The list of goals Napa leaders will pursue this year runs as close to the city’s heart as its future civic center – and as far afield as the reservoirs that slake residents’ thirst.
Less than half a month into 2019, the City Council last week met for its annual goal-setting workshop to set its priorities for the next 12 months. The wide-ranging, two-day discussion at Napa Valley College and City Hall led members to focus on targets from solidifying plans for new city buildings to better recruiting employees into an increasingly high-cost community to partnering with Napa County in protecting watersheds – all the while developing a general plan that would guide the city’s growth and land uses for two decades.
Some of the council’s attention was devoted to efforts that gained momentum – or stoked debate – in 2018. While work began last year on Napa’s general plan and an advisory committee was chosen, a proposal for a single complex to house City Hall and the police department on downtown First Street drew criticism of its cost and layout from some employees, law enforcement officers and others, who called on officials to rethink the design and location.
Meanwhile, the same mix of climbing home prices and rising rents that has pressured longtime Napa residents and low-wage workers also requires the city government to find new ways to attract talent, according to Mary Luros, a councilmember in 2015-16 who was elected in November.
Thus, a major goal is “exploring employee incentives – housing vouchers and child care, things to help recruit employees and retain the ones we already have and incentivize people to work for the city of Napa,” she said Monday. “We want to make sure we have the best and the brightest.”
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Councilmembers also pondered how to take advantage of two “opportunity zones” – one downtown and other near the Napa Premium Outlets west of Highway 29 – where developers could gain tax breaks for creating affordable housing, according to Luros. Such zones could help extend an increase in multifamily construction in Napa, including work on The Braydon 282-apartment complex near the Soscol Avenue auto showroom corridor.
In addition, according to Luros, the council discussed ways to work with Napa County on stronger protections for watershed areas – including the area around the city’s main reservoir at Lake Hennessey east of St. Helena. That proposal comes as the county’s Board of Supervisors prepares for a Jan. 29 workshop to tackle the topics of tree preservation and stream setbacks, a response to the watershed restrictions that would have arrived with Measure C, which voters narrowly defeated in June.
During the second day of the workshop, city staff updated council members on the progress of capital improvements ahead of the next two-year Napa budget, which will take effect July 1. The talks also covered projects approved but not yet funded, including modernizations of the 1970s-era Dwight Murray Plaza and Brown Street promenade downtown.
With the five council members having shared their priorities for 2019, city staff members will list their top goals in the coming weeks, ahead of a survey of Napa residents, according to councilwoman Liz Alessio.