Editor's note: This is a response to a letter questioning the process by which Napa Valley College is considering developing on-campus student housing. That letter runs on the same page as this letter. and may be found online here.
Napa Valley College is considering building student housing on our campus to provide a “leg up” or opportunity for students. Student success is our number one priority, and numerous studies have shown that campus housing supports learning and student success.
Plus, we have a housing shortage in Napa, and when surveyed our students expressed a need and desire for on-campus housing.
One of the lessons learned by the College District and our successful buildout of the campus is to engage professional expertise at the beginning of a project. Following a highly transparent protocol and process, the college issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a development manager to work with the college to develop student housing.
The RFQ process was used to establish a pool of qualified companies, and two candidates rose to the top: one national/international and one local/national; both were well-qualified and had experience developing student housing.
In October 2017, after Napa Valley College became an evacuation shelter following the North Bay fires, priorities shifted and the campus housing project was temporarily put on hold. When we revisited the project in spring of 2018, many factors had changed and it became clear that a local developer with knowledge of the county (and devastation resulting from the fires), as well as local building costs and design aesthetics was important.
The board expressed openness to revisiting the RFQ responses and moving the project forward. The Scion Group was brought on board to implement a feasibility study and was also asked to talk to The Martin Group (TMG), the local developer that was one of the top two agencies to respond to the RFQ.
Following the feasibility study, district staff recommended that the board of trustees move forward with The Martin Group, based on their knowledge of Napa County and track record of successful student housing projects. The recommendation to enter into an agreement with TMG (whose principal lives in St. Helena) was presented at a special meeting on Aug. 22 and the board of trustees unanimously approved the pre-development agreement, with one recusal.
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Because public servants are active members of their community, it is not unusual for the elected body on which they serve to make decisions where there might be a potential conflict of interest.
One of the college’s trustees is employed by a law firm that has a relationship with the selected developer; although the trustee does not know or work directly with the developer, he recused himself to avoid any possibility of conflict of interest.
Napa Valley College is currently in the process of assembling a wide cross-section of community advocates and leaders to provide input on the future of this much-needed supplement to the college’s teaching and learning environment—and to the local housing supply.
We are committed to following a transparent process as we proceed to explore this exciting addition to the Napa Valley College experience. When and if the time comes, we plan to enter into an agreement with a nonprofit entity to finance the cost of constructing student housing so there is no burden to local taxpayers.
Those are the facts of the process to date. We welcome suggestions and commentary from the community as we move forward.
Napa Valley College