Retail and Napa Pipe

Why more retail at Napa Pipe is a mistake

A major new wrinkle to the Napa Pipe plan is the introdution of Costco as a possible tenant there, along with the proposed residential and other components. In order to really understand the impact, it is necessary to examine the overall retail situation in Napa as a whole.

One of the issues with the jail downtown has been the fact that downtown Napa already has too much of a retail footprint--just look at the empty storefronts. Opening up another large space to retail if the jail leaves will only add to that problem. If you want new stores downtown, for which there is widespread support, you need to have sufficient customers as a base to support them.

This is why Wal Mart told American Canyon they wouldn't come in until they had developed more nearby residential, so American Canyon did so. Although I haven't asked him, this has to be a major reason why it is taking Todd Zapolski so long to get tenants for the Shops in Napa, formerly the Town Center.

That is why the downtown merchants have said they would like to see another one thousand hotel rooms downtown. Those are customers for retail stores.

I have supported the downtown plan in Napa and especially would like  to see more housing built there. Besides providing customers to the downtown area, people who live there could theoretically walk to work if they work downtown, thus helping with the traffic issue. Those units would be expensive but hopefully some of the workers could afford them.

Even though Costco will be close to town, it is still a satellite area that will require everyone to get in their cars and go there. At least with downtown you have a chance to build it as a walkable community and have some people go via bicycles or public transit. This is what the downtown plan calls for.

Right now we don't have enough customers to support the retail we already have, enough to please the business owners at least. If we add a Costco without adding significant population, that is going to take business away from someone else. Look at the items Costco sells, wine, food, clothing, furniture, etc and you are going to see a decrease in sales at other stores who sell these items.

You are also going to see reduced tax collections in the other stores. This effect may be ameliorated by bringing some business back to Napa that goes to other towns, or by bringing some people in from other towns, but the likelihood is that Costco will impact the two Wal Marts and Safeway's that are in Napa County, perhaps even putting someone out of business. Gillwoods mentioned that increased competition from all the new restaurants is part of the reason they are closing.  

The end result could be another black spot of emptiness in a business district, while people drive out of downtown to shop as a replacement.

The answer for the business community is to constantly push for growth in order to provide new customers, either growth of tourism or growth of residents. In probably 99% of places that wouldn't be a problem, it would be seen as succeeding. In Napa some see it as success and traditionally most have opposed it.  We are in an economic set up where we need to constantly grow just to stay even.

The plan to develop Napa Pipe with a Costco, plus all the downtown stores, Gasser, the St. Regis Hotel near Stanley Ranch, plus the new one thousand hotel rooms downtown are all going to need employees, lots of them, and that is just some of the planned growth.

Right now there is not a realistic plan in Napa to handle the traffic that much growth would generate. The Costco itself, like the Wal Mart in American Canyon, will generate a lot of traffic.  Some don't seem  really concerned about that, perhaps some don't care, perhaps some just figure we will just muddle through.  But we should care because it will have a dramatic effect on our quality of life.

What typically happens in communities like this is growth occurs until there is gridlock, and then it stops and traffic barely moves, it slugs along. Growth stops because no business wants to build in that environment, and that is finally how growth is controlled.

I am hopeful that we can find a plan to manage this and cap off the growth before we get to that point. Growth is going to cap off anyway, why not do it in a  way that retains a better quality of life for the local residents?

As I was about to post this article, I saw today's announcement from the County and City of Napa, and it appears that this Napa Pipe plan may be an inevitability. What started out as widespread community opposition to Napa Pipe has been worn down by years of fighting and constantly shifting plans. And $70 million dollars worth of effort by the developer.

For me it is not so much about this particular project, but the overall growth in Napa that is going on. Napa Pipe will generate a lot of growth beyond itself, and for those opposed like myself it was a big step forward into turning Napa yet further away from a smaller farming community into a big tourist town.

Are we really going to like that better? I doubt it.

Ironically, our success appears to be destroying the very thing people wanted to move here for, the small town farming atmosphere and sense of community. We will see, unless there is a big revolt from the community that is the path we are on and where we are going to end up, quicker than you think.  

