|Jan 19, 2015|
Largely through the activism of neighborhood groups opposed to specific projects, like Woolls Ranch on Mt Veeder Road, Yountville Hill in mid-valley, Raymond Winery on Zinfandel Lane, Walt Ranch on Montecello Road, the Syar expansion or our own Mountain Peak on Soda Canyon Road, the county in 2015 began to consider the development future of Napa
in light of the concerns of residents in addition to those of the traditional stakeholders, concerns that might align more with the original intent of the Agricultural Preserve legislation to protect agriculture and the rural nature of the county.
On Jan 20th 2015, to insure a meaningful presence in the process, an initial meeting of various neighborhood groups and individuals around Napa Valley, each concerned with development projects proposed or ongoing in their communities, met to see if their efforts could be enhanced by working together. The working title for this group was The Grand Coalition to Save the Napa Valley
. I have tried to document the efforts of community groups individually on this site and will continue to do so here
. This page will be devoted to the joint effort now known as Napa Vision 2050
[As of Sept 2017 Napa Vision maintains a new website at http://napavision.org
. The NapaVision 2050 website prior to that is archived at http://napavision2050.org.s68933.gridserver.com
NapaVision 2050 Facebook Page
NVR Editorial Board 10/3/15: Napa County In 2050?
NVR: A new coalition, Vision 2050, will scrutinize county's future
As of April 2015 the following groups are coalition members of NapaVision2050:
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|NV2050 Admin - May 21, 2017 10:25PM Share
Proposed helicopter pad inflames Napa Valley’s winery wars.
The latest assault on Napa County resident's homesteads hits the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“When is enough, enough? People with lots of money are coming in here and doing whatever they want. They’re not the ones on the tractor, though. They don’t have any sense of the land.”
—Dan Mufson, President, Napa Vision 2050
Napa Vision 2050 supporters...
The San Francisco Chronicle today detailed the recent developments in the Palmaz Heliport proceedings, as well as the challenges facing Napa County residents at the hands of over development.
We need to keep the pressure on the Planning Commission and the Supervisors so that they wake up and start to represent all our voices. Please ask your friends to get on our mailing list! There's strength in numbers. Make democracy work for you!
|NV2050 Admin - May 17, 2017 9:41AM Share
“Napa is getting really carved up. We see it all over the western and eastern ridges - it’s been relentless.”
--Adina Merenlender, conservation biologist, University of California, Berkeley
We have a lot to lose if our Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission do not stop the movement of vineyards into our hillsides and watersheds.
This recent article from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies addresses the dangers of continued removal of shrub, oak woodlands, and forests for new vineyards on the County’s environmental health, interviewing several biologists, vintners, and activists. “Extensive water diversions, groundwater pumping, and increased agriculture (vineyards) water use during the dry season have reduced the extent of suitable summer rearing habitat ... throughout much of the Napa River watershed,” National Marine Fisheries Service scientists wrote in the Napa River chapter of a 2016 report. This threatens remnant populations of steelhead and salmon. Read the article here:
The article features interviews with our hard working local activists Kelly Anderson, Preserve Rural Angwin; Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett, the Water, Forest, and Oak Woodland initiative; and Geoff Ellsworth, St. Helena City Councilman.
Proponents are working to prepare an updated Water, Forest, and Oak Woodland Initiative and would like volunteers to help us gather signatures. Contact us at email@example.com
. Your donation
will support our continued work to create and maintain a “preserving harmony” in Napa County between agriculture and the natural world.
|NV2050 Admin - May 12, 2017 4:14PM Share
Your Presence is Urgent!
Attend the next Planning Commission hearing of the Palmaz application for a private use helicopter Landing Use Permit (UP# P14-000261) on Wednesday, May 17, at 9 am, the County Administration Building. County staff has yet again recommended that “the proposed Project would not have any significant environmental impacts after implementation of mitigation measures related to potential impacts to: (a) Land Use and Agricultural Resources; (b) Biological Resources; (c) Cultural Resources; and (d) Noise.”
Not only does this fly in the face of past testimony of biologists and neighbors, but it defies logic! Furthermore, the approval of this permit will open the door for many others!
Consider making public comment (three minutes!) and/or sending your comments to the Planning Commissioners (see addresses below).
Even if you do not wish to make public comment, your presence makes a difference. Presence means votes at the ballot box and our supervisors are watching!
Please consider the following comments
from Calistoga resident, Christine Tittel, someone who has lived the nightmare of a Napa valley helicopter flying neighbor.
Private use helicopters are solely for private recreational or convenience purposes with only negative impacts on the public.
Helicopters are prone to accidents.
Helicopters are noisy!
The County may not grant a Use-Permit when fully aware that in practice non-compliance to its conditions is impossible to monitor, impossible to document and that in its entirety is impossible to enforce. Currently there are helipads on Diamond Mountain, Pritchard Hill, Hennessey Ridge and reported landings at the above locations and on Tubbs Lane in Calistoga and Atlas Peak Road. All are illegal. Many other landings are also reported taking place around the county due to lack of enforcement .
A Palmaz approval will open the doors for many others who are watching and to the proliferation of helicopter flights over the Napa Valley skies. This will drive the final nail to our peace and quiet.
Absolutely nothing justifies the use of private helicopters! Stop private heliports in Napa County! Show up at the May 17, 2017, hearing, 9 am, and voice your objection. County Administration Building, 3rd and Coombs Street, Napa, CA.
Supporting Documents: HERE
Michael Basayne (707) 815-7042 firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Scott (707) 251-5533 email@example.com
Jeri Gill (707) 337-4975 firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Cottrell (707) 408-1166 email@example.com
Joelle Gallagher (707) 738-7108 joellegPC@gmail.com
|Stephen J Donoviel - Apr 21, 2017 11:04AM Share
Defining agriculture is a seemingly simple task. Webster New World Dictionary has the following definition: The science and art of farming; work of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock. Various trade and citizen groups have addressed the definition in the Napa County General Plan and its land use policy, codes and ordinances, and this has proven vexing over the past decades and is an example of the saying, “the devil is in the details.”
