My name is Kevin Teague. My family originally immigrated to the North Bay a few years after the 1906 earthquake. I grew up in Napa, went to West Park, Redwood Junior High, and Napa High. I left Napa for college, then went to law school. I returned about 16 years ago after a successful time as a “big-city” lawyer. What I do for a living is work with property owners on real estate development projects in and around our community. That is who I am. Many of you know me.
About eight years ago, the owner of Napa Oaks asked me to represent them. I said 'no' because I thought it was too controversial, even though what I do is represent controversial local projects. They asked me if I would come see the property before I made my final decision. I did.
After I walked the entire 80 acres, I realized that Napa Oaks was a no-brainer -- 51 homes on 80 acres with an owner willing to listen and then give to the community almost whatever they ask for. Talk about a win-win. So I said 'yes', I would represent them. After all, the property is within the city limits, and has never been available for any public use.
The past several years have been an eye-opening journey about our and my community. In my 22-plus-year career, I have never experienced such division, such politics and disregard for facts, the law, and dismissal of efforts to improve our community. I don’t think this division is because of Napa Oaks, rather it is caught up in the current state of politics in our country and our community.
It seems the almost whole community understands that Napa needs more of all housing types, from large homes, small homes, to apartments. But, as a community we cannot clamor for more housing, but only if it is not anywhere near my house. That is not how we build community.
In response to neighborhood and community concerns, we made sure the homes were not visible, the homes would not be built on steep slopes, city-wide infrastructure would be improved, neighborhood fire safety enhanced, free public parks would be provided, environmental protections permanently placed, traffic would be calmed coming down off the Notch (that is the top of Old Sonoma Road if you are not from here), and advance funding provided to affordable housing projects in need of funds.
Yet, a full political campaign has been waged against the proposal. This campaign, led by a relative newcomer to neighborhood and neighboring vineyard developer, are unconcerned that we listened to and read all of the project concerns and adjusted the project to address every substantive concern raised.
Despite our and others efforts to reach out to actually sit down to talk with them to see if what else we could do, they refused to meet and have any discussions with us. We learned that even if we solved every technical or physical issue raised during the process, the one thing we could not solve was their ultimate request – to just go away. Collaboration and compromise were not on the table, even though that was our approach.
I hope our city can examine the facts and not be swayed by the political rhetoric. We need to be able to find common ground on our community needs and not become entrenched in a winner-take-all attitude. If our community can find that common good and our city can focus on the community’s needs and future, then we can all benefit from thoughtful solutions to collective problems.
My career has been built on solving community problems. That is why I am dedicated to try to make Napa Oaks the best neighborhood addition to Napa. Politics start locally. Maybe one just city at a time we can turn our divided country back in to a positive respectful society. I hope this is still the community where I grew up – a place willing to collaborate and compromise with integrity and honesty.