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2020 new year

For those looking to buy a home, attend college or find a school for their younger children – or even find fresh fruits and vegetables in town – 2020 will be a year of both visible change and anticipation for the future.

Napa County residents will have much to decide at the ballot box in 2020 that could have big local effects. Three seats for the five-seat Napa County Board of Supervisors that controls land use in world-famous wine country are on the March ballot.

Supervisor Ryan Gregory has no challenger. But Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza faces challenger Amber Manfree and Supervisor Belia Ramos faces American Canyon City Councilmember Mariam Aboudamous.

In addition, voters in March will decide the fate of Measure K, a proposed quarter-cent sales tax hike to raise $9 million annually for parks and open space.

The new year could also reveal what the next step might be in the ongoing debate over protecting watersheds, woodlands and forests. Advocates for more protection have the option of trying to pass a ballot measure in November 2020, should they decide to gather signatures.

Napa County in 2020 could decide what role commercial cannabis cultivation will have in wine country, if any. Should commercial cannabis advocates dislike the Board of Supervisors’ decision, they too might contemplate trying for a November ballot measure.

Napa Pipe

The 15-year saga of Napa Pipe may reach a climax in January.

On Jan. 21, the City Council is expected to vote on final approvals for the vast development that would remake the old Kaiser Steel industrial property in south Napa, eventually filling it with up to 945 homes, retail and commercial space, and the Napa Valley’s first Costco membership store.

Groundbreaking could then take place later in 2020 on a first phase of construction, which would include the Costco and some 300 housing units east of the Union Pacific rail line that splits the 154-acre site in two.

Some of the final pieces of the Napa Pipe puzzle snapped together last year, as city and county agreed to transfer the remaining 43 county-controlled acres to city authority three years earlier than planned. A new state law also allows Napa County to count homes built Napa Pipe toward its state-required allotment of new affordable housing, even after the city’s annexation.

Napa Farmers Market

Fans of the Napa Valley’s largest fresh-food emporium will find it at a new location starting this year.

In February, the Napa Farmers Market will shift operations to the Napa Valley Expo on Third Street downtown after four seasons outside the South Napa Century Center. The nonprofit market in December won an 11-month deal to operate at the 33-acre fairground year-round on Saturdays, and on Tuesdays from April to September.

Market and Expo leaders say the new location will bring produce sales closer to the heart of Napa, and within steps of the Burnell Street bus station, putting shopping within easier reach of those without cars. As of mid-December, market officials also were searching for a temporary venue for May, when the fairground will be fully occupied by setup for the BottleRock music festival.

Education

Two of the Napa Valley’s smallest public schools are entering their final months in 2020. Mt. George Elementary School, which educates some 240 children in the Coombsville area, and the Yountville Elementary School, with about half the number of pupils, are slated to close after the academic year ends in June.

Facing a fall-off in enrollment and a widening budget deficit, the Napa Valley Unified School District board voted in October to shut down two grade schools to save about $1 million annually. Trustees made the move despite a forceful campaign by school parents to preserve a pair of schools they said offered a uniquely nurturing environment and, in the case of Mt. George, an International Baccalaureate program that gives children early instruction in second languages and overseas cultures.

As Napa’s public school network retrenches, its community college will look into new construction that would enable students to live as well as work on campus.

Napa Valley College’s board of trustees will decide whether to join forces with the Martin Group development firm to build a dormitory and apartment complex for its main Napa campus, which school officials have said could house up to 800 people by the fall of 2023. The proposal has evolved in recent months, following a 2017 report by NVC leaders that one-third of the student body lacked fixed addresses due to high rents and low vacancy rates in the North Bay.

City Elections

An active election season is emerging in the city of Napa, where the mayor’s chair will change hands for the first time in 16 years.

With four-term incumbent Jill Techel choosing to leave at year’s end, two City Council members — Scott Sedgley and Doris Gentry — have announced their candidacies to take her place. Both councilmembers are coming to the end of their own terms in November, opening the way for challengers in Napa’s separate race for the two council seats. Contending for a place on the Napa council will be Bernie Narvaez, a local insurance broker, former Marine and onetime city parks commissioner who also ran for a council seat in 2018.

Most-read Napa County news stories of 2019

These 10 news stories garnered the most page views on the Napa Valley Register website and were most popular with our online readers in 2019.

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You can reach City Editor Kevin Courtney at kcourtney@napanews.com or at 707-256-2217.

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