On April 1, 2008, the Board of Supervisors proclaimed April to be Agricultural Preserve Appreciation Month and pledged to support the letter and the intent of the Ag Preserve. That Proclamation
honored the visionary leaders who in the late 1960s, “…realized that agriculture is and should continue to be the predominant land use in the fertile valley and foothill areas of Napa County, where uses incompatible to agriculture should be precluded and where the development of urban type uses would be detrimental to continuance of agriculture and the maintenance of open spaces, which are economic and aesthetic attributes and assets of Napa County.”
The Proclamation summarized several milestones:
April 9, 1968--Supervisors adopted Ordinance 274
, establishing the Ag Preserve District (APD) protecting 25,950 acres from urban development.
1979--Supervisors adopted Ordinance 610, increasing the minimum parcel size in the APD from 20 acres to 40 acres.
1980--Voters passed Measure A
, limiting population growth in the unincorporated county areas to 1% per year.
November 6,1990--Voters passed Measure J
, which spoke to certain land use Elements of the General Plan of June 7,1983 and prohibited changes without a vote of the people (emphasis mine).
The Finding and Purpose Section of Measure J reads in part:
“Uncontrolled urban encroachment into agricultural and watershed areas will impair agriculture and threaten the public health, safety and welfare by causing increased traffic congestion, associated air pollution and potentially serious water problems, such as pollution, depletion and sedimentation of available water resources. Such urban encroachment, or ‘leap-frog development,’ would eventually result in both the unnecessary, expensive extension of public services and facilities and inevitable conflicts between urban and agricultural uses. The unique character of Napa County and quality of life of county residents depend on the protection of a substantial amount of open space lands. The protection of such lands not only ensures the continued viability of agriculture, but also protects the available water supply and contributes to flood control and the protection of wildlife, environmentally sensitive areas and irreplaceable natural resources.”
Measure J was tested all the way to the California Supreme Court where it was upheld. Subsequently, Measure P
, which readopted portions of the General Plan land use tenets of J, viz., agricultural, watershed and open space lands could not be re-designated and made available for more intensive development without a vote of the people.
Over the years, something has gone terribly awry with the codification and implementation of the vision and wisdom of the leaders in the 1960s, the drafters of Measures J and P and the wishes of the people who voted for those measures. Decades ago, the activities of agriculture, which had little or no regulatory restriction, were pretty much as Webster’s definition encompassed, and the “rural lifestyle” prevailed. Over time, more and different activities have been added and changed to those originally assigned to agriculture. Recently, activities related not to agriculture, per se, but to the business of agriculture, such as housing, marketing, branding, entertaining, and serving food, have taken center stage ahead of the product (wine) and have resulted in the uber-glitzy experiences that have been leapfrogging through our Valley.
The regulatory language related to the implementation of what was meant to protect our Valley, its farming and its citizens has been ratified without attention to CEQA and EIR analyses, resulting in the problems we currently experience and those the visionaries hoped to avoid. These problems include but are not limited to multiple ecological degradations, markedly increased traffic congestion, which results in increased driving hazards and road damage, and pressure on all infrastructure spheres.
Two perspectives seem to have emerged to the latest revisions to the definition of agriculture and modification of the zoning code that the supervisors favored in their vote of the first reading on April 3, 2017. One perspective views the revisions as “no big deal” and a mere alignment of regulatory language, and the other, to which I belong, views the revisions not only as an assault on the English language, but more importantly as an assault on the hopes and expectations of the visionaries and the voice of the people who passed Measures J and P. Land use changes per J and P can be made solely by the supervisors if certain, specific conditions are met, and these specific conditions are not being met. Therefore, I believe the supervisors should place this issue as an Initiative for the voters to decide in 2018. If you agree that we citizens of Napa should have a say in this matter, please let your supervisor know ASAP since their second vote will probably be coming soon.
This LTE appeared In Napa Register 4/19/17: The Definition of Agriculture.
|NV2050 Admin - Apr 13, 2017 6:47PM Share
Our Board of Supervisors could learn a thing or two about participative democracy from right wing republican Tom McClintock. a congressman from the Central Valley. McClintock knows how to treat people with respect, no matter what their politics.
Napa County Supervisors can take a lesson from him! In their so-called “outreach” for the development of their Strategic Plan, not ONE of the supervisors has attended, only their expensive, hired consultants! They seem to be doing everything they can to keep us at bay. Why don’t they hold an open session for public participation as they last did in 2015 when hundreds of residents filed the Napa High auditorium? And schedule the session on a Saturday so working families can attend.
In contrast, McClintock chose the largest venue in Sonora, and when 250 people showed up beyond the capacity of the hall, he stepped outside before the meeting and addressed the overflow crowd.
He told them that he wanted to hear their views and give them a chance to speak by organizing another meeting and by having those who already made their comment make room for those who hadn’t.
See the attached, highlighted article from the Sonora Union Democrat.
A huge lesson for us all here in Napa Valley! Listen! Hear us! Our views are important! After all, “This is what democracy looks like!"
|NV2050 Admin - Mar 8, 2017 4:09PM Share
Hello Napa Vision 2050 supporters!
Are you yearning for some democracy?
Frustrated with Napa County’s continual approval of harmful projects?
Think it’s impossible to get something done against all odds?
Monday night, March 6, 2017, after a 18-month battle, our brave, dedicated and organized neighbors in “Fresh Air Vallejo
” beat back plans to construct a private industrial port (VMT) at the mouth of the Napa River. The first tenant, as a part of the VMT/Orcem application, is a cement plant (Orcem/Ecocem). The bulk of the ‘future’ tenants are unknown. The project is being pushed by group of industrialists, including Jim Syar of his privately-held corporation Syar Industries—Syar Napa Quarry fame.
The proposed site is the historic Sperry Mill. It is located right next to Sandy Beach, the waterfront community where the San Francisco ferry slows down
as it enters the Mare Island Straits.
This site is so close to an elementary school that Orcem representatives and its attorney actually tried to explain why hundreds of diesel trucks flooding the residential streets next to the school were not a bad idea.
And in a textbook example of greenwashing, to lessen the diesel truck impact VMT/Orcem would utilize the 19th century railroad that runs through Vallejo up to Napa Junction and deploy barges up the Napa River.
Our neighbors were fighting for us too.
Dare we dream that it is possible for our Napa County officials to catch a strong case of democracy from Vallejo?
