Watershed Initiative 2018


Sep 15, 2016

Measure C: The Watershed Initiative



The Initiative Text
The Initiative Website
The Initiative Facebook page

Yes on C ballot argument
Rebuttal to Yes on C argument (pre lawsuit)
No on C ballot argument (post lawsuit)
Rebuttal to no on C argument
Lawsuit against No on C ballot argument

Update 6/13/18
Counting of ballots from the June 5th election has continued for seven days and as of 6/13/18 it appears that Measure C has been defeated. The vote tally stands at no: 17,471, yes: 16,839.

Update 5/7/18
Attorney Robert Perlmutter has filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission for "unlawfully using public funds to prepare a “9111 Report” that advocates against Measure C". [apparently dismissed in court]
Press release of the complaint.
Perlmutter Complaint to the FPPC
9111 Report on Watershed Initiative

Update 4/7/18
Attorney Yeoryios Apallas filed a lawsuit alleging false and misleading statements in the ballot arguments against Measure C. The suit was settled when opponents agreed to change the language of the opposition ballot statements. More on the lawsuit here

Update 2/28/18
On February 27th 2018, the Board of Supervisors, with seeming reluctance, voted to place the initiative as Measure C on the June 5th, 2018. More here

Update 1/15/18
In 2017 Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett worked on a revised version of the initiative in conjunction with some leaders of the Napa Valley vintners, to be placed on the 2018 ballot. The vintners seemed to recognize that vineyard development of Napa's watersheds and woodlands can't go on forever and they wanted to be a part of the effort to draft a long term plan. The NVV has received a lot of pushback from other wine industry stakeholders, including their own members, and it remains to be seen if an initiative can be crafted that will garner support from preservationists and at least a portion of the wine industry.

As outlined in Mike Hackett's 10/7/17 LTE, the original initiative sponsors pushed on with changes proposed by the vintners, though without their support at this point and garnered the required signatures needed to place the initiative on the June 2018 ballot.

Update 8/30/17
In 2015, Napa county residents Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett drafted an initiative in an effort to recognize and mitigate the dangers that continuing deforestation for vineyard development presents to the health of the watersheds that Napans depend on. A chronology of that failed effort is presented in Jim Wilson's summary of the final appeal in Aug. 2017.
The archive of the effort is here.

9/15/16
In the 1980's, with the Napa Valley floor almost fully developed in vineyards and a continuing flow of wannabes wishing to fulfill their Napa dreams, vineyard development in the hilly watershed areas surrounding the valley began to take off. Following several vineyard clearing projects in the late 1980's that resulted in land erosion and river sedimentation, Napa county passed Conservation Regulations in 1991 that established stream setbacks and maximum deforestation limits.

By 2002 it was apparent to some that the effectiveness of the 1991 measures were in doubt, given the magnitude of development in the watersheds, unless more protective measures were put in place. A stringent ordinance was proposed by environmentalists in 2002. In 2003 the Board of Supervisors passed a short term stream setback ordinance, banning commercial development within 25-150' from streams. Two measures were placed on the 2004 ballot in response: Measure O, an outgrowth of the 2002 effort, was created with 350-1000' setbacks and limits on deforestation. A counter Measure P, was created by the wine industry in line with the BOS 2003 ordinance. Both measures were defeated after a campaign by "land steward" property rights advocates.

In 2001 the State of California established an oak woodlands conservation fund to provide funding for the protection of oak woodlands. In 2010 a Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan was produced by Napa stakeholders and adopted by the county as a voluntary plan to be used by entities that wanted to tap into the conservation fund. This document serves as the current basis for woodland protection in the county.

Since 1991, vast areas of the watersheds have been deforested and the landscape in the hills, seen on Google Maps, now resembles Vietnam after the war rather than the forests that once defined the hills around the valley. In some areas like the Rector watershed , pictured here, the deforestation is substantial.

As an era of global warming begins to impact water sources throughout the state, concern has again heightened over the loss of forest and woodlands that retain and filter surface water for municipal reservoirs, over the depletion of groundwater and toxic runoff from ever more agriculture, and over the urban development of the watersheds for tourism facilities and vineyard housing estates. The relationship between the deforestation process and GHG emmisions has also become a concern in the county's climate action plan. The threat to the water resources and the rural environment of the county has never been greater. As with the impact of expanding tourism and industrial development on traffic and affordable, small-town community life on the valley floor, the question of the long term viability of the watersheds and the commitment to the sustainable rural community envisioned in the county general plan is now back on the agenda.

Documents:
Lawsuit documents over ballot opposition language
Phil Blake’s No-on-C treatise
Phil Blake’s 2013 editorial
Shute Mihaly Wienberger response to 9111 report
9111 Report on Watershed Initiative
Election Resolution on Watershed Initiative - Measure C
Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018 Text
The bulletin of the Napa Valley Vintners announcing the initiative.
Water, Forest, & Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2016 (nullified)
County Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan (2010)
Napa County Conservation Regulations (1991, 2007)

Articles
NVR 6/13/18: Latest vote tally shows Napa's Measure C is unlikely to win, co-author declares
NVR 6/6/18: Napa's Measure C fate may be unknown for days - or weeks
KALW radio 5/30/18: Napa Measure C: Ecological health vs. grape cultivation
NBBJ 5/23/18: Measure C sparks debate over future of Napa County vineyards
Winemag.com 5/23/18: Will Napa Valley Vote to Slow Vineyard Development?
Sac Bee 5/23/18: Divisive referendum seeks to limit vineyard growth in storied Napa Valley
KPFA webcast: Napa Voters Face Initiative Regulating Vineyard Growth
NVR 5/14/18: Opposing Measure C campaigns aim to win hearts and minds of Napa County voters
SH Star 5/9/18: St. Helena City Council endorses Measure C
SR Press Democrat 5/6/18: Measure C sparks debate over future of Napa County vineyards
NVR 5/4/18: Pro and cons of Measure C divide Napa election crowd
NVR 5/2/18: Donations to Napa's heated Measure C campaigns top $500,000
WineIndustryAdvisor LTE 4/26/18: Long-Time Napa Valley Vintners and Growers Enthusiastically Support Measure C
James Conaway's Nose 4/22/18: Where's all the money coming from opposing conservation in Napa?
NVR 4/21/18: Napa's controversial Measure C: What effects on Napa Valley agriculture?
SH Star 4/11/18: Howell Mountain vintner Joyce Black Sears: Measure C protects environment
SF Chronicle 4/8/18: Battle for Napa Valley’s future: Proposed curb on vineyards divides county
News Deeply 4/5/2018: In Napa, Watershed and Woodlands Initiative Clashes With Wineries
Wine Business.com 3/28/18: Napa County "No on C" Campaign Sued Over Ballot Argument Mistruths
Wine Industry Advisor 3/23/18: Wine Industry Under Attack in Napa
NVR 2/28/18: Napa County supervisors place oak woodland initiative on June ballot
NVR 2/22/18: Napa County report looks for flaws in the planned watershed and oak initiative
Beckstoffer, Winiarski et al. LTE 2/10/18: Oak woodland protection ballot measure is good for our community
Bohemian 1/30/18: A Vine Mess
NVR 12/1/17: Proponents file signatures for new Napa watershed and oak woodland initiative
NVR 9/27/17: Possible Napa County oak woodlands initiatives divide wine industry
Michael Honig NVV LTE 9/23/17: Facts about the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018
NVR 9/10/17: Reborn watershed initiative has Napa Valley Vintner backing

Letters to the Editor
Diane Dillon 6/12/18: Look how much we have in common
Adam Pease 6/11/18 (after the bell): Property rights are not absolute yes
Susan Rushing-Hart: 5/29/18; The science is elementary yes
Sue Wagner 5/29/18: Help prevent deforestation yes
Ellen Sabine 5/29/18: Wait and see is not an option yes
Dave Loberg 5/29/18: Don't be an impulse voter yes
Jim Dunlap 5/29/18: Vineyard development isn't appropriate everywhere yes
Mary Lu Kennelly 5/29/18: An initiative can be changed later yes
Stuart Smith 5/29/18: Letter was demeaning no
Michelle Montgomery 5/28/18: Voting without fear yes
*Lisa Hirayama 5/28/18: Tired of being ignored by Napa County officials yes
Gary Margadant 5/27/18: Your water: Who has your back? yes
Linda Kerr 5/27/18: Say 'no' to deception, Yes to Measure C yes
*Angela Camp: You’ve had bad habits all along; Now it's just official yes
Wayne Ryan 5/27/18: Don't wait to protect our environment yes
*Warren Winiarski 5/27/18: Measure C protects the water we all need yes
*Kathryn Winter 5/27/18: Measure C critics trot out same old arguments yes
Lynne Roberts 5/26/18: What are the true motives on each side of Measure C? yes
Patricia Damery 5/26/18: Replanting alone is not enough; support Measure C yes
Bernard Portet 5/26/18: Measure C is long-term good for the Napa Valley yes
Tim Ervin 5/25/18: Hey, I found some leadership yes
Jacqueline Skoda 5/25/18: Mother Nature has the last word yes
Laurie Claudon-Clark 5/25/18: Measure C continues our environmental legacy yes
Linda Brown 5/25/18: Measure C is a sensible solution yes
John Tully 5/25/18: Heads or tails? yes
Sally Kimsey 5/25/18: We pay a price for our success yes
Yountville Sun Editorials 5/24/18: The entire page 3 yes, 1 neither
Richard Burns 5/24/18: The last tree falls in the forest yes
*Randy Dunn 5/24/18: Tobacco logic? yes
William Hill 5/24/18: Help prevent forest fires: vote No on Measure C no
Scott Sedgley 5/24/18: Two reasons for Yes on C yes
*Richard Cannon 5/24/18: Measure C is for the many, not the few yes
Joanne Yates 5/24/18: The simple being made confusing yes
Alan Galbraith 5/24/18: Why St. Helena endorsed Measure C yes
Lee Hudson 5/24/18: Entitlements for the urban elite no
Johnnie White 5/23/18: “Watershed protections” in Measure C are non-existent no
Bill Keever 5/23/18: The unnecessary Measure C no
*Norma Tofanelli 5/22/18: Did you know? yes
*Geoff Ellsworth 5/21/18: Protect Napa Valley wines, water and communities yes
Joe Castro 5/20/18: I am Afraid yes
Paul Gridley and Joanie Seidel 5/20/18: You would think yes
Harvest Duhig 5/20/18: Measure C will hurt ag, small farmers no
*Diane Shepp 5/19/18: Sierra Club is for Measure C yes
Chuck Wagner 5/19/18: Our key industry also needs preservation no
Garrett Buckland 5/19/18: Grapegrowers set the gold standard for land stewardship no
Jack Rannells 5/19/18: Say it again: yes on C yes
Peter Nissen 5/19/18: Running fast and loose with the facts no
Eve Kahn 5/19/18: It’s time to get a grip on Napa's future yes
Stuart Smith 5/15/18: Initiatives are terrible way to govern no
Jesse Ramer 5/16/18: Good farmers are stewards of the land no
Tom Davies 5/16/18: Lost oasis: don't let it happen here no
Steve Kuhler 5/16/18: Phil Blake Statement was deceptive yes
David Steiner 5/16/18: Something is wrong with this picture no
Michael A. Murray 5/16/18: Measure C fails to provide a better solution no
Susan Crosby 5/16/18: Measure C: That would be a yes yes
Jeremy Wilder Fitch 5/15/18: The 411 on 795 for Measure C yes
*Cio Perez 5/15/18: Napa County’s choices for supervisor, Measure C yes
*Gove Celio, et al. 5/15/18: Vintners and growers support Yes on Measure C – protect our watershed yes
Craig Payne 5/15/18: Measure C: a poem yes
Bill Hocker 5/11/18: Wine industry decries winery proliferation yes
*Mike Hackett and Jim Wilson 5/10/18: Time’s Up: To protect local water supplies, Napa County voters must approve Measure C yes
Richard Riemann 5/10/18: Vote Yes on Measure C and preserve our oak woodlands yes
Geoff Nelson 5/10/18: Time to vote yes on Measure C yes
Bernhard Krevet 5/10/18: I have not made a public endorsement neither
*Harris Nussbaum 5/9/18: My name was misused on advertisement yes
Lisa Hummer 5/9/18: Drain the Napa swamp yes
Bill Dodd 5/9/18: Thoughtful, good-hearted people can disagree no
Harry Price 5/9/18: Reasons to vote 'yes' on Measure C yes
Paul Skinner 5/8/18: Measure C is not a wise use of initiative process no
Sharon Parham 5/9/18: Believe it - or not yes
Ginny Simms 5/8/18: We need pure air, clean water and a yes vote on Measure C yes
*Perl Perlmutter 5/7/18: Here's what the court said yes
*Andy Beckstoffer 5/6/18: Rights require responsibility – Yes on C yes
Yeoryios Apallas 5/6/18: Don't be mislead by mailers yes
Kathy Felch 5/6/18: Initiative process is healthy for democracy yes
*Ginny Simms 5/5/18: Don't make the Dust Bowl mistake yes
*Kit Long et al. 5/4/18: Measure C — A compromise yes
Vincent Gewalt 5/2/18: Don't believe the propaganda yes
Mark Epstein 5/2/18: The sun isn’t setting on Napa Valley no
Olav Lejnieks 5/2/18: Measure C will protect our water supply yes
Harold Kelly 5/1/18: Measure C will save the vineyards in the Napa Valley yes
Susan Davis 5/1/18: Money is the bottom line in Napa Valley's debate over Measure C yes
Larry Bettinelli 5/1/18: The wrong tool to protect our environment no
*Doug Parker 5/1/18; Land Trust takes no position on Measure C neither
Michael Worton 4/29/18: In support of Measure C yes
Roland Dumas 4/28/18: Anti-conservation forces mis-frame the Measure C debate yes
Lenore Hirsch 4/28/18: Just the usual baloney yes
Shelly Euser 4/27/18: A vote for yes on C
Bob Gann 4/27/18: The real truth on Measure C no
*Elaine de Man 4/27/18: Follow the Money yes
*Joyce Black Sears 4/26/18: Measure C: Murky waters and mistruths in the Napa Valley yes
Richard Bruns 4/26/18: Measure C controversy: Magnificent oak canopies in danger yes
*Tony McClimans 4/25/18: There was no other way to get action yes
Richard Bruns 4/25/18: Some thoughts on Measure C yes
Bernard Krevet (FONR) 4/24/18: Review Measure C carefully yes
Manuel Rios 4/24/18: Measure C is not what it purports to be no
Don Clark 4/24/18: Measure C is the opposite of the Ag Preserve no
Richard Svendsen 4/23/18: No on C flyer was misleading yes
*Nancy Tamarisk 4/23/18: Supervisors are an extension of the wine industry yes
*Don Williams 4/23/18: 'If government won't set limits,' residents will yes (hear! hear!)
Chris Malan 4/22/18: Science supports an imperative yes vote for Measure C yes
Linda Kerr 4/21/18: Three big reasons to support Measure C yes
*Jay Golic NVR 4/18/18: The three periods of wine yes
*Scott Sedgley et al. 4/18/18: Yes on Measure C yes
Chris Benz 4/18/18: Wineries need water—and Measure C yes
Daniel Binner 4/18/18: Vote for sustainability yes
Carolyn Hackett SH Star 4/17/18: Star editorial got it wrong on Measure C yes
Gordon Evans 4/17/18: What's really "highest and best?" yes
Penny Paul 4/16/18: Measure C will protect our water yes
Sara Cakebread 4/13/18: Opponents using ‘fake news’ to stop Measure C yes
Lowell Downey 4/13/18: Respecting the past; supporting the future yes
Patrick Higgins 4/4/18: Napa River headed for another tipping point yes
Revered Johnson 4/2/18: The Devil is in the details no
Stuart Smith 4/1/18: Explain the philosophy and science of Measure C no
Harris Nussbaum 3/30/18: Help us save what's left yes
Ken and Doug Stanton 3/29/18: Measure C endorsement yes
Donald Williams LTE 3/28/18: The time for a change yes
Tom Belt 3/20/18: A different perspective on Measure C yes
*Alan Galbraith 3/20/18: St. Helena mayor Alan Galbraith favors Measure C yes
Nancy McCoy-Blotzke 3/20/18: This measure is for all of us yes
Richard Cannon 3/17/18: What is the answer? yes
Bill Hocker 3/16/18: Property rights. Again yes
Elaine de Man 3/13/15: Help save our oak woodlands yes
Ester Akersloot 3/13/18: Let's be stewards of the land yes
*Warren Winiarski et al. 3/13/18: Grower/Vintner Support for Measure C yes
Steve Kuhler 3/12/18: Wine or water: voters will choose yes
Stuart Smith 3/10/18: Sticking it to landowners isn't the answer no
*League of Women Voters 3/8/18: Napa League responds to letter about watershed initiative yes
Julie Ann Kodmur 3/7/18: Forum on watershed initiative was biased no
Mel Bolbosa 3/6/18: If we destroy watersheds, we lose our water yes
Frank Hawkins 3/6/18: Threatening our water security should be illegal yes
Linda Brown 3/5/18: A solution to a complex problem yes
Stuart Smith 3/3/18: Initiative will unfairly take property rights no
*Norm Manzer 2/23/18: Initiative will preserve our water resources yes
*Yeoryios Apallas et al. 2/10/18: Oak woodland protection ballot measure is good for our community yes
David Kearny Brown 1/27/18: Support the Watershed Initiative yes
*Nadeau Bissiri 12/1/17: The Napa County Oak Woodland Watershed Protection Initiative of 2018 yes
*Mike Hackett 11/27/17: Citizens and science take the long view for sustainability of Napa Valley yes
Lynn Bell 11/23/17: Let's come together for our watersheds yes
Roland Dumas 11/15/17: Reading the initiative makes benefits clear yes
Yeoryios Apallas 11/5/17: Not always about the “Benjamins” yes
Christine Tittle 10/9/17: Oak woodlands initiative good for property values yes
Chris Indelicate 9/26/17: Let’s not mislead on Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative yes
Gordon Evans 9/25/17: Prevent development in watersheds yes
*Michael Honig 9/23/17: Facts about the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018 yes
*Andy Beckstoffer 9/20/17: Vote ‘yes’ for the initiative next June yes
Stuart Smith 9/20/17: NVV is tone deaf when it comes to land-use politics no
Dario Sattui 9/19/17: Adamantly opposed to watershed initiative no