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Michael Haley November 18, 2012 at 02:10 AM
>>>I just don't understand your opposition to a Costco? Do you want homes, what exactly do you want besides solar panels?<<< Kim, that's a fair question, I am not opposed to a Costco per se, I am opposed to the whole project. I think that property should stay zoned industrial. There are a variety of problems with it, which I am sure you will be reading about over the next few weeks, and can see I will need to write more about it. My objections are really on a broader level, and have to do with how do we manage growth in Napa that we all don't end up sitting in traffic all the time like they do most other places? How do we maintain our small town atmosphere in the face of all this growth pressure? How do we end up with 5000 hotel rooms and ten big box stores and not pave over farmland and lose the ag preserve? These are very difficult questions and I am trying to address two issues in my article, which I shant repeat, but overall I think it is bad planning for a variety of reasons. The main thing is that if you want to grow and limit the negative impacts, you have to fill in in developed areas first, before you just spread out with blank areas. We are never going to have every item at every price that anyone could want in retail, so we have to make choices. Really, what it comes down to is what the future vision is for where we want Napa to go. I want it to stay a smaller connected community. If we start building a lot of big projects that will be gone.
Michael Haley November 18, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Steve, yeah, that wind...that is why I am glad I start near Yountville, I get the wind first before I am tired, then I get blown back home by it. Perfect. Is growth inevitable,as you say? I think it happens because we choose it to happen, and I think at some point its negatives outweigh its positives. We aren't there yet but we are rapidly approaching that point. My main thing is that the community walks into this with its eyes open, and I think also that the government does not tell people what those negatives are. Certainly the developers don't. So I guess I have become sort of a self appointed person to get that word out. >>>Placing large retailers on the outskirts allows less disturbance to the center infrastructure.<<< Do we need more large retailers? Someone will always want more, and there is nothing wrong with that, but my concern are what are the indirect consequences? That is where I see the negatives grow larger. Totally agree with you about the two way streets, Scott Sedgley has said he opposes them too so I hope he finds a way to ixnay them.
Penny November 18, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Costco is counting on the 900 +- homes to be built to bring in business. Otherwise I doubt that they would be interested. It would not be seen from the road and so there would not be the just stop and shop I have done in Vacaville. I remember when American Canyon was one or two streets and now look what has happened there - they have even built homes in the swamp. I don't think we want a city from one city to the next - just one big town and years down the road say "What has happened to our beautiful valley" It's full of ticky tacky like the hills around Martinez.
Jerome Knutson November 18, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Michael Haley, Do you shop at Costco? If you do ask the clerks at the Fairfield Costco what will happen to their store if Napa opens one. The response I received was that the Fairfield store would close. Do you think Solano residents will drive to Napa to shop at Costco? I think not. Vallejo and Vacaville are much closer for Solano residents.
Karen Garcia November 18, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I doubt that Costco would open a store in Napa if it meant the Fairfield one, located right on I-80, would close. Seems very unlikely to me.
Michael Haley November 18, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Jerome, well if they close the Fairfield Costco than that makes the traffic south of the 29-221 crossing a little less. There is still going to be a lot of traffic generated by it. No I don't shop there. My wife and I joined the Fairfield Costco a while back and went about three times, and realized there wasn't really anything much we wanted to buy there and stopped going.
Michael Haley November 18, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Karen, you could well be right. Remember all the Supervisors are voting on, if they do, is a concept. They don't even name a Costco in the ordinance or whatever it is. All Costco has done is express some interest, and could drop at any time with further study of the issue.
Michael Haley November 18, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Penny, I attend a lot of government meetings, 2-3 a week, and have formed the opinion that we are about to go through a big wave of growth based around tourism. My biggest fear is that we will lose the small town community that makes Napa so special, that makes people love Napa. We are also going to get total traffic congestion because we have no space and no money to build and expand roads. I have been hammering on that for years now. It will be Walnut Creek without the big freeway and big four lanes. And look how crowded that town is. I dont' want to go there and am going to try to stop it by making people aware of it. Most people think that somehow the government will manage it. I said that to an elected official this week (who is in a position to vote on all this) and this person just started laughing. The local power structure knows it is going to happen, but no one is really warning the local population. I am afraid to talk too directly about it so I am burying this in the middle of a conversation most people won't read. But when I get the guts I will get it out there more.
Michael Haley November 18, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Scott, >>>Costco is a much better choice to shop at because they actually pay and treat their employees well.<<< I have heard that, in the County report they said that, and said that after working for Costco for a number of years employees could generally work their way up to a salary of about 40K a year. That is still not enough to raise a family in Napa, maybe to live in a one bedroom apt. Most of their employees will still need subsidized housing or to drive in. But you know, that is the way it is and sometimes you have to muddle through, so that doesn't bother me so much.
Kim Smith November 18, 2012 at 08:05 PM
$40K a year = $20 an hour or close to it and that does not include bene's, last time I checked Wally world doesn't even come close. You should check the stats for starting rates at Costco + benefits.
Tom Davidson November 18, 2012 at 08:07 PM
gee, thanks for the civics lesson. Which isn't what I was asking, I was addressing the concept of an individual proposing a use for someone else's private property, not the zoning process. "They should put in a......." Now, do I need to explain it further ?
Tom Davidson November 18, 2012 at 08:20 PM
So someone made a comment on an internet forum and people looked at him funny. You can't argue with the facts.