Today we are celebrating this effort, and ask that you join us in our mission!
|George Caloyannidis - Feb 23, 2017 3:06PM Share
In 2004, Constant Diamond Mountain Winery and a Wine Country Helicopter operator filed an application for a landing use permit, arguing that winery helicopter landings would provide an economic benefit to the county and have a minimal contribution to traffic reduction. Thanks to the efforts of one Napa Vision 2050 Board Member, the supervisors were not convinced and made such landings illegal, under Napa County, Ordinance # P 04-0198-ORD, enacted June 15, 2004. This ordinance effectively prevented an entire new industry of helicopter operators from crisscrossing the sky and disrupting the Napa Valley scenic and quiet agricultural environment.
BUT NOW WE ARE FACING A MUCH MORE PERVASIVE BATTLE:
NVR 2/27/17: County prefers Mount George site for Palmaz heliport
Currently, there is a private use helicopter application for a Landing Use Permit on Hagen Road in Napa (UP# P14-000261) making its way through the process at the County with the scheduled hearing at the Planning Commission on March 1, 2017. Private use helicopters are solely for private recreational or convenience purposes with only negative impacts on the public on a variety of fronts, including risks of accidents, which helicopters are prone to, higher CO2 emissions and, especially, noise pollution . Absolutely nothing justifies their use.
Currently there are helipads on Diamond Mountain, Pritchard Hill, Hennessey Ridge and reported landings at the above locations and on Tubbs Lane in Calistoga and Atlas Peak Road. All are illegal. Many other landings are also reported taking place around the county due to lack of enforcement . All are waiting for Palmaz approval, which will open the door for them.
If this first use permit is granted, hundreds of wealthy homeowners will follow. Air taxi operators may also avail themselves of the business opportunity.
If this sounds farfetched, Uber tested this model during the recent Aspen Festival. The sure to follow proliferation of helicopter flights over the Napa valley skies will drive the final nail to our peace and quiet environment.
Stop private heliports in Napa County! Show up at the March 1, 2017, hearing, 9 am, and voice your objection. County Administration Building, 3rd and Coombs Street, Napa, CA.
Sign the Napa Vision 2050 petition opposing private heliports in the county here.
|Daniel Mufson - Feb 17, 2017 8:02PM Share
County Planning Commission Hearing for the Final Environmental Impact Report on the Palmaz Heliport Project will happen on Mar 1st, 2017, 9:00am at the County Building, 3rd Floor, 1135 3rd St Napa. The notice for the hearing is here
The Board of Supervisors chambers were full last week [one year ago now] for the meeting on the Palmaz Heliport ("Proposed Palmaz helipad sparks big turnout at meeting
," Jan. 17). It is difficult to understand why the non-essential pleasures of one individual can trump the health, safety and welfare of ALL of his neighbors.
We have collected more than 500 signatures on a petition against the heliport. Neighbors from Hagen Road, Coombsville and beyond came to protest this intrusion. The question asked by many was why even go through the environmental impact report process, isn’t there anyone (Supervisor) who can step up a demonstrate leadership and put a stop to this?
We understand that a proposed ordinance has been submitted to the Supervisors to change zoning regulations to prevent private helicopter landings. It would be marvelous if they could promptly act on this and save everyone lots of time and effort to deal with the environmental impact report process.
Helicopters are not safe. The Register carried a story (“FAA seeks industry help as helicopter bird strikes increase
,” Dec. 28, 2015) about the FAA’s concern about bird strikes on helicopters. With so many large birds, including eagles, herons and geese, residing in the proposed flight path and about Mt. George it is inevitable that there will be an air strike and tragedy.
I recently suggested that if this heliport is approved, there will be many more applications and we will see the proliferation of Uber helicopters for the Uber rich. We have now learned that Airbus is working with Uber to supply these air taxies (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 18). So I say to the Supervisors, if you don't stop this project, we will be inundated with helicopter traffic. “HELI-NO!"
Oh, and while you’re at it, let’s ban delivery drones.
NVR version 1/23/16: Pass a ban on private helipads
NapaVision2050 Palmaz Petition page
SCR Palmaz screed
And coming to a theater near you! The Invasion of the Ubercoptors.
|Harris Nussbaum - Jan 24, 2017 11:42PM Share
In a recent front-page article in the Napa Valley Register "Wine Battle Now A Pizza Fight," Rex Stults from the Napa Valley Vintners is quoted as describing Vision 2050 as "a small, divisive group of people with the ambition of taking down the Napa Valley wine industry."
That troubles me because it so far from the truth. Vision 2050 is actually a coalition of 14 local groups that got together because they saw our political leaders approving every winery and vineyard development, without regard to its impact on the environment, water, residents, and the wine industry itself. It has a great appreciation for all the wine industry does for this valley and wants it to succeed.
It is actually a very large group of local citizens from 14 significant organizations including Get A Grip, Sierra Club, Mt. Veeder Stewardship Council, Save Yountville Hill, Protect Rural Napa and others. It consists of grape growers, vintners, doctors, lawyers, educators, business people, and many other professionals. They are bright and articulate local residents who have a concern for the future of this Valley.
The wine industry here is changing. Locally owned wineries are often being bought up by international conglomerates with little connection to the valley. Most follow the rules laid down when they were approved. As in most industries there are a few bad apples that greatly violate the conditions of approval. A problem was that so many new wineries were being approved the county could not provide oversight to what they were doing.
Each group in Vision 2050 has an issue they are concerned about and it has split the power of the group, but there have been changes because of their efforts. Now is not the time for us to fight over pizza or to call each other names. I believe we all want the wine industry to succeed, but many fear that without some foresight it will destroy itself.
I want to thank Vision 2050 for its efforts to bring many Napa residents together and to the wine industry for supporting many worthwhile programs.
NVR version 1/20/17: Redefining Vision 2050
|Patricia Damery - Jan 9, 2017 9:50PM Share
Anyone who sat through the presentations by the neighbors at the Mountain Peak Winery Planning Commission hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 4, must also be appalled at the apparent ignoring, again, by the commissioners of significant comments from informed and thoughtful neighbors about traffic, road conditions, safety and the meaning of building such an event center (and yes, this is an event center, not just a winery) six and a half miles up a substandard dead-end road originally built for residential use 60 years ago.
Videos of speeding cars passing trucks on double lines, photos of lines of trucks and trucks and trucks, and of flash floods inundating the road, water as deep as a foot, were shown. Residents raised the specter of the county’s liability. Who will be responsible when the county approves a project on a road they know is substandard and there is loss of life due to lack of safe egress during a fire?
