Sometime this year, the Napa City Council is expected to decide the fate of the controversial Justin-Siena proposal to build a strip mall on its campus off Solano Avenue, a narrow frontage road next to Highway 29.
The Napa Valley Register has published many opinion letters by residents expressing several concerns. Such concerns include noise, air, and water pollution; impairment of the emergency medical and response capability of the nearby Fire Station No. 3; reduction in property values for homes close to the shopping mall; and heavy additional traffic clogging Highway 29, the valley’s main artery, particularly at the chokepoint between Trower and Salvador.
An independent environmental impact report probably will be completed by mid-year, and the City Council will most likely pass judgment on the project before year end, although I am not aware of any definitive schedule. The council will have to determine if the proposal is beneficial or detrimental to Napa.
I am primarily concerned about the inevitability of Station No. 3 suffering an impairment in performance caused by the shopping mall traffic. This station serves about 15,000-20,000 north Napa residents. The station is incredibly active, responding to about six calls a day, about 70 percent of those being medical emergencies. The emergency vehicles will always reach their destinations, one way or another, but taking an extra 30-60 seconds in response time can be life-threatening for events like cardiac arrest, electrocution, drowning, etc., defined as severe trauma by the American Heart Association. The timing and occurrence of such events is unpredictable.
Another major concern is the local traffic consequences of a shopping mall placed off Solano Avenue, funneling traffic from and to Highway 29. That area is already ground zero as the city’s worst traffic entanglement. The location features wine train crossings, multiple traffic signals, periodic surges of vehicles at the start and closing of school days (for six schools), frequent responses from Station No. 3, all combined and integrated with the legendary Highway 29 traffic. It would be unwise to add shopping mall traffic to this cauldron of vehicular confusion.
Is the Justin-Siena proposal beneficial or detrimental to Napa? The school’s announcements indicate the benefits are for those who wish to shop at the proposed site rather than accessing any of the seven supermarkets that exist within 1-2 miles of the site; simply amazing benefits for Napa.
In contrast, many proposals have been made that Justin-Siena consider alternative tenants, such as those in the high-technology or health care areas. Employees would arrive in the morning and leave at night, creating minimal traffic issues. It is puzzling why Justin-Siena, whose literature describes itself as a faith community, would not prefer to achieve a greater sense of purpose by having a tenant, for example, providing skilled nursing and memory care services rather than superfluous hardware and supermarket stores selling alcohol products on its campus as one of its offerings. The school seems willing to put many residents in harm’s way with their proposal. The list of potential alternative businesses, with low-impact traffic implications, is long and varied.
I have not met anybody who begrudges Justin-Siena the desire to make money from their property and spend it as they wish. However, their actions should be supportive of responsible community development. The school’s proposal is detrimental to the overall community and disruptive to Napa’s livability goals.
I believe there should be opportunities for Justin-Siena to generate revenue from their property, but the city deserves more consideration than the quick-fix, traffic-intensive shopping mall proposal. The proposed site has long been a thicket of traffic woes. The school should come forward with tenants having minimal traffic effects. Napa deserves the extra effort. Proposals that unquestionably reduce the quality of life in Napa should be opposed.
Anderson lives in Napa.