Books:
James Conaway: The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley The watershed conservation battle at the turn of the millennium.

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40 comments



Measure C: watershed protections lose


Bill Hocker - Jun 12, 2018 4:33PM  Share #1918



Bill Hocker - Jun 7, 2018 3:42PM

Sandy Ericsson, former editor of the St. Helena Window and now transplanted to Oregon, sends her appreciation for the C campaign:


Hello to all from Oregon,

To everyone in this next generation of “truth to power” people, I say — Thank you! Thank you!

I had to move on and am now in Eugene, Oregon, as you may know, but in the three years since, I have lectured and written about the Napa Valley experience with big wine — powerpoint, etc. Last month, three of the founders of the core Willamette Valley wine people visited for 3 hours to dissect the problems in Napa Valley. They bluntly stated when they called that they were trying to “avoid what happened in the Napa Valley”. So they and others in Oregon are watching “C” carefully — it is already a lesson for all wine districts. Your work was and is important to every region.

When we met, I recommended a book by César Hildago, at MIT’s Media Lab, called Why Information Grows. The title does not fully identify why it applies to wine countries but it offers a future perspective on what can and will happen to regions whose economic products are anchored the land and why. It’s worth a read and some brainstorming for where to take your momentum.

Know there are a lot of people in Oregon cheering you on too!
Sandy

Tired of being ignored by Napa County officials


Lisa Hirayama - Jun 11, 2018 8:43AM  Share #1909

Once, I was naive enough to believe that Napa County was concerned about its residents, but my eyes have been glaringly pried wide open. I have attended many Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings and realized that rarely have the boards met a winery development they didn't like.

Former Supervisor Keith Caldwell said at one meeting that Napa County's policy is not to punish violators but to bring them into compliance. That certainly explains why so many permit violators barely get a slap on the hand, i.e. The Caves, Reynolds Family Winery, Reverie, and Summers to name a few.

However, that opens another can of worms because there is little enforcement for code violators, so why shouldn't wineries get away with as much as possible.

I learned that in 2008, Napa County changed the definition of agriculture to include "wine marketing and sales," which, in effect, became a zoning change from agricultural to commercial use. That opened the floodgates and "farming" now includes everything from selling a winery's souvenirs (plates, cups, hats, etc) to hosting a wedding for 300 people.

The "No" side states that if Measure C passes, it will be the end of agriculture and farming. Since they are making so much more money on the new Napa definition of "agriculture," no wonder they aren't interested in protecting the trees and water quality. I admit, I wasn't paying attention to the change being made to zoning because I wasn't personally seeing the effects, but I now realize how detrimental that revision has been.

In October 2016, Supervisor Diane Dillon visited Circle Oaks and I asked what would happen if our wells went dry and we had to truck in water because of the Walt Ranch development (in watershed). She said I'd have to pay for it.

Given what has happened in the Carneros area, I have every reason to believe that it could happen to me. The same consulting firm that said there was plenty of groundwater to support the Carneros Resort and Spa development also said there's plenty of water for Walt Ranch.

The Carneros residents told the county supervisors back then that there wasn't enough groundwater in that area, yet the county approved it. Now, 10-plus years later, the city has been trucking in water to that area and just voted to start the process to connect the resort to city water pipes. Once again, another example of fixing a problem that should never have been given the green light in the first place.

I no longer trust Napa County to protect my property and water supply because I have seen how extremely solicitous they are to the wine industry. Supervisor Belia Ramos said at the Feb. 27 meeting when the supervisors voted to place Measure C on the ballot, that she felt this was the wrong way to initiate change and that the citizens should have come to the government to work out their issues.

I've had a front-row seat for the last four years and the commissioners and supervisors consistently ignore residents' concerns about every new winery and event center that keeps getting approved. The initiative route was the only way citizens felt they could have their voices heard.

Many people believe that the complex matters of protecting the watersheds and oak trees should be left to the county supervisors. With all due respect, have any of these people actually attended a county meeting when winery projects and appeals are being discussed?

I think not, because they would see that the commissioners and supervisors continuously approve every project and appeal before them in favor of the winery. Every concern by residents is mitigated away to a less than significant impact, always by the same environmental consulting service that the county uses for every environmental impact report.

This has been going on for years, which is why citizens have worked hard collecting signatures, not once but twice, to get Measure C on the ballot. They're tired of being ignored by the supervisors and planning commissioners.

Water is a limited resource, and climate change will make droughts more extreme and water sources more scarce. Napa County lost tens, if not hundreds. of thousands of trees in the Atlas Fire, yet Napa County will still allow remaining healthy trees to be cut down in the name of wine.

The effects of losing trees and not protecting the watersheds won't occur overnight---it will takes years or decades, but it will happen. San Francisco is planting 2,000 trees over the next two years to curtail global warming because they absorb carbon dioxide. Napa County will cut down trees instead.

If there was ever a time that a citizen initiative was sorely needed, this is the time. If you're unhappy with the direction that Napa County is heading, vote 'yes' on C.

NVR version 5/28/18: Tired of being ignored by Napa County officials in which Sean Scully adds this editorial note:

Editor's Note: The Register asked Diane Dillon about the comments attributed to her by the author and she sent this response:

"Thanks for the opportunity to respond. I am not known for short conversations - especially on complex issues like the Walt Ranch - so I’m quite sure there was a larger dialogue than that one statement. My family lived in a rural area, and we relied on a well for our drinking water – so I understand and have compassion for those concerned about how a neighboring property owner’s new well might affect an existing water source.

"I distinctly remember discussing with Circle Oaks residents the challenge of proving that one or more new wells - whether installed by Walt Ranch or anyone else - whether for a vineyard - or a home/landscaping or other allowed use - could be attributed to a reduction in productivity of the Circle Oaks water supply - and the limitations of state water law on holding the new well owner responsible for that reduction. Indeed, if that happens overnight, and water is immediately needed, any property owner in that situation has to pay the cost for trucking water.

"But those conversations with residents informed and reinforced the decision to adopt for the Walt Ranch project mitigation measures that require extensive groundwater monitoring. Groundwater extraction is limited and checked monthly. If the monitoring program produces evidence that the project is having an impact on the groundwater basin, the county retains the authority to impose new conditions of approval. Further, if necessary to protect the basin, the county can revoke the project permit. The county has all the tools required to prevent the Walt Ranch from having an adverse impact on neighboring wells."


Bill Hocker - May 30, 2018 11:28AM

Lisa Hirayama responds to Diane Dillon's comments:

Sean,

Regarding Supervisor Diane Dillon’s response to my letter, “Tired of Being Ignored by Napa County Officials”, I believe her remarks are short-sighted and do not factually comport with the concerns raised in the Writ of Mandate that Circle Oaks’ litigated against Napa County and recently concluded in the Napa Superior Court. The mitigations that Supervisor Dillon is referring to are vague and not enforceable, and they are the subject of a pending appeal before the California Court of Appeals. The extensive monitoring she’s referring to is to be done by Walt Ranch, not by an impartial third party (which Circle Oaks asked for). That is the equivalent of having the fox guarding the henhouse. There will be no one checking to see that the monthly monitoring is being done. The County wouldn’t even put in a baseline level at which pumping would cease should water levels drop. Circle Oaks will only have the word of Walt Ranch that the water levels are fine. Circle Oaks did not receive any actionable safeguards for their water supply as a result of the County's approval of Walt Ranch. Napa County did not provide the same water protection guarantee for Circle Oaks’ residents that they did provide for neighbors of Circle S on Atlas Peak Road.

Yes, Supervisor Dillon had more than a short sentence response to my question, but the bottom line was that I will have to pay for water to be trucked in if the Circle Oaks County Water District’s wells go dry. She states that “if necessary to protect the basin, the county can revoke the project permit. The county has all the tools required to prevent the Walt Ranch from having an adverse impact on neighboring wells.” Please show me an example of where the County has EVER taken that action. And tell me, how well has that protection worked out for the neighbors of Carneros Resort and Spa? So, after all the trees have been cut down and the aquifer drained on Walt Ranch, then Napa County will revoke the project permit? None of that damage could ever be undone. None of what Supervisor Dillon says is enforceable, and even if it were, Napa County’s Code Enforcement Department is terribly understaffed. They provide no assurance that they will be able to respond in a timely manner to any of Circle Oaks’ concerns should our wells go dry while we await County action, if any. The key here is that Circle Oaks must first PROVE that Walt Ranch is the reason our wells went dry before any sort of review/assistance will be undertaken by the County. The onus will be on us, not on Walt Ranch, which is why I don’t trust Napa County to protect my property or water supply.

Lisa Hirayama

NVR LTE version 6/11/18: County offered no guarantees to Circle Oaks


Backup info for response

Sean,

Below are Circle Oaks' contentions concerning groundwater, which in and of themselves, demonstrate that Circle Oaks did not receive any actionable safeguards for their water supply as a result of the County's approval of Walt Ranch. This section is to verify to you my source for my comments:
(GWMMP = Groundwater Monitoring and Mitigation Plan)


1. In its Opening Brief, Circle Oaks demonstrated that while mitigation measure
4.6-4 “refers” to the GWMMP set forth at Appendix R of the Final EIR, it does not incorporate it or require compliance with it. (Opening Brief at 24.) As a result, the GWMMP is just an appendix to the EIR. The County argues the GWMMP is an enforceable mitigation measure but points to no language in the Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP) that would make it so. And as stated, regardless of whether the measures are incorporated into the MMRP, neither the MMRP or the GWMMP contain specific performance standards that would prompt the implementation of mitigation measures

2. The County claims that the Conditions of Approval and the GWWMP ensure
that monitoring and implementation of mitigation will take place. (Opp. at 37-38.) The last sentence of this section is telling. The County states “MM 4.6-4 spells out in detail the data to be collected, requires that Walt provide that information to the County, and empowers the County to take corrective action if the County and the hydrologist find it necessary.” (Opp. at 38.) The County does not explain what would prompt the implementation of mitigation, only that the County and Walt would do something if they found it necessary, and only if it is found that Walt Ranch caused the depletion.

3. Mitigation 4.6-4, in and of itself, fails to specify objective performance standards that the Project is required to meet, other than an undefined reference to “County standards” in the column for “Performance Criteria.” (Opening Brief at 26-28.) And as noted, the GWMMP provides for mitigation to occur when the level of drawdown “would not support existing land uses or planned uses for which permits have been granted” and only if it is later determined that Walt caused the drawdown. The County fails to explain what these provisions mean and how that would establish adequate performance standards. These unarticulated performance standards are insufficient to satisfy CEQA’s requirement to set identifiable performance standards at the time of project approval. [see page 12 of Reply Brief attached]

The above issues, and more, are the subject of an Appeal by the Circle Oaks community which is currently pending before the California Court of Appeals.

Lisa Hirayama

Measure C: the war of words


Bill Hocker - Jun 2, 2018 11:19AM  Share #1836

Update 6/2/18
Sean Scully cut off acceptance of political letters-to-the-editor to the Register on May 25th and the last one appeared on May 29th. I have kept track of them at the top of the Measure C page, and if the letters-to-the-editor are any indication of the popularity of Measure C it would win handily. There were 114 yes-on-C editorials to 28 no-on-C editorials and 2 neithers. We'll see if the energy needed to write translates to the ballot box.

Update 4/18/18
Jay Golic NVR 4/18/18: The three periods of wine

Jay Goric lays out the big-picture context for the stage of decline we find ourselves in. (Verified here). His analysis tracks nicely with the Butler Report's first 3 stages of tourist area evolution. Is it just a question of slowing the inevitable? We must try.

