Napa Oaks II is a 51-home subdivision, proposed by Davidon Homes of Walnut Creek, which is slated for the southwest hills of Napa, bordering Old Sonoma Road and Casswall Street. This part of the hillside is known historically as "The Notch."

On Tuesday, June 19 at 6:30 p.m., the Napa City Council will be voting on whether to approve the project by changing the zoning in the General Plan.

The current zoning on this 78-acre hillside that Davidon owns is  Resource Area (RA), which allows for four homes. The hillside got its current zoning designation in 1998, during a City General Plan review whereby planning guidelines for future goals and development were amended and agreed upon by a wide spectrum of citizens.

During this process, the zoning on the hillside was amended from "Estate Residential," which allowed one home per acre, to RA, allowing one home per 20 acres. What is an RA zoning designation? An RA designation is applied to "sensitive lands inside the City's Rural Urban Limit that require special standards due to view shed, resource, habitat, geotechnical and other considerations that further the conservation and resource protection goals of the General Plan."

In order for the high-density project to move forward, the council would have to change the zoning to Single Family Residential.

When Davidon purchased the property in 2000, they did not have the zoning rights to build a subdivision. And they still don't. They sued the city twice because the past City Council would not revert the zoning that would allow them to build their homes. They lost both lawsuits. Now they are back, looking for a zoning change.

Davidon has rendered all concerns and "mitigated to less than significant" the Alquist-Priolo earthquake faults and housing setbacks, a dangerous roundabout on a steep hill, removing 509 mature oak trees, soil erosion, an open water basin in an existing neighborhood, wildlife displacement, storm runoff, and even fire risk at the top of a windswept hill.

The one thing Davidon can't mitigate to "less than significant" is the zoning rights and entitlements that accompany their land ownership. They have never had the zoning to build these homes on the hillside.

Travis Stanley, current CEO and president of the Napa Chamber of Commerce, recently wrote an article to the Register titled, "Housing, housing and more housing in Napa" (June 13). In this article, he fully endorses Napa Oaks II as need for more housing at all levels.

Travis compares Andersen Ranch, another Davidon Homes subdivision, to Napa Oaks II, as reason to green light the project and laments that it has been stalled for 20 years. He asks, "Why would Anderson (sic) Ranch be approved by city staff, yet another project by the same builder continues to be rejected 20 years after submitting its first of many development proposals during that period?"

Andersen Ranch is located in a development already zoned for Single Family Residential. It makes sense and completes the existing neighborhood. Nothing could be further from the truth for Napa Oaks II. This coming Tuesday, the City Council should once again deny Davidon Homes the zoning they so desperately need and leave this hillside as it is - wild, dangerous, beautiful and a buffer between city and county.

Carol Barge


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