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Solar panels, picnic space and bike racks push Napa apartment plan over the hump

Solar panels, picnic space and bike racks push Napa apartment plan over the hump


Extra green space, added energy efficiency features and a redesigned entrance were enough to win over Napa’s land-use authority to a 50-unit apartment complex west of downtown.

The Planning Commission granted permits to the developer of the First Street Apartments II, a three-building rental development city leaders have studied in various forms for more than a decade.

After postponing a decision two months ago, planners on Thursday voted their support for the project at 2611 First St. after the applicant Napa One LP of Aptos added features such as rooftop solar panels, electric vehicle chargers, play structures and more outdoor recreation areas – along with a longer left-turn entry pocket on westbound First Street to address traffic safety worries for a site close to existing apartments and Highway 29.

Those nods toward better livability for future tenants were enough to convince four commissioners (Beth Painter was absent) to throw their weight behind the First Street Apartments. “I truly appreciate their making the effort to take our comments into consideration,” said Michael Murray of the upgrades.

Thursday’s approval brings closer to the finish line a project that originally was conceived in the late 2000s as a condominium complex before developer Jim Reilly of Aptos recast it into rental housing. An earlier version of the First Street Apartments won city approval in 2014, but no ground was broken before its permits lapsed two years later.

The apartment project returned to planners this spring largely unchanged from its earlier form, featuring a trio of three-story buildings 40 feet tall and finished in stucco, cedar and cement-fiber planking. Thirty-five units would include two bedrooms, accompanied by 11 one-bedroom and four three-bedroom dwellings.

However, planners in April sent back the plan and requested various design improvements to cut energy use and improve quality of life. The apartment design now features photovoltaic panels on the roofs for added power and water heating, along with two parking spaces equipped with charging stations for electric cars.

The number of outdoor gathering spaces also was increased from two to four, each equipped with picnic tables and seating. Three barbecue grills and two play structures will be installed in the outdoor common areas.

City permits also will include a requirement that a left-turn lane from First Street into the complex be long enough for three vehicles, a feature intended to avoid exacerbating rush-hour traffic congestion in the area. Vehicles leaving the apartments will be limited to right turns onto eastbound First.

The 1.69-acre site lies at the southwest corner of First and Freeway Drive, a signalized crossing close to CrossWalk Community Church to the north, Highway 29 to the east and the Napa Premium Outlets farther south. To the west on First Street and its continuation, Browns Valley Road, lie various other multifamily developments, including Creekside Park and Napa Creek Terrace just north.

Applicants have said construction of the First Street Apartments would last 11 months, and that existing structures on the site will be razed, including single-family homes built between 1890 and 1930.

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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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