.

Napa Local invites local residents to visualize Downtown

Napa Local invites local residents to visualize Downtown

Napa Local invites local residents to visualize a Downtown that reflects our needs, which would include local businesses that serve local people. This vision of downtown Napa would sit firmly on the principles of the local economy where profit multiplies throughout the local community, thus benefitting local business owners and residents alike. In this scenario, profit stays local and is not removed from the community into corporate coffers. This vision of downtown would include truly unique storefronts and would add to our value as a quality destination AND place to live.

To cultivate this vision and foster a vibrant local economy, we need concerned residents to come together and create a Downtown that embraces local businesses and does not force them out.

Higher rents in Downtown Napa are threatening an increasing number of local businesses. The latest causality is Baker Street. For decades Baker Street has been a local fixture of Downtown Napa. But, now the owner of Baker Street is being forced to pay four times their current rent.

Locally owned Eye Works faced a similar fate months ago. Now, instead of a local business which helps strengthen the local economy, we have a Starbucks coming into the spot they vacated. This will remove even more profit from the local community.

Corporate chain stores cause nearby property rents to increase. An ordinance to regulate formula businesses would ensure that our Downtown is not invaded by corporate chains, thus keeping the rents affordable for local business owners.

Furthermore, our city council should explore the idea of rent control for commercial spaces. Rent control exists for residential spaces, why not for commercial spaces?

This is a crucial time for the future of Downtown Napa. Downtown Napa is on the cusp of revitalization. Several people are expecting to profit handsomely through the revitalization of Downtown Napa. As these property owners and developers impose their private vision upon Downtown Napa, where does the community stand? At what cost should these people be allowed to profit? At the cost of quality? At the cost of affordability? At the cost of losing our local economy?

Will our Downtown be sold to the highest bidder?

Downtown Napa is a common space which we all share, not a private project held by a select few individuals. Does the community even have a say over what our Downtown becomes?

Elections are coming up this November. Our candidates need to answer these questions clearly.

Will they side with property owners and developers? Or will they side with the local merchants and the average people?

