesday.

An early land transfer into Napa’s city limits – 43 acres of the project’s 154-acre total – would speed up the road and utility work needed for the first phase of Napa Pipe, which when fully built out will include more than 945 homes, parks, office and retail space and the Napa Valley’s first Costco warehouse store. The city absorbed 111 acres of the Napa Pipe site in 2016.

With passage this summer of a bill to let the county share credit with the city for state-required low-cost housing at Napa Pipe, groundbreaking for Napa Pipe utilities could start in the middle of 2020, said Sean Whiskeman, senior vice president of project partner Catellus Development Corp. of Oakland.

Such work would pave the way for a first phase of construction that would feature the Costco and more than 350 housing units nearby, thus adding to Napa’s constricted housing market.

The intended trigger for an accelerated Napa Pipe launch is Senate Bill 235, which state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, introduced to let Napa County count affordable housing built at Napa Pipe toward its state-required quota of below-market-rate dwellings. The state’s Regional Housing Need Allocation program calls for the county and its five cities to plan for 1,482 more such units between 2015 and 2023, with 180 of them in unincorporated areas.

Napa Pipe is to host 140 units of the county’s affordable housing allotment, equally split between families earning less than half the local median income and those making less than 80 percent. Fifty other dwellings would be reserved for households with “moderate” incomes no greater than 20 percent above the median.

Having cleared the state Senate in April, SB 235 was scheduled to go before two Assembly committees in the coming weeks: the Housing and Community Development committee on Wednesday, followed by Local Government in early July. Following a month-long Legislature recess that ends Aug. 12, an Assembly vote and a signing by Gov. Gavin Newsom could take place by the end of that month, said Molly Rattigan, deputy county executive officer.

After SB 235’s passage, developers would apply to Napa County’s Local Agency Formation Commission to allow the city to move up its absorption of the remaining unincorporated lands. LAFCO would hold two meetings on the annexation in September and October, setting up a vote by Napa’s city Planning Commission and a final decision by the council in November, said Rattigan.

City and county would draft an annexation agreement, with the city taking the lead in overseeing changes to the Napa Pipe plans and environmental study.

Accelerating the creation of housing and roads at Napa Pipe may be a key to the timely arrival of Costco at the development. Last year, the retail chain’s real estate director told the council it could open a Napa branch as soon as 2021, but said that timetable depends on enough nearby housing already being complete before the store opens.

The prospect of a faster route to annexation and construction pleased councilmembers who have served long enough to witness the often serpentine path toward turning Napa Pipe into a brick-and-mortar reality.

“This was my ordeal by fire when I joined the council (in 2012), and I think we’ve arrived at a win-win,” said Scott Sedgley, referring to the city’s control over development and the county’s ability to meet its housing quotas.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors heard the Napa Pipe update earlier in the day at its meeting.

“I appreciate this and I know folks want Costco, but I’m very interested in the housing,” Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said. “We have a housing crisis in the Bay Area and our community.”

He asked what can be done to accelerate the housing. The answer given by county officials was the Senate Bill 235 passage effort.

That prompted Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht to ask what happens if Senate Bill 235 doesn’t pass. The answer he received indicated Napa Pipe development would be more complicated, given part of the property would remain in the city and part in the county through December 2022, as opposed to all being in the city.

“If it does not pass, the early annexation wouldn’t occur,” city Community Development Director Vin Smith said. “And there would be kind of a dual agency approach to developing out the project.”

That’s what the county and city want to avoid having happen.

“It will be much easier for the developer to work with one jurisdiction—the city, assuming early annexation—then to work with two,” county Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison said.

Morrison added that the developer without Senate Bill 235 might decide to avoid going through a lengthy and potentially expensive dual process for land in the city and land in the county. Instead, developer might wait until 2022 when a city/county agreement calls for the county land to automatically annex to the city.

“The reason for SB 235 is it’s our best opportunity to get housing started as quickly as possible,” Morrison said.

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Register reporter Barry Eberling contributed to this story.

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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.