2/28/18
NVR 2/28/18: Napa County supervisors place oak woodland initiative on June ballot

Measure C, the watershed conservation initiative headed for the June 5th ballot, was officially born Feb 27th, with the supervisors as seemingly reluctant midwives. The process was an odd one: The supes first had to "receive" a "9111" report outlining the potential legal pitfalls in the text (a supposedly unbiased report done by the same law firm hired by the county to squash the 2016 version of the initiative on a technicality). That information seemed quite useless regarding the decision the Supes were allowed to make: either adopt the initiative as law or else place it on the June ballot in each case as is. It was an expensive "I told you so" document for future litigation - which undoubtedly there will be.

This promises to be a very well debated initiative. Public comments at the hearing were evenly split between "yes" and "no" and there was more than a little hyperbole: "beginning of the end of agriculture", "sincere ignorance" of proponents, a "weasel wording" 9111 document, a "voraciously aggressive" supervisor. The legal response to the 9111 report was made by Perl Perlmutter, who drafted the initiative.

Letters to the Editor on Measure C are being archived at the top of this page.

The very well financed campaign against Measure C will probably roll out the best-free-speech-that-money-can-buy megaphone to drown out the more limited finances of the grass roots campaign. Will development money again win the day as it did with Napa Pipe, the "Costco-of-our-own" and the 2016 election of Supervisors? Stay tuned.

Your water: Who has your back?


Gary Margadant - May 27, 2018 11:27PM  Share #1908

In our county, many homes and businesses use water to stay viable and meet the needs of their owners and renters. If water is to be available to all in disaster, drought and plenty, are all users willing to share responsibility to make sure your water sources are sustainable, clean and drinkable? Can you rely on your neighbors to be good neighbors?

Water passes through all our properties on the way to groundwater, rivers and reservoirs that serve us all, so what must we do to make sure this passing water meets our neighbors needs? Are we good at this sustainable thing? A couple of California water agencies say no and are sending us warnings. The Department of Water Resources says our groundwater basin has problems we need to monitor and fix. The Regional Water Quality Board says our rivers are chocked with high levels of silt that essentially make the native fish homeless, and we need to fix this too.

The DWR says the major problems for the groundwater come from various sources: Population, total wells, public wells, irrigated acres, water quality, salt water intrusion. They require a Sustainable Agency to manage our groundwater with transparency of use, for we know not what we do without a water meter.

The Water Quality Board says the major problems are vineyard development in the hills that expose the soils to erosion that carry the silt to the rivers. They require the vineyard owners fix this with Best Practices.

Good neighbors cannot duck their responsibilities to us all and these agencies will be watching over us to make sure we do the sustainability things that benefits us all. We should do the same.

Measure C is proposing a tried and true good neighbor method of sustainability.

Vote Yes on Measure C.

NVR version 5/27/18: Your water: Who has your back?

Protect Napa Valley wines, water and communities


Geoff Ellsworth - May 21, 2018 7:52PM  Share #1902

Many Napa County residents cherish our scenic hillsides. Many more enjoy drinking our local Napa wines. All should be alarmed by a current trend that is dramatically changing Napa Valley’s character, water security and livability.

The interests of corporate wineries and hospitality businesses – like mega hotels and event centers for weddings and concerts – are taking priority over those of Napa residents. This once-quaint weekend wonder is losing its sense of place, which has appealed to visitors from within and beyond the Bay Area for decades.

Protecting the Napa Valley’s water supply and scenic beauty is critical to sustaining its local economy and way of life. Endless expansion of wineries and hillside deforestation is not sustainable. Nor are the rising health impacts from agricultural chemicals in the Valley. Napa County has one of the highest cancer rates in all of California.

Local decisionmakers could put an end to this unfettered development, but Napa County has a democracy problem. Deep-pocketed wine industry players wield too much influence over elected bodies. Winery event spaces are built first and granted retroactive permits later, even when construction is inconsistent with existing zoning. Bad actors ask for forgiveness rather than permission, which flies in the face of California law.

Fortunately, residents are using the electoral process to create change. Measure C, an initiative on the June ballot, would protect the woodlands that are the main source of Napa Valley’s water supply. The Yes on C campaign is in full swing, fueled by small donations and citizen volunteers. In contrast, the opposition is being fueled mainly by the corporate wine industry, which may spend more than $1 million to spread misinformation and sow confusion about this ballot measure.

The Agricultural Preserve, established 50 years ago, protects agricultural lands from development. The watershed feeding these lands depends on oak woodlands to capture and filter rainwater, replenishing groundwater and streams so that everyone – wineries, residents and tourists – have access to clean, plentiful water. Grapes need a reliable supply of clean water just as surely as people do. Strip the hillsides of trees and you threaten that water supply.

Area residents are also fighting the owners of two proposed vineyards in court that hope to clear-cut woodlands to plant grapes. If built, the vineyards in question would increase flood risk and traffic congestion, and impact local water sources. Both proposed wineries are owned by corporate conglomerates from outside the area.

Wine lovers have a romantic vision of our region as the perfect escape from city life and a source of premium wines. But residents, visitors and distant wine drinkers alike must act if we want to preserve the Napa Valley as a healthy place to live and a beautiful place to visit.

I grew up in the Napa Valley wine business, and I know that many vintners and growers remain committed to sustainability. But their numbers are dwindling in this era of corporate consolidation.

There are actions people can take. Vote Yes on C, become active in local civic activities, and learn about the wineries you visit and the wines you buy. Support small vintners and those working with the community and the environment. The future is the Napa Valley is in our hands. Let’s work together to secure a future that works in balance for all.

Geoff Ellsworth
City Council member, St. Helena

Sierra Club is for Measure C


Diane Shepp - May 21, 2018 5:48PM  Share #1901

Sierra Club officially endorses Measure C.

As a body we decry misrepresentations made by its opponents.

Measure C is a sensible initiative requested by over 7,000 voters. It sets reasonable limits on destruction of oak woodlands in Ag, Watershed & Open Space zones of Napa County. Limits which will:

- Protect shared watersheds for clear naturally filtered water supply,
- Conserve multiple species habitats connected through wildlife corridors,
- Sequester carbon through mature oak canopies and associated vegetation, and
- Set upland buffers at waterway or woodland edges to ease climate change effects.

Sierra Club participates in the grassroots Yes on C campaign which respects community interests that care for the environment and seeks limits on haphazard development in watershed hillsides through Measure C.

Two opponents of Measure C have signed election documents representing themselves as “Sierra Club Member” and “Former Sierra Club Board Member”. We take strong exception to their attempts to mislead voters in the face of approval by the Sierra Club at all levels to endorse Measure C.

More telling is that the elected and appointed officials were sued in a lawsuit over the election documents in Napa Superior Court and they eventually agreed to correct misleading statements and pay proponents’ legal costs by settlement.

Where is their credibility now?

Sierra Club has confidence in Napa County voters and calls upon our membership to join and vote YES on Measure C.

Diane Shepp
Chair of the Napa Group of the Sierra Club

Measure C in The Guardian


Bill Hocker - May 18, 2018 12:10PM  Share #1899

The Guardian 5/18/18: Is Napa growing too much wine? Residents seek to preserve treasured land

Ginny Simms is right. Both Initiatives are not really about their specifics, important as they are. They are about the balance of power between businesses and residents to determine what Napa will be in the future.

Rally for Measure C


Bill Hocker - May 17, 2018 6:31PM  Share #1892

Update 5/16/18
Jim Wilson sends this link to to the KPFA interview of demonstrators at the Rally
Ginna Beharry, Tony McClimans and Joyce Kingery were great!
KPFA webcast: Napa Voters Face Initiative Regulating Vineyard Growth

5/15/18
Measure C Rally


Jim Wilson
Randy Dunn

Geoff Ellsworth
Chris Benz and Gary Margadant
Lisa Hirayama
Eve Kahn and Ginny Simms

Dan Mufson
Political Complication
Xulio Soriano speaks
Yeoryios Apallas at the Rally

The Measure C Rally

Cindy Grupp and Patricia Damery
Mike Hackett's granddaughter Morgann

Kellie Anderson
Jay Golic and Jim Wilson
Measure C crowd

Supervisors' Unfair Political Practice against C?


Bill Hocker - May 17, 2018 12:11PM  Share #1897

Update 6/12/18
I have been told that the complaint was dismissed. Poo.

5/17/18
On May 7th Attorney Robert "Perl" Perlmutter, lead author of the Measure C initiative, filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that the "9111" Report, commissioned by the Napa Board of Supervisors and written by the law firm Miller Starr Regalia, was not an objective and fair presentation of relevant facts concerning measure C as required by law, but was, in fact, one piece of a political opposition campaign on the part of the Board and Supervisors Pedroza and Ramos against Measure C. As such he is accusing them of illegally using public funds to promote a partisan political position.

Press release of the complaint.
Perlmutter Complaint to the FPPC
9111 Report on Watershed Initiative

I asked Sean Scully why the Register hasn't yet had an article on this issue. He responded:
...we're waiting to see what happens with it. Certainly if they find the supervisors in violation, it becomes major news. We rarely report the initial filing of an FPPC complaint simply because they are so easy to file, compared with a lawsuit.

While I respect his sincerity, and one can get carried away with parallels, this seems a bit like a mini-James Comey dilemma. This is the moment that we are all beginning to fill out our ballots. The insertion of this story at this moment may make a difference to some people [6/6/18: and a difference in the election if the vote remains so close]. If the Supervisors are found in violation after the defeat of Measure C, he risks being accused of suppressing a potential game-changing story.

Fact-based reporting


Bill Hocker - May 16, 2018 8:56AM  Share #1896

Register photo of the rally
The real rally



More of the real rally photos are here

Much is made by the opposition to Measure C about the need for fact-based decisions. But the fact is, as we've found with countless technical reports from developer's consultants over the last few years, facts can be arranged to make whatever point needs to be made, and usually the person with the most money has the most often approved arrangement.

The two photos above are facts. Which shows the reality of the Measure C rally? The Register in their article on the Measure C rally gives a woefully misleading impression about the strength of support for the initiative. Just as one of their articles on the heliport initiative initially showed a fire helicopter, giving the impression that Measure D would affect emergency response flights, this use of a photo that subtly undermines the initiative goes outside the bounds of objective reporting.

Given the editorial board's disdain of citizen initiatives despite agreeing with their intention, it does seem, whether unconsciously or not, that the Register is acting as a political tool for the moneyed establishment interests in this one-company county. Add to that the No-on-C ad banners that appear at the top of every article or LTE about Measure C and it seems to many of us like we've returned to the days of William Randolph Hearst.

Sean Scully responds:
Thanks, Bill. I am aware of the Yes on C's displeasure. I do take vigorous exception to the line " Facts, unfortunately, go to the highest bidder." That is an allegation of the highest possible journalistic misconduct. We would never make such a public assertion about you or anyone else without evidence and a fair chance to comment, and it dismays me you would do so to us.

Bill Hocker responds:
Sean,

OK, I've removed the line. Not being a real journalist, I often let my hyperbole get out of hand, and the comment was intended to be a more general complaint (which I do believe) than Register-specific but in context was pretty accusatory. I have no way of knowing what your intentions are, but all the facts point in one direction: that the Register editorial board, despite agreeing with all of the intentions of measure C and D, decided to adopt the main talking point of the wine industry that these matters are best left up to them and supervisors rather than the people. You are acting as the voice of the industry, whether you see it that way or not. The fact that much of the Register's revenue comes from that industry gives it an unseemly appearance. Tensions are pretty high over these issues, and a very misleading photo provoked a reaction.

Sean Scully responds:
Thanks, Bill.

What's interesting is that you're wrong about "much of the Register's revenue comes from that industry." The wine industry does not advertise with us, by and large. Their target market is far beyond our humble purview - wineries generally don't need to reach Napa County residents. Same, really, with tourist-based business such as hotels and resorts. Our tent-pole advertisers are local businesses such as car dealerships, mattress stores, and realtors. The loss of Vallerga's, for example, was a sad day for us, whereas wineries such as Caymus, V. Sattui, or Alpha Omega could vanish in a puff of smoke and we'd never notice the difference, revenue-wise. Election seasons are a little different, depending on the issue - The No On C campaign is obviously spending money with us this season, but then again, so is Yes on C. I don't believe the No people would have been any less inclined to advertise with us had we endorsed C than the Yes people are now.

And as far as the editorial board - it is a separate matter from the news department. It has no influence on the news coverage. Barry, Kevin and the others in the newsroom do not sit in on the board meetings, they don't participate in the discussion of the editorials. It's no secret I sit on the board, of course, but I take seriously the separation of news and opinion, and most of the base-level planning and editing for news coverage takes place several rungs below me on the management chart anyway. And as an ethical matter, editors and reporters rebel when directed by higher-ups to skew their coverage - it would be as serious an ethics violation for them to obey such an order as it would be for me or anyone above me to issue that order.

I'd be happy to have you come out and see what we do so you have a better sense of how we operate.

Bill Hocker responds:
Sean,

Thanks for the clarifications. Let me also say that Barry Eberling's reporting over the last few years has been excellent, presenting both sides fairly and going out of his way to make sure the concerns of those of us who often feel disenfranchised in planning decisions are restated in each article. No complaints there.

Wine industry decries winery proliferation


Bill Hocker - May 14, 2018 8:37PM  Share #1893

In the ballot argument against Measure C the supporters of the wine industry claim that restricting vineyard deforestation of Napa’s woodlands would be "opening the door for event centers and more luxury homes to be developed across our agricultural watershed; destroying our viewshed and hillsides; and increasing traffic on our already congested rural roads and Highway 29."

No reasons for this thinking were mentioned, but such overt fear-mongering is apparently the new normal in this age of evidence-free claims. Forgive me if I find it hard to believe that a plutocrat will more likely splurge on a Napa fantasy without vines than with. And that corporations and plutocrats will more likely speculate on event-center projects without vines than with.

What’s most interesting in the statement is that even members of the industry now refer to wineries as “event centers” -- and that they are supporting the idea that the creation of them is destroying views and clogging roads. Hear, Hear!

But where was this concern while one event center after another was being approved throughout the county and while the traffic congestion was being worsened by ever more visitation increases, both new and retroactive, to existing wineries?

And their fear over luxury homes? Where was the industry concern when the all-weather roads and a water system were approved for the 35 parcels on Walt Ranch, opening an inaccessible wilderness for the development of luxury home estates?

Their talking points, of course, confirm exactly what Napa citizens have been shouting about, and writing about, and litigating for the last few years in large community meetings, at APAC, in countless planning commission and supervisor hearings and in the courts - while being opposed by the industry and its government every step of the way.

Now, suddenly, the industry frets about more event centers, luxury homes and traffic congestion.

Of course there may be another, perhaps cynical, but more logical, explanation for the hypocrisy of the industry in their opposition statement (and the deceptions on their billboards!): that they are just trying to bamboozle voters, who they know are upset about industry-caused winery proliferation and viewshed destruction and traffic congestion, hoping they will believe the nonsense that restrictions on vineyard conversion of the remote areas of the county will lead to more building development there rather than less.

