Jul 12, 2018

Napa County Strategic Plan

Napa County Draft Strategic Plan 2018-2022 Dec 2018
Napa Strategic Plan Home Page
Video of 10/16/18 BOS meeting
The schedule of meetings with bullet-point recaps is here
The results of the online survey of 1900 residents is here
Video of 7/31/18 BOS meeting

Following the narrow defeat of Measure C in the June 2018 election, a campaign that acrimoniously divided not only the wine industry from residents in Napa county, but (more importantly) divided the wine industry itself into pro-development and pro-conservation camps, the County Board of Supervisors, perhaps led by its more conservation-minded members, has called for a new process to seek consensus on the issues raised by the Measure. And to continue a process already begun, but interrupted last year, to chart long term development goals and strategies for the county.

The previous process was a group of Strategic Planning Retreats, cut short by a CEO turnover and the October fires. But the roots of that process go back further.

In February of 2014, when the Mountain Peak project first drew us into land use issues, there were already faint rumblings of concern about the number of winery projects being approved at the planning commission, the marketing (tourism) orientation of the use permit requests and changing character that tourism was bringing to the Napa Valley. As more projects came before the commission, community groups throughout the county found their common cause in opposing the development that was beginning to threaten the rural quality of their lives and the rural character that the County government nominally pledged to protect.

In 2015, in response to pushback throughout 2014 against numerous projects at PC meetings and in editorials, over 400 people attended a joint BOS/Planning Commission meeting on Mar 10th to express their concern about winery proliferation and the tourism impacts that it represented. In response the BOS set up a committee, the Agricultural Protection Advisory Commission (APAC) to study the issue.

The Commission got off to a good start with a good faith effort by the Planning Director to propose limits for winery development that had the potential to change to direction of winery development in the county. It became apparent early, however, that the committee members hoping for more development limitations were well outnumbered by wine industry/business interests, and the votes against proposals for any real reform of the status quo began to stack up. In the end very modest recommendations were made and even those were watered down by the BOS. From the standpoint of the community concern that initially caused the creation of APAC, nothing was done to slow building projects in the agricultural areas of the county.

To community members, APAC was an example of the failure of a government-citizen deliberative process to address the impacts of development in a county dominated by business interests. There would be two further major deliberations in the coming year, Walt Ranch and the Syar Expansion, each with extensive community participation, that ended with development projects proceeding and many feeling that government cared more about corporations and plutocrats than about residents. Those three failures, along with numerous individual projects at the planning commission, created a sense that government deliberation was a feeble approach to slow the pace of development, and, directly responding to the issues raised by Walt Ranch, Measure C was born.

Measure C was also unsuccessful. But the margin of the loss was close enough, and the angst at the government level that citizens must circumvent government to have their concerns heard, that a new call for another deliberative process, the Napa Strategic Plan, has been taken up. Will this process begin to address the pace of development that is already threatening the rural, small-town quality of life, preserved through great efforts to halt development over the last 50 years, that makes Napa a unique enclave in the urbanized Bay Area? Let the deliberations begin.

NVR 12/10/18: Economist says Napa County's slow housing growth is boosting prices; no fear of immediate recession
NVR 10/22/18: Survey shows Napa residents satisfied but wary of future
NVR 9/21/18: Napa County looks at congestion-busting ideas
David Morrison LTE 9/18/18: Facts are important in strategic plan process
NVR 9/18/18: Napa County residents share visions for the future with supervisors
Chris Malan LTE 9/2/18: Impose moratorium on new slope vineyards until regulations are amended


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Napa Strategic Plan feedback

Bill Hocker - Oct 23, 2018 11:02PM  Share #1954

NVR 10/22/18: Survey shows Napa residents satisfied but wary of future

The County, under CEO Minh Tran's guidance, has made an amazing effort to plumb the feelings of its citizens in trying to chart a path for the next 3 years.

