Development of the Napa County Infirmary

Development of the Napa County Infirmary

NCL Staff

In the Fall of 2016 to early Spring of 2017 Napa County held three community meetings over the course of approximately 3 months. The first two meetings were at Harvest Middle School and were attended by approximately 200 community members at each meeting. Members of the Board of Supervisors were  present. The third meeting was held on a Saturday Morning at the site itself. At this point, the County’s intention was to act as developer and take the site to an approved project stage for the sale to a developer. A consultant from Berkeley was engaged by the County to run the meetings. Community input was sought foe a future housing development. It became clear during the meetings that the County’s preference would be to raze the historic buildings and build maximum density on the site. Public notice for the meetings were given by mailers to the neighborhood, announcements on the County website, and notice in the local newspaper.  

 Undated image c. 1880 Bird’s Eye View of Napa showing
Infirmary buildings with crescent-shaped drive surrounded
by open fields.

An ad hoc local committee of nearby neighbors formed as “The Old Sonoma Road Coalition” to oppose a high density project for housing on the site. They held 2-4 informal neighborhood meetings to discuss their issues and planned outreach to members of the Board of Supervisors to air their concerns. This time frame was late 2016 to 2018. Yard signage and gatherings of emails on a website made up the communication method. 

Napa County Landmarks (NCL), the local non-profit for historic preservation, became involved out of concern for the three historic buildings and the crescent landscape feature which date back to the 1870s. NCL initiated an effort to bring the buildings and landscape to a National Historic Landmark designation. A professional consultant was hired and the application for thee designation was ultimately successful, nearly a year. NCL underwrote the expense. Other efforts on the part of NCL were identifying a) an architect, Mike Malinowski, Sacramento, CA, who has done notable historic preservation projects involving medium density housing projects and 2) Charles Loveman, the principal in Heritage Housing Partners (HHP), Pasadena, an ‘ownership’ affordable housing developer who has a number of projects integrating historic structures for housing along with supplementing the historic sites with multi family units with compatible architecture. This time frame was early 2017 to present. 

Napa Health and Human Services Building
 Women’s Building with colonnade on left, 1973 on file from Napa County Building Department.
 The Health and Human Services building in 2012, photo courtesy NCL.

NCL engaged Mike Malinowski, AIA, to produce a PowerPoint presentation demonstrating the historic significance of the resources at the Health and Human Services (HHS) campus. The event was hosted by NCL and given on a Saturday afternoon, in Napa, in January 2018. The purpose of the presentation was to demonstrate that housing development can occur in a sensitive way and accommodate retaining and re-purposing historic resources. Members of the community, elected and appointed city and county officials were invited.  Many attended. Notice of this presentation was primarily done through a group emails from NCL to its members, emailed invitations and phone calls to local elected officials and appointees, and word of mouth networking on the part of NCL Board members got the word out. 

Charles Loveman agreed to come to Napa for the first of approximately 5-6 visits to view the property and render advice for NCL for advocating for an outcome preserving the historic resource. This time frame was Spring of 2018-present. A Board member of NCL and neighbor of the HHS site helped coordinate meetings with stakeholder including the mayor, members of the City Council, and the County Board of Supervisors, as well as city and county staff. These meetings have occurred regularly to the present day and have continued after the investment partners for Heritage Housing Partners acquired the property in a private transaction with the County of Napa in the early Fall of 2021 with the intent to develop it as a mix of affordable ownership and market rate housing, re-purposing two of the historic structures as housing, the third structure as public space, and retain the historic landscape. Acquisition of the property was accomplished after two failed attempts to sell it under a Surplus Property offering, by the County of Napa. 

HHP principals presented a preliminary plan review to the Napa City Planning Commission in August of 2022 in order to solicit comments from the Commissioners. The project as proposed garnered wide support and praise from the Commissioners. That meeting was noticed to the public via website, email notification and announcements in the local paper for the Commissions agenda at their regular meeting. A number of local concerned citizens attended and spoke at the public comment, in strong favor of the proposed development.  

Members of NCL’s Board worked diligently since early 2018 to win the support of the Napa Housing Coalition, for the proposed project by HHP. NCL hosted a meeting between members of both organizations in August of 2022 so that HHP could make a presentation about the scope and breath, including architectural renderings, of the project. In the presentation was a focus on the ‘Affordable Ownership’ aspect which garners enthusiastic support for Coalition.