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Braydon Apartments

This is an aerial view of The Braydon apartments under construction between Soscol Avenue and the Napa River. A citizens committee is considering ideas for future residential growth in the decades ahead. 

Where might new homes in Napa be concentrated over the next 20 years? If city leaders heed a recent survey of residents and workers, more future homes could line major streets and fill up existing neighborhoods, rather than Napa’s downtown core or outskirts.

An advisory team helping to create Napa’s next general plan on Monday reviewed the results of an online questionnaire, which indicated interest in keeping housing growth well within the city limits.

The bulk of replies show a preference by Napans that badly needed housing augment the city’s current neighborhoods, and also spread to busy routes like Jefferson Street and Soscol Avenue now dominated by commercial uses, Rajeev Bhatia, president of the Oakland-based Dyett & Bhatia urban planning firm, told the city’s General Plan Advisory Committee.

Thirty-one percent of survey subjects supported focusing housing development on Napa’s commercial streets, while 28 percent called for a priority on neighborhood-based housing growth such as developing vacant parcels or widening the use of “granny flat” second dwellings at existing homes, Bhatia told the 15-member volunteer committee, which began meeting in December.

The online survey, which ran from March to May and drew 1,210 responses, is a potential snapshot of the shifting priorities of the people who work in Napa and live there – as well as those who hope to move in, despite years of inflated rents and housing prices. Siting and density of housing development may become one of the most important aspects of Napa’s new general plan, which is intended to guide land-use decisions through 2040.

A thought exercise near the end of the meeting – involving stickers placed on a map of Napa – pointed to support among advisers for concentrating new housing along main routes. Asked to place small yellow decals on neighborhoods they thought suitable for residential zoning, committee members left behind clusters of the dots on Jefferson Street between Pueblo Avenue and Trancas Street – a stretch currently lined with strip malls – as well as the similarly built-out Soscol-Lincoln Avenue intersection and Jefferson’s crossing with Imola Avenue.

A counterpoint to the survey’s close-to-the-center housing sentiment was a proposal by committee member Chuck Shinnamon to radically transform Napa Golf Course, the 18-hole facility at south Napa’s Kennedy Park.

Shinnamon, a member of the Napa Housing Coalition, advocated looking to reusing some or all of the course for housing development, possibly leaving behind a half-length nine-hole facility. With buildable land in short supply, Napa could make room for hundreds of housing units by turning to a location with few neighbors to put up resistance, he suggested.

“With the (city’s) center of gravity moving south, how do we create a ‘there’ there so it becomes a viable part of Napa, instead of something out there on the fringe?” he said.

When asked what would most improve Napa’s quality of life, survey participants focused most closely on entertainment, parkland and retail shopping, according to Dyett & Bhatia’s report. Entertainment was listed by 71 percent of subjects as making the city a better place to live, followed by parks at 63 percent and general-purpose retailing at 61 percent. (Increased hotel development placed last among 11 entries in the list, chosen by only 24 percent of those surveyed.)

Preservation of the natural environment topped a survey list of priorities for the next 20 years, with 77 percent of participants describing it as “very important.” Affordability placed second at 64 percent, followed by improved transportation at 59 percent, job growth at 57 percent and promoting family-oriented businesses at 53 percent.

Consultants working with the city are to present sketches for alternative versions of the next general plan – with different blends and locations for land use and building density – to the all-volunteer committee on Sept. 23. Detailed versions of the proposals are scheduled for public release in January, followed by a second survey and another round of community workshops.

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Public Safety 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.