Meetings held over the last 2 months with a couple dozen "stakeholder" groups are catalogued on the County Website here with links to recaps of the meetings. The recap documents give bullet point analysis and solutions to achieve each group's aspirations. The bullet points in their brevity are often ambiguous, but there are real intriguing nuggets that hopefully the County's consultant will pull out. (Like the Wine Growers idea of turning the Trail into a paid "7 mile drive" tourist attraction. [did they mean 17 mile, or 27 mile?]) Just reading the red comments first is helpful in sorting it all out. In only two of the meetings was there a summary of the group presenting their goals in their own words, those of the Vintners and Farmers for Responsible Agriculture and Napa Vision 2050. ( My District 4 meeting is bullet-pointed here.)

The County also solicited citizens to fill out an extensive online survey. The Register provided a copy of the responses here.

The obvious finding seemed to be that we like our quality of life and that we feel it's all downhill from here. Why else would we spend time on a tedious questionnaire but for the hope that our fears are less likely to be realized by doing so.

The responses to the rate-from-most-to-least-important questions were a pain to fill out because one tends not to have strong opinions about everything the county does. And yet most people voted "extremely" or "somewhat important" for everything. Seldom does a question get less than 70% of the total in those two rankings combined.

The most interesting part of the responses to the questionnaire were the comments, 837 of them. And I was very pleased to see that a good number that dealt with the negative impacts of winery tourism. It is, IMO, the heart of why this process is happening.

The one aspect of the Napa Strategic Plan that I find a bit odd is its 3 year horizon. There are undoubtedly issues that can be addressed in three years. But in terms of land use issues, the next 3 years and beyond have already been determined by the number of projects that have been approved but not yet built. Those projects will deteriorate the county's rural quality of life over the next decade at least, with increased traffic and demand for housing and the need for more taxes for infrastructure and service upgrades required by an increasing population of workers and visitors. The decisions that the County will be making now is for a future beyond the next decade. I would be more than pleased if the county were to stop issuing and expanding use permits tomorrow. And I hope that they do. But that has little to do with changes to our lives that will be happening in the next 3 years.

We the people have power

Patricia Damery - Aug 10, 2018 10:00PM  Share #1930

I hope that the Board of Supervisors’ most recent Strategic Plan process does not end up fitting the definition of insanity: To keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

After Measure C almost passed in the June election, the board has decided to “listen” to the citizens through a series of meetings with a neutral facilitator (the one difference). They will then craft a strategic plan to address the watershed and growth issues that Measure C put before the voters, as well as other issues citizens bring to the table.

We the People have already been through an impotent process in which the governing officials “listened” to us. On March 10, 2015, the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission held a joint hearing at which 475 gathered for a day of public comment, most of us protesting the lack of code enforcement and commercialization of our agriculturally zoned protected lands. The result? Not much came of it. The Agricultural Protect Advisory Committee (APAC) formed was stacked with wine and hospitality interests.

Then came the dirty techniques of the No on C campaign. Even some of our governing officials participated in misleading the public with erroneous statements aimed at confusing voters. Trust in our elected and appointed officials is at an all time low.

Although Measure C did not pass (301 more votes of the approximate 36,000 cast and it would have) the vote reflects the growing concern in our county for our water supply which is integrally connected to our watersheds. That is the good news. One has to ask: Would this strategic plan process have occurred without the almost 50/50 vote in a large voter turnout election? I doubt it.

Will this time be different? Citizens, it depends on We the People.

Only because Measure C, a very modest measure, almost won the vote to protect our watersheds from development did the Board of Supervisors embark on developing a strategic plan to be implemented over the next years. We have to stay on board.

Make sure that you attend the proposed upcoming citizen meetings for each district in the next couple of months. Write letters to your district supervisor. Insist this not be another APAC, in which special interest groups neutralize any movement toward real exploration and protection.

Remind our governing officials that We the People elect them and if they don’t represent our interests, we will elect someone who will. Remind them that We the People have the right of the initiative when they are not doing their job in protecting our water supply and our community and that and we will use it again and when we have to.