As is illustrated by Walt Ranch, given Napa’s agricultural zoning, vineyard creation is the necessary vehicle for real estate development in the watersheds. The defeat of Measure C would insure that woodland properties can continue to be developed and sold off to buyers wishing to tap into Napa’s vineyard-themed good life. Vineyard development is the essential precursor for more event centers and luxury homes to be built.

Don’t just take my word for it. Phil Blake, now regrettably an opponent of vineyard regulation, expressed the same point in a 2013 editorial: “The drafting of the WDO was a very important, visionary action on the part of county leaders to recognize both what the future would look like without responsible planning policy...The WDO report placed a strong emphasis on how unregulated vineyard expansion in our hillside frontier lands could be a major contributing factor to undesirable proliferation of winery facilities.”

The ultimate impacts of Measure C are no more predictable than those of the Ag Preserve were. We can be certain that Napa’s water quantity and quality will be better protected if the watersheds are left undisturbed - from agriculture or building development. For sure, as more vineyards are created in the watersheds, they will inevitably have luxury homes and event centers built beside them.

The main reason to vote Yes on Measure C is to protect the water resources that our county's existing farmers and residents will need in the future in an age of global warming. But the reduction of building projects that further urbanize our hillsides and add to our traffic will likely be an additional benefit of its passage. Don't be fooled by the inverted newspeak of the opposition ballot arguments.

Vote Yes on C.

NVR version 5/11/18: Wine industry decries winery proliferation

My name was misused on C


Harris Nussbaum - May 10, 2018 8:54PM  Share #1890

I was really upset when I saw my name in the four-page front flyer of Sunday's Napa Valley Register as a supporter of No on Measure C. That is so far from the truth as are so many other statements in that and the almost daily flyers we receive from them.

I support the wine and grape industries and appreciate all that so many individuals in those groups have done for this valley. It is unfortunate that a subgroup of those groups are willing to spend well over a million dollars and use so many untruths to defeat it. No on Measure C was not validated by our superior court. They had to withdraw five false items from the ballot and pay over a $50,000 in legal costs.

It will not increase traffic on Highway 29. It does not encourage development of luxury homes It is not vague and was written by the attorneys who wrote Measures J and P and with the help of members of the wine and grape industries. Yes on C is funded by small contributions from a significant number of caring individuals, not large corporations.

The initiative process is an important tool for the people to protect themselves. It is sad that our leaders failed to do that. In 2015, because of concerns expressed by many individuals, our board of supervisors formed the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee to take care of the problems that exist, but stacked it with one-sided industry representatives, so very little was accomplished.

Our leaders could have done what Measure C will do, but didn't. Walt Ranch wanted to take out 26,000 trees, but with pressure from the public reduced it. But it will still be removing 14,000. How many young birds and baby animals will be destroyed?

If left to our leaders and certain business people, our hills will be completely bare. Trees are important. They absorb carbon dioxide, help the ground absorb and filter needed water, house animals and birds, stabilize the soil and create beauty.

I find it sad that for some, the only beauty they can see is the bottom line and they will use anything necessary to increase that, no matter how it will affect the well-being of our citizens. We have almost no current limitations on deforestation of hillsides. And with legislation through fear, who is looking out for our best interest?

Yes on C is far more important than people realize. It is time to say money and using distortions of the truth can't control our political processes. It is time to stand up and be heard.

It is appalling for the No on C to use mine and other names they used without our permission. I urge you to please vote Yes on Measure C-it is the right thing to do. Like with the Ag Preserve and in the words of Warren Winiarski, "Napa will be better because of it." Thank you.

NVR version 5/10/18: My name was misused on advertisement

Time’s Up: To protect local water supplies, Napa County voters must approve Measure C


Mike Hackett - May 10, 2018 12:45AM  Share #1895

The Napa Valley Register’s recent editorial had a lot of good things to say about Measure C, and for good reason ("The measures on the June Ballot," April 29). Napa County’s water security is in jeopardy and protecting our oak woodlands would go a long way toward improving the situation.

As stated in the editorial, it’s time to “take a hard look at the current regulations protecting the streams and trees in the hills surrounding the valley.” The facts are clear that, “Those forests and streams feed the Napa River and recharge the reservoirs and aquifers that supply the cities and vineyards on the Valley floor. Those trees are not just scenic treasures, but also a line of defense against the looming menace of climate change.”

We agree that we must act proactively to protect Napa County’s water supply, just as we protected the land best suited to farming by establishing the Ag Preserve in 1968. As the editorial noted, “we should not wait until there is a tree-clearing gold rush in our back country, or until our aquifers begin to fail, before protecting the national treasure that is Napa County.”

Where we part ways with the newspaper is in its faith that our Board of Supervisors will improve protections for our watershed lands. Experience proves that the only way to increase protections of our watershed lands is through a citizens’ initiative.

Everyone in the county has known that this initiative was coming for at least three years. We first gathered signatures to place a very similar measure on the 2016 ballot. After signatures were gathered, county counsel identified a legal procedural flaw at the 11th hour, forcing our team to collect a new set of signatures to qualify for the current ballot. That means proponents successfully collected more than 6,000 signatures twice in support of this measure in the past few years.

Once signatures were gathered, the Board of Supervisors had a chance to adopt the measure outright. But did they choose to do so? No. Because the corporate wine industry enjoys an outsized influence over our elected officials.

People who have been tracking the journey of Measure C know, that after we failed to get this initiative onto the 2016 ballot, we worked with leaders from the Napa Valley Vintners to develop the initiative that is now before you. (The NVV has since caved to pressure from some of its largest members, many of which are large corporations without local roots.)

NVV’s leaders knew Measure C was coming. Rather than wait and see what it would include, they actively collaborated to shape the details of the measure. That 795-acre cap for oak woodland clearing in the Ag Watershed for agricultural purposes? NVV suggested that number as a reasonable compromise.

NVV was so involved in drafting this measure, they paid for more than half of the legal bills associated with putting it together. Their leaders had private meetings with every supervisor and our team to introduce the new initiative and ask for support from each of them.

In private, we had firm commitments from at least three of the supervisors that they would support Measure C. All of them made clear that they were supportive because wine industry leaders provided the cover they needed. It was a natural: super-influential wine industry group representing over 500 vintners, aligned in a compromise agreement to save our water supply and oak woodlands into the future. One supervisor even signaled the board would likely adopt the measure outright once signatures were collected and suggested the county have a party to celebrate its adoption in conjunction with 50th anniversary celebrations for the Ag Preserve.

We remember these details clearly because we took detailed contemporaneous notes at and after all of these meetings.

When the major wine industry groups later opted to oppose the initiative, our elected officials lost their nerve. They realized they would have to risk alienating major campaign contributors by taking a stand that might upset a handful of extremely rich and powerful wine industry interests. Rather than take that risk, they caved.

So, Napa County voters should understand why we’re not going to wait and see if our elected officials will take the urgent action needed to protect Napa County’s water supplies. We already know they won’t.

Climate change is not waiting for the supervisors to wake up to the reality of what another harsh and extended drought would mean for our water supplies. Farmers – including grapegrowers – are not waiting for the new regulations to cut down oaks as quickly as possible from our Ag Watershed.

To borrow a phrase from another urgent movement of our era, Time’s Up: The time to protect local water supplies is now, and the citizens can make it happen. Yes on C.

Mike Hackett and Jim Wilson

NVR LTE version 5/10/18: Time’s Up: To protect local water supplies, Napa County voters must approve Measure C

Don't be mislead by mailers


Yeoryios Apallas - May 7, 2018 11:12AM  Share #1880

For several weeks now, the opposition to Measure C has spent a great deal of money spreading, what in my opinion is, materially misleading information about Measure C and its impacts on the watershed and the wine industry’s ability to plant vineyards into our precious agricultural watersheds.

Armed with a million-plus in wine and tourist industry dollars, the No On C folks have excoriated the provisions of Measure C and its proponents to the point of mass hysteria. This unrelenting attack on Measure C’s common sense-watershed protection has, in my opinion, brought out the darkest of forces in these industries that seek to continue their irresponsible and heretofore unchecked winery developments.

Make no mistake about it. This war chest is only the beginning. They are prepared to spend millions more, I think, to defeat Measure C.

The sponsors of Measure C are a group of right-thinking Napa citizens that span the entire spectrum of industries, from farmers, grape growers like me, scientists, environmentalists and just plain folks that are trying to preserve our watershed and the oak trees that act like sponges in absorbing surface water and releasing it slowly back into the watershed.

They are in it for the long game to preserve a sustainable Napa Valley and its thriving wine industry.

The wine and tourist industry, however, buffeted by quarterly and annual financial returns are slightly more myopic—seeing only as far as the next 90-day financial statements.

We, who are playing the long game, will never be able to match their barrage off glossy mailers that are riddled with hysterical, colorful, and alarming prose.

So, what are we to do?

First, we must, and will rely on the common sense of our Napa Valley residents to read, evaluate, and assess the veracity of the wine industry claims and come to some enlightened decisions about which way they should cast their votes.

Second, they must assess and weigh the motivation behind the wine and tourist industries’ spend of a million-plus dollars to defeat Measure C. The industries’ jejune suggestion that Measure C, if enacted, will dot our hills with mega-mansions and will bring unbearable traffic increases, elides the fact that these consequences have already visited our picturesque valley thanks to the unchecked development of wineries and event centers and other tourist venues and hotels that service tourism.

Finally, we ask the voters of Napa Valley to take a sober view of what the glossy industry mailers contain and ask themselves whether these representations pass the “clear eye” test. In my view, they do not and the glossy wine industry advertisements should be tossed in the recycle bin.

Facts are a stubborn thing and cannot be suborned by industry hyperbole and questionable analyses. Visit the Yes on Measure C’s website, protectnapawatersheds.org, and read the scientific and government documents and, as we know, you will cast an informed vote.

In sum, do not be misled by the glossy mailers of the wine and tourist industries. They have an economic axe to grind. Measure C proponents do not. They simply want to safeguard and promote the health of the watershed and the oak trees that replenish this precious water source.

After reading all of the facts, you will reach the ineluctable conclusion, as I did, that a Yes on Measure C is a vote for sustainability of Napa Valley’s water resources. Thank you for your time and your vote for Measure C and a sustainable water source for our children’s children and their grandchildren.

NVR version 5/6/18: Don't be mislead by mailers

County removes false 'No on C' ballot arguments


Bill Hocker - May 6, 2018 7:37PM  Share #1848

Update 5/6/18
Perl Perlmutter, the attorney who drafted Measure C, has written an op-ed explaining the significance of the decision against the opponents of Measure C for false and misleading statements in their ballot statement.

Perl Perlmutter LTE 5/6/18: Here's what the court said

Update 4/3/18
NVR 4/7/18: Measure C opponents agree to ballot argument changes

Yes on C press release on changes

Note that the statements removed were those where concrete evidence showed them to be false, like “all Napa mayors and Supervisors oppose measure C” when affidavits from them prove otherwise. The equally outrageous claims involving opinion, like fewer vineyards causing increased traffic on Hwy 29, were not removed because there is no provable truth to some causation, however nonsensical. The language touting such speculation should have been changed from “will” to “may”.

Yes-On-C Announcement: Voters Deserve the Truth

Update 4/3/18
NVR 4/3/18: Backers of Napa County ballot measures cry foul on opposition arguments

3/30/18
Attorney Yeoryios Apallas has filed a lawsuit alleging false and misleading statements in the ballot arguments against Measure C. The case will be heard in Napa County Superior Court, 1111 3rd St, Napa on April 6, 2018 starting at 11:30am.Revised date and time

Wine Business.com 3/28/18: Napa County "No on C" Campaign Sued Over Ballot Argument Mistruths

A buried reference to the lawsuit is here:
NVR 2/28/18: Napa supervisors want to explore appointed Registrar of Voters position

The press release on the lawsuit is here

The Lawsuit documents
Proposed Judgment on Lawsuit
Verified Petition for Writ of Mandate (the suit)
Yeoryios Apallas Memorandum of Points in Support of Petition
Declaration of Alan Galbraith in Support of Petition
Declaration of Robert Perlmutter in Support of Petition
(with exhibits including contested ballot statement exhibit 1)


Bill Hocker - Mar 30, 2018 10:48PM

As if John Teuter didn't have enough on his plate, attorney Yeoryios Apallas has filed a lawsuit alleging false and misleading statements in the ballot arguments against Measure C. It is not hard to see why:

From the ballot opposition statement:
“Measure C will outlaw future farming in the Ag Watershed and encourage other types of development, while still allowing 795 acres of oak woodlands to be removed - opening the door for event centers and more luxury homes to be developed across our agricultural watershed; destroying our viewshed and hillsides; and increasing traffic on our already congested rural roads and Highway 29”


(This statement is an interesting, perhaps first, example of supporters of the "wine industry” embracing "event center" to describe a winery. Thank you.)

Such overt fear-mongering in an opposition statement would normally be easy to dismiss, but in the age of Trumpian fake-everything and fact-free discourse there can be very real-world consequences to phony claims. Of particular concern to me?: the opponents’ ingenuous concern that winery and housing development in the watersheds will increase as vineyards are reduced.

The concept that plutocrats and corporations will be more likely to build event centers and mansions on remote properties without vines than they already do on properties with vines makes no sense. How many would want to buy one of the 35 inaccessible Walt Ranch properties without the vines, roads, water system and cachet that vineyard development provides? Once the vines are in, the buildings will arrive. And not before.

Perhaps there is the implication that the watersheds, providing the water needed for the Napa’s real agricultural economy and its municipalities, and providing the beauty that is the pride of residents and tourists alike, may be rezoned to residential-commercial use because you can’t farm there. Let's put it to the vote.

It is, of course, always possible to redefine “agriculture” to encourage more commercial building in ag zones. The conversion of mere wineries into event enters has been a successful objective of many in the wine industry - codified with increasing force in 1990, 2008, 2010 and 2018 - and it is always possible the hypocritical event center prediction in the opposition statement may be fulfilled by the industry itself - a danger whether the vines are allowed or not. Napa's peculiar definition of "agriculture" should also be put to the vote.

The conversion of the natural watersheds into agriculture is just the initial step in an urbanization process. Vineyard creation is the main impetus for continuing real estate development there. Contrary to the prevention of new construction in the watersheds, the opponents of Measure C really seek to insure that woodland properties can continue to be sold off to buyers wishing to tap into Napa’s vineyard-themed good life. Vineyard development, they know, is the essential precursor for more event centers and luxury homes to be built. One of the signatories to the opposition statement highlighted this reality himself in a 2013 editorial.

While the main reason to vote Yes on Measure C is to protect the water resources that our county's existing farmers and residents will need in the future in an age of global warming, restricting building projects that further urbanize our hillsides and add to our traffic woes will be a very predictable additional benefit. Don't be fooled by ballot arguments.

No-on-C bogus claims


Bill Hocker - May 1, 2018 11:27PM  Share #1859

In the ballot argument against Measure C, the claim is made that restricting vineyard expansion under Measure C would be "opening the door for event centers and more luxury homes to be developed across our agricultural watershed; destroying our viewshed and hillsides; and increasing traffic on our already congested rural roads and Highway 29".

