|Jul 12, 2018|
Napa County Strategic Plan
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 short 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.
Napa County Draft Strategic Plan 2018-2022
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
NVR 12/17/18: Napa County unveils plan to deal with Measure C, other issues
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
NVR 9/18/18: Napa County residents share visions for the future with supervisors
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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The Draft Strategic Plan
|Bill Hocker - Dec 17, 2018 5:24PM Share
NVR 12/17/18: Napa County unveils plan to deal with Measure C, other issues
The Draft Strategic Plan is here.
It will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Dec 19, 2018
Our Vision for the Future
Napa County is an agricultural treasure known for its legendary wines, our small-town character, and sustainable natural resources.
-Napa Strategic Plan
For those that hoped the Napa Strategic Plan would be a vehicle to address the growth issues that are impacting the quality of life of Napa residents (the issues that led to the Mar 10 2015 joint BOS/PC meeting
and the creation of APAC
, and Measure C
and countless fraught hearings over major projects like Walt Ranch
and individual wineries) the draft report may be a bit too focused on symptoms and palliatives rather than causes. It does not talk about how to slow the stream of development projects that occupy almost every planning commission meeting, adding buildings, visitors, employees, traffic and a demand on resources in an urbanization process that is directly counter to the vision of the Strategic Plan.
The Plan contains 81 action Items that are a bit more aspirational than actionable, and leave a lot of room for interpretation.
Six action items mention traffic/transportation: "Improve and maintain the existing transportation and roads system to accommodate all users"
is the essence. Transportation action items are already being looked at in the Update of the General Plan Circulation Element
. Unfortunately limits on the growth that is creating the traffic are not seen as part of the solution. (30% of the 1000 questionnaire comments
Only one action item mentions wineries: "Work with stakeholders to update and develop sustainable regulations for issues including but not limited to residential development, view shed development, solar facilities, winery compatibility, outdoor winery hospitality, food pairings, and pesticide use."
This is the crux of some development concerns. But the County's unwillingness to halt development while these issues are being defined or re-defined, and the APAC experience which essentially ignored residents as "stakeholders" in any decisions, makes one apprehensive. (20% of the questionnaire comments mentioned winery/wineries)
Only one mentions tourism: "Residents want to feel that the County is working for them, rather than catering to tourists, by encouraging more small businesses, family activities, and local services that focus on building community, improving well-being, and making it easier to live and work in the County."
Tourist urbanism is the biggest threat to the rural character that residents treasure in the county. The county should get out of tourism development promotion and concentrate on real agriculture. (20% of questionnaire comments mentioned tourist/tourism/hospitality)
Only one mentions vineyards: "Establish a cap on vineyard development through 2030, consistent with the 2008 General Plan Environmental Impact Report (EIR) project description."
The 2007 EIR Agriculture chapter
posits an additional 12,500 acres on top of the 42,000 acres then in production. (Appendix H dealing with vineyard projections, like many of the documents dealing with the 2007 EIR, were lost when the new County website was launched in 2017
) This is one of the few concrete proposals but, much like the compliance program, simply reinforces the status quo. As pointed out in the NVR article, one section does deal strictly with the issues raised by Measure C and the action items are also rather specific. It is almost as if the only major complaint the BOS had with Measure C was that they didn't write it. (13% of questionnaire comments mentioned vineyards/agriculture)
Only one mentions growth: "Develop a balanced approach to growth based on data-informed decisions."
"Balanced growth" is a bit like the oxymoron "sustainable growth". Unfortunately, balance and sustainability only have a chance to be achieved once the growth is stopped. Also, the industry/government mantra "data-informed decisions" always seems like an excuse to put expert-justified development above resident-centered quality of life. Quality of life is hard to quantify. Expert opinion about impacts and real impacts are not the same thing. (5% of questionnaire comments mentioned growth although growth is at the heart of other concerns)
The Strategic Plan is mostly a declaration of good intentions, and as such is to be commended. "Community" is the most frequent word in the document after "Napa County Strategic Plan". But APAC, likewise, was commissioned with good intentions toward the interests of the community, intentions that were watered down or erased entirely when subjected to industry pushback. We each read what we want to into the intentions, and I can see how they would be the basis for constructive change in dealing with the issues of growth in the county. But, how the action items will actually be interpreted, or modified in ordinances or practice, is a very open question.
The fact that the Plan is nominally concerned with only the next three years still seems a bit odd, a rather short term vision of the future. We are celebrating 50 years of the Ag Preserve. It has been a success. But "growth" has Eden fraying around the edges, with building projects in the vineyards and on the hillsides and with chronic traffic congestion and a tourism economy replacing both the agricultural and residential economy. It was that fraying that is behind APAC, and Measure C and the resident activism that seems to have led to this Strategic Plan. Extrapolate the "growth" that has occurred in the last 20 years and there will be little left of the "agricultural lands and rural character that we treasure" 50 years from now. We need to begin a Strategic Plan not for the next 3 years but for the next half century. Otherwise there will be nothing to celebrate at the 100th anniversary of the Ag Preserve.
Napa Strategic Plan feedback
We the people have power
|Patricia Damery - Aug 10, 2018 10:00PM Share
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
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."
BOS Strategic Plan Session 1
Meeting date: 7/31/18
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.
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".
After Measure C: Land Use policy under review
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