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Who is behind 'Keep Napa Napa?'

Who is behind 'Keep Napa Napa?'

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Is Napa Pipe the target of Measure N? Measure N proponents say the proposal for 3,200 townhomes in seven-story buildings at the 152-acre industrial site is a bad idea, though they emphasize that their initiative is designed not just to torpedo Napa Pipe — but more broadly to give decision-making power to citizens.

Meanwhile, Napa Pipe proponents say Measure N will not kill their project, and that it is bad law regardless of what its supporters hope to accomplish.

The Measure N debate has its origins in the creation of Napa Redevelopment Partners, run by developer Keith Rogal, which formed to buy the Napa Pipe property in 2006 for about $40 million.

The partners bought the industrial property with an eye toward creating a mixed-use project that could host 3,200 townhomes as the county’s tallest buildings, as well as a condo/hotel, commercial and light industrial areas and parkland along the Napa River.

Rogal has pitched the plan as providing modest-sized homes for Napa Valley workers and empty-nesters — people who might otherwise be priced out of the local market.

Former Napa Mayor Ed Henderson joined Napa Redevelopment Partners to help promote the idea.

“I believe something is not quite right in the valley, a group of people are being left out of the dream,” he told the Napa County Board of Supervisors when the project was first proposed. “They can’t afford to live here.”

The project could be built in eight phases with 300-500 units constructed in each push until it is completed sometime before 2018. In 2006, Rogal boasted the final product would be the size of a medieval town in Europe — about a 15-minute walk from end to end.

Skeptical of the dream

But a new high-density community the size of an Upvalley city just outside Napa city limits irks a portion of the population.

Several of those who like the idea of Napa Pipe, including Napa County Supervisors Bill Dodd and Mark Luce, say the project as proposed is just too large.

Those who don’t, such as the community group Get a Grip on Growth, believe it will have negative traffic and other impacts. Many critics are disturbed that the project lies outside city limits, though environmentalists, agricultural leaders and others have battled for years to contain growth to within the five cities of Napa County.

Rogal’s company, Napa Redevelopment Partners, has paid to launch traffic and other studies to assess the potential impact of the project.

He points out that there will be a lot of new information released to the public and a full environmental impact report before a final project is presented for the county to consider.

Given the potential for public input, Rogal advocates that the process should be allowed to play out without Measure N’s restrictions or the legal questions that surround it.

Rogal and his partners at his main firm, Rogal, Walsh and Mol, set up a political campaign called Keep Napa Napa to fight Measure N.

Keep Napa Napa has set up a downtown office, sent out multiple mail pieces — in some cases angering residents who say they were inadvertently listed as supporters —and done a poll that shows support for Measure N falling.

Keep Napa Napa is led by Nick Caston, who is on loan from the office of Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa. The group is funded almost entirely by the Napa Pipe developers.

Keep Napa Napa has attracted support from those who see the reuse of the industrial area as a promising move for the county, providing housing without jeopardizing agricultural land.

County leaders also like the idea of a project that could solve a long-standing headache of meeting state-mandated goals for affordable housing. Whether Napa Pipe is the project that fits the bill is one of the questions that will weigh on voters minds come June 3.

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