Tom Davidson November 18, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Why would Walmart build a store in AmCyn when there was one just a couple of miles away in Vallejo ? Walmart even claimed they wouldn't close the Vallejo store. I guess they should have got that in writing......
Michael Haley November 18, 2012 at 08:27 PM
gee, thanks for the civics lesson.<<< Tom my sense is that we all know what you meant, we have been inundated with the private property rights argument for thirty years now. It's just that I don't think it always works very well and is only one consideration among many. It's a starting point for consideration, but we can't just let anyone do anything with their property or we would have a total disaster. Thus the reminder about zoning.
Catherine George November 18, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Its really misleading for Rogel to present the Napa Pipe project as "green" in any way; the much more "green" thing to do would be to do infill residential, within the existing footprint and services of the city of Napa. There is nothing "green" about changing the zoning for the Napa Pipe property to residential and then creating all of that infrastructure from scratch in a location that has nothing in place for residential. The work would be a huge undertaking, and Rogel has made a bet on the property, hoping he could get the zoning changed, so that he could get more profit in the end. All of the pretty pictures and elaborations on how "green" the project would be are merely marketing devices, carefully constructed for our consumption, to get people to feel good about the project. The project is anything but "green". Not to mention the precedent of the zoning change, which Michael and others have mentioned. This is a dangerous precedent. I don't understand why it seems like a lot of people are suddenly jumping on the bandwagon for this project, when it so obviously has so many problems. The recent NVR article quotes all sorts of people who were opposed to it before, now saying they would consider the idea of the city of Napa annexing the Napa Pipe property, so that the city has more control. What happened to a simple "NO"? What changed?
Michael Haley November 18, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Kim, Costco pays better than Wal Mart, no doubt about it.
MICHAEL WILSON "Republican Kid" November 18, 2012 at 08:46 PM
I do not see a problem with costco out there. The county can use the tax money.
MICHAEL WILSON "Republican Kid" November 18, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Walmart must be doing somthing right. How can a non union company thrive in California?
Kim Smith November 18, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Michael Haley, I think you wrote a great piece that has kept most to a desirable conversation.
Penny November 18, 2012 at 10:14 PM
I agree with you. Some people feel bad that the Project has spent so much money to be rezoned. That is the chance you take when you try to force something on people. It will still be in a flood zone unless they build flood walls. They probably could build the Costco without changing the zoning. I read not too long ago that the city of Fairfield begged Costco not to close the store there. But if it did and we have one here than all those employees would probably turn into commuters to Napa. If the city and county are favoring this project because of the income there is never enough money and it will cost money to have housing built in this area. I have contacted the supervisors in person and mail to tell them of my feelings on this questionable project.
Alex Shantz November 18, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Actually, that's exactly what the property owner is trying to do. He asking the government to step in and change the zoning so he can impose his own vision onto the rest of us. That's the tyranny of the individual. A solar power plant would actually serve the entire community by providing green energy and green jobs. And, it would conform with the way the property is already zoned. Land use should serve the community, not a rich developer.
Michael Haley November 18, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Kim, thank you so much for saying that. It keeps me going,and it is especially nice seeing how you may oppose my viewpoint. That's my goal in doing this, dialogue. I believe that if we just talk to each other respectfully we will sort this all out and end up with the best end result. Somehow that just never seems to happen enough.
Jeff Page November 19, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I don't see any net gain from a Costco out there. County taxpayers would have to pay to improve the roads, offsetting the tax income. And sure, paper products are cheaper out there, but to me the place is useless. We just use less of those items. The solar farm idea sounds great. perfect fit for a blighted area...or how 'bout a new jail?
Kristina D. November 19, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Steve - thank you! The jail would be perfectly relocated by Napa Pipe. It's far enough out there to not scare away the tourists, yet close enough to be accessible via public transport or car. I can only imagine how traffic would increase if Costco moved in.
vocal-de-local November 19, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Thank you Michael Haley for writing this blog. You're spot on.
Michael Haley November 20, 2012 at 11:43 PM
thanks vocal!
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) November 20, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Congrats, Michael, on joining the Park and open Space District board (sorry I called it a commission by mistake at first!) http://napavalley.patch.com/articles/michael-haley-joins-county-park-commission
Catherine George November 21, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Well said, Alex, thanks!
Marissa Roehrs December 06, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I would love to see Costco here! Currently I have to leave town to do shopping and any holiday shopping and everyone I know does the same. We have to go to Fairfield or Concord or Vallejo. We need more housing but it needs to be affordable! Many friends of mine who grew up in Napa can't afford to stay here so they go to American Canyon or leave the area completely. It's a difficult situation but I feel Napa needs to grow...bigger businesses, more affordable house etc.
Michael Haley December 07, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Marissa, thanks for checking in and making your comment. The problem as I see it is that if we continue the growth path we are on it is going to end up taking you just as long to drive to Napa Pipe's Costco as it does now to the one in Vallejo or Fairfield. We cannot keep growing as you suggest without becoming as stuffed full of traffic as all the other towns like Walnut Creek and Concord that go through a growth pattern like that. Napa's charm and one of the main reasons I love living here is that it is a small close knit community. Continual large developments like that will ruin that. Sometimes we have to give up one thing to get something else. We cannot be all things to all people.


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