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Health and Human Services Campus

Napa County and the city of Napa are in deeper talks to sell the former Health and Human Services complex on Old Sonoma Road to the city as an interim city hall, with private redevelopment for housing to follow.

The city of Napa is working with private enterprise as it tries to complete a deal with Napa County to transform the county’s Old Sonoma Road property into a new neighborhood community with houses and retail uses.

Napa County would sell its 8.6-acre former Health and Human Services Agency campus at 2344 Old Sonoma Rd. to the city for at least $7.5 million. The city would use the now-vacant buildings for temporary offices while a new city hall is built. Then would come redevelopment.

The city is working with Plenary Properties Napa on the possible Old Sonoma Road redevelopment project, Assistant City Manager Peter Pirnejad said. The city is also working with Plenary on the separate, downtown Civic Center project.

“We’re committed to seeing this through,” Pirnejad told the county Board of Supervisors this week. “We’ve got our private partners in line. They are going through their due diligence. They want to make sure to study this completely and bring forward a proposal that works in the best interests of the county as well as the city.”

The city would use some of the buildings still remaining at the former Health and Human Services Agency for office space for about two years, he said during a break in the meeting. It would sell the property to Plenary Properties Napa for redevelopment.

Napa County and city have been negotiating for several months over a possible Old Sonoma Road deal. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to enter into a new, possibly final phase of negotiations.

“We think we’re on a win-win for that site to make a new, expanded community that will have a feel that’s pretty amazing for that neighborhood,” Mayor Jill Techel said. “As mayor, I think that would be a really exciting addition to that part of town.”

Techel said a portion of the three historic buildings on the site could remain for commercial uses. The state recently agreed that the century-old buildings constructed for the long-gone Napa County infirmary should be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza praised this latest direction the county is taking.

“What a story of the city and county continuing to work together to invest in good communities and healthy communities, with a commitment to housing,” Pedroza said.

He also noted that the county needs the money from an Old Sonoma Road land sale to help pay for a new jail.

Napa County’s previous idea had been to come up with a plan for housing on the Old Sonoma Road site itself, obtain the necessary zoning approvals from the city and then sell the land to a developer. The county in late 2016 and early 2017 held community meetings to hear from residents.

The fruit of that effort was a proposal calling for 172 apartments and townhouses two-to-three stories tall. To make room, the property’s distinctive crescent driveway, the lawn within it and the three historic buildings along it would be removed.

But the effort stalled in spring 2017 amid controversy. Some people living in the surrounding, residential community expressed concern the proposed development was too dense and would bring such problems as traffic. Affordable housing advocates wanted plenty of housing. Some people wanted to keep the historic buildings.

Last summer, the county declared the property as surplus. The city of Napa and two nonprofit affordable housing groups tried to buy it under state surplus property laws.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday declared that no party met the requirements of the state Surplus Lands Act or the terms set by the Board of Supervisors. But supervisors want the negotiations with the city to continue. So do city officials.

“It has the makings to be a very successful project and we’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Pirnejad said.

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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.