- - - - -

Karen Garcia and Catherine George

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ash Leigh August 28, 2012 at 06:50 PM
I'm with Lorie on this. We do need more local shops here. Too many local wine-tasting rooms and not enough necessities. Everything doesn't have to be in the downtown (high-rent) area either. Something for the teens - go carts, mini golf, laser-tag? I can hear the, "Well then, do it yourself" people - I wish I could! I would spend my money doing that, instead of another wine tasting room.
Catherine George August 28, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Thanks Lorie - that really helps me to understand your thoughts on this. To clarify, Napa Local is not against formula business. We keep saying this over and over but somehow that does not seem to be heard. Napa Local is interested in promoting and preserving local businesses, and working to create a climate where small businesses can thrive. We have looked at ordinances in other places which have done this very thing, because they have been successful. We are open to all ideas, and we are soliciting that people please contribute theirs. We want to hear from everyone. When I first moved here I was very surprised to see all of the empty stores in our downtown, as I'm sure visitors and newcomers must be when they first see that. Why would we have a downtown like this, in the heart of wine country? So I looked into it a little more and discovered the reasons, which basically had to do with one developer in particular that basically made it so those shops would not be leased. Why? Who knows. But that's why our downtown was the way it was for so long. Now, those properties have changed hands, thankfully. And now, we've got this exciting opportunity, and understandably, Napa is chomping at the bit. Of course we don't want to do anything that would continue our sad little empty stores, we want to fill them! So, this is a great time for our debate.
vocal-de-local August 28, 2012 at 09:25 PM
I've read it and what an eye opener. If you want to know the 'truth' about our history, read this book. You can read it for free online: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 28, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Has Napa Local considered entering the business landscape itself, perhaps with a cooperative venture highlighting local products? Maybe a food co-op, that also sells to the public for a few cents more than the member price and wouldn't compete with any locally owned downtown businesses? Just a thought that came up over the breakfast table.
vocal-de-local August 28, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Alex, Oliver's has three store locations in Sonoma County. A day may arrive when Oliver's branches off into other communities, qualifying them as a chain store. Their success has a lot to do with the quality of their product. I think that's what we need to focus on more than anything else. Personally, I do not deduce it down to chain vs. local. If a chain is of high quality (Pottery Barn, Cowgirl Creamery are two examples) than I'm ok with it. There are other areas of Napa catering to locals; for example South Napa Market Place. I think it's important to preserve one special place next to the Napa River as a unique environment, not just something generic you find in every town. The question is whether we can accomplish that goal by including high quality chains. And who is going to dictate which chains are acceptable? That's a dangerous line to cross, telling property owners who they can and cannot lease to. I'm assuming a downtown merchants association exists? Perhaps they can become more influential in directing what they want Downtown to become? Most of the restaurants are not chains at this point. So far, so good. Also, if we want Downtown to remain unique, the focus will be on attracting tourists.
Catherine George August 28, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Hi Louisa, Yes, in fact we have been talking about this very idea!!! It would take a business loan to start it up; not impossible but not easy in this climate. I've been eyeing some properties that I would love to do this with. Love this idea, want to do it, just need the funds.
Alex Shantz August 29, 2012 at 05:34 AM
"Alex, Oliver's has three store locations in Sonoma County. A day may arrive when Oliver's branches off into other communities, qualifying them as a chain store. Their success has a lot to do with the quality of their product. I think that's what we need to focus on more than anything else. Personally, I do not deduce it down to chain vs. local. If a chain is of high quality (Pottery Barn, Cowgirl Creamery are two examples) than I'm ok with it." It's good to see you here on the Napa Patch. I would argue the quality of their product is likely largely due to the fact that it is a local business. Products are less likely to be mass produced when local and thus the quality is much better. However, the main benefit local businesses bring to the community doesn't have to do with the quality of product, although we of course want quality. Local businesses produce a multiplier whereby profit is recirculated within the community several times. This is an economic fact that has been proven by several studies, including the one I cited. Why wouldn't we want to see the city council enact policies which maximize the multiplier effect?
Catherine George August 29, 2012 at 04:54 PM