NVR version 8/12/18: We the People have the power

After Measure C: a strategic plan

Bill Hocker - Jul 31, 2018 9:18AM  Share #1926

Update 7/31/18
More balloons?
NVR 3/31/18: Napa County launches plan to help unite community after Measure C fight
Video of 7/31/18 BOS meeting

From my standpoint Dario Sattui had the quote of the day: "We need to stop all building in the ag areas." Hear! Hear! A moratorium on future development is the only way that the county will ever have the space to deal with the existing traffic, housing and potential water problems created by past development. Of course he was railing principally about homes in the ag areas, and the complaints of homeowners about "noise, dust, night picking, tourists and tasting", nicely summing up the conflation of real agriculture with tourism that is at the heart of resident hostility to the wine industry as it morphs into an entertainment industry. I wasn't sure if he would agree that wineries are buildings and should also be banned.

Several speakers mentioned the Napa County General Plan's vision statement as a starting point for this process. It's worth repeating the first paragraph:

"Today and in the future, unincorporated Napa County will be home to world-famous wines and a residential population smaller than most Bay Area cities and towns. The County’s scenic beauty, valuable agricultural resources, and quality of life are reinforced by longstanding commitments to agricultural preservation, resource conservation, and urban-centered growth. While other Bay Area counties have experienced unprecedented development and urban infrastructure expansion over the last four decades, Napa County’s citizens have conscientiously preserved the agricultural lands and rural character that we treasure."

In recognition of that vision, this process should be about one goal: how best to limit the urban growth of unincorporated Napa County. The point was made by speakers that the county has only limited control over the urbanization and that the municipalities are the principal drivers of increased traffic, housing and infrastructure impacts. The vision that the county is "committed to urban-centered growth" (meaning that growth is the municipalities' problem not the county's problem) is a bit of a fudge unfortunately. Growth in the municipalities is very much a traffic-housing-water problem for the unincorporated areas as well. Without inclusion of representatives from the municipalities this process can only have a modest impact on the county's future.

But the County needs to do what it can. In several meetings, including this one, the point has been made that projections of growth in the 2008 General Plan have actually been greater than actual growth. And yet the problems of that actual growth, in traffic, infrastructure and housing needs are apparent to all right now. This strategic plan process should ask whether or not the projections of growth in the General Plan are appropriate for the future we envision. And if not, what land use strategies can be proposed that will bring those development projections down? Dario Sattui's recommendation to stop building in the ag areas might be a good start.

George Caloyannidis adds this clarification:
"The County's line that growth is driven by our cities is absolutely false. The County is the one which provides the demand and development opportunities in the cities by approving new and enlarged wineries, tasting rooms and event centers. Its policies are what brings in the tourists. The cities simply provide the hotels to accommodate them. If the County stopped creating the market for the hotels, the hotels would stop being built."

Update 7/26/18
BOS Strategic Plan Session 1
Meeting date: 7/31/18, 9:00am
Location: BOS Chambers , 1195 3rd St, Napa

3 Year Strategic Plan presentation to the BOS to look at future development issues in the county and to create a task force for the process.

Agenda Letter
Consultant's Strategic Plan Presentation

Be a contributor: This is the beginning of a process happening through the rest of the year. To participate in the process by receiving notifications and attending meetings, the County requests that you sign up as a participant.
The Sign-up form is here

NVR 7/11/18: In wake of Measure C's defeat, Napa County leaders look for a healing path forward

At the beginning of the BOS’s 7/10/18 meeting, Tax Assessor John Tuteur reported to the Board of Supervisors that since July of 2017 unincorporated Napa County has probably had the largest increase in nonresidential construction in the county's history (or at least since he's been assessor). Although not directly related to the post C discussion over the future direction of Napa development, labeled the Strategic Plan by County CEO Minh Tran, it was an apt "fact" which needs to be brought to the table in a discussion already obsessing over fact-based decision making.

CEO Tran indicated that on July 31st he would begin laying out the parameters of a task force to deal with our post-Measure C trauma and seek consensus on Napa's future development. His outline for the process is here.

