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Napa County will again try to sell Old Sonoma Road site for housing
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Napa County will again try to sell Old Sonoma Road site for housing

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Former Health and Human Services Campus (copy)

Napa County will try again to sell its vacant Old Sonoma Road site in the city of Napa to a developer to build housing.

Napa County will try again to sell its former Health and Human Services Agency campus on Old Sonoma Road in the city of Napa as an 8.7-acre site for more local housing.

The first attempt ended on Nov. 25 when a prospective buyer, Caritas Related LLC, pulled out of a $7.5 million deal. The firm had been the lone bidder.

“I never thought it would be so hard to sell real estate, but here we are,” Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said.

Napa County can’t simply slap a “for sale” sign up and take the highest offer for 2344 Old Sonoma Road, as would the typical homeowner. Revised state laws have the county repeating required steps it took before the previous sale attempt.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday once again declared the property as surplus. Supervisors again set the minimum price at $7.5 million. They want at least 25 percent of any housing developed on the site to be affordable under state standards.

Now the county must give public agencies and affordable housing groups a chance to buy the site during during a 60-day period. If one expresses interest, the county must enter into good-faith negotiations for at least 90 days.

Only then, if nothing comes from that required step, can the county place the property on the open market and seek private sector buyers.

Whoever buys the property would take it “as is,” which would mean demolishing modular buildings. Though both county and city officials have said they want housing on the site, the city would have to zone the site for that purpose.

The Board of Supervisors discussed the $7.5 million minimum sales price, which is the same floor used during the previous, failed sales attempt. Supervisor Ryan Gregory said the county couldn’t sell the site during a booming economy.

“What makes us think we could go out right now at that same minimum number and get any interest?” he asked.

County officials said a real estate consultant is comfortable with the number. Also, various parties have expressed interest in buying the property.

Pedroza asked about flexibility with the price. He raised the scenario of a party paying less, but in return developing more affordable housing.

Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said he doesn’t want a “fire sale.”

“I don’t want to take a whole lot less than $7.5 million,” he said.

Napa County has owned the Old Sonoma site since 1869 and once ran the county infirmary there. The county in 1973 closed the infirmary, which at that point was operated as a convalescent hospital for the low-income and elderly.

The site eventually became the county’s Health and Human Services Agency campus. The county moved the campus to Napa Valley Commons in August 2016, leaving the site vacant.

Napa County decided to design plans for housing at Old Sonoma Road, get them passed by the City Council and then sell the permitted project to the private sector. It held community meetings and created a draft plan for 172 apartments and townhouses.

But controversy arose over how much new housing could fit in with the existing, residential neighborhood and over the county’s proposal to get rid of three historic buildings. The Board of Supervisors decided simply to sell the site and let the buyer work out the development details.

The Board of Supervisors in August 2017 declared the property as being surplus, gave public agencies the first chance to buy and three agencies declared interest. One was the city of Napa, which was looking for a temporary site for city hall while a new city hall was being built.

Nothing came from the surplus property negotiations and the Board of Supervisors in May 2019 put the property on the market to the private sector. In August 2019, the Board accepted the lone $7.5 million bid from Caritas Related LLC, only to see the deal eventually fall through.

Now comes another attempt to sell the property and bring more housing to the city of Napa.

You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or beberling@napanews.com.

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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.

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