Two commenters addressed the impact of the spoilings from the caves on the pristine, blue line creek that serves Rector Reservoir. When it silts in, when the county is sued, we, the taxpayers, pay— not Mountain Peak Winery.
Going to Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings is like watching Groundhog Day over, and over, and over. The same things happen: The applicant is helped by the Planning Department to fit their project into the rules, planners recommend approval, certifying that all impacts of the project are "less than significant." The citizens, noting that the impact on their lives and on the future of the county is significant indeed, protest the recommendation of the planning department to the Planning Commission, as they did yesterday.
The commissioners listen but ignore citizens’ data. When the commissioners okay the project, it is then appealed to the Board of Supervisors, where this process happens all over again: informed citizen comment (three minutes only, please!) and then, as if it didn’t happen, slam, bam, thank you M'am, it is rubber stamped. Those impacted, and that includes all of us in the Napa Valley, are given the choice: Do we spend thousands or tens of thousands to sue the county?
Our county’s elected and appointed officials continue to ignore the cumulative impact of these projects on our environment, on our roads, on the quality and quantity of our water and on the fabric of our community. If you have enough money, you can do anything. First step is to fund the campaigns of the Board of Supervisors, then do some modifications to your initially inflated plans to show you really are a responsible winery and/or vineyard owner.
You’ll be allowed to use mitigations, exceptions and variances to make your square project fit into the round hole of the “rules,” rules, that are, it should be noted, crafted by the wine industry to its own advantage. And then you say to those of us who are looking at the larger picture: I followed all the rules and now I deserve the permit.
The question is no longer can these projects, which increasingly infiltrate our watersheds and hillsides, be done, but should they? Our governing officials appear to lack the will, intelligence and moral courage to really take this on. Bullied by big (big!) money, they have fallen captive. In an issue as important as the spread of development into our hillsides and watersheds, we citizens need to wake up.
Write or visit your supervisor. Demand that he or she act for the common good of the people and the environment, not of that of a few corporate and wealthy interests.
NVR version 1/9/16: Groundhog Day at the Planning Commission. Again.
|Daniel Mufson - Dec 31, 2016 10:51AM Share
view the email version of this article
And in 2016, Napa Vision 2050, a coalition of 14 affiliates in Napa County joined together with the citizens of
Together, we are POWERFUL.
Napa Valley to bring about
the Napa Valley Register's #1 story for 2016,
"Wine Industry Under Fire".
The Number 1 story in Napa in 2016 was the voices of citizens joined together to fight for environmental rights and environmental justice. It was a story of how citizens fought to protect their forests and watersheds. It was a story of citizen voices vs. corporate campaign contributions. It was a story of citizens who live here vs. corporations that don’t. It was a story of citizens who want to be heard by their representatives in county government. It was a story of citizens fighting for their Napa Valley.
Whether it's championing a citizen's rights in our community, delving into environmental issues affecting our Napa Valley and standing up with heart and courage against large corporations from outside our valley looking to alter it, the citizens of Napa Valley are POWERFUL.
As we look to the new year, the fight will continue on the streets, in the County Government Offices and in the Court Rooms as we fight to regain our lost rights to place an initiative on the ballot and to challenge the lack of concern about toxic emissions and the public health.
Before 2016 comes to a close, you can support our efforts by making a donation today. Every gift will make a difference, and you can give with the knowledge that you are supporting programs that promote quality of life by preserving the agricultural nature of Napa County for the benefit of future generations of residents and visitors.
Donate Now and make a gift to Napa Vision 2050. ( Napa Vision 2050 is a IRC 501(c)(4) public welfare corporation. As such donations are not tax deductible.)
We at Napa Vision 2050 thank you for partnering with us in our mission to promote responsible planning in Napa County. Together we are POWERFUL.
We wish you and your family a very Happy New Year!
Napa Vision 2050
Copyright © 2016 Napa Vision 2050, All rights reserved.
|Nancy Tamarisk - Dec 4, 2016 9:56PM Share
There are good reasons for Napa residents’ unprecedented level of opposition to the Walt Ranch project. Five organizations are appealing the project to the Board of Supervisors. These include the statewide Center for Biological Diversity, and local organizations including Napa Sierra Club, Living Rivers Council, Circle Oaks Homes Association and Circle Oaks Water District. While it is impossible to summarize all of the issues in contention, these are some of the major ones.
Water: Circle Oaks is a small rural community of about 500 residents, almost surrounded by the Walt project. Its water district relies on wells adjacent to the Walt property. Circle Oaks is concerned that irrigating the Walt vineyards will deprive Circle Oaks of water, a worry supported by the findings of expert hydrologists. If Circle Oaks wells run dry, residents will not only be unable to supply their needs, but will also be unable to get homeowners’ insurance, because they will lack water for fire protection. Circle Oaks property owners would lose their investments in their homes.
The Walt project does not require any action if Circle Oaks wells run dry. The water district would have to prove that the Walt project caused the water shortage, a requirement virtually impossible to fulfill.
Napa City water is also at risk. For example, Patrick Higgins, a fisheries biologist, asserts that the Milliken reservoir, a Napa City water resource, is in danger of being overwhelmed by algae blooms with any increase in pollution from vineyards. While the City of Napa has reached an agreement with Walt, it requires only monitoring. It does not require Walt to take any remedial action if pollution exceeds predictions.
Regarding sediment, the Walt proponents maintain that vineyard installation will actually decrease sediment runoff. Our experts maintain that this is impossible: their calculations are incorrect.
Opponents also contend that the Walt could decrease flows to Milliken Creek, threatening downstream salmon and steelhead.
Greenhouse gases: Under its current incarnation, the Walt project would clear-cut over 14,000 trees, destroying the ability of those trees to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and producing “super-pollutants” such as methane when they are disposed of, either by burning or chipping.
The project proposes to “mitigate” this woodland destruction by establishing a conservation easement on other trees on the property. However, this is not mitigation! The protected trees will not magically absorb twice as much carbon dioxide to make up for the lost carbon storage of the destroyed trees. In the real world, greenhouse gases will increase.
