On a recent evening, 100 people crammed the Napa library to share their concerns about development trends in Napa and its impact on our overburdened infrastructure. The meeting was convened by Vision 2050, a county-wide coalition of grassroots groups and individuals whose mission is to advocate for sustainability of our finite resources.
The crowd expressed overwhelming agreement on the importance of over a dozen issues to Napa’s future, including the need to develop protections for our quality of life, agriculture, natural resources and open space.
People shared their opinions aloud, via a paper-and-pencil survey and a vote on priorities.
So what did this group of citizens want us to know?
On the survey, people ranked the importance of each issue on a 1-5 scale. Over 80 percent of respondents rated the following six issues as important or very important to them (score of 4 or 5): protection of watershed and oak woodland; protecting wildlife and riparian corridors; stronger standards of development for wineries and hotels; protection of water for agriculture and residents; maintaining open space for recreation and ecology; and traffic congestion.
Six more issues were rated as important or very important by a smaller majority of 60–74 percent: adoption of a living wage; minimizing “event center” activities in agricultural areas; keeping marketing/hospitality out of the definition of agriculture; minimizing variances for wineries; developing proximity worker housing; and developing a climate action plan.
Finally, in the lowest range, considered important or very important by a “mere” 53 percent, was development of alternative transportation/light rail.
A second exercise, a forced-choice vote, allowed each audience member to choose up to four of the 13 issues as high priority. It revealed the following four top priorities: protection of water for agriculture and residents; avoiding commercialization/marketing in agricultural areas; traffic congestion; and developing stronger standards for development of hotels/wineries.
While these surveys were not scientific, they do reflect the feelings of a substantial group of engaged Napans who turned out for a two-hour meeting on a hot summer night. I heard not a single diatribe specifically targeting agriculture or wineries. But I did hear a great deal of concern about the effects of rapid development on local quality of life, on the character of our agricultural lands, and on our watersheds and wild lands.
Our community simmers with the energy to defend these core values of Napa County. Vision 2050 vows to be a leader in this effort.