No reasons for this thinking were mentioned, and such overt fear-mongering would normally be easy to dismiss. But in the age of Trumpian fake-everything and fact-free discourse there can be very real-world consequences to phony claims.

There are two interesting aspects to this claim.

More development without vines than with?

The first is the concept that corporations and plutocrats will be more likely to build event centers and mansions on remote properties without vines than they already do on properties with vines. It is certainly a counterintuitive notion to think that not being allowed a vineyard next to your winery or home, increases the likelihood that you, with millions to spend on a wine-country lifestyle, would be more likely to build. Most people investing in wineries or luxury homes do so to capture the wine-growing cachet that the valley affords.

How many wealthy, good-life home buyers would want to buy one of the 35 inaccessible Walt Ranch properties without the vines, roads, water system and cachet that vineyard development provides? Once the vines are in, or the certainty that they soon will be, there may be a reason to buy. But probably not before.

And is it more likely, or even as likely, wineries will be built on properties without vines than on properties with a vineyard? What is the purpose of a winery If not to process grapes? Of course, a skeptic might say that wineries are no longer about making wine. They are event centers in which a bucolic location or a magnificent view counts for more than proximity to grapes. That may be true. But there will be resistance, I suspect, to that rationale when approving use permits, which should make them more rather than less difficult to grant than before.

Perhaps there is the implication, given the normal power of the developers over governments, that the watersheds, which provide the water needed for the Napa’s real agricultural economy and its municipalities, and provides the beauty that is the pride of residents and tourists alike, could be rezoned to residential-commercial-industrial use because you can’t farm there. Let's put it to the vote - as it would have to be.

It is, of course, always possible to redefine “agriculture” to encourage more commercial building in ag zones. The conversion of mere wineries into event enters has been a successful objective of many in the wine industry - codified with increasing force in 1990, 2008, 2010 and 2018 - and it is always possible the event center prediction in the opposition statement may be fulfilled by the industry itself - a danger whether the vines are allowed or not. (Napa's peculiar definition of "agriculture" should also be put to the vote.)

The conversion of the natural watersheds into agriculture is just the initial step in an urbanization process and vineyard creation is the main impetus for continuing real estate development there. Contrary to the prevention of new construction in the watersheds, the opponents of Measure C really seek to insure that woodland properties can continue to be sold off to buyers wishing to tap into Napa’s vineyard-themed good life. Vineyard development, they know, is the essential precursor for more event centers and luxury homes to be built. It is a reality best summed up by Phil Blake, now one of the signatories to the opposition statement, in a 2013 editorial:
“The drafting of the WDO was a very important, visionary action on the part of county leaders to recognize both what the future would look like without responsible planning policy...The WDO report placed a strong emphasis on how unregulated vineyard expansion in our hillside frontier lands could be a major contributing factor to undesirable proliferation of winery facilities.”

Amen.

Wine Industry recognizes negative impacts of wineries

The second interesting fact is that opponents to measure C, who include the four wine industry stakeholders in the valley, now see the proliferation of event centers as "destroying our viewshed and hillsides; and increasing traffic on our already congested rural roads and highway 29" (in the words of opposition ballot argument.) Where has this outrage been while event center after event center was being approved and built in the watersheds and while the congestion was being created by ever more winery tourism development.

Even their use of the term "event center" is a turnabout in reference to wineries. ("There is no such thing as an event center" one wine industry supporter bellowed at a public hearing.) In taking this line on event centers they are confirming something that Napa citizens have been up in arms about for the last few years with no give from the wine industry or the government, despite large community meetings, APAC and vociferous opposition to individual winery projects. Now they see event centers as a problem. Also amen.

Of course there is another possibility for this volte-face: that the wine industry and the government that serves it are just hypocritically fear-mongering to voters whom they know are upset about winery proliferation, hoping that voters will believe the canard that fewer vines will mean more of those terrible wineries.

No-one really knows what will change when Measure C is enacted, any more than the long term result of the Ag Preserve ordinance was known. We do know that water and watersheds will be better for being left undisturbed, even if the economic effects are less certain. One thing is for sure - if Measure C proves to be a mistake, the damage done will be infinitely less than the irreversible damage done by the development of vineyards and the inevitable luxury homes and event centers that will be built beside them and the traffic that they bring.

While the main reason to vote Yes on Measure C is to protect the water resources that our county's existing farmers and residents will need in the future in an age of global warming, the reduction of building projects that further urbanize our hillsides and add to our traffic woes will be a very probable additional benefit. Don't be fooled by the feigned fears of the duplicitous ballot arguments.

Grower/Vintner Support for Measure C


Yeoryios Apallas - Apr 26, 2018 8:52PM  Share #1834

Update 5/6/18

Letters to the Editor
Andy Beckstoffer 5/6/18: Rights require responsibility – Yes on C
Yeoryios Apallas 5/6/18: Don't be mislead by mailers
Joyce Black Sears 4/26/18: Measure C: Murky waters and mistruths in the Napa Valley
Yeoryios Apallas et al. 2/10/18: Oak woodland protection ballot measure is good for our community

Update 4/26/18
WineIndustryAdvisor 4/26/18: Long-Time Napa Valley Vintners and Growers Enthusiastically Support Measure C

Update 4/13/18
SH Star 4/11/18: Howell Mountain vintner Joyce Black Sears: Measure C protects environment

3/13/18
From “Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture”

We are very happy that the Watershed and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative has been approved for inclusion as Measure C on the June ballot. We particularly like that this was named Measure C, as “C” to us stands for conservation, which we favor because our natural resources are not infinite. Those of us who have come together now have a name – “Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture” – as we want to communicate to the citizens of Napa County that there are many of us in the Grower and Vintner community who support this initiative. Our focus is on stewardship of our watershed, and we recognize that Measure C gives the voters of Napa County the opportunity to ensure that our watershed is protected now and into the future.

The Agricultural Preserve (AP) came into existence in 1968 – its 50th Anniversary is being celebrated in many ways this year! Though it was very controversial when it was created, and though it was considered legally uncertain, it has prevailed all tests and it has protected Napa Valley for agriculture for the last half century.

Measure C aims to offer protection to our Agricultural Watershed (AW). Our Watershed is the source of most of the water we use. We, as members of the vintner and grower community, understand how important a healthy watershed is to the citizens of Napa County, to our natural environment, and to the perpetuation of sustainable agriculture in our community. To the latter point, we know that we have a right to farm, but we also know that it is our obligation to farm responsibly. It is for these reasons that Measure C has our fullest support.

Again, the question to be asked is, Will the Napa Valley itself be better if this measure is passed?” We strongly think so.

Signers:
Yeoryios Apallas, Soda Creek Vineyards
Andy Beckstoffer, Beckstoffer Vineyards
Tom Clark, Clark Claudon Vineyards
Randy Dunn, Dunn Vineyards
Bob Dwyer, past Director of NVGG & NVV
Robin Lail, Lail Vineyards
Dick Maher, past NVV President
Beth Novak Milliken, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery
Joyce Black Sears, Black Sears Vineyard
Warren Winiarski, Arcadia Vineyards


NVR LTE version 3/13/18: Grower/Vintner Support for Measure C

Supervisors are an extension of the wine industry


Nancy Tamarisk - Apr 23, 2018 7:09PM  Share #1872

Here is a challenge: Provide a list of any and all times in the past five years when the Napa Board of Supervisors took a stand contrary to wine industry wishes.

Having trouble finding examples? That is why the writers of Measure C, the Watershed and Oak Woodlands Protection Ordinance were forced to resort to the initiative process.

Initiatives are filed as a last resort when people have lost faith that their government bodies represent them, often when people believe that officials are captive to special interests.

The Napa Valley Vintners helped craft Measure C. They were co-filers of the measure. The Vintners reversed themselves and withdrew after objections by some of the big boys in the industry. Far from being anti-agriculture, Measure C has a long history of substantial wine industry support.

Napa community activists have invested tremendous efforts over many years working to advance policy changes. But these efforts have brought us near to nothing.

Years of collaboration on two draft climate action plans, and still no plan. An adequate climate action plan would protect crucial woodlands which absorb greenhouse gases. Walt Ranch would not be allowed to cut down over 14,000 trees, while replanting less than 200. With a good climate action plan, we would not need Measure C.

In 2015, after an outpouring of community opposition to the proliferation of winery event centers, the county formed APAC, the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee to examine winery policy. But in the end, APAC, stacked with wine industry representatives, produced no significant changes.

So: participate in county working groups, or testify at hearings. Then, step aside for the real “deciders”-- the wine industry—to weigh in and determine the final outcome.

When our board of supervisors functions as a branch of the wine industry, initiatives become the only way to enact vital environmental protections.

Measure C is a long-delayed chance for Napa’s voters to reclaim some power. It is perhaps our only chance, to say enough is enough. We value our woodlands, our water, and our wild habitat over excessive vineyard expansion into our hillsides.

NVR LTE version 4/23/18: Supervisors are an extension of the wine industry

'If government won't set limits,' residents will


Donald Williams - Apr 23, 2018 6:29PM  Share #1874

Measure C is about more than saving trees and water.

It’s about recognizing that there are limits in Napa County.

It’s not the job of business to set limits. It’s the job of business to make money. That’s why wine industry organizations oppose C: their job is to make money. It’s the job of government to establish rules on how to do that.

And if our government won’t set limits, it becomes our job as residents and stewards of the land to do it.

That’s why this important preservationist proposal was generated -- not from the top by our legislators, but instead from the bottom by the thousands of us who signed to get it on the ballot. For years our supervisors have not seen fit to recognize limits. There still are no county-wide limits on production, or visitors, or events at wineries. Can the valley host an infinite number of visitors or events?

Nope. The numbers must be limited.

But county government has not done its job. Doling out permits for visitors and events without knowing the valley’s limits is an irresponsible expenditure of an irreplaceable resource. If our representatives won’t protect us from excessive tourism, tree-cutting, water exploitation, and helicopter noise, we must do it ourselves.

The St. Helena Star and other “C” opponents complain that initiatives are difficult to modify. They prefer collaboration among stakeholders. Sounds good, right?

Pshaw! After eight hours of testimony in a meeting of 500 locals in 2015, county government established just such a committee. Now its APAC report slumbers on a shelf, forgotten and ignored, a waste of time and paper. Measure C, by contrast, written in collaboration with wine industry representatives, and endorsed by many in that industry, will actually save trees and water.

The Star and other opponents quibble while Rome burns. Now is the time when traffic chokes our roads. Now is the time when tourism is supplanting agriculture. Now is the time when our towns are dangerously addicted to tourism. Now is the time not to equivocate. Now is the time to approve C.

Calistoga version 4/23/18: 'If government won't set limits,' residents will

The money behind all those big No-on-C signs.


Bill Hocker - Apr 23, 2018 4:34PM  Share #1871

James Conaway on his blog "nose" has published an anonymous analysis of who is behind the No-on-C campaign. Since he indicates that it was also sent to the Register it can't remain anonymous for long. Here it is:

Where's all the money coming from opposing conservation in Napa?

When it comes to the promotion of issues that will end in more development of Napa's open spaces, there is never a shortage of money. As with the Keep Napa Napa campaign on Napa Pipe, the "Costco-of-our-own" campaign and the promotion of pro-development supervisors, following the money always leads to more buildings, more people, more traffic and the loss of the rural character of the county.

Farm Bureau sells out


Bill Hocker - Apr 3, 2018 3:01PM  Share #1856

The Farm Bureau has sent out a letter fear-mongering the potential effects of Measure C: Lower property values! Government intrusion into your landscaping decisions!

In a recent editorial, a vintner condemning Measure C as an assault on property rights, praised Prop 13 as a good example of why California has the initiative process. "Initiatives", he wrote "are considered a safety valve, the court of last resort, when government is unresponsive to people's wishes". I couldn't agree more. Measure C exists because Napa's government has been unresponsive to its citizen's desire for more protection for their rural environment.

The survival of Napa's rural and agricultural landscape is a direct result of the desire of the county's residents to sustain, in an urbanizing world, an agricultural based economy and the rural quality of life that it creates. In a time when the wine industry was made up of mostly resident farmers and wine makers, the interests of the wine industry and of county residents were coincident in that goal, and protections against the urbanization of the county were enacted by elected governmental officials.

But the wine industry, as is often pointed out, has changed. Aging resident farmers and vintners have sold out to corporations and a plethora of good-life entrepreneurs seeking cachet with a winery-of-their-own and tourists to admire it (latest example). And the wine industry and the government that serves it have sold out as well, with little interest in Napa County as a place to live, only as a resource to be marketed and taxed.

The Farm Bureau, until recently the most staunch protector of the rural heritage of Napa County, has now become a greenwash for the development industries that wish to carve up the real estate of the watersheds for vineyard estates and event center attractions.

The amount of vineyard area that may be added to the county is unlikely to be large even without Measure C. Barely 1000 producing acres of grapes have been added in the last 10 years. But the increased value of property with even the smallest life-style vineyard is enormous - enough to make the development of remote properties profitable. Walt Ranch, dividing 200 acres of vines among 35 inaccessible properties over 2300 acres, is the poster child for the trend. This is not about the expansion of wine making in Napa - it is about real estate development.

As with almost every other local government, the Napa county government which was once committed to prevent urbanization, has now become a tool of those development interests. The impacts are all around us: in traffic congestion, and buildings invading the vineyards, the scars in the the forested hillsides for vineyards and buildings, in the loss of affordable housing and local shops to the tourism economy, in the requests for bond measures to pay of the new infrastructure to support the expanded development.

The shame is that the Farm Bureau, until recently, was vehemently opposed to this urbanization. Previously leaders of the Farm Bureau knew, as anyone who has lived in California for any length of time knows, that the urbanization that developers bring, whether housing tracts or destination tourism venues and events, is the death of agriculture. I suspect that the current leaders of the Farm Bureau know this as well. I can only assume that agriculture just isn't that important to them.

Manuel Ríos LTE 4/24/18: Measure C is not what it purports to be

Manuel Rios, current President of the Farm Bureau, repeats the canard that less vineyard development will mean more "luxury homes and wineries", as if anyone is more likely to develop a property without vines in Napa County that they are with. Absent a vineyard, the lack of good-life recognition that vineyards bestow will make investment in remote areas of the county much less likely to happen, not more.

Property rights. Again


Bill Hocker - Mar 16, 2018 11:20AM  Share #1833

Update 3/16/18
On KQED Forum this morning, Stuart Smith called in to challenge James Conway who was being interviewed. He felt that his friend, Jim, was bad-mouthing an industry that has been extremely successful in resisting the urbanization of the rest of the Bay Area, and pointed to the protections that have been put in place, citing the Ag Preserve, the WDO, and conservation ordinances, that make it so. Time was short, and Mr. Conway passed on an opportunity to ask him why, if he is so proud of these laws, he is so vehemently opposed to the conservation benefits and further protection that might arise from Measure C. All of the previous measures that he touts were also opposed vehemently by many members of the wine industry who felt that their options would be limited and their rights curtailed. In light of that, his opposition to Measure C seems quite illogical - or perhaps, as Mr. Conaway responded, he is just over-reacting.