Climate change is a crisis, both globally and for Napa. Already we have more wildfires, infrastructure (Highway 37) threatened by rising sea levels, less reliable water supplies, and even speculation about whether Napa can remain a premier grape-growing region. The contention that there will be no impact on greenhouse gases by the removal of 14,000 trees is a farce, and Napa County cannot be a party to it.
Special Status Species: Numerous species of concern are affected by the Walt project. Much of the opposition has focused on red and yellow-legged frogs and pond turtles. These species are the canaries in the coalmine, the first to go down as expansion of human development and climate change disrupt the natural world.
Experts’ testimony has noted that the environmental impact report provides such minimal information on the species studies that they are unable to even determine their adequacy. Two egregious examples include a watershed survey that was supposedly completed in only one day, when an adequate survey would actually require a minimum of one to two weeks to accomplish. Then, there are the surveyors of red-legged frogs, unable to tell the difference between a young frog and a tadpole, or to identify the frog species they encountered.
In addition, the limited buffers around the streams will be inadequate to protect anything approaching the actual habitat of special-status frogs and turtles. These creatures often over-winter hundreds of feet from streams and travel more than a mile to a new habitat or population.
NVR version 12/4/16: Walt Ranch's unresolved issues
|Patricia Damery - Dec 3, 2016 8:25AM Share
I’m writing to supplement several important facts from the hours of testimony from the Walt Ranch hearings, in the articles “Napa’s Walt Ranch vineyard hearings open with protest
” and “Proponents of Walt Ranch make their case
The Halls, the applicants for Walt Ranch, have applied to convert 316 acres of a large, 2,300-acre tract of land in the Ag-Watershed into vineyards. Although the project has been modified following the protest of various environmental and local groups, it still involves cutting over 14,000 mature trees, the equivalent of cutting 62 percent of the trees on the city streets of Napa.
As this project started moving through the EIR process, the Halls began contributing large sums of money to various local lawmakers’ campaigns. As these hearings began, Chair Alfredo Pedroza asked the Supervisors for “disclosures.” They responded by stating any meetings or correspondence they (recently?) had. Not one disclosed any campaign contributions from the Halls. Can our supervisors make an independent decision that is for the benefit of the community and our environment when the project’s applicant has contributed thousands of dollars to his or her campaign?
One of the biggest dangers of this project is the fact that it is a large part of one of the five remaining biologically diverse areas in Napa County in which the original native plants, animals, and soil structure supporting them still thrive. As we face the uncertainties of climate change and a warming earth, it is critically important that we protect areas still intact and not further exploit them. This project includes cutting the oak woodlands, which will impact the entire ecosystem these remaining animals and plants populate.
Four different groups, appellants, found fault with the EIR and want the Board of Supervisors to protect our environment by sending the project’s contested EIR report back for future study. I was disappointed to see a lack of reporting on the appellants’ many reports from biologists, hydrologists, earth scientists, geologists, which took serious issue with some of the findings of the Walt EIR.
Attorney Tom Lippe also questioned the process of the EIR in terms of CEQA compliance. Former supervisor Ginnie Simms also pointed out that the project’s 35 blocks of vineyards, each with roads and water supplied to them, are a thinly veiled real estate development, ready to be sold separately for lifestyle vineyard estates— and wineries. The EIR’s responsibility is to anticipate the consequences of such possible future trajectories. This EIR did not consider such future development, which would have significant impact on water, traffic, and on ecology of the region.
We heard that four novice biologists spent only one day evaluating Walt Ranch for reptiles and amphibians when only one of them is a herpetologist and others could not identify a tadpole from a frog. And hydrologist Greg Kamman reported the proposed deep-ripping of the thin top soils in order to plant vines, a process recommended by Walt Ranch consultants, does not improve soil infiltration rates, thereby limiting runoff, but in fact destroys soil structure which naturally handles water infiltration. Even the Regional Water Quality Control Board says there is no evidence deep-ripping increases infiltration rates. These are only a few of the many counter claims.
There are too many discrepancies and the stakes are too high. Insist that the EIR be redone. Contact your supervisor to come down on the right side on this: send the EIR back for expert evaluation.
NVR 12/1/16 version: Walt Ranch needs better environmental evaluation
|Carl Bunch - Nov 28, 2016 3:19PM Share
A Read Worth Sharing
Environmental activist Mike Hackett,
writes on the recent Napa land use fights reprised.
In this great read, Mike shares the perspective of
Land Trust of Napa County pioneer and life long environmental activist, Duane Cronk.
Duane is vehement about the similarities
between national politics and the political climate
here in Napa County, California.
READ MORE .We encourage you to share this with your friends
and help spread the message of responsible growth and development here in Napa Country out to our community and beyond.
|Daniel Mufson - Nov 20, 2016 4:30PM Share
An update from Napa Vision 2050:
People waged the Walt Ranch battle in the
Napa County Board of Supervisors chamber
and on the street Friday.
Upwards of 100 people joined together to rally against the cutting down of 15,000 trees in WALT Ranch for wine grapes! #HALLNo #HaltWalt
Photo credit:J.L. SousaPhoto credit:J.L. Sousa
Local New Coverage
KTVU Channel 2 News : Nov. 18th, 2016
KTVU Channel 2 News: Nov. 17th, 2016
National news wires are listening!
As reported today in the New York NetWire
. "The City of Napa estimates
it could cost its water ratepayers $20 million dollars
to deal with agricultural pollution from this single project."
Get out! Stand up! Join Us!
Napa County Administration Building
1195 3rd St,
Napa, CA 94559
Tues. Nov. 21, 2016
These meetings are an opportunity to connect
with your Napa County Supervisor.
There is no rally Tuesday.
We ask you to spend some time with your supervisors. Use the contact information below
to schedule an appointment with your representative.
We encourage you to sit down with them
and clearly define your views on this issue.
Together we are stronger.
See you Tuesday!
|Daniel Mufson - May 31, 2016 9:03AM Share
Your voice is critically important to our water supply, our community, and Napa County's future.
Next Tuesday, June 7, 2016 is the Primary. If you haven't mailed in your ballot, please hand carry it to downtown Napa or to a local polling place. Your voice has never been more important!
If you live in District 4, you have several choices for Supervisor, including Diane Shepp. Diane is a local resident who has had years of experience in Napa County in the service sector and on the county Grand Jury. Almost all of her campaign donations come from individuals who want the community, the environment, and business to be in balance. She is not bought by special interests. We need governing officials not beholden to wealthy people or corporations who have voted to get and keep them in office. We hope you give her your vote.
