The Planning Commission unanimously approved design plans for the Westin Verasa hotel expansion Thursday night, green lighting the construction of a 45,000-plus square foot addition to the existing hotel property in Napa’s Oxbow District.
Under the newly sanctioned proposal, the project will serve as an annex to the current hotel, adding approximately 32 guest rooms, an expanded spa and exercise facility, an outdoor terrace, and around 262 new parking spots in an underground garage. It will also include a new iteration of Michelin star chef Ken Frank’s La Toque restaurant.
This new building – which will be located on the east side of McKinstry Street, bound by the Napa River, the Oxbow Commons Park and the original hotel building – will sit on a half-acre vacant site. The design will echo the existing structure in architectural style, but the project team described it as a more “modern” version that “better achieves the original vision for the property.”
The Commission approved plans for the original building in 2006, and the hotel opened in 2009, before the Downtown Napa Specific Plan was adopted to guide the development and growth of the commercial corridor. Today, the Westin falls within the area governed by this plan and the proposal presented by the Westin’s applicant team meets its requirements.
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A number of individuals spoke during public comment to recommend the Commission approve the project, including three current Westin employees who discussed the support they’ve received in their upward career trajectory and representatives from the Culinary Institute of America and the Napa Valley Wine Train who each spoke to the Westin’s community investment and significant economic contribution to the city.
Nobody recommended against approval.
Questions did arise around staffing and its impact on affordable housing. The Westin projects will only need seven new full-time associates to staff the new facility, an ostensibly low number justified by their plans to promote a large number of currently part-time workers to full-time, giving them higher wages and benefits, the applicant said.
Charles Shinnamon submitted a comment via email in which he supported the project but asked that the City re-evaluate the affordable housing tax applied to such projects to keep up with the rising costs of building and maintaining low-income apartments. As it stands, the Westin will have to pay approximately $271,000 in affordable housing fees (a number that’s based on the total square footage of the addition), according to city staff.
The question of changing policy on the affordable housing fee would have to be evaluated by the City Council, which must give final approval to the expansion.
Though the Commission did unanimously vote to move the approved plans on to City Council, it asked the Westin team to return with a proposal on how it will meet the city’s public art requirement, which mandates that any new non-residential private or public development project either install public art equal to one percent of the construction costs on site or make an equal contribution to the City’s Public Art Fund.
Feel free to reach Carly Graf at @carlykgraf, email@example.com or (713)-817-4692.