People entering Napa County through American Canyon might see a large tourist-orientated sign saying “Where Your Napa Valley Experience Begins” — with a Pacific, Gas & Electric substation as a backdrop.
The sign depicts a vineyard and farmland, with mountains in the distance. Behind the sign and its bucolic depiction, though, is the tangle of metal structures and wires that make up the substation.
The American Canyon Planning Commission wants a more welcoming environment for the city’s welcome sign. On Thursday, it approved PG&E’s landscaping plan for this northwest corner of Highway 29 and American Canyon Road.
PG&E will add 12,087 square feet of landscaping at the substation. Thirteen trees — six Deodar Cedar trees, three California pepper trees, four crape myrtles — are to help shield the substation view from the highway. Shrubs include ceanothus.
The cedar trees when grown are to be about 60 feet tall.
“It’s going to be a very nice enhancement,” Commissioner Tyrone Navarro said.
Commissioners looked at the placement of the trees. Some wanted more trees in different areas to better shield the view of the substation from the highway, such as an additional tree between sign and substation.
“The sign is the entry to the city,” Commissioner Eric Altman said.
PG&E officials were open to commission requests. But one for more trees on the southern edge of the property is unworkable, given underground electrical equipment in this spot, they said.
Metal towers carrying PG&E lines pass by the substation. Resident Beth Marcus posed a question during public comments on that front.
“In light of all the recent fires caused by PG&E lines, is there any concern about these trees being so close to the power lines?” she asked.
Landscaping plans were made working with PG&E transmission officials and appropriate guidelines were followed, said Boris Letuchy of the utility.
The landscaping will be irrigated with an estimated 114,551 gallons annually of recycled water. Recycled water is a key in American Canyon, where water supplies are a concern even when the state isn’t faced with a deep drought.
PG&E didn’t simply decide to add more landscaping around its substation. Rather, the move is tied to landscaping requirements for a different project.
The Planning Commission on Sept. 30, 2021 approved a PG&E regional service center three miles away in the city’s industrial area. City policies called for a certain amount of landscaping there.
But constraints at the industrial park site posed a challenge. The solution: transfer some of those landscaping requirements across town to the substation.
“It’s a better use of the landscaping if we can bring it to the middle of the city,” city Associate Planner William He said at the time.
The Planning Commission agreed. It also decided it wanted to see the substation landscaping plan before the city issued a certificate of occupancy for the regional service center.
It’s uncertain how soon the substation landscaping will come. PG&E officials said planting could happen this spring, though that depends on city permits.
American Canyon has two identical welcome signs. The other is amid landscaping at the corner of American Canyon Road and Flosden Road, near a residential neighborhood.
The signs originally said “Gateway to the Napa Valley.” The city changed the motto to “Where Your Napa Valley Experience Begins” in 2010, reasoning that this better reflects the city as a destination and not simply a place to pass through.
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You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or [email protected].