We are in a crisis in Napa County, a crisis of consciousness that is a microcosm of that in our country and in the world. It can be summed up rather simply, although it is a complex problem: are we going to continue to allow economic interests of an increasingly small few, often outside investors, trump the needs of the larger population, the community, and the environment? The drought has pushed the issue: the quality of our Napa City water supply is impacted by the degradation of our watersheds.
Governing for sustainable growth
Ron Rhyno (Published in the Napa Valley Register May 29, 2016
A 1980s State Water Resources Board report predicted intense competition for water by 2020 between agriculture, industry and homeowners. That same report said California was taking more water from our aquifers than was being replaced. The Central Valley is already there. There are two types of growth: more -- that assumes unlimited or accessible resources to support growth; and Better or Smart -- that recognizes limits and wisely manages finite resources to sustain healthy environments and economies.
The current and future supervisorial elections will determine the sustainable future of Napa County and the Napa Valley. Unanswered questions posed by high Napa County cancer rates for children and white and Hispanic males; unaffordable housing for winery, vineyard, hotel, restaurant, school and college employees contributing to traffic congestion beyond tourism; increasing development in fragile watersheds putting water quality at risk; more wineries creating unplanned competition causing requests for more events, visitations, and production to sustain healthy profit margins; our struggling Berryessa populations; and unseasonable climate variations affecting every aspect of county life, all point to the need for different governance for all the county's people.
Excellent governance has four aspects: governance as an ongoing deep learning enterprise; informed and wise planning and policies toward a sustainable future; intelligent decision making in the present intending a sustainable future; and courage in decisions to fix the mistakes of the past. Intelligent governing and wisdom come from lots of experience, and courage is the product of integrity with toughness on behalf of all those one is elected to serve -- all with constant learning.
In Supervisor District 4, is Alfredo Pedroza, with post-college credit union and banking experience, two years of an uncompleted City Council term and 18 months as a governor's supervisor appointee. The Register "Stark choice" endorsement on April 24 of Alfredo Pedroza as "unquestionably an establishment figure ..." and "He deserves election ... so he can prove his worth on his own terms," raised more questions than provided information. Perhaps insight can be gained from the more than $200,000 his campaign has raised largely from winery and business donors, including from three projects now before the supervisors: a precedent-setting private heliport in a residential area, the Syar pit expansion, and the Walt Ranch watershed vineyard development. Campaign contributions are investments; we contribute because we believe the values and decisions candidates make will support our values, needs and interests. What is it that the donors of over $200,000 to the Pedroza campaign know or believe about the incumbent?
By contrast Diane Shepp has over 25 years of leadership and coalition building for results; extensive life and community-serving experiences, an understanding of the systemic relationships and need for harmonic planning for human, environmental and economic well-being; a personal process leading with inquiry, courage and willingness to dig deep with thoughtful consideration, meeting commitments, keeping promises, investment in our county, not just the valley; and a personal experience with and commitment to diversity in all its aspects. Her campaign contributions tend to be small except for one out-of-state tech company.
With Belia Ramos, attorney, former aide to Congressman Thompson, American Canyon City Council member, running unopposed in District 5, our communities and the supervisors have Hispanic representation with extensive county and legislative experience. Diane Shepp will bring independent community-centered representation and new diversity to the supervisors, creating a board majority of three women for the first time in Napa County history -- women being a majority in Napa County.
In this District 4 election cycle Shepp is the choice toward a sustainable and enduring Napa County future, beyond 2050.
Past president, Mexican American Political Association, Napa County; past Clinic Ole Board;past Solano-Napa County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board; Foreman, 1988-89 Napa County Grand Jury
|Patricia Damery - Apr 8, 2016 7:42PM Share
One of the biggest takeaways in the recent Napa Valley Vision 2050 Economic Forum
was a statement from Boston University professor and researcher Samuel Mendlinger. “We need to face the reality that Napa Valley is no longer an agricultural community, but a business community,” he said. “Only then can we ask the right questions.”
My husband and I are farmers—growers, as they say now— both from Midwestern farming families. I love the rhythms of farming, the culture and the intimate relationship with the earth, and I will continue to do so. The truth of this statement about our valley is not something I have wanted to accept— and yet it’s been hanging there, just off in the wings.
Privately, I discussed this more with Mendlinger, and with more specificity. We delineated some of the differences in these two approaches and the frictions that develop, frictions that only cause more polarization.
For instance, in an Ag community there often are spoken and often unrecorded agreements between neighbors (easements, agreements on water usage, etc.) which are held to in good faith.
When land becomes economically interesting, and those wealthy enough to buy land that has been handled in these older ways, trouble ensues.
Often, these people’s wealth comes from business, seldom agriculture. Neighbor agreements no longer work because it isn’t on the newcomer’s radar, and too often, concern. There are simply different rules in business.
In the Napa Valley, I have watched newcomers move in from out of county or state, and not consider that spoken agreements might exist. Even when easements have been recorded on titles, the county does not consider them in the permitting process.
Consequently, neighbors are forced into battles with each other, fighting it out in the Planning Commission, appeals to the Board of Supervisors, and in our courts. Yes, it causes friction —in part because we are operating in different paradigms: the “old” ways of agriculture and and the “new” ways of business. Could we find a happier medium?
And this is just one of the several challenges of outsiders moving in, viewing land as a business venture versus an agricultural contract with the land. Napa Valley is fighting the wrong fight in not recognizing this shift. Polarization only gets worse and any real problem solving, impossible.
If we can accept this shift, though, then maybe we can start formulating the right questions, which address not so much preserving agriculture, as protecting — and improving — the environment and the serious challenges we are facing with climate change and wine industry successes — to our watersheds, water, the social fabric, housing, traffic patterns.
This does not mean ignoring our Ag Preserve and Ag Watershed lands. It means recognizing, like it or not, the 2010 revisions to the WDO (Winery Definition Ordinance) has made these ag-zoned lands venues for intensified business activities.
How do we address this so business interests do not eclipse environmental, social, and fiscal considerations?
This, too, was a strong message in the forum: the importance of strong citizen groups in communication with our governing officials, and governing officials who listen. I applaud our county officials for the public hearings and times of public comment, for their willingness to engage with the public.
