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Napa City Buildings Should Have a Reopening Strategy



It’s time for the City of Napa to take opening the public facilities seriously. To date, Napa does not have a re-opening strategy or plan. Talking- or in reality, only emailing - with some departments is like talking to a “ Wall”. Staff has become complacent and unresponsive. I’ve been told by a source in the city manager’s office that “They’re working on it…..”


The City Council should be taking the high road to show the public it’s desire to interface with its citizens with a real plan that they are a part of the recovering community and economy. If it means plexiglass screens, masks, vaccination passports, so be it. Whatever it takes.


Try getting anything out of some city departments is like pulling teeth, as if public interface with staff will never return. But it must return, and it must be top down. Here are some examples:

  1. I’ve started a custom home in Browns Valley and getting previous subdivision information from the planning department took four weeks and what was sent they were illegible of poor quality. They were useless.

  2. I 'm also renovating a Downtown historic building that potentially had to go to CHC. I mention to the Staff person that I would talk a CHC member, as I have in the past, to seek advice and suggestions. I was told not to do that since it might be compromising. That's what disclosures are for. There are two planners on this council that know that communications between commissioners, applicants, staff and public is essential to make projects better.

  3. As usual, I made my Building appointment two weeks ahead and found a young Latino couple at the door of 1600 First Street trying to understand to whom to talk. The Staff interpreter did the best she could, but it’s a “wall”: a wall of indifference.

  4. Lastly, the City Council Meetings themselves are an example of the “Wall”. Interfacing with real people has become a victim of the pandemic at the highest level. For me to talk before the Council I had to make an appointment the previous week and was told I should be called at 4 o’clock that meeting day....maybe. But if I didn’t give the right telephone number or if I didn't speak or understand English well, I won't have a chance.

Merial Fagoni and Harry Martin would go crazy if they knew what the Council was doing currently.


But I'm not here to simply complain. Reopening could include:

  • All project submittals to be exchanged electronically and every scrap of paper, every napkin sketch, be scanned and logged. We’ve all learned that in the last year.

  • Appointments could be required but walk-ins should still be allowed as well.

  • Staff should respond to email and phone calls in a timely fashion.

  • When the city does reopen, improved ventilation will be essential. All buildings should have improved outside filtered ventilation systems. As an architect, I'm embarrassed that for the sake of energy conservation our profession made buildings so air-tight they don't breathe well. We know now how important filtered outside air is our lives.

So, I ask the City Council and Mayor, “Tear down this Wall!”

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