This has been a really interesting debate. Napa residents, keep sharing your ideas, thanks! We want to hear from you! We don't have to be stuck in some sort of polarized never ending battle. The whole point of posting this in the first place is to invite ideas, and encourage community involvement. We might disagree about HOW to do this, but it seems that there are some basic things which we actually agree on; We want the empty stores to be filled, and we want our downtown to have at least some stores which carry useful items that are affordable. Yes?
Alex Shantz August 29, 2012 at 05:26 PM
"We don't want any form of government enacted NEW "policy/regulation/ordinance/restriction" that will give a "handful" of people the power to decide who, what, where, when and how ANYONE can set business in downtown (there are already enough laws in place). Supply and demand is what determines what business go or stay (the members of the community's wallet. And the tourists of course!)." You are treating businesses as if they are all the same. Some businesses hurt Napa in the long term by draining profit out of the community and undermining our unique sense of place. Why would we want that in our community? Conversely, why wouldn't we want policies that encourage businesses that benefit Napa, via the multiplier effect, to thrive in Napa? We already have some criteria in place that determines how a business can operate in order to open up. There are all types of permits a business must obtain before opening. It isn't all supply and demand right now, nor should it be. Supply and demand allows the market to commodify everything. We lose a sense of quality and community when we let that happen. So, lets take that to the next level by establishing community standards to strengthen the local economy and maximize the multiplier effect.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 29, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Lorie, I have some great news for you: The Beaded Nomad is coming back to downtown Napa! Story coming soon. More suggestions for the poll? I'll definitely make one.
Alex Shantz August 29, 2012 at 05:34 PM
""Rent Control" as a solution to fill empty store fronts with "mom and pop" businesses IS "spending other people's money". You are asking [investors and developers] people to give up profit on their investment to fulfill your "vision". Why?" It's not my vision and its very disingenuous to characterize it like that. Rather, the local economy and multiplier effect are objective economic facts that create healthier, sustainable, and connected communities. Those are things we all want for our community. Our Downtown is a common space that impacts all of us. It isn't a private affair for a few developers and investors to profit from. Currently, the visions for Downtown Napa involves profiting off of tourists with hotels and expensive stores. The vision doesn't involve creating a Downtown for local people or local merchants for that matter. Rent control is one way to ensure rent is low enough for local merchants to afford. I have heard others suggest a vacancy tax which is another interesting idea to explore. Heaven forbid a handful of already rich developers and investors make a little less profit.
Alex Shantz August 29, 2012 at 05:42 PM
"What do you mean with "However, the main benefit local businesses bring to the community doesn't have to do with the quality of product, although we of course want quality"." Quality within its self isn't the main benefit a local business brings to the community. As VDL mentioned some corporate chains might offer great quality products. However, corporate chains also remove profit from the community. Ideally, we want local businesses, which recirculate profit within the community, that offer quality products. The only point is the principle benefit of a local business is the multiplier effect it produces. Quality is something we need in addition.
Patty Peterson August 29, 2012 at 05:55 PM
I would like to see more non-chain eateries. I love our high-end restaurants but would love to see more like Mini-Mango, Small World Deli, and now Molinari's. The Oxbow Market has wonderful food choices for locals and visitors alike and would love to see more of that model in our downtown. If I want Applebees or Black Bear dinner I know where to find them.
Lisa Batto August 30, 2012 at 04:22 AM
I think Napa Local has some good ideas. I also agree with Gordon Huether who took a stand a wrote a letter the editor in NVR. There is no reason to get polarized - let's work to the middle. If you look at the demographics of who lives in Napa and how much we make - http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/06055.html - you will see some of the reason why a local serving business does not locate in downtown, it will have difficulty being supported. There simply is not enough critical mass of people to focus your business on serving only locals. So you expand your data to include tourism...this is why we have so many great restaurants and wine tasting rooms downtown. It's why we have Oxbow Market and why we have had Harry Price, Jeff Doran and now Todd Zapolski investing in downtown. Do we need locals owning businesses - resounding yes. Do we need a few chain stores downtown - absolutely. I think this is exactly what the downtown specific plan outlines. So, I think Napa Local should be asking the the question - how do we attract the Chain Stores that will help to support local owned businesses. To say let's write an ordinance, I believe is divisive and unnecessary at this point. To control rent is unrealistic - that would be unfair to the people that invested in improvements. I think that is the wrong road - what is the right one? I'd like to see people come together in a room rather than typing on a keyboard. Not everyone is on the internet (believe it our not!). I'd attend!
Lisa Batto August 30, 2012 at 04:44 AM
