Veterans Home of California Audit (copy)

Yountville Mayor John Dunbar says the Veterans Home of California has room to build affordable housing for state employees and possibly transitional housing for homeless veterans. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants California to work with communities to identify state-owned properties that could be used for affordable housing. Napa County is willing, with the Veterans Home of California at Yountville among the possibilities.

“Housing is a basic human right, and in California, we simply don’t have enough of it,” Newsom said in a Thursday press release. “The cost of housing and rising rents are squeezing family budgets.”

Newsom in January signed an executive order to develop housing on excess state land. He ordered the Department of General Services by April 30 to create a list of state-owned lands in each county that might be used for housing.

The state on Thursday released county-by-county maps of state properties. The Department of Housing and Community Development and Department of General Services will work with local governments in coming weeks to determine which properties are best suited for housing, the Newsom press release said.

Yountville Mayor John Dunbar said he thinks he has the perfect local candidate, a state-owned site where he says affordable housing can quickly come to fruition—the Veterans Home.

He’s worked with CalVet and the Department of General Services to try to bring affordable housing to the Veterans Home for Veterans Home employees, Dunbar said. He’s talked with officials in the governor’s office and the office of state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa. Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar Curry, D-Winters, is receptive.

“There’s quite a bit of support for the idea,” Dunbar said on Friday.

The Veterans Home has more than 900 employees, he said. It plans to build a $300 million nursing facility.

“When you have the high cost of housing as we do in Napa County, it’s difficult to compete with other industries to bring the workforce to the Yountville Veterans Home,” Dunbar said.

He sees an opportunity beyond housing for Veterans Home workers. Transitional housing might be built for homeless veterans who can receive vocational training, Dunbar said.

Yountville can provide such needed services as wastewater treatment for affordable housing at the Veterans Home. A project could happen quickly if all parties are willing. Newsom’s executive order on housing adds momentum to the effort, Dunbar said.

Napa County officials for several years have talked about bringing some type of affordable housing to California’s Napa State Hospital and Veterans Home properties, either for employees there or for families in general. Board of Supervisors Chair Ryan Gregory said the county is ready to work with the state.

“Absolutely,” Gregory said on Friday. “It’s a logical partnership, because we’re often faced with mandates from the state. This is the state saying, ‘We’re going to be part of the solution and help you (with) your housing goals.’ It’s a good deal.”

Deputy County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan said the county has communicated its interest to the state. So far, the state has acknowledged the interest but not moved on to having specific conversations.

Napa State Hospital and the Veterans Home are far from the only sites on the state’s recently released map of state-owned properties in Napa County. The map is covered with so many blue dots that they merge into a blur in areas such as the city of Napa.

Many state properties don’t seem to be excess or suitable for housing. For example, there’s the far-flung Gordon Valley fire station, the wetland preserves in the south county and the Imola and Trancas park-and-ride lots and Caltrans maintenance yard in the city of Napa.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development and state Department of General Services have developed screening criteria for the properties. These criteria include proximity to jobs center, education, utilities and mass transit and being at least a quarter-acre.

Newsom said he wants his administration to partner with cities to release at least three requests for proposals to potential developers within a year for housing on state properties. The first parcel is to be identified and the first request for proposal to be released by Sept. 30.

He announced his administration is working with Chico, Fresno, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco to identify state-owned properties that could be used for housing in those cities. In his press release, he invited other cities to be partners.

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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.