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Napa City Council rejects suggested greenbelt designation for Foster Road

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Foster Road property in south Napa

A tract of land south of the Napa Valley Horsemen's Association property on Foster Road is one of the city's most rural areas still within the city limits. The Foster Road area is identified as a potential site for new housing in the general plan being developed by the city of Napa, despite opposition from some area residents.

An undeveloped 144-acre area near Foster Road will remain zoned for future housing in the city of Napa’s draft general plan despite calls to transition it into a greenbelt, the Napa City Council unanimously decided Tuesday.

The city’s Planning Commission previously recommended that the council proceed with changing the zoning designation of the area — located near Foster Road and Golden Gate Drive, West of Highway 29 — to a greenbelt at a Sept. 1 meeting, which would have limited housing to one unit per 20 acres.

But the councilmembers Tuesday said that with Napa’s great need for housing, it would be a mistake to remove the possibility of developing the area primarily for that purpose.

“When it comes to housing, we know we need housing now; we know we’re going to need housing in the future, and we need to be looking at every possible option,” councilmember Mary Luros said.

The area has been identified as a spot for future housing, in some form, for over 45 years, but no actual development plans are attached to it.

The councilmembers noted that any future development in the area does need to go through a thorough process and pointed to nine general plan policies that would be applied to any potential Foster Road development. The policies include a requirement to develop a specific city plan for the area and to ensure the development is reflective of the area’s environmental constraints, among much else.

Luros said she’d noted the many concerns expressed by members of the public — including the potential environmental constraints of developing in the area — but said it was important to keep the area open for possible development, even if it can’t ultimately happen.

“If we go down that path, and we cannot mitigate those issues, then we don’t put housing there,” Luros said. “But to say we’re not even going to consider it down the road is unacceptable; I think it’s unfair to the community.”

Councilmember Liz Alessio and mayor Scott Sedgley said they sympathized with community members who didn’t want to see the area change. But, they argued, the need for housing is dire.

Alessio noted that Napa’s economy is dependent on workers who commute to the city for hours each day because they can’t afford to live in the city.

“We don’t have enough housing,” Alessio said. “We’re in this bind because, for a long time, as we know as local Napans, we were a no growth community. We did not want things to change. That held up for a long time and we now need to let go of that.”

Decision on Linda Vista extension delayed

The City Council, with councilmember Beth Painter absent, was split 2-2 on whether to remove the long-controversial Linda Vista Avenue extension project — which would extend Linda Vista Avenue on a bridge over the Napa Creek — from the general plan, as recommended by the Planning Commission on Sept. 1.

Painter, in a letter to the council, noted that she was in favor of removing the bridge from the plan entirely. But in her absence, the council decided to have city staff come back with a menu of possible choices at the Oct. 18 meeting, when final adoption of the General Plan is scheduled.

Those choices will include dropping the bridge from the plan, among alternative options to keep the extension in the general plan, community development director Vin Smith said at the meeting.

Luros and Alessio said they didn’t support keeping the extension in the General Plan, given that it’s been denied multiple times by past City Councils after community outcry. Luros said she wasn’t necessarily opposed to a pedestrian and bicycle bridge, but she was concerned about approving something that would end up being a dead item in the general plan.

“Nothing has been done or approved by past councils,” Alessio said. “This has instead created a lot of anxiety and stress and sleepless nights for the residents concerned about protecting the creek.”

Mayor Sedgley said he’s come to the realization that a full-blown bridge project isn’t a good idea. But, he said, a bridge project is intended to support the city’s emergency response and the city’s Browns Valley-located Fire Station Five was built with the understanding that the bridge would eventually be coming.

Currently — without the bridge — Station Five responds to roughly 9.3% of fire department calls, Sedgley noted. In comparison, Stations Two and Three respond to over 50% of the calls combined.  

Councilmember Bernie Narvaez said he also felt it was important to think of ways to improve emergency response, but thought the city shouldn’t restrict itself to the bridge.

City of Napa Fire Department Chief Zach Curren said the department currently has consultants studying the extension project, but preliminary results won't be ready until mid-October. He noted that, without the bridge, the department is going to have difficulty meeting emergency travel time requirements to homes north of the Napa Creek.

An electric bus debuting in Yountville is among the first for the Napa Valley bus system and meant to be a sign of the future.

You can reach Edward Booth at 707-256-2213.

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