I also wanted to respond to this statement in the article: "Corporate chain stores cause nearby property rents to increase. An ordinance to regulate formula businesses would ensure that our Downtown is not invaded by corporate chains, thus keeping the rents affordable for local business owners." Corporate Chains Stores do not cause rents to increase. Increases in rent are caused by the economic drivers of feet downtown and through your business doors. The success of one store or several stores whether they be local or not, causes rents to increase. Because as more feet come downtown to store A - store B can capitalize on that success. It is the rising tide that raises all ships.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 30, 2012 at 05:30 AM
Here's that letter from Gordon, which he kindly emailed me for publication: http://patch.com/A-xwXX.
Alex Shantz August 30, 2012 at 05:49 AM
"To say let's write an ordinance, I believe is divisive and unnecessary at this point. To control rent is unrealistic - that would be unfair to the people that invested in improvements. I think that is the wrong road - what is the right one?" I do not see an ordinance as divisive. I think it's divisive to allow a handful of investors, developers, and property owners decide what Downtown Napa will look like. An ordinance would allow the community to weigh in on that question. Judging on Todd's current vision, which includes high end stores, a hotel, and corporate chains, I don't think we can rely on their good will. Historically, it takes ordinances and laws too ensure those without wealth and power have a say. And rent control benefits local merchants and consequently the local economy which in return benefits the entire community. That is what Downtown Napa is all about, the community. Not a handful of rich investors.
vocal-de-local August 30, 2012 at 06:12 AM
I would be interested in hearing the input of both merchants and landlords. Perhaps the problem is that there is no cohesive vision? I do not think rent control is the answer. What should it be based on? Rents in Vallejo? Rents in Downtown SF? Who polices it? I think the community has a right to verbalize their ideas about what they want a community to be. Beyond verbal and "vote with your feet" expression, I dunno, It just seems way too controlling, dictating rents and who tenants should be.. I believe that properties should remain within the parameters of how they are zoned, basically land use issues etc. Beyond that, I have mixed feelings. I don't like big corporations forcing small business out either. However, I think the local merchangs and landlords need to put their heads together and come up with a plan. For example, they could create a list of chains they would feel comfortable with. There's a world of difference between Cowgirl Creamery and Subway Sandwiches.
Alex Shantz August 30, 2012 at 06:47 AM
"I would be interested in hearing the input of both merchants and landlords. Perhaps the problem is that there is no cohesive vision?" Sure, but lets also include the community and community needs from the discourse. "I do not think rent control is the answer. What should it be based on? Rents in Vallejo? Rents in Downtown SF? Who polices it? " There are formulas that can be used to determine that. I am not a mathematician but these are the types of questions the city council and staff could be helping us answer. The basic concept of rent control already exists for residential spaces. It shouldn't be hard to find a way to expand that for commercial spaces. And, the city would enforce it. "I think the community has a right to verbalize their ideas about what they want a community to be. Beyond verbal and "vote with your feet" expression, I dunno, It just seems way too controlling," But, if we don't go behind that we don't give the community any real control. And, we don't actual create structures that support a local economy and the multiplier effect. "For example, they could create a list of chains they would feel comfortable with. There's a world of difference between Cowgirl Creamery and Subway Sandwiches." Hey, I don't have a problem with this. But some might argue that's not fair. An ordinance establishes a criteria that applies to all corporate chains to ensure they conform to community standards if they are to open. That seems more fair to me.
Lisa Batto August 30, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Alex, I really don't think that to jumping to the decision of making a law is the answer here. What is the answer is to bring all groups together. I don't think anyone on this page is opposed to this. Bring the community, the property managers, owners, local business owners and corporate owners together. Talks about it and decide together what action to take. To write on a board and expect the problem to get solved is a misnomer. So what I have asked is the the leaders at Napa Local bring everyone together and focus the energy. Find out what Napa really wants and how the community can support it - this is where the difference will be made.
Alex Shantz August 30, 2012 at 03:51 PM
I am all for getting people together in a room to talk. However, at the end of the day we need concrete actions. The bottom line is, a handful of property owners and developers want to impose their vision on Downtown with out regard to the local economy and community. Until we have something, like a law or ordinance, in place to remedy that power imbalance I can't see this issue being resolved.
