The properties, 819 and 827 Vallejo Street in Napa, CA, were previously zoned for residential housing. Much to the chagrin of others who tried to purchase the land in the past, the city had previously said it was not available for business purposes.
“I tried to buy the properties in 2007 for overflow parking for my business,” said Napa resident, Georgene Liehau. “But my realtor was told by the city’s planning department that the property would never be rezoned. So I want to understand why I was told ‘no,’ and now this company is told ‘yes’.”
According to Napa associate planner, Michael Allen, the city typically tells people they cannot rezone residential land for commercial uses.
“In fact, we told this applicant no at first, too,” said Allen. “However, Mike’s Auto Body did their homework. They showed us why it would be a good move and brought forward a project that made sense.”
Mike Rose, who owns Mike’s Auto Body shop at 804 Napa Street in Napa, proposed building a new, 1,986-square-foot structure that would serve as shop office space and a covered vehicle wash bay. He will connect his expansion to Soscol by way of a driveway so Vallejo street will not see increased traffic from commercial trucks, he said.
Napa Street lost its link to Soscol when the Napa Wine Train track was relocated, which occurred during Napa Flood Project work. Afterward, Vallejo Street became the area’s main connection to Soscol Avenue, which often caused traffic jams along the mostly residential road. Allen said that because the auto shop’s expansion would reconnect the two streets, thereby reducing traffic on Vallejo Street, it made the proposal more attractive to the city planning department.
“Because of the traffic reduction and the fact that these lots have been vacant for more than 20 years, staff felt that this was a strong project,” he said.
Allen’s response outraged several Vallejo Street residents, who cursed loudly from the audience and disagreed with his argument.
“The reason the lots have sat empty is because the city wouldn’t let anyone do anything with the land,” said Colleen Moore, who lives at 877 Vallejo Street. “I think this is an unfair situation and I don’t understand why the rules could be changed for certain people.”
But the Planning Commission agreed with city staff’s conclusions and approved the general plan zoning amendment unanimously.
“I was concerned about losing residential lots when I first saw this project,” said Commissioner Gordon Huether. “But it’s a good project, it makes sense, and I commend the applicant and staff for what they’ve done.”
Commissioner Paul Kelley sympathized with frustrated neighbors, but ultimately supported the zoning change.
“Traffic is going to be diverted, access to Soscol will be provided, and it will be a great thing for the shops and the neighborhood in general,” he said.
Mike Rose does not own the property yet, but will either purchase the land or lease it and construct the new building, said Allen.