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Napa water taxi, historic B&B and apartment project face council vote

Napa water taxi, historic B&B and apartment project face council vote


A company hoping to manage the downtown Napa dock – and use it as the launching point for water taxis across the San Francisco Bay – will make its case before the City Council on Tuesday.

Also on the agenda is a plan to convert the historic Williams Smith House at 1929 First St. into Napa’s newest bed-and-breakfast and an appeal seeking to block a 10-unit apartment complex proposed for a vacant half-acre lot near Highway 29.

Councilmembers will decide whether to put daily operation of the 176-foot-long dock in the hands of Tideline Marine Group, a provider of water taxi services at various Bay Area ports. In addition to providing rides from the Napa River to San Francisco and Oakland, the company would oversee subleases for other commercial activities at the dock, where the city has received proposals for kayak rentals to gondola tours and other water-based diversions.

Tideline’s management plan, which the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission accepted last month, could become the tool by which Napa drives more boats and visitors to the river gateway it opened in 2013. The city and company also must win the support of the State Lands Commission because Napa leases from California the portion of the river where the dock is located, below the Riverfront shopping and housing complex on Main Street.

Meeting with parks commissioners in June, Tideline president Nathan Nayman proposed serving local passengers using three vessels with a combined 108 seats, which would be hired for trips to 24 destinations including Vallejo, Berkeley, Tiburon and Sausalito.

Most riders would pay about $35 for a round trip, and service likely would be available to San Francisco Giants baseball games at AT&T Park as well as ferry terminals, he said at the time. Water taxis would operate mainly from spring to late November for reasons of weather and tide, but could carry chartered groups in winter.

Alongside its water taxi service, Tideline would serve as the Napa dock master with responsibility for safety, security, and contact with police and the U.S. Coast Guard. It would collect tickets for boat rides and other activities from a kiosk on the Riverfront promenade, which would be staffed daily for at least two hours.

The proposed contract would give the city 20 percent of gross revenue from dock activities, although that sum would not include water taxi revenue until the third year. John Coates, the parks director, has forecast initial city profit of $2,000 to $8,000 in each of the first two years on revenue of $50,000 to $80,000, increasing to $8,000 to $16,000 annually on revenue of $80,000 to $120,000.

Later on Tuesday, the City Council will consider a plan to convert the historic Williams Smith House at 1929 First St. into Napa’s newest bed-and-breakfast inn. The wood-sided Second Empire edifice, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has a facade nearly in its original circa-1868 form, with a two-story addition from the later 19th century.

Owner Shahin Shahabi, who also is proprietor of Stonehedge Winery, seeks to convert the interior into seven guest rooms with a dining room, common room and manager’s quarters. A non-historic garage beside the house would be demolished and replaced with eight on-site parking spaces.

Shahabi’s first bid to open a B&B at the Williams Smith House stalled last year with a rejection by the Planning Commission. In response to concerns from neighbors and other innkeepers about traffic and parking problems, he downsized the original 10-room proposal and made other changes, including a smaller deck and the elimination of a bocce court and extra window openings.

The cut-down B&B conversion picked up approvals in May from the Cultural Heritage Commission and last month from the Planning Commission, which required the owner to surround the home with an 8-foot-high fence and shrink the inn’s outdoor sign.

Williams Smith, the home’s namesake and first resident, was a Massachusetts transplant who headed west to California for the 1840s gold rush and arrived in Napa in 1850, the year California gained its statehood. He later co-founded Smith & Cheeseborough Hardware Co., one of the earliest hardware stores in the city.

In other business, the council will weigh an appeal seeking to block a 10-unit apartment complex proposed for a vacant half-acre lot near Highway 29 on the north side of town.

Planning commissioners in June endorsed the two-story Byway East Apartments just south of Salvador Avenue, despite residents’ complaints the homes would add to traffic congestion and safety risks in a neighborhood slated to receive more multi-family housing. Nearby, a Chevron gas station by the highway is applying to the city to triple its size, and the Salvador Elementary School is expected to more than double its enrollment as it converts itself into a middle school.

Leading the appeal is Marc Levin, a neighborhood resident who decried the housing cluster to city planners as “the perfect storm” that would “completely change one of the great neighborhoods in Napa.”

Plans for the Byway East Apartments include an exterior composed of corrugated metal, stucco and wood, with all units containing two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Joe Rossi, one of the project’s two developers, last fall predicted the apartments could be rented for between $1,500 and $1,800 monthly.

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. 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.

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