Catherine George August 30, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Thanks Lisa - you make excellent points and your approach is wonderful, imho. Napa Local has been discussing an ordinance because we have looked at other towns and have seen them be successful. I think here in Napa for whatever reason there is a bit more resistance or aversion to the very idea of an ordinance, and I might go so far to say that there is also not as much knowledge about these kinds of ordinances - at least that is the sense I'm getting. So for our community, perhaps there is a different approach we ought to take. And certainly there is a good deal of education Napa Local can be doing as well. I completely agree that whatever direction we go, it comes from the community itself - what we decide to do together, all of us. Merchants, residents, everyone. Napa Local has been talking to merchants about these issues. It would be great to get everyone together to talk more.
Lisa Batto August 30, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Alex, I see this is where you and I agree - concrete actions. Where we disagree is assuming that this handful of property owners and developers have the vision you speak about. Again, if you are part of the group then encourage open dialogue face to face and bring all parties together to resolution - one that everyone can agree to support.
Alex Shantz August 30, 2012 at 09:08 PM
"Where we disagree is assuming that this handful of property owners and developers have the vision you speak about." Lisa, right now property owners and developers decide who can and cannot open up. Their interest is making profit and it isn’t to serve the locals. Todd has admitted that the stores he envisions within the town center would be very pricey stores. His plan involves a hotel. And, apparently his vision involves excessively high rents. That’s his vision. It isn’t a local friendly vision. This can all be verified by articles in the Napa Register. The voices of developers and property owners carry much more weigh in Napa that local residents. Napa Local was simply asking for the city council to have a discussion about an ordinance, just a discussion. The city council was urged by these developers and property owners to not even discuss the issue. Local merchants and local people were excluded from the democratic process. It’s clear they call the shots. So yes, let’s bring everyone together to talk. But, let’s be honest about the power dynamics that exist in this city.
L Bull August 31, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Alex, you would like to take the decision away from the "handful of property owners and developers" and put it into the handful of people behind Napa Local... It is also interesting to me that you would want government interference (or as you choose to call it here an ordinance) when my memory is telling me that on other topics you have said to keep government out of it. Perhaps I am confusing you with another Alex-- it's quite possible, my brain likes to play tricks on me. If I am, I apologize. If not, perhaps you should look at the consistency of your politics.
Alex Shantz August 31, 2012 at 12:58 AM
"Alex, you would like to take the decision away from the "handful of property owners and developers" and put it into the handful of people behind Napa Local... " No, I would like the decision to be made collaboratively with input from the entire community. An ordinance could set up a process to do just that. "It is also interesting to me that you would want government interference (or as you choose to call it here an ordinance) when my memory is telling me that on other topics you have said to keep government out of it." Yes, perhaps you do have me confused with a different Alex. I don't conceptualize it as "government interference". I conceptualize it as community participation. In a democracy, the government is the people. And, governments have the ability to establish processes to ensure everyone as an ability to help make decisions which impact us. These are very basic democratic principles that many institutions are based on.
Catherine George August 31, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Lorie - Yes indeed - great ideas, thanks! And yes, a poll is on its way. Stay tuned...
Catherine George August 31, 2012 at 03:27 AM
Lisa - Thanks for sharing. I agree that there are many things that most of us actually agree on. There is no reason to be so polarized. Thanks for the demographics link - very useful info. Napa Local is busy researching all options, and talking to local merchants to ask what they want, and what their needs are. At this point we are just talking and I think that's great. It is best to focus on solutions - how do we solve the issues, how do we create what we want, what works best?
Catherine George August 31, 2012 at 03:29 AM
D Doombos - I've heard this from many others as well: "Perhaps the problem is that there is no cohesive vision" That is exactly why Napa Local is asking people to visualize! Please picture what you would like to see downtown and post it here, thanks!
Penny September 03, 2012 at 07:06 PM
You are not going to like my comments but what we really need downtown is an anchor store like Macy's. Small business would build around such an anchor and offer goods other than the anchor. That is the way all successful shopping centers operate. I know the thought is not to do that in our downtown but it was the way downtown was successful years ago - it had Penney's, Montgomery Ward, Woolworth's and Albert's Dept. store. What is there now does not draw me downtown even though they schedule events. The anchor stores bring customers to the area and then they visit the independants. The downtown started to die years ago when Penney's was told by the city they could not sell items like appliances and furniture. That is why they left. Going to cute shops is fine for tourtists but you need the support of locals too.

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