I applaud the forums where all sides have a voice. It is important that these officials make decisions with a broader perspective gained by this discourse. This could just be a process by which we find workable solutions that address the environment in all its dimensions: watersheds and water, economic health, and tourism in balance with a healthy community.
NVR version 4/8/16: Ag communit or business community's?
|Daniel Mufson - Apr 1, 2016 11:21PM Share
Napa's resident-based agricultural economy is dying. It is quickly being replaced by a corporate-based tourism economy. What does that mean for the residents, the government, the physical environment and the soul of the county? Napa Vision 2050 has begun to explore these issues. Below is the Napa Valley Register summation of the forum.
|Bill Hocker - Apr 2, 2016 11:40PM |
For me the defining moment came late in the day. Dr. Mendlinger, while praising the involvement of residents in the planning process, seemed to bring a sociologist's clarity to the table: "Napa has a linguistic problem.", he said. "It claims to be an agricultural community when it is, in fact, a business community." I'm sure many of the pro-development members of the audience were quietly saying "duh!" The rest of us, obviously, have been spending too much time reading the vision statement of the Napa County General Plan.
|Daniel Mufson - Mar 18, 2016 10:14PM Share
Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 7-9PM
2121 Imola Avenue
(The Napa County Office of Education Building)
There is no charge to attend. Translation service for Spanish speakers will be provided.
Napa Vision 2050 is a coalition of neighborhood and environmental groups from all around the county. Over the past year we have been working to restore some sanity in how land-use permits for new and expanding wineries, hotels and heliports are approved. Dan Mufson will present our report-card to you.
Many of your neighbors have been concerned about the operation of the Syar Mine & Asphalt Factory which emits dangerous gases and particles into the air we breathe. Come to this meeting to hear your neighbor Kathy Felch explain the risks to the health of your family and what we can do about it.
Did you know that Napa County has the highest rates in California of cancer in children and white adults and is #2 in Hispanic cancers?
We are sponsoring a ballot initiative to protect the city's water supply. Jim Wilson will explain why our watersheds need enhanced protection.
Come with your neighbors.
|Patricia Damery - Mar 10, 2016 9:58PM Share
Attending the Napa Vision 2050 meeting on Wednesday evening, March 2, I was impressed with the accomplishments of what can only be described as a movement.
Napa Vision 2050 was formed a year ago when President Dan Mufson called together several citizen groups who were disturbed about what was happening in their own neighborhoods. He thought 20 people would gather at that first meeting at the Napa Valley Marriott & Spa; more than 50 of us crowded the room. Wednesday evening I counted more than 100 in attendance. The ranks of the disenchanted are growing.
In a short time, Napa Vision 2050 has made an impact. It has only begun.
The organization is now composed of representatives from more than a dozen neighborhood and environmental groups who see a pattern in their individual issues that affects our whole county. This pattern is one in which the economic interests of the wine and hospitality industries drive the decisions of our county planners, planning commissioners, and Board of Supervisors.
Despite the rhetoric, decisions being made have a cumulative negative impact our water supply and watersheds, our air quality, traffic, and the changing fabric of our community.
All these issues take a back seat when time and again deep-pocketed wine and hospitality interests influence our elected and appointed government officials decisions. Permits are handed out despite violations, safety concerns on roadways, and larger health issues (witness the silica, cancer-producing emissions of Syar and the fact that Napa County has the highest cancer rates in California. The Board of Supervisors has yet to take any action on this alarming situation.)
Amazingly, large event centers have even been finessed to be described as an "accessory use" of agriculture, effectively commercializing our "protected" agricultural lands!
It is not that wineries and hotels are an important part of the economy here. No one argues this. But they are only a part of the social fabric. Their wealth is on the backs of the rest of us: most of their workers are low-paid and many cannot afford to live here.
They have to commute, and along with tourists, fill our highways. The incursion of these event centers — which are deemed necessary by these investors for their direct marketing— impacts our watersheds and water supply. It changes climate. Cutting trees to plant vineyards contributes to conditions of drought.
We cannot count on the economic needs and demands of these industries to consider the larger whole. In fact, the presence of wine and hospitality industries' special interests degraded the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee (APAC) recommendations being adopted by the Board of Supervisors, even after hours of a supposedly democratic process over the last summer APAC was appointed by the Board of Supervisors from 17 stakeholders, business, and environmental groups in the Napa Valley to make recommendations that would guide the Planning Commission addressing problem issues around permitting and violations in wineries and vineyards in our county.
Napa Vision 2050 is a group working to give all of us a voice in what happens in our valley. In 2050, it is predicted by the state Natural Resources Department that the climate will be 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer and, should this occur, 60 percent of our vines will not viable. It is time we insist our governing officials not be bought by the financial interests of the wealthy few —who are increasingly outside investors— but consider the whole of us. We have to put our environment in all its aspects, first.
We are interconnected. The decisions being made are decisions that may bring more money for a very few for a little while, but they open the economic divide and degrade our water, our environment and our social fabric. Visit the Napa Vision 2050 website and consider becoming a part of this movement to make our county government one representing the all the people.
NVR version 3/10/16: From a vision to a movement
|Christine Tittle - Feb 18, 2016 12:53AM Share
Four so close to home is one time too many.
On Sunday, February 14, a "marche blanche" - white march - took place in the center of Bordeaux
in protest of pesticides following a two-hour French television documentary, viewed by 3 million, based on a leaked government database identifying the iconic wine region as one of the highest in pesticide use.
Hair samples of children from schools in the Gironde identified the presence of 40 dangerous chemicals. This comes on the heels of statistics showing that leukemia among children there is 20 percent higher than the French national average. In the premier sweet wine region of Sauternes, a whopping 500 percent higher!
Napa County has 22.8 children cancer deaths per 100,000
- a 69% rise between 2000 and 2012 - the highest in California and the second highest for adults with 488.9. Popular use pesticides have been linked to cancer, leukemia, kidney disease, Parkinson's and more. Napa County had 115 breast cancer cases and 20 deaths in 2014. When will we Napa residents wake up?
According to industry reports, 20 similar pesticides agents are used in Bordeaux, Napa and Sonoma.
The California Legislature has enacted AB289/AB947 (Jackson), known as the Pesticide School Protection Zone Act, designed to protect schools from pesticide drift. We can all guess why Napa County has not followed its recommendations.
