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A Napa radio studio’s sign-off this spring will segue into the arrival of construction equipment, after the city’s approval of 14 townhouses to replace the longtime home of KVON-AM and KVYN-FM at 1124 Foster Road.

The Planning Commission’s approval of permits for the housing development sets in motion a second life for the property, where the studio of Napa’s radio stations has stood since the 1960s. To make room for the project, parent company Wine Down Media will shift KVON and KVYN to a new studio in the South Napa Century Center as early as March.

The three-story dwellings – each with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and about 1,300 square feet of living space – will be contained within three duplexes and two four-plexes. Entry would be from Foster Road, with two driveways forming a T on the premises and garages on the ground floor, along with four parking spaces for guests.

The revamping of the Foster Road property was set in motion in 2017 after Roger Walther, an investor and bank founder, sold the stations to Wilfred and Julissa Marcencia, who now operate them under their Wine Down Media firm. In June 2018, Walther filed his application with the city to tear down the studio to make room for housing.

Planners endorsed the housing development despite reservations from some homeowners who warned of added growth and traffic hazards on Foster Road, which runs past existing townhome developments to the east and Snow Elementary School to the south. But such criticism failed to dissuade commissioners, who emphasized the need to cut into a chronic housing shortage in a way that avoids expanding Napa’s borders and allowing development to sprawl into surrounding farmland.

“It seems housing is our No. 1 priority until it comes into your neighborhood; we see it time and again,” said Paul Kelley, who voted in support along with three other commissioners (Beth Painter was absent). “It seems people are all for housing as long as it’s somewhere else. Well, we’ve run out of ‘somewhere elses.’”

Another resident, Daniel Kinder, questioned the seismic stability of the radio station property, pointing to construction at the nearby Snow school to move building away from the West Napa Fault that triggered the 2014 earthquake. However, senior planner Michael Allen said the project requires no special conditions because the property does not fall within a fault zone on Napa’s state-required fault maps, which were updated in 2018 and guide where development must be regulated.

Townhome construction should last about 18 months into 2020, Walther’s Tusker Corp. said in July.

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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.