The use of the word "stakeholders" in the outline is a bit unsettling since it almost always implies a financial stake in the outcome or in our case the wine and tourism industries and the government. While the citizenry who wish to participate may see some financial impact of new policies, it is, I think, the quality of their lives in Napa County that is at stake and that brings them to the table. As happened in APAC, without significant representation of residents, business stakeholders, and the urbanizing development projects they pursue, will dominate the future of the county.

In public comments:

Vintner Joyce Black Sears criticized the changes made in the definition of agriculture that have encouraged intensification of tourism, traffic and deforestation by catering to the business interests of corporations and the wealthy while ignoring the ordinary people who live here. Reconsider the definition of agriculture, she admonished. Otherwise the continued development will be the final nail in the coffin of Napa's ag heritage.

Former supervisor Ginny Simms described how the agreement between the NVV and the Measure C authors was scuttled after months of cooperative effort: Gallo, Treasury, Hall and others demanded that the agreement end or they would pull out of NVV and not offer wines for the Wine Auction - complete bullying by the major wine corporations. A transcript of her statement is here.

Measure C author Mike Hackett called out Supervisors Pedroza, Ramos, and Gregory for their initial support of Measure C when the NVV supported it and then their vehement opposition to the identical initiative when the NVV, at the insistence of major wine corporations, dropped support. Trust was a casualty of the process. Who do you work for? he asked. In citing the disinformation campaign put out by the No on C campaign and the false campaign arguments signed by Sup. Ramos in the official opposition ballot arguments, Mr. Hackett confronted them. "You lied to the citizens of Napa County. You owe an apology".

Fact-based decisions

Bill Hocker - Jul 19, 2018 10:53AM  Share #1967

"We'd like to see something that is more data-driven." Sarah Sanders on Climate Report, 11/28/18
Lately, the wine industry lobbyists that comment at Planning Commission and BOS meetings will invariably slip in their interest in "fact-based decision making". It was a principal bullet point in the industry's No on C campaign, in trying to make the implication that further protection of the watersheds and their aquifers from over-exploitation for vineyard and winery development was somehow not supported by facts.

The emphasis on "fact-based decisions" and the denigration of the initiative process as a "blunt instrument" by government and industry opponents in the Measure C campaign has seemed to me to be code for industry and government control of the planing process rather than the "emotion-based decision" making by residents that is an inherent part of the initiative process.

The "facts" that industry and government officials tout are conclusions in reports made by technical experts. They are not, in fact, "facts", but are interpretations of quantities of data given certain assumptions. They are expert opinions. As we have seen, where opponents can afford their own experts, as qualified as those hired by the developer, very different opinions often emerge when the data is subjected to different, but no less valid, assumptions. Which opinions are to be used in decisions become the stuff of lawsuits, as the county knows in numerous projects being challenged in court.

Government and developers like "fact-based" decisions. When impacted citizens complain about the harm projects may cause, the developers can tout the "fact" that an expert says there will be less-than-significant negative impacts. If you don't agree get your own experts. Experts, of course, cost money. Often lots of money. For the developer they are part of the cost of the project, amortized by the profits to be made. They are tax deductible. For impacted citizens, the cost of hiring experts comes from savings accounts. And they are not tax deductible. And hiring consultants is a complex undertaking they have no experience with, often needing a lawyer to guide the process, an additional expense. The truth is that developers and governments always tout and set the parameters for "fact-based" decisions not because the parameters and opinions are irrefutably true, but because the cost and the effort of refuting them is an enormous burden for any opponents wishing to challenge their projects.

The argument in this post should not be seen as an example of right-wing fact-freedom mongering. We all profess and are committed to making decisions based on reality rather than fantasy. It is an argument only that reality and the opinions of experts are not always the same thing. Were they the same, there would be no disagreement over, say, whether red wine is good for you or bad for you. And unfortunately, as we've seen in dozens of examples - think pesticides, tobacco or global warming - expert opinions often depend on the amounts of money to be made by a particular conclusion. Reality can't be held at bay forever, but it can be ignored or hidden for years with enough money given to the task. And as we've seen over and over, in Napa there is lots of money to prove that development projects, and the reality of the traffic they create, and the affordable housing and infrastructure needs they generate, and the resources they use will have a less-than-significant impact on the future of the County. The reality of those impacts, denied or mitigated away for years in "fact-based" development decisions, are now upon us.