3/10/18 Property rights redux
Vintner Stuart Smith has now written a second letter-to-the-editor on 3/9/18 regarding the watershed conservation initiative, Measure C, "Sticking it to landowners isn't the answer", in which he defends, with even more hyperbole, his previous letter of 3/2/18 "Initiative will unfairly take property rights.

His is not the first complaint from a vintner about being denied property rights.

"John Daniel, former owner of the Inglenook Vineyard and still owner of extensive vineyard property, called the AP zone in its present form 'patently unfair, un-american and socialistic'. He called the proposal's objectives 'vague and imprecise' and said the disadvantages will be definite and specific. 'We will be deprived of our property rights with no compensation.' "

- from the Napa Valley Register Dec 21, 1967 [the full article is here ]

It needs to be restated that the ability of vintners like Mr. Smith to make wine in this county today is a direct result of property rights that were denied in to property owners in 1968. Being denied the right to subdivide their properties, or sell them for non-ag use, meant the survival of agriculture here while the rest of the Bay Area urbanized.

The purpose of the Ag Preserve was not seen at the time as simply about the protection of an agricultural industry against urban development. It was, in the words of Supervisor Jack Ferguson at the time, that the people of Napa "wish to create for themselves the environment in which they wish to live, and for future generations." It was not about protecting an industry, but a way of life. [the full article is here ]

Measure C, likewise, is all about the environment in which we wish to live.

Will there be economic impacts to the Initiative? Perhaps. But they are as unpredictable as those of the 1968 decision. And unlike 50 years ago, there is much less danger that the impacts will affect current property owners like Mr. Smith. The woodlands protected by the initiative are a limit on future development, most likely undertaken by future owners. As they were in 1968, the negative implications are probably greater for the real estate industry than the wine industry. And for agricultural enterprises and a rural way of life, now as then, dampening the real estate market is a very good thing.

There may be vintners and growers sitting on undeveloped woodland that they had always hoped to plant or sell off to some corporation or plutocrat. With further woodland removal restricted, they can console themselves with the increased value of their existing vineyards. There are probably those that see this as an infringement on their ability to expand their wine production. But it's not the quantity of Napa wine that has led to it's success but it's quality. Indeed, the limited quantity of wine produced in the county is probably a part of its success. As long as Napa's vintners remain committed to quality over quantity, the wine industry can remain healthy, as it is now, whether the hills are clothed in oaks or vines.

The property rights argument, as Mr. Smith presents it in his rants, seems more a philosophical thing, an indignation that government, or mere voters, should curtail his rights. Like it or not, we live in a world of laws that proscribe our rights, and while there can be bad ones, there are also good ones, like the Ag Preserve. Measure C is also a good one. Mr. Smith's net worth may be affected by the Watershed Initiative - though I doubt it - but as with the Ag Preserve, Napa County will be a better environment in which to live, now and for future generations.

3/17/18 NVR LTE Version: Property rights. Again
Frank Hawkins LTE rebuttal to Stuart Smith 3/6/18

Rethinking self interest on initiatives


Christine Tittle - Feb 26, 2018 10:50AM  Share #1832

I am reading with a lot of empathy Leslie Caccamese's letter regarding the Oak Woodlands Watershed Initiative (“Initiative will further enrich the wealthy,” Feb. 20) wherein she bemoans the fact that she received approval for planting only five acres of vines instead of nine on her 12-acre property in the watershed because of a variety of setbacks from historic walls and streams.

As a result, she opted to sell as she "watched her dream fade away." A valued argument at first glance voiced by others as well until one looks at self interest from a wider perspective.

As a Realtor in the Hollywood and Beverly Hills for over 20 years, I devoted five of them contributing to the development of the Mulholland Scenic Corridor Specific Plan, which imposed regulations on the design of homes in order to preserve the spectacular viewshed from this unique 24-mile ridge road that dissects the Los Angeles basin. Try it at night.

Due to the resulting building on the slopes below to preserve views, construction costs increased, causing vacant land owners to cry foul. How wrong they were. Due to the singular views the specific plan preserved, property values reached unprecedented levels in just a few years.

For over 20 years, Bill Hocker's spring-fed pond atop Soda Canyon, above the Rector gorge - the watershed that feeds the Rector reservoir and the town of Yountville - was a unique feature of his property. But in the past few years, the spring kept running dryer and dryer until the pond is now an empty hole. Only a few days ago, the State Water Resources Board sounded the alarm on the diminishing Rector reservoir water levels and on the prospect of imminent water conservation measures in Yountville.

Vineyards are no longer dry-farmed as they were when the Ag Preserve was established; neither were the hordes of tourists and resulting hotels invited by the supervisors when they redefined agriculture to include them just seven years ago. Depending on yields, vineyards of today typically require roughly 50,000 gallons of water per acre or 250,000 gallons for Leslie's five-acre vineyard. Had she been allowed to fulfill her dream, it would have been 450,000 gallons.

Myopic criteria by which increased wine production permits are approved by the Planning Commission relying on environmental impact reports do not consider wide range, long-term impacts. This strains our water infrastructure to unsustainable levels on; not to mention carrying road capacities and other resources.

When the city of Yountville will need to purchase water from other sources (assuming they are available) for tourists’ showers and irrigated vineyards, it will have to pass those increases on to its residents. Calistoga and St. Helena have already done so. Is such a trade-off for Leslie's dream an equitable one?

It is fair to assume that when Leslie sold her property, she did so for a substantial profit. What conditions facilitated this profit? Might the restraining regulations have anything to do with it?

This is where the Mulholland Corridor paradigm comes into play. In that case, it is the preservation of beauty that added value, just as the balanced interplay between vineyards and forests in the Napa Valley does. In the same vein, a helipad at a neighbor's mansion would in the short-term add value to that property while diminishing that of its neighbors and ultimately the entire valley's, including that neighbor's, when dozens of private helicopters start crisscrossing our skies.

Bill Hocker watched his spring-fed pond dry out and his property value decrease. What would Leslie's property be worth if her well were to run dry?

Preserving tree canopy in the watershed helps replenish our water table. Admittedly, limiting the intrusion of agriculture into our forests is only one leg of the puzzle. Limiting the influx of tourists is another. At this critical time, they all point to a rethinking of our personal interests, including financial ones by realizing that our very investment in this valley, however small or large hinges on the preservation of its resources.

The Napa Valley has reached the tipping point where maximizing shortsighted self interest at the expense of the whole diminishes its return.

NVR LTE version 2/26/18: Rethinking self interest on initiatives

Preserving our water resources


Norm Manzer - Feb 23, 2018 8:34AM  Share #1831

While it is well documented that the Ag Preserve has been a remarkable protector of Napa County, it was not always so. We moved to the valley in late 1968 when there were still naysayers about the potential benefit of this first-of-its-kind zoning attempt. Family farming partnerships were at odds with each other as to the eventual outcome, and yet, 50 years later, everyone wants to say they supported it.

During those 50 years, it has been a struggle to try and retain the integrity of this so-called act of preservation. Certainly the most crucial of all threats to that preservation and the ability to care for the residents of Napa County is the availability of adequate water – water for our personal use as well as for continued success of agriculture.

In spite of enforced conservation by St. Helena and Calistoga and subsequent huge increases in their water rates for the next five years, a recent Napa Valley Register story announced that Rector Dam is running out of water for the residents of the Veterans Home and Yountville. Here we are in the middle of winter, and barely a drop of rainfall for January and February with little predicted in the future.

How do we overcome this dilemma? There is no crystal ball that will give us the answer, but only a pragmatic solution can help us through this current problem and into the future. And that solution is the preservation of our watershed areas of Napa County – watersheds that have been removed and destroyed all in the name of agriculture. Where do we get the water to sustain our agriculture if we degrade and destroy the very watersheds that can sustain it?

Enter the current June ballot measure titled the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative as a means to achieve just that, a sustainable method of collecting and storing water as nature intended. And yet we have a similar group of naysayers, as we did 50 years ago, who can only see limitations looming before them that they feel will hurt their personal bank accounts.

And while the Watershed Initiative was originally drafted by a coalition of concerned citizens with the participation of the Napa Valley Vintners, controversy prevails just like it did when a similar group tried to implement the Ag Preserve.

Fortunately for all of us, a very responsible and respected group of our growers and vintners have stepped forward to praise and recommend a 'yes' vote for the Watershed initiative.

Perhaps you read the Letter to the Editor a few days ago from Warren Winiarski, Andy Beckstoffer, Beth Novak Milliken, Randy Dunn, Dick Maher, Bob Dwyer, Joyce Black Sears, Tom Clark, Yeoryios Appallas and Robin Lail, all urging a 'yes' vote on the Watershed Initiative. What better representation of what Napa County agriculture is and should be than the testimony of this outstanding group of growers and vintners? Thanks to each of them and all of you who recognize the need for the further preservation of Napa County and its agricultural success.

NVR LTE version 2/23/18: Initiative will preserve our water resources

Protecting our Oak Woodlands: the movie


Bill Hocker - Feb 20, 2018 11:09AM  Share #1828

click to enlarge
Transition Berkeley and others are hosting an opportunity to meet the co-authors of the Napa Watershed and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative and view their film Protecting our Oak Woodlands and Water Future

Thursday, March 1st, 2018
6:30 pm Meet and Greet
7:00 pm Film, Presentation and Discussion

Location:
Historic Fellowship Hall
1924 Cedar St
Berkeley

Watershed protection for the long term


Mike Hackett - Nov 27, 2017 8:55PM  Share #1808

NVR 12/1/17: Proponents file signatures for new Napa watershed and oak woodland initiative

Often times, the loudest voices seem to dominate the conversation and coverage in the news media. We are in an age when disinformation and personal attacks drown out rational discussion and collaboration. We trust that the citizens of Napa County can see through and rise above this.

As the authors of The Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative, Jim Wilson and I are guided by a set of principles, not politics or personal gain. We are focused on sustainability of resources in this valley, and providing a healthy future for residents and winegrowers alike. We are guided by the science and take a long view.

Local voters understand that water affects the quality of life of every resident here. Napa Valley residents understand that we are on the precipice of climate change, and solutions are needed now. The Initiative, slated for inclusion on the June 2018 ballot, represents a step in the right direction. Its purpose is to complement the environmental protections the county wisely established decades ago for agriculture and open space land. It will protect the water quality, biological diversity and economic and environmental health of Napa County’s streams, watersheds and forests and help safeguard the public health, safety and welfare of our residents.

We will be sharing the science, impacts, and stories from our community as we go forward. We have reached out to a broad set of interests in the development of this initiative, working with forestry experts, hydrologists, water experts, government officials, and leading members of the winemaking community to shape the details. While some of the wine grapegrower organizations in the valley might not support our effort to protect the watershed, that does not mean that perspective of the winemaking community is unanimous. Many longstanding farmers in our community, including wine makers, believe that we need to better manage our resources for a sustainable common future, and are in support of this Initiative.

As part of the research that went into writing the Initiative, we listened to the citizens of the valley, and know that the vast majority of residents share our concern for the sustainability of water resources and the need to increase protections of our watershed.

Over the last several weeks, more than 80 supportive volunteers, along with a handful of professionals, have been collecting signatures around the community. Approximately 3,800 valid signatures are required to qualify for the ballot, and in this case more than 7,000 voters energetically stepped forward to sign. The response from our citizens was amazingly supportive. We are optimistic about the success of this Initiative because our residents care about the future of our region. Our residents understand this is about the legacy they want to leave their grandchildren.

We maintain close relations with the winemaking community, and know the majority are concerned for the sustainability of the watershed. They, too, are long-term residents who take the long view about managing our shared resources.

Mike Hackett LTE 11/27/17: Citizens and science take the long view for sustainability of Napa Valley
Nadean Bissiri LTE 12/1/17: The Napa County Oak Woodland Watershed Protection Initiative of 2018

Well protected watersheds benefit all


Yeoryios Apallas - Nov 6, 2017 2:33PM  Share #1796

Much has been written about the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018, and the chicanes it has driven through to become an effective tool for the protection of Mother Earth.

I am a grape grower and a member of the board of the Napa County Farm Bureau (NCFB). My comments reflect my personal views and not those of the NCFB.

For too long now, the promiscuous grant of winery permits has made the Napa Valley a difficult place to navigate by car or other transportation means. Tourism has been a priority for the Valley Board of Supervisors and the Napa City Council. Hotel construction and winery event centers have dominated the agendas of our county and city politicians.

It is undeniable that much, if not all, the available AP land has been already planted and some which has been planted (although a small amount) is now being paved over for event centers. It is also undeniable that pressure will continue the AW zone to remove oak woodlands for vineyards and other construction -- a potentially disastrous policy for the long term economic viability of the Valley.

Meanwhile the temperature of the Earth is undeniably getting higher through global mismanagement. The initiative is trying to right this process.

So, what is the goal of initiative? The proponents of the Woodlands Initiative strongly believe (and I agree with them as a farmer, grape grower, and grandfather) that natural areas along streams and wetlands play a critical role in protecting Napa County water resources by reducing erosion, alleviating flooding, and improving water quality. Trees and vegetation along streams and wetlands, filter water for municipal, rural and agricultural use, reduce water pollution, and provide important habitat for fish and wildlife.

The initiative provides enhanced protection for these areas by preserving forest and riparian habitat along stream corridors and wetlands within the AW zoning district.” See, Purpose and Findings of Initiative.

These are important goals for any civilized and balanced agrarian/commercial/industrial society. If Napa County citizens can do their part while balancing the interests of other affected stakeholders, good for us all. Enlightened government would normally attempt to balance various environmental, commercial, and agricultural interests for the advancement of the public health and welfare.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors, and the Napa City Council have failed miserably in meeting their task. Their myopic, exuberant, and single-minded approach to winery and event center development has hurt us and will continue to hurt us all on so many levels. Thus, the citizens had to take matters into their own hands -- not to girdle the healthy growth of agricultural and commercial enterprises, but to provide much-needed balance.

I wanted to provide another perspective to this debate so that my grape grower and farmer friends can understand what the attempt and goals of the authors (and most recently the enlightened leadership of Napa Valley Vintners) are all about when they crafted this initiative. It’s not always about the “Benjamins” --it’s about the health and sustainability of Mother Earth for the current and future inhabitants of the Napa Valley.

NVR version 11/6/17: Not always about the “Benjamins”
[Editor's note: is it intentional that the titles of the LTE's in the Register are always so cryptic or generic that one can't possibly guess what they're about - BH]

Watershed and Oak Woodland Initiative


Jim Wilson - Oct 26, 2017 10:01AM  Share #1785

This is an ephemeral stream (Class 3) bordered by oaks - initiative proposes to protect areas like these by establishing "no-cut" water quality buffer zones
Dear friends and supporters,

I hope you're doing well. My heart goes out to our many friends who lost their homes in the wildfires. With the recovery of our human and natural communities brings the need for caution and science and common sense. As we regroup and refocus, what are the lessons? I think what we're asking for our watershed health is not only important preemptively, but more important than ever post-emergency. Now is the time to let the watershed heal.

