Napa Junction Elementary School

This rendering depicts the planned, new Napa Junction Elementary School on Eucalyptus Drive in American Canyon. The school is being relocated from a site on an earthquake fault, with the new version slated to open in August 2020.

As education officials work toward moving an American Canyon school off an earthquake fault, they also are pondering the best uses for the new campus’ surplus land.

The Napa Valley Unified School District is in the early stages of analyzing future uses for about 4.2 acres near the relocated home of Napa Junction Elementary School on Eucalyptus Drive east of Commerce Boulevard, according to officials with the public school district and the city of American Canyon. The campus is scheduled to open for the 2020-21 school year.

While the undeveloped surplus land is currently zoned for commercial or recreational uses, NVUSD is weighing the possibility of pursuing a rezoning that would allow for housing construction, according to Mike Pearson, the district’s facilities director.

What shape such development may assume – whether housing near the school would be single-family or apartment-style, market-rate or affordable – is not yet clear, and no rezoning proposal has come before the American Canyon City Council. Pearson said direct talks between the two agencies have amounted to “a grand total of 20 minutes” thus far, although the NVUSD board on June 13 approved an engineering services contract with Napa-based Chaudhary & Associates Inc. to study the creation of residential lots at the site.

“I don’t want to get any hopes up because we are far from that point – this is just to get a discussion going,” he said Thursday.

The property on Eucalyptus Drive occupies just under a third of the 15-acre site where NVUSD is shifting the Napa Junction school, whose current home at 300 Napa Junction Road a block from Highway 29 lies under the West Napa Fault – the land seam that triggered the South Napa earthquake in August 2014. Four classrooms at the current campus, which dates to the 1950s, were damaged by the magnitude-6.0 quake, and 65 fourth-graders were temporarily shifted to American Canyon High School while the grade-school campus was repaired.

NVUSD purchased the undeveloped land at Eucalyptus Drive in December 2017 from American Canyon Flat Land Company Inc., spending $10.2 million raised through the Measure H school facilities bond approved by voters in 2016.

At Napa Junction Elementary’s new home, classrooms, offices and facilities would occupy the western 10 acres, leaving the uses for the remaining eastern third up for discussion between city and school district leaders.

“I would call it a broad conversation,” said City Manager Jason Holley. “If we go through the process of changing the zoning, it would have to be with a specific purpose in mind. We plan to work with district staff to see if a change in use is appropriate.

“It’s the top of the first inning. We’re always looking and planning, (to see) if it makes sense for our two organizations to work together and see what makes sense for both parties.”

Early talks between American Canyon and NVUSD likely have focused on potential housing development because the school site is near existing subdivisions south of Eucalyptus and lands to the east also zoned for residential use, according to Holley, who said the city hopes to work with the school district to bring a concept land-use proposal to the City Council later this year.

Plans for the relocated Napa Junction school are currently being reviewed by the state Division of State Schools, Pearson said last week.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. 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.