Napa Vault Storage Facility

This artist's rendering submitted to Napa County depicts the proposed Napa Vault Storage Facility.

Here’s a twist for a county synonymous with wine – a site once targeted for a 600,000-gallon-a-year winery is now to be home to a storage center that just might be an upscale pack rat’s dream.

Granted, the 10 acres isn’t in the heart of Napa Valley wine country. It’s located at 1055 Soscol Ferry Road south of Highway 29 and the Grape Crusher statue in a largely undeveloped part of the county’s airport industrial area.

Nor is Napa County ceding a potential winery site to a typical self-storage project.

Napa Vault Storage Facility is to have 130 storage units in 11 buildings, with 128 storage units to be sold to the users. The average unit size is to be 1,177 square feet, as roomy as the city of Napa’s more modest houses, and include heat, power and lighting.

Beth Painter, who is helping the applicant obtain county permits, said prices could be about $200,000.

Storage Tech, LLC said in its Napa Vault application that it has developed six similar projects in Colorado. It called the units “condominiums,” with the buildings and common areas to be maintained by an ownership association.

People buying a unit at Napa Vault could store recreational vehicles, wine collections or auto collections there. They could store items there to free up room in their garages and houses. Companies could keep equipment there, said Erik Bedford of Storage Tech.

Since users will own their units, they can customize them with shelves, carpets and other individual touches.

“You’re a stakeholder,” Bedford said. “This is your space.”

Advertisements for other storage condominium projects in the nation show that some users have added plenty of personal touches. Auto fans have covered the walls with automotive memorabilia. Others have added lofts and hung the American flag from the ceiling.

Bedford used the words “man cave” to describe one use. But these are man caves on a huge scale.

If a possible price of $200-a-square-foot sounds steep, it’s a pittance compared to the prices in Manhattan. The Bloomberg website reported storage spaces with square-foot prices ranging from $1,500 to $4,000, with one person buying a 200-square-foot storage cage for $300,000.

Near Denver, people can buy condominium storage units along Broncos Parkway at ManCaves for $55,000 to $170,000. The project is largely sold out.

The Napa County Planning Commission approved Napa Vault on Wednesday. Bedford said construction could begin next spring and that the condominium storage approach will be the first in the Napa area.

“I believe it is a rather unique and innovative-type project,” Planning Commissioner Terry Scott said.

Commissioners made sure unwanted uses couldn’t spring up in the units. They decided the units cannot be used for commercial auto repair, commercial sales or industrial manufacturing.

Resident Gary Margadant criticized the county for shrinking the required stream setback at Suscol Creek from 150 feet to 75 feet for the project.

The required buffer zone is for animals and for water that runs into the stream. Beavers, otters and other creatures use the stream that is part of Napa County’s natural beauty, Margadant said.

“I don’t understand why an exception can be made for that,” Margadant said. “It just seems we’re full of exceptions.”

County officials said the original 2006 winery use permit granted the exception in return for stream restoration work, such as the removal of nonnative Himalayan blackberries and the planting of native vegetation.

“This is mitigated by the stream restoration measures,” Planning Commission Chairman Michael Basayne said.

In a letter, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife expressed concerns about building on foraging habitat for the protected Swainson’s hawk. A biological study done for the applicant concluded that the local hawks forage in an 18-mile radius and that the loss of non-native grasslands on the site wouldn’t hurt the species.

In addition, the report concluded that surrounding areas are better able to sustain rodent populations that serve as food for the hawk.

Attorney Jay Harris on behalf of Soscol Ferry Self Storage, LLC – which owns a neighboring self-storage facility – criticized the Napa Vault environmental report used for the project as being inadequate. But county officials and the Planning Commission disagreed.

Among other things, Harris asked that the county require Napa Vault to annex to the Napa Sanitation District sewer system. County staff said the nearest line is more than 200 feet away and that sewer service in the area needs to be looked at comprehensively so lines are correctly sized.

Napa Vault is to have concrete tilt-up buildings 26 feet high to 35 feet high with earth tones and stone accents.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.