Thanks for your help gathering signatures last year. As you know, it ran into a technical snafu and had to be pulled. The good news is that our revised initiative represents real progress, positioned for greater consensus as a result of our collaboration with the NVV. I think it gives people hope to see our unwavering commitment to enhanced watershed protections. Passing the initiative would be a perfectly sane step forward, and a wonderful win for future generations.

We'd like to qualify for the June ballot. To do that, we need to gather signatures over the next few weeks and get them to John Tuteur by December 5. Please let me know if you'd like to pitch in. Since time is short, we're hiring help this time around. But your commitment and passion are as important as ever. Even a few signatures from your friends and family would help with with our public outreach. I appreciate your understanding.

Can I get a petition to you? Email me to request a petition.

Here are some highlights:

This Initiative provides vital environmental protections for Napa’s precious oak woodlands and watersheds. It is the product of years of discussions among a wide variety of stakeholders in Napa County, all of whom were interested in finding a common-sense approach to protecting our important natural resources and ensuring responsible development. Your signature isn’t an endorsement, but will enable us get this initiative on the June ballot in 2018.

Here are the general provisions.
  1. It will establish “no-cut” buffer zones for forests along streams and wetlands.
  2. It will strengthen existing standards to require a 3:1 ratio for replacing or preserving oak trees when oaks are lost to development. This is better for the ecosystems that depend on these trees, and better for the climate, too! (because healthy forests sequester carbon dioxide and lock away carbon in woody biomass.)
  3. It will establish an Oak Removal Limit. The limit takes effect when 795 additional acres of oak woodlands have been removed. This acreage limit takes into consideration the historic rate of local woodland removal associated with new vineyard development, in accordance with the General Plan's projection of 10,000 acres of new vineyards to be developed by 2030.
Please note that tree removal in accordance with federal, state and local agencies is allowed for fire protection and other hazards.

HEALTHY FORESTS PERFORM IMPORTANT ECO-SERVICES (WILDLIFE, WILDFIRE, EROSION CONTROL)
  • Healthy forests support a wide range of wildlife (flora and fauna), including ecological biodiversity “hotspots” that host rare species. Trees in all stages of the life-cycle provide important habitat for this wildlife.
    Healthy forests provide the root structure and leaf-litter needed to hold soils in place and prevent soil erosion and flooding, particularly on steep hillsides.
  • Healthy forests provide shade, which cools the local environment and helps retain moisture in the air and soil. This reduces wildfire danger.
    In addition, the shade zone under an oak tree retards the growth of grasses and shrubs that can carry fire.
  • Trees pull groundwater up and transpire it to the air. At the same time, tree roots loosen the soil and increase its capacity to absorb water.
  • Dead tree roots provide a conduit for surface water to enter the soil and water table. Dead tree trunks lying on the ground act as a sponge, absorbing and purifying water and retaining soil moisture under the log.
  • The presence of trees slows wind and air circulation, thus reducing the drying of soils and fire fuels.
  • The trunks of mature trees don't burn readily and actually pose an impediment to low-lying ground fires. You may have noticed that most of our oak trees survived the firestorm, and their presence will be vital in helping to prevent erosion in the coming rainy months.

Attached you'll find the Title & Summary, the initiative, and pointers for signature gatherers.

Sincere thanks, on behalf of all of those pulling together for the common good,

Initiative title and summary
Initiative text
Instructions for signature gatherers

Woodland Initiative 2018


Jim Wilson - Oct 7, 2017 9:55AM  Share #1568

Update 2/23/18
NVR 2/22/18: Napa County report looks for flaws in the planned watershed and oak initiative

Update 10/7/17
Mike Hackett LTE 10/7/17: Let’s let the voters decide
Ross Workman LTE 10/6/17: What do we want to protect?
More Ross Workman here

Update 10/2/17
NVR 10/2/17: Napa Valley Vintners now wants more collaboration on watershed initiative
Robert Pursell LTE 10/2/17: Proposed Napa County oak woodlands initiative hurts property owners
NVR 9/28/17: Napa Farm Bureau will oppose oak woodlands initiatives

Update 9/20/17
Andy Beckstoffer LTE 9/20/17: Vote ‘yes’ for the initiative next June
Stuart Smith LTE 9/20/17: NVV is tone deaf when it comes to land-use politics
Dario Sattui LTE 9/19/17: Adamantly opposed to watershed initiative
NVR 9/10/17: Reborn watershed initiative has Napa Valley Vintner backing

9/9/17
Dear friends and supporters of our watershed and oak woodland protection initiative,

Last year, our grass roots organization gathered 6,300 signatures for an initiative to enhance protections for streams and oak woodlands. It was a phenomenal accomplishment and speaks volumes to the support we received from the community. Voters are increasingly aware that the health of the natural environment and human ecology are integrated. They’re concerned, as they should be, and want to have a voice in the matter.

As it turned out, we weren't able to bring our initiative to the ballot. But earlier this year, when leaders in the NVV suggested we partner in the process, it gave us hope we could strike out on a new path that would ultimately succeed. And now we have a revised initiative that we're confident will meet the needs of the present but also protect the needs of generations to come. It is titled, Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018. A copy is attached. Let me know if you have any questions.

We're grateful for the Vintners' bold leadership and their solidarity with neighbors seeking solutions to pressing needs of the natural environment. Please take a look at their bulletin, below, for more information. We'll be gathering signatures soon for the June ballot. You're welcome to join us if you can.

Sincerely grateful, on behalf of all of those pulling together for the common good,

The bulletin of the Napa Valley Vintners announcing the initiative is here.

Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018

The Woodland Initiative of 2016 Archive


Bill Hocker - Apr 15, 2017 10:31AM  Share #1569

Water, Forest, & Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2016

The Initiative website
The Initiative Facebook page

Articles
NVR 4/12/17: Watershed ballot proponents seek California Supreme Court review
James Conaway: Limits on hillside development will rise again
NVR 3/3/17: Appeals court backs Napa County in watershed initiative dispute
SH Star 8/31/16: Angwin Watershed Initiative backers seek Appeals Court decision
James Conaway: Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in comely Napa Valley?
NVR 8/11/16: State court declines to revive Napa watershed measure for November election
NVR 8/1/16: Napa oak ballot measure proponents appeal court decision
Mike Hackett LTE 7/12/16: Napa County watersheds need more protection
WineSpectator 7/20/16: A Battle Over Vines and Trees in Napa Valley?
NVR 7/6/16: Napa County watershed initiative heads toward July 15 court date
NVR 4/5/16: Supervisor candidates tackle environmental issues
NVR 3/29/16: State, local efforts underway to protect oaks
NVR 1/27/16: Proposed initiative targets watershed protection
NVR 3/29/16: State, local efforts underway to protect oaks
NVR 3/12/16: Initiative proponents hope to defuse opposition
NVR 1/27/16: Proposed Initiative targets watershed protection
NVR 3/4/04: Setback for setbacks: O, P lose
SF Gate 2/27/04: Napa Valley divided over competing land-use measures (O & P)
NVR 1/8/04: Advocates line up behind ballot measures O and P
LTE 7/11/03: Setback foes feed fear, lack facts
John Tuteur LTE 4/2/03: Setbacks might boost land values
NVR articles on the the 2002-2004 conservation battle
NYTimes 7/11/99: In Wine Country, Can White or Red Ever Be Green?

Documents:
Appellate Courts Case Information Case A149153 Wilson et al vs Napa County et al
Napa County Conservation Regulations (1991, 2007)
County Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan (2010)

Books:
James Conaway: The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley The watershed conservation battle at the turn of the millennium.

Woodland Initiative Update, Jan 2016


Jim Wilson - Jan 11, 2017 3:52PM  Share #1371

Dear friends of the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative,

Our heartfelt gratitude goes to amici standing with us, and to all those who have worked so hard over the last several months preparing our appeal. Amici letters are attached. Please let me know if you haven't seen the opening and reply briefs and would like to.

On August 22, our attorneys at Shute Mihaly & Weinberger filed a Notice of Appeal with the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. Yesterday, the Court granted our request to hear our case on an expedited basis, which means it will be heard and resolved prior to August 29.

Here's a summary of the amici letters:

1. Eric Biber, UC Berkeley School of Law, on why oak trees matter, and why their protection under current law is inadequate. In particular he explains why the concept of best management practices (BMPs) for oak woodlands requires that BMPs be able to be modified to reflect changing conditions and scientific information.

Amici are:
California Native Plant Society
Center for Biological Diversity
Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC)
Sierra Nevada Alliance

2. Robin Johansen of Remcho Johansen & Purcell LLP, on why the initiative complies with the full text rule, and why upholding the trial court's reasoning seriously distorts the full text rule in ways that would gravely affect the initiative process statewide.

Amici are:
California Wildlife Foundation
California Native Plant Society
Corporate Ethics International (CEI)
Environmental Defense Center (EDC)
Forests Forever
Forest Unlimited
Friends of Harbors, Beaches, and Parks (FHBP)
Greenbelt Alliance
Planning & Conservation League (PCL)
Save The Bay

3. Nielsen Berksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP, on why the initiative fails to comply with the full text rule.

Amici are:
Winegrowers of Napa County
Napa Valley Vintners
Napa County Farm Bureau
Napa Valley Grape Growers

4. Cota Cole LLP, on why cities and counties believe the appellant's position is unworkable and would cause confusion among election officials statewide.

Amici are:
League of California Cities
California State Association of Counties (CSAC)



Chronology of events, taken in part from SMW legal briefs, is below:

In 2015, proponents began work on a countywide voter initiative to protect forests and tree canopy near streams, wetlands, and oak woodlands in Napa County. A primary goal of the initiative is to complement the County’s landmark 1990 initiative (Measure J) by establishing critical additional water quality buffer zones in the County’s Agricultural Watershed zoning district. The initiative aims to strengthen protections for Napa County’s threatened streams, forests, and oak woodlands.

In January 2016, proponents formally commenced the initiative process by filing with the County a Notice of Intention to Circulate Petition, along with the full text of the proposed initiative and a request for County Counsel to prepare the official ballot title and summary. County Counsel reviewed the entire Initiative and prepared the required title and summary.

On March 1, 2016, proponents published the official ballot title and summary in the Napa Valley Register, thereby notifying the public of the initiative’s chief points and purposes.

Proponents and their volunteer supporters then began circulating the Initiative Petition among County voters for signatures. Ultimately, proponents collected 6,298 signatures, well in excess of the 3,791 valid signatures necessary to qualify the Initiative for the ballot. On May 11 the signature packets were provided to the Registrar of Voters.

On June 6, 2016, the Napa County Registrar of Voters issued a certificate that the initiative had qualified for placement on the ballot. Three days later, in an abrupt turnaround, the Registrar announced that he was rejecting the petition because County Counsel had advised him that it did not comply with the “full text” requirement of Elections Code section 9101.

Because this action violated the Registrar’s ministerial duty to certify qualified initiative petitions, proponents promptly filed a writ action asking the trial court to direct the Registrar to place the initiative on the ballot for the November 2016 election.

On June 15, 2016, appellants filed a mandamus action in the trial court challenging the Registrar’s ministerial action.
On July 15, 2016, the writ petition was denied in Napa Superior Court.

On July 27, appellants filed an “emergency” petition for writ of mandate with the First District Court of Appeal, which was summarily denied.

On August 8, appellants filed an “emergency” Petition for Review with the California Supreme Court, which was denied.

On August 22, 2016, appellants filed a Notice of Appeal with the First District Court of Appeal. Proponents are asking this Court to find that: (1) the Initiative Petition complies with the Elections Code’s “full text” requirement; (2) the Registrar’s refusal to certify the petition violated the Elections Code; and (3) the initiative must be placed on the ballot for the County’s next general election in June 2018. To avoid irreparable harm to their constitutional rights to have their initiative placed before the voters in a timely fashion, proponents are asking the Court to issue its decision in this case no later than August 29, 2017.

By this appeal, the proponents of the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative seek to safeguard what our Supreme Court has repeatedly described as “one of the most precious rights of our democratic process.” Elections Code section 9101 provides that initiative petitions submitted to county election officials must contain “the full text” of the proposed measure. The Initiative provisions at issue require the County Planning Director, in reviewing oak tree removal permits, to determine if an applicant’s proposed remedial measures are consistent with “best management practices” set forth in the County’s Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan. The trial court found that the Initiative’s cross-reference to these best management practices effectively “enacted” them by implication and that the “text” of the Initiative therefore should have included the language of the BMPs in their entirety. Because the Initiative Petition did not include this language, the trial court held that the Petition did not satisfy the Elections Code’s full text requirement.

Our attorneys hold that the trial court’s decision radically departs from existing full text jurisprudence. In reviewing the validity of voter-sponsored initiatives, the courts have emphasized “the fundamental nature of the people’s constitutionally enshrined initiative power” and “the well-established judicial policy to apply a liberal construction to this power wherever it is challenged.” Consistent with this well-established policy, the courts have repeatedly rejected attempts by hostile legislative bodies and officials to transform the clear-cut provisions of the Elections Code into a labyrinth of arcane requirements.

Between art and reality on oak woodlands


Stephen J Donoviel - Aug 29, 2016 10:14AM  Share #1480

Like others, two of the front-page articles in the Aug. 17 edition related to Napa Valley's oak woodlands caught my attention. One concerned "The Memory of a Tree” ("Oak-themed 'Memory of a Tree' mural to adorn Yountville gateway"), about the Yountville residents' wise choice to use the design by artists Sofia Lacin and Hennessy Christophel for murals to grace the Highway 29 underpass and the authorities for providing the resources to complete them.

It appears the artists' conceptual framework recognizes the history and significance of the mighty oaks to Napa Valley as well as their markedly diminishing numbers. This will, I hope, remind all of us, residents and passing tourists alike, of the significant role these disappearing giants play in our well-being by filtering the water we drink and the air we breathe as well as lending beauty to our surroundings.

The second article ("City of Napa, Walt Ranch reach agreement on water quality") centered around one of the major causes of the ongoing and increasing diminution of the oak woodlands, namely destruction/clear-cutting of significant numbers of trees (think filters) to make way for various entrepreneurial projects, e.g., the Walt Ranch (an operation reportedly held by Hall Brambletree Associates from Texas), which is not the only project, but certainly one, if not the biggest due to its size and widespread destruction/alteration of all or at least most aspects of the environment across the huge property.

It seems there is general agreement that the watersheds, particularly the Milliken, which delivers water to the residents of Napa city that is described as "pristine" (water currently being filtered by the mighty oak and other vegetation, the composition and configuration of the geological environment and relative absence of impact of man-generated pollutants), may be negatively impacted if Walt Ranch is allowed to proceed. The article references prior documents that indicated that to maintain the quality of the city water supply fouled by the project, filters costing an estimated $20 million would be necessary and the expense would be passed on to existing water customers.