After Measure C: Land Use policy under review

Bill Hocker - Jul 19, 2018 9:57AM  Share #1922

Update 7/18/18
Bohemian 7/17/18: Napa after C: Nice environmentalists finish last

Update 6/28/18
George Caloyannidis LTE 6/27/18: Measure C: what next?

Update 6/21/18
NVR 6/21/18: In the wake of Measure C's defeat, Napa County supervisors debate what's next

BOS will continue their discussion of Land Use policies on Jul 10, 2018 with input and timelines from staff.

Update 6/19/18
In the discussion of land use policies by the BOS in their Jun 19th, 2018 meeting, in the wake of the Measure C election, Sup Wagenknecht led off the discussion, after acknowledging the quadrennial joy of getting to ask for a job back and hearing from his bosses, with a very clear-headed analysis about the importance of Measure C based on listening to voters. The initiative, as he saw it from their standpoint, was not a vote about the somewhat confusing technicalities of the measure. Their yes vote seemed to be saying "I'm upset about all this change that is happening in napa, all this development". It was a plebiscite on the many development issues that have pitted residents against developers, including the winery industry, over the past few years. Yes on C was a proxy for a vote of concern over the pace of that development. And it was a vote about whether residents would have a say in the process to address that concern.

Sup. Dillon proposed a deliberative process be set up to discuss the broader issues that underlay the negativity and anger that were a part of the Measure C campaign. She cited successful community deliberative processes: GRAC, General Plan update, the Flood Control project. She suggested a third party facilitator, with working groups and the use perhaps of something like "Crowdfire" to identify the the challenging facing the county and to seek an answer to the question "What is the carrying capacity of Napa County?" A 50-50 spit over the future direction of Napa County is not sustainable. And decisions need to be science based, a refrain that would be heard again and again. (She didn't mention APAC or the Walt Ranch hearings, the two deliberative processes that convinced the citizens of Napa County that change was only possible through the initiative process.)

Sup. Gregory wanted some leadership from the Board before the community commission was convened with a restart of the Board's Strategic Planning Sessions that seemed to go nowhere last year.

Sup Pedroza wanted to know what are the problems to be solved? He doesn't see any data to indicate that the development trajectory of napa county is on the wrong track. Look at con regs and ordinances. Bring us the science. We need "scientific, fact-based" decisions. The board needs a conversation first before a community collaboration. And it needs city partners in the process. Later he added that wanted to see process timelines from the staff.

Sup. Ramos felt that Supes were chosen to make tough decisions, and she was not interested in a deliberative approach that's tries to appeal to emotional concerns rather than factual concerns. The decisions need to be made by Supes and favors the Strategic Planning Sessions rather than public workshops,. No need for another futile APAC process on steroids.

In public comments community reps Eve Kahn, and Gary Margadant, both a bit unprepared because the lack of notification and cryptic staff report on the issue, voiced concern about the ineffective 3-minute-speech format for resident input in the collaborative process. The wine industry "stakeholder" representatives were on hand to express, once again, their need for science, fact-based decision making and faith in the Supervisors as decision makers. "I don't feel I'm limited to 3 minutes, I can call up the supervisors whenever I want. And write longer letters and give them to you.", one of the industry reps said. (Since that's what she's paid to do, it might be a bit easier for her than other citizens with their own lives to lead.)

Dir. Morrison then concluded with "I look forward to the journey we are about to embark on." drawing some chuckles from those knowledgeable about the other journeys he has been on these last few years.

On Tues June 19th the BOS will begin (let's hope it is a beginning) to discuss land use policies in the wake of the defeated Measure C initiative.

The brief staff letter on item 10A of the BOS agenda is here

From the staff letter: "Based on prior policy discussions before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, staff has developed a series of options for discussion to address current challenges and further the County's goals of protecting agriculture, the environment, and the economy."

