At a time like no other in recorded history of climate change, I continue to be shocked and disgusted by our Napa County government's business-as-usual stance in regard to our environment.
Last March, our planet surpassed the tipping point of 350 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere, the upper limit considered safe, until the plants in the northern hemisphere started blooming; 97 percent of international climate scientists say this is due to human activity.
There are things we can still do to mitigate the damage to our climate, which in Napa County include protecting our oak woodlands, our forests and watersheds, the continued development of sustainable energy sources, and keeping fossil fuels in the ground. For Napa County, this involves stopping the urbanization of our Ag Preserve, Ag Watershed, and forest lands, planning our cities in ways that include availability to mass transit, and creating affordable housing for those working here.
But, sadly, after nine months of APAC meetings and discussions, economic considerations of the wealthy few continue to trump and define land use decisions. Last week, the Planning Commission, in a vote of 3-2, overturned the Planning Department's recommendation to disallow a variance (and I am relieved the Planning Department made this recommendation) for Summers Winery. It is as if the discussions and recommendations of the APAC committee did not happen.
Maybe to some it is a small issue -- a granted set back from the highway. Okay, but add to this the retroactive permitting of a non-permitted winery. This is yet another variance and yet another forgiveness in a long history of such practices in our county, practices which effectively urbanize our Ag Preserve and Ag Watersheds.
The practice of building without permits and then asking for forgiveness is taking the law into your own hands. This year, this has included a winery which dug non permitted caves with a punishment of waiting a year before it can brought before the Planning department again — to be permitted! This is lawlessness and our Planning Commission and our Board of Supervisors are supporting it with their habit of forgiving after action is taken. But more seriously, in terms of the environment, it is death by a thousand cuts.
Each of us, regardless our economic base, is faced with the conundrum of thinking of our personal interests in context of the common good, which above all, includes the environment. This is especially true for our governing officials whose job is to champion the common good. One wonders: do our Planning Commissioners and our Board of Supervisors understand that they are letting special interests bend the rules which were made to collectively protect the agricultural, social and environmental fabric of our county? Do they realize these decisions effectively erode land use decisions by the populace, rules made to protect our agricultural lands?
What do we, the citizens, do now? When the governing officials do not act for the common good, what is our recourse? It is time for serious thought, and then it is time for serious action. Please ask your district supervisor to reconsider the Planning Commissioner he or she has appointed in terms of their standing up for the rules in place and for the recommendations put forth by APAC. Don't let a few (and economic interests) redefine our protections.