Keller Apartments

This 24-unit apartment building is slated for construction at 1057 Freeway Drive in Napa after gaining approval on Thursday from the city Planning Commission.

The future of housing in Napa will be a denser one, with homes built closer to the city core – much like an apartment complex coming to Freeway Drive.

That was the outlook the Planning Commission laid out for housing-scarce Napa on Thursday, when the city’s land-use authority allowed work to begin on the Keller Apartments west of Highway 29. The residential building will feature two dozen units, each with two bedrooms and ranging from 928 to 1,000 square feet – and all packed into less than an acre.

While the Keller project gained approval with little of the drama of other apartment proposals – including a 16-unit building at Riverside Drive, for which planners delayed a vote later Thursday after neighbor resistance – city leaders used it as an example of the type of housing Napa must accept in the face of tight housing supplies and tighter development restrictions.

“As the population grows, as we experience success, what happens is that we get housing shortages and traffic issues,” said Commissioner Gordon Huether. “There’s (land) pockets that we’ll fill with housing, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

The 0.89-acre site at 1057 Freeway Drive near Bremen Court, southwest of the Highway 29-First Street interchange, contains a single-family house, barn and shed that will all be torn down. In their place will rise a three-story, 39-foot-tall farmhouse-style building of stucco, lap siding and board-and-batten siding, with a 50-vehicle parking area connecting to Freeway Drive.

The developer James Keller first conceived the Freeway Drive project as a 16-townhouse complex in 2014 but refashioned it into a rental complex in response to Napa’s housing affordability crunch, said Ryan Gregory, the local engineer for the project.

With an outlet center, school and baseball fields all close by the apartment site, the plan had little trouble gaining support from planners – but a member of the Napa Housing Coalition tried to drive home the necessity of such housing anyway.

“People need to get use to the idea of higher density,” said Joelle Gallagher, executive director of the Cope Family Center, a child welfare and parent education group. “Our housing need is so great, we need to readjust how we look at our downtown and our city.”

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Public Safety 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.