The effort would seem to be Sup Dillon's followup to her editorial commitments made during the campaign:
"We can all be sure that whether Measure C passes or not, these issues are urgent and will drive policy discussion far beyond the election. The real challenge will be to find common ground in the search for solutions to the problems that face us.

Regardless of what happens once the votes are tallied, I am fully committed to do all I can to bring all the stakeholders together to make Napa County a leader in stewardship and sustainability."

It will be interesting to see what Measure C's opponents on the Board have to say. And to see if this effort, like the APAC look at winery proliferation, will be merely an exercise in due diligence or an impetus for change.

Measure C: what next?

George Caloyannidis - Jun 28, 2018 10:56AM  Share #1924

Lessons from Measure C numbers
(complete results here)
Measure C was defeated by a mere 600 or so votes among the 36,000 cast. In the face of an extraordinarily high 47 percent voter participation for a primary election, the issue - far from resolved - is at its tipping point, serious enough for the supervisors to finally pick up the ball so that we don't end up at the ballot box once again.

Sifting through their related statements: Supervisor Pedroza advocates having a "conversation" and Supervisor Ramos proposes having that conversation at the Board of Supervisors' platform, meaning 3-minute comment periods at public hearings. But in the face of the one-sided APAC failed model, the time for conversations is over as it will undoubtedly be perceived as one more delaying tactic.

Given this reality, Supervisor Dillon's view that a resolution may be facilitated only through a "science-based" determination of the "carrying capacity of Napa County" is a good first step towards the big picture. Instead of the Planning Commission doling out new permits for more wine production, visitations and events for the asking as it currently does, a set of carrying capacity metrics would serve the long term health of the Napa Valley well.

But as constructive as a carrying capacity study would be, all factors that affect it must be examined and acceptable standards must be set for each one of them. How many wineries are enough? How many tourists are beneficial? How many woodlands - and not just oaks - must be protected? How much traffic congestion is acceptable?

Should winery and agricultural development be permitted on mile-long hillside roads with no secondary accesses? Should areas in the county be graded according to more, less or no development zones? How can we rectify the enormous damage winery use permit violators have inflicted upon our valley by escaping environmental review? Just to name a few.

Science, of course, can be helpful in setting standards in terms of water availability under extended drought conditions, carbon dioxide emissions, pesticide leaching and sedimentation into our reservoirs, traffic intersection grades, air quality.

Added to the difficulty of setting commonly agreed upon carrying capacity standards is the widening credibility gap between the residents and our county government.

The county has been reassuring the public for too long that it has been applying CEQA mandates effectively and that all developments have been mitigated to "less than significant impacts" until traffic congestion proved how misplaced the public's trust in the supervisors as guardians of the residents' quality of life has been. Other issues are less visible but there are there nonetheless.

The credibility of the Board of Supervisors was further compromised by its choice of the consultant for its 9111 reports on Measures C and D. These reports were not only bias-based but they attributed provisions to the initiatives that were downright false. If this were not enough, none of the supervisors challenged even a single finding in these reports during public hearings; in fact, they precluded answers to questions by the initiatives' drafting attorneys.

Entrusting the supervisors with the choice of widely acceptable consultants or with defining carrying capacity standards is highly problematic at this point and a serious dilemma right from the start.

As difficult as the task may be, it is imperative for such a process to move forward without delay. This is what governing is all about after all. Otherwise, anger and discontent will keep growing beyond its current tipping point with no telling where this may lead. Judging from the national political landscape, when officials remain unresponsive to wide public demands, mistrust grows and results can become irrational. Then the people are left with no choice but to take the law into their own hands by resorting to initiatives.

In the year ahead, I urge the Planning Commission and the supervisors to devote less time on processing single-interest applications and direct the bulk of their efforts on issues which affect the quality of life of all residents. Their policies of the past decade have seen the transformation of an agricultural economy into a tourist economy. The impacts on residents and on the natural environment were never adequately thought out.

It is time to right the ship.

NVR LTE version 6/27/18: Measure C: what next?

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