A handful of Napa residents are finding themselves literally in the shadow of one of the city’s newest housing developments.
Three dozen homes are rising on the 15-acre Andersen Ranch tract off Wyatt Avenue in the east of town, 2 ½ years after the developer Davidon Homes won permits from the city. Directly to the south and down a hill, however, is a cul-de-sac of houses that already had been sold and occupied by the time the subdivision gained Napa’s green light in October 2016.
Facing several homes lining Autumn Creek Court, across a wooden fence and driveway, are the wooden frames of two-story houses up the slope from Autumn Creek Court – positioned in a way that will allow their future buyers to look down at their backyards and rear windows, according to Autumn Creek resident Kevin Toomajian.
At least two homeowners on Autumn Creek Court now say the homes at the edge of Andersen Ranch loom so high over theirs as to take away their privacy – and are seeking new tree plantings or money as compensation.
“It’s apparent we won’t be able to stop them, but we’re trying to mitigate the impact on the property and our privacy that we’re dealing with,” said Toomajian, a husband and father of two who moved into his house seven months before Andersen Ranch’s approval by the city.
At the time Toomajian and his neighbors moved into their homes, all that indicated what was to come had been a large blue-and-white placard beside a white picket fence, listing the site’s acreage, future housing density and little else.
“There was a sign for Andersen Ranch but no details,” recalled Matt McNally, another Autumn Creek Court home buyer. “We knew something was going in, but it was just one innocuous sign on Peppergrass. We expected something to be built, but nothing on this scale.”
What Napa’s planning commission and City Council approved for the site was a combination of one- and two-story houses spread over a property that was owned for more than half a century by the family of the late Dewey K. Andersen, one of the Napa County supervisors who passed the 1968 law that created the Agricultural Preserve restricting development in rural grapegrowing areas.
The extent of the housing plans were an unpleasant surprise to Toomajian, who moved with his wife and children into his Autumn Creek Court home in March 2016, and McNally, who had settled with his wife into a house a few doors west in December 2015.
Toomajian estimated Andersen Ranch’s two nearest lots are some 100 feet north of his backyard, with more homes farther up the slope beyond a T-shaped intersection for Peppergrass Street and Wyatt Avenue. He also said a notice informing him of the city meetings in 2016 dealing with the development never reached him – despite a city requirement of such mailings within 500 feet of a project site – leaving him to learn of its layout only after its approval.
On Monday, Planning Manager Erin Morris said Napa does mail meeting notices to property owners within a 500-foot radius of a potential building site, but that home sales and new-home construction may sometimes lead to such letters reaching a former resident or landowner instead of the current occupant.
“Had we known, we would have spoken our piece” before city officials, McNally said last week. “It would have been nice to be heard and get some sort of response and maybe persuade them to go with a one-story (design). We felt we were denied that opportunity.”
Toomajian said he and McNally first made an unsuccessful attempt to receive compensation from the city, then hired an attorney to contact Davidon executives and pursue compensation through cash or additional trees for privacy.
Attempts to contact Davidon vice president Steve Abbs were unsuccessful.
“At the end of the day, it’s the privacy and value of our home that we’re concerned with, and if we can get those solved we’re happy,” said Toomajian. “We understand that development happens, but this seems completely out of whack.”