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NAPA - Napa Pipe, the 2,580-unit proposed mixed-use development in the county of Napa, has gained the support of Greenbelt Alliance, a group that focuses on smart growth in the nine-county Bay Area.

The project is in a comment period for its supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Report and hearings on the EIR are taking place today. The comment period ends March 31.

"We are releasing a letter during the comment period," said Marla Wilson, sustainable development associate at the Greenbelt Alliance. “We have concluded that mixed use development is the best way to fulfill Napa County’s housing needs."

The alliance was to officially announce its support at a public meeting this morning.

The alliance has determined the project is consistent with its vision for how the Bay Area can grow in a sustainable way and is consistent with Measure P and the general plan update, Ms. Wilson said.

“We've always been committed to develop a special project, one that reduces commuter traffic, protects rural land, adheres to the highest environmental standards and solves water problems for our community," said Keith Rogal, developer of the project. "The public process of EIR review is for concerns to be raised and addressed, and the input of the Greenbelt Alliance in that process, will undoubtedly benefit the plan.  We're very pleased and honored to receive their support.”

One aspect of the project that the Greenbelt Alliance specifically supports is the more than 500 affordable homes it includes. Mr. Rogal said in the current plan there are 516 housing units permanently held at prices affordable for households of low and very low incomes, and 2,084 market-rate residential units, with size, character and pricing oriented to” younger Napans, starting out, the commuting workforce, and local empty-nesters.”

The alliance backs the affordable homes because the project is located in the county’s job center where there are roughly 35,000 jobs, hoping it would help cut down commute time.

“A third of the workforce commutes in,” she said.

The Napa Pipe site is also attractive to the Greenbelt Alliance because of there are mp other areas in Napa that could be developed at this scale that are not greenfields, the group said. The alliance works to promote “open spaces and vibrant places,” she said.

The alliance said that while it supports the project, it still has concerns.

First concern is water.

“We want to make sure any solution to bringing water should not have the consequence of sprawl elsewhere. We have been talking to the developer about how that would look,” she said.

Transportation has been a concern as well and the lack of available public transit. However, said Ms. Wilson, currently there is not a need for transit, so there isn't much available. Once there are people there, however it will be important to have it available. "It is kind of a Catch 22," she said.

Also, the group wants to see projects that focus on whole communities.

"Our plan includes all those elements which give a neighborhood cohesion, reduce unnecessary car trips, and allow for healthy mix of incomes and ages," said Mr. Rogal.

The Greenbelt Alliance has supported a number of projects in the North Bay, including Sonoma Mountain Village and Larkspur Landing. This is the first to get support this year.

"It has not been easy arriving at this decision," said Ms. Wilson.

She said they have been working with the developer for five years on this project and have visited the site numerous times. They have also met with advocates, elected officials, stakeholders and local residents with a wide range of viewpoints on the project.

"It has been countless hours of effort. I am happy we have arrived. It is the right position for the organization. We understand this project is a big deal for Napa County and this is the moment for us to make our position public if we are going to have our position."