Reportedly, Walt Ranch officials balked at picking up the tab. It's not clear if this would be a one-time expense or a periodic necessity like replacing the filter on a Brita home filter. For whatever reason, these details/concerns were dropped and city officials agreed to sign off on the project if the county includes requirements that Walt Ranch "monitor runoff water at nine locations and take steps to deal with problems that might arise."

I'm sorry but this seems like a very poor deal for the environment and everyone in it, except those directly connected to the Walt Ranch, because once the geology is disturbed and the tens of thousands of trees are destroyed, there is no going back to nature's filtration systems (not for generations to come) and residents are left with the bill for the filters.

If anyone is interested in seeing the speciousness of the argument that planting saplings (welcome as they are) will mitigate clear-cutting of mature oaks, they can judge for themselves by walking parts of our new bike path, or wander along the Yountville drainage collector outfalls where 10 to 15 years ago county flood control officials planted filling-in saplings along the banks. While they appear to be doing well, having been planted on creek banks, I think no one would argue that they even come close to approaching the size or filtering/soil stabilizing/shade capacity of a mature oak.

Another issue of significant concern, that of the pumping of hundreds of millions of gallons of water from our aquifers, was brought into sharp focus by an article in the August volume of National Geographic titled "To the Last Drop" authored by Laura Parker. The article chronicles in poignant fashion the draining of what is said to be North America's largest aquifer, the Ogallala that spans several central states. Reasons she identifies include the farmers' expansionistic over-farming in the quest for more income (an example, of what I think some politicians refer to as "growth" when occurring with businesses, communities, states, etc.), their unwillingness to self-regulate the amount of water they were pumping, even with the knowledge that, despite rain/snow fall of 50 to 100 percent above average, the aquifer did not recharge to previous levels and wells ran dry, as well as their officials' unwillingness to impose limits.

Maybe Napa County and the rest of the state -- certainly the Central Valley, which is already sinking -- have reached the tipping point where too much of a good thing leads to a disaster like that in the states served by the Ogallala aquifer. As a friend recently queried, "When is enough enough?" If subscribers have not read Ms. Parker's article, perhaps you can find the time to do so and hopefully we will treat "Yountville Tree Mural" with more respect and care than we have been doing with the real ones.

James Conaway on the Woodland Initiative


Bill Hocker - Aug 25, 2016 11:03AM  Share #770

James Conaway on the bulldozing of the Oak Woodland Initiative in his blog "Nose":
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in comely Napa Valley?

And from 4/23/15
Geoff Ellsworth sends this link to the Napa Broadcasting radio interview with author James Conway who is no doubt beginning to work on a third book documenting the forces that have shaped and will shape Napa County. The interviewer is Jeff Schechtman.

A Walled Garden of Eden – Jim Conaway talks about Napa’s winery growth and the ideal of agriculture

A quote in an interview filled with quotes: "Go back to agriculture. The more of this [tourism] you have, by definition, the less agriculture you have. You have to take land out of agriculture to accommodate these changes. There's no way around that now. Napa is too small."

Conaway just wrote this article remunerating on Jefferson and wine, perhaps as a lead-in to the issues that might be covered in a new book:
Napa Valley and the Jeffersonian Ideal

His two previous books on the Napa Valley:
Napa: The Story of an American Eden
The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley

Woodland Initiative bulldozed


Bill Hocker - Jul 22, 2016 10:02AM  Share #1278

NVR 7/22/16: Napa Superior Court ruling keeps oak woodland measure off ballot

The Court has ruled against the backers of the petition judging that the full text of current voluntary best management practices, slated to become binding law if the initiative were passed, were referenced but not included in the petition materials and that the 6300 signatures are thus invalid.

The decision is here.

A sad day for the survival of the woodlands and the will of the people.

The initiative is not quite the naive exercise that opponents wish to portray. It is part of a larger discussion going on here, in Sonoma County and in San Luis Obispo County on the impacts that continued conversion of watershed lands, lands that act as a filter for the water in streams supporting aquatic life and for the water we drink, will have on water quality if the conversions continue.

In the specific case of Walt Ranch, the city's Water General Manager, Joy Eldredge, has taken issue in this letter with the developer's EIR, and the County's support of it, regarding the potential impacts that the project will have on the water quality of the Miliken Reservoir that supplies a portion of the city's water. She is just as concerned about the extensive amount vineyard conversion about the Hennessey Reservoir that supplies most of the city's water. She is not naive about the threats to her city's drinking water.

And the State's Regional Water Board is right now in the process of vetting a major Environmental Impact Report related to the "proposed General Waste Discharge Requirements for Vineyard Properties located in the Napa River and Sonoma Creek watersheds (WDRs)" in the face of ever increasing amount of watershed vineyard conversion. The documents related to this EIR are here. The request for comments is here and the EIR is here.

And these concerns are at the heart of the documentary "Russian River: All Rivers" that has been making the rounds this last year showing the impacts that vineyard conversion is beginning to have on the Russian River.

The Woodland Initiative was probably challenged and scuttled not at the insistance of the county that had already certified it for the ballot, but at the prodding of the Napa wine and development industries, which, in their concern for ever increasing profits, have begun to promote vineyard conversion in ever more remote areas, just as they promote new winery construction, as a means to increase property marketability rather than a need to supply and process grapes. These industries seem more intent and aggressive than ever, following the year spent on due diligence at APAC and the election of their supervisorial candidate, to continue the development trend that promises to suburbanize the watersheds and urbanize the valley floor in the next 50 years.

Articles
NVR 7/18/16: Napa judge to decide fate of oak woodland protection initiative
Wine Spectator 7/20/16: A Battle Over Vines and Trees in Napa Valley?
SLO Tribune: 6/14/16: SLO County pursues oak protections after hundreds of trees removed for Justin vineyard

Woodland Initiative Court hearing July 15th


Lisa Hirayama - Jul 13, 2016 9:11PM  Share #1270

WATER, FOREST AND OAK WOODLAND PROTECTION INITIATIVE - Friday July 15th 2016 alert! Please mark your calendar.

NVR 7/6/16: Napa County watershed initiative heads toward July 15 court date

In case you haven’t heard by now, Napa County verified this petition in June and then disqualified it four days later on a technicality even though 6300 signatures were collected.

The backers of the petition filed a lawsuit asking the Napa County Superior Court to require John Tuteur to present the initiative to the Board of Supervisors or place it on the Nov. 8 ballot. The hearing will be held this Friday, July 15, at 9:00 am. The address is 1111 Third Street (the corner of Main and Third) in the Courthouse next to the County Administrative Bldg. It will be upstairs in “F” court.

This is one of those times that a large turnout will be extremely important. Judge Price needs to see that County residents want a chance to vote on this initiative, and a packed courtroom is the only way to convey that message. If you are able to attend, it would be greatly appreciated, and bring extra friends and family.

Thanks for your support and hope to see you Friday.


Jim Wilson - Jul 12, 2016 9:17PM

Dear petitioners and supporters of the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative,

Hello! Thanks again to each and every one of us, our grassroots support and wisdom and strength. We can all feel good about coming this far, about the time and hard work we've poured into our effort to help provide better protections for our precious watersheds.

In the pause since we qualified our initiative some of us have been working every day getting ready for the campaign. We don't have much time, and there's plenty of opportunity for more volunteers as we look forward to success at the polls in November. Will you please join us?

Community education, letter-writing, recruiting, fund-raising, social media. You name it, we need lots of help with it. Full time or an hour - now's the time. Would you care to sign up?

There is one thing we can all do right now. Show up to our hearing in Superior Court this Friday. Bring your friends. The hearing should take an hour or so. Note: the courtroom is located in the "new" courthouse, not the historic courthouse that was damaged in the earthquake. Here's the invitation Lisa Hirayama sent to a smaller list today:

Here's a link to our website. You can make a contribution here.
http://www.protectnapawatersheds.org

and our Facebook page.

Stop Napa's watershed deforestation July 15th


Mike Hackett - Jul 13, 2016 7:38PM  Share #1273

Recent widespread news reports concerning controversy over a San Luis Obispo County wine company bulldozing hundreds of acres of oak trees to plant vineyards have left many Napa County residents scratching their heads: The same devastation is taking place in Napa, much faster and on a far greater scale.

This deforestation project by Justin Wines in Central California is heartbreaking, and should help bring awareness to the current onslaught in Napa County.

We are right now confronting project after project calling for deforestation in our watersheds, and residents are alarmed — our county officials have yet to act.

Consequently, a coalition of Napa County citizens has drawn up and collected more than 6,300 signatures on a voter initiative for the Nov. 8 ballot — the Napa County Water, Forest and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative of 2016.

Its primary aim is to safeguard the county’s watersheds, water sources and forests. We need this ballot measure to restore balance between the wine tourism industry and the rights of local residents and communities, and to provide long-term protections for our oak woodlands and our water future.

This should concern residents of the Bay Area as well. The Napa River is the second-largest freshwater source emptying into the bay—a water body shared by millions. The Napa River has been impaired for decades and we need protections for the water sources that drain into it.

Napa County Planning Department records show nearly 3 million gallons of additional wine will be needed to satisfy the myriad winery expansions on file with the county. That would require an estimated 5,000 additional acres of new vineyards, sacrificing much of the county’s water supply and natural beauty—its forested hillsides and watersheds—to meet the demand.

Right now, we have at least 29 erosion control/vineyard conversion applications on file awaiting approval, according to Jim Wilson, vice-president of Defenders of East Napa Watersheds. “We don’t have any current protections for our oak woodlands, so we need the Initiative for a healthy eco-system,” he said.

“California has lost more than a million acres of oak-related lands in recent decades. These oak woodlands,” he said, “are responsible for water purification and replenishment and are essential to the environment and watershed health. Napa has the highest concentration of oak woodlands of any county in California, and this iconic ecosystem is disappearing at an alarming rate. This is significant because two thirds of Napa County’s drinking water comes from its oak-dotted watersheds.“

Joy Eldredge, Napa City Water Department general manager, has written: “The county should prevent the shifting of vineyard development impacts onto the city and its public drinking water customers.” The water manager goes on to state that “the City has seen a 400 percent increase in the level of effort required to treat Hennessey Reservoir for algae problems.”

This water quality degradation is due to vineyard development and run-off above the reservoir’s watershed. At times, 70 percent of Napa city’s water supply comes from Lake Hennessey.

Large vineyard developments above water reservoirs could require taxpayer money to clean up these reservoirs, if such developments take place.

Napa’s other reservoir faces a large vineyard development above it called Walt Ranch, associated with Hall Winery, which would cut and clear 24,000 trees, and the City of Napa water manager believes it could cost the taxpayers up to $20 million to clean up the reservoir’s water if this project is approved.

“The juggernaut of the wine industry’s encroachment into hillside forests threatens to bring serious impacts for humans, animals and the environment and after five years of drought, it’s only going to get worse,” says Wilson.

Napa Valley, is noted for its ideal terroir and climate for grape growing. More than 40 years ago, visionary Napa County activists such as Volker Eisele pushed through farsighted policies to protect the valley floor for what was considered its highest and best use—agriculture, including wine grape production.

Now, however, the accelerating demand from international corporations and wealthy individuals to convert thousands more forested acres to vineyards is pushing development onto sensitive hillsides and natural areas, threatening Napa County’s microclimates and future water security.

Although the Napa County Water, Forest and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative recently garnered more than 6,300 petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot, it is currently held up by the county over an alleged minor technical issue.

A lawsuit filed by initiative proponents will be heard in Napa County Superior Court on July 15 and a favorable ruling would allow the measure to go forward on schedule. In the case of an unfavorable ruling, the matter will be appealed to a higher court.

The Superior Court hearing is set for Friday, July 15 at 9 a.m. at 1111 Third St. in Napa.

More information is here

Water, Forest, & Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2016


Bill Hocker - Mar 13, 2016 9:14AM  Share #1181

This post now has its own page here

The Initiative website
The Initiative Facebook page
The Initiative Text
NVR 3/29/16: State, local efforts underway to protect oaks
NVR 3/12/16: Initiative proponents hope to defuse opposition
NVR 1/27/16: Proposed initiative targets watershed protection
(The property-rights argument is already being advanced against the initiative in the comments. The hedging of property rights through zoning and ordinances, of course, is the reason an agricultural economy and the Napa wine industry exists.)

In the 1980's, with the Napa Valley floor almost fully developed in vineyards and a continuing flow of wannabes wishing to fulfill their Napa dreams, vineyard development in the hilly watershed areas surrounding the valley began to take off. Following several vineyard clearing projects in the late 1980's that resulted in land erosion and river sedimentation, Napa county passed Conservation Regulations in 1991 that established stream setbacks and maximum deforestation limits.

By 2002 it was apparent to some that the effectiveness of the 1991 measures were in doubt, given the magnitude of development in the watersheds, unless more protective measures were put in place. A stringent ordinance was proposed by environmentalists in 2002. In 2003 the Board of Supervisors passed a short term stream setback ordinance, banning commercial development within 25-150' from streams. Two measures were placed on the 2004 ballot in response: Measure O, an outgrowth of the 2002 effort, was created with 350-1000' setbacks and limits on deforestation. A counter Measure P, was created by the wine industry in line with the BOS 2003 ordinance. Both measures were defeated after a campaign by "land steward" property rights advocates.

In 2001 the State of California established an oak woodlands conservation fund to provide funding for the protection of oak woodlands. In 2010 a Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan was produced by Napa stakeholders and adopted by the county as a voluntary plan to be used by entities that wanted to tap into the conservation fund. This document serves as the current basis for woodland protection in the county.

Since 1991 vast areas of the watersheds have been deforested and the landscape in the hills, seen on google maps, now resembles Vietnam after the war rather than the forests that once defined the hills around the valley. In some areas like the Rector watershed pictured here the deforestation is substantial. And another 300 acres of vineyard conversion is currently under review by the county.

As the California drought continues, concern has again heightened over the loss of forest and woodlands that retain and filter surface water for municipal reservoirs, over the depletion of groundwater and toxic runoff from ever more agriculture, and over the urban development of the watersheds for tourism facilities and vineyard housing estates. The relationship between the deforestation process and GHG emmisions has also become a concern in the county's climate action plan. The threat to the water resources and the rural environment of the county has never been greater. As with the impact of expanding tourism and industrial development on traffic and affordable small town community on the valley floor, the question of the long term viability of the watersheds and the commitment to the sustainable rural community envisioned in the county general plan is now back on the agenda.

Articles
NVR 3/4/04: Setback for setbacks: O, P lose
SF Gate 2/27/04: Napa Valley divided over competing land-use measures (O & P)
NVR 1/8/04: Advocates line up behind ballot measures O and P
LTE 7/11/03: Setback foes feed fear, lack facts
John Tuteur LTE 4/2/03: Setbacks might boost land values
NVR articles on the the 2002-2004 conservation battle

Documents:
Napa County Conservation Regulations (1991, 2007)
County Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan (2010)

Books:
James Conaway: The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley The watershed conservation battle at the turn of the millennium.




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