On Tuesday, May 23, the St. Helena City Council rejected the Culinary Institute of America's appeal for expansion. The area of contention is the proposed incremental student housing on the property owned by the CIA on Pratt Avenue. But I wonder how many of us truly appreciate what the CIA Greystone means to the city of St. Helena.
In 2016, participants in CIA conferences and events booked more than 8,000 hotel room nights. During that same year, the CIA participated in more than 15 community events providing food, personnel and venues for groups ranging from the St. Helena Fire Department to Auction Napa Valley. The CIA also provides much-needed culinary workers to support our vital hospitality industry.
I am certainly sympathetic to concerns of the residents on Pratt Avenue and the immediate neighborhood, but many of their concerns have been addressed by the CIA with plans to provide shuttle buses and bike lanes to minimize parking and traffic issues. It is unfortunate that the timing of the CIA's proposal followed so closely behind the opening of Los Alcobas, which has impacted many of the same local residents, but hopefully these issues are being resolved as the hotel completes its construction and furnishings. The CIA proposal should be judged on its own merit and not be penalized because of the hotel's hopefully short-lived problems.
As a resident of St. Helena, and an active volunteer in many local organizations, I applaud the work of the CIA, and want to keep this esteemed institution and their talented students here in St. Helena.
Both the managing director of the CIA Napa Valley and the St. Helena Planning and Community Improvement Director have expressed a desire to find a solution. I encourage my friends and neighbors to support the CIA's proposed expansion and urge the Planning Commission and City Council to work with the CIA to quickly approve a plan that will meet their needs.