Big crowd pipes up on Napa Pipe plan

By KEVIN COURTNEY, Register Staff Writer
Friday, August 17, 2007

Analytical eyes are about to peer beneath the pretty pictures to see if the residential/industrial development proposed for the sprawling Napa Pipe site makes planning sense.

A crowd of more than 100 people crammed an industrial building at Napa Pipe Wednesday night to hear how Napa County and the city of Napa plan to jointly scrutinize the developer’s ambitious plans.
Napa Redevelopment Partners is funding $500,000 worth of traffic, economic and water impact studies. Early results could be ready for public review in October, said Hillary Gitelman, the county’s planning director.

Developer Keith Rogal wants to turn a gritty 152-acre riverfront site between Kennedy Park and Highway 29’s Butler Bridge into a world-class planned development with 3,200 dwelling units, a half million square feet of light industrial, 50,000 square feet of offices, 40,000 square feet of retail/restaurants and a 150-room hotel.

The scope exceeds anything in Napa history. Neither the county nor the city yet knows if this proposal works environmentally, fiscally or politically.

The property lies just outside the city, which surrounds it on three sides. The Napa County Board of Supervisors could decide to develop the property as an urban pocket or negotiate annexation to the city.

With three Napa council members and a county supervisor looking on, Rogal gave the public its first look at his high-profile development team.

Architecture firm William Rawn Associates, based in Boston, is developing a concert hall at Sonoma State University, designed Rogal’s Carneros Inn on Highway 12 and has done residential projects on many college campuses.

Projects by Olin Partnership, the landscape architect based in Philadelphia, include the grounds of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Mission Bay and the Presidio parade grounds in San Francisco and Bryant Park in New York City.

Another consultant, ARUP, with offices in San Francisco, will be working to make the project energy efficient. ARUP contributed to the “living roof” design of the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and consulted on a “zero energy” project in England.

Consultants spoke of the Napa Pipe site in glowing terms, saying it had stunning views of the river and the hills, with easy access to Napa amenities.

The compact features and creative use of open space make his project “an absolute model of what planners talk about as a smart growth site,” Rogal said.

Asked if the project would be annexed to Napa, Gitelman alluded to the project’s “political challenges.” The task for now is to reveal basic information about core impacts, said Gitelman, who described the proposal for 3,200 dwelling units as “really aggressive.”

Consultants will look at three alternative scenarios. One calls for 2,050 dwellings and 338,000 square feet of light industrial/office space. Another option would tuck 600 live-work units into 1.2 million square feet of light industrial/office. Finally, an industrial option envisions up to 2 million square feet of light manufacturing, distribution and warehousing with no housing.

These first studies will allow city and county officials to begin to make informed decisions about what is best for the site and the proper political jurisdiction, said Dana Smith, Napa’s assistant city manager for community development.

West Yost Associates of Santa Rosa will verify the developer’s estimate of how much water the project will require and how it can be supplied. The consultant will analyze the possibility of wells and the impact if the project is tied to the city’s water system.

Fehr & Peers of San Francisco will study the traffic impact of 3,200 residences and new industrial development on roadways and key intersections from central Napa all the way south to Highway 29/37 in Vallejo. The effects of other planned developments will be factored in.

StrategicEconomics of Berkeley will look at the market for this housing and industrial space and what it would cost the city or county to provide such services as police and fire. The impact on downtown Napa will be studied.

Asked to comment on the plans for Napa Pipe, two dozen people suggested topics for analysis and voiced concerns.

Several speakers said they wanted more boating development along the project’s nearly mile of riverfront and public involvement in the planning of waterfront amenities.

Bernhard Krevet of Friends of the Napa River said the site flooded frequently from hill runoff and could be vulnerable if the ocean rises due to global warming.

One woman said there weren’t enough attractions to make the site worth a visit by area residents. Napa residents need more shopping, she said.

What about schools and day care, a woman asked. If the development doesn’t provide these services, residents will clog local roadways in search of them, she said.

Rogal said the project would house workers who must now commute to jobs in Napa County because housing here is too expensive or too big for households without children.

Asked if the county could guarantee that the housing would serve people who work here, Gitelman said the county was researching legal options.

An audience member’s suggestion that county offices be moved to Napa Pipe, opening up space in downtown Napa for commercial development, drew applause.