Though such data are not new, Napa county policies on these life and death issues, rather than mitigate, continue to exacerbate the problems.
Its promotion of more and more visitors (200,000 more annually over the past two years) who along with the tens of thousands of low paid commuters both the wine and hospitality industries employ, are major contributors to carbon emissions with their cars moving at a snail's pace in what has become an urban-like, environment.
Mining and asphalt recycling operations at Syar spew carcinogen crystalline silica particles into the air which drift up-valley each and every morning with the inflow of the San Francisco Bay fog. Yet, the County is seriously considering its expansion, all in the proximity of no fewer than nine schools - never mind AB947 - and one hospital. Incredible as it is, in order to accommodate it, all new residences near Syar, including several hundred at Napa Pipe will be required to install 2.5 micron air filtration systems. Opening windows if at all possible or outdoor activities, will be at one's own risk. Have we lost all sanity?
There are over 50 pending applications in the County for new wineries and winery expansions totaling 567,000 new visitors and 2.9 million gallons of wine which according to the 75% rule will require 6,000 more acres of Napa vineyards, all in the watershed areas in the hills as the valley floor is already planted. With them come more deforestation, car emissions, pesticides and vineyard burns. Remember, three out of four weeks in January 2015 were declared no-burn days.
Our watershed replenishes our wells and the aquifer from which we all drink and irrigate. From there the pesticides find their way into our produce, and animals. They accumulate ever so little by little in our systems until one day we get the news no one wants to hear.
Geothermal discharges, antimony and arsenic end up in the Napa river from overburdened sewage disposal infrastructures starting as far upriver as Calistoga. Yet, hospitality development is proceeding full steam to accommodate the ever increasing demand solely fueled by County visitor policies. The Water Quality Board has been fining Calistoga year after year ordering it to mitigate its violations. In the meantime, many families will face tragedy.
Waiting to isolate the specific causes of our unenviable cancer record from study to study is only a way to provide cover to our officials for not doing what we all know they need to do: Instead of accommodating the proliferation of pollutants, they must enact policies that will reduce them. All of them. Now!
In a February 10 town hall meeting, Councilman Pedroza told the public that he is for "balance". When asked what he meant by balance, he said that there is a point beyond which growth disturbs the balance. Overuse of our infrastructure, traffic gridlock may be tolerated by some as inconvenience, but not cancer.
Mr. Pedroza's pro-growth voting record does not reflect the rhetoric. As the chair of the Board of Supervisors he has the opportunity to take the lead in changing direction. When the next of 50 applications for increased wine production and visitations (about two per week!) comes before his appointed Planning Commissioner or before himself on appeal, we will see if action will reflect sincerity.
When collusion between greed and campaign contributions weigh in on one side and the highest cancer rates in the State on the other, how many destroyed lives will it take to compel the supervisors to finally act on restoring balance?
Documents related to this letter
NVR 2/26/16: Napa explores reasons for high cancer rates
Christina Tittle LTE 2/21/16: Three close to home is one time too many
|Daniel Mufson - Feb 6, 2016 6:35PM Share
Wednesday March 2, 2016, 7-9 PM
NapaVision2050 Community Meeting
Location Napa Valley College: The Little Theater (Building 1200-Room 1231) map
NapaVision 2050 is one year old. Please plan to attend our first anniversary meeting on March 2 to see our report card and get updates on the most important issues before us.
• Welcome & First Annual Report (Dan Mufson)
• Exploring the Tourism-Economy (George Caloyannidis)
• Syar Quarry-Public Health Aspects (Kathy Felch)
• Heli-No! The Palmaz Heliport (Rob Purcell)
• Is County Government Responsive to our Needs? (Diane Shepp)
• Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2016 (Jim Wilson)
• Open Discussion
Friday, April 1, 2016, 8 AM through the afternoon
Economic Forum Sponsored by Napa Vision 2050:
The Tourism-Based Economy
Program Goals: We have assembled three experts to provide a framework to analyze the benefits and costs of a tourism-driven economy. Benefits and costs are environmental, fiscal and social. The panel will explore the various parameters and limits of each. We hope this forum will open the dialogue, and provide the framework, to plan for sustainable growth in Napa County.
The Social Impacts--Samuel Mendlinger Ph.D., Boston University
The Fiscal Impacts--Eben Fodor, Fodor & Associates, Oregon
The Environmental/Traffic Impacts--Susan Handy Ph.D., UCDavis
For more information and to register go to http://napavision2050.org/forum.php
|Patricia Damery - Feb 5, 2016 4:15PM Share
Comments to the Jan. 28 article, "Proposed Initiative Targets Watershed Protection
," reflect some of the wildfire of opinions around this issue. They raise the question: What is this really about? Property rights? Belligerence at being told what to do on one's own land? Worries about limitations of vineyard conversion in what has become prime real estate and investment opportunity?
The initiative addresses the environment of our watersheds. Finally, Nature has an attorney (Shute, Mihaly, and Weinberger, the firm also drafting our current Agricultural Preserve, the first in the nation). The initiative's stated purpose is that of protecting the "water quality, biological productivity, and economic and environmental values of Napa's streams, watersheds, wetlands and forests, and to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare of the County's residents." In other words, The Commons.
As property and vineyard owners, my husband and I know the annoyances of having to attend to regulations when making decisions about what happens on our land. Yet, as there become more and more of us in our county (and on our planet), as valley floor land is used up and investors turn their sites to the hillsides, it is time we understand the unintended consequences of converting even more of our oak woodlands and forests to vineyards.
Oaks and forests are important parts of the organ of watershed. Watersheds unite us as a community, as citizens of the county, of the country, of the earth. Oaks and forests are important in restoring aquifers and in healthy riparian corridors. Our current General Plan's tactic has been to suggest voluntary oak protections. There is little protection for the newer generations of oaks the ones that will replace the older ones in time. (Oaks under five inches can be cut without further adieu.)
Yes, older, larger trees should be protected, but the younger generations need protection as well. This initiative makes these protections mandatory and spells them out. Yes, it means more regulations on us land owners, but we are also protected from those of us who seem to see only dollar signs and "great cabs" in the surviving oak woodlands and forests.
The wine industry and outside investors are no longer the driver; county government, whose job is to represent all of us and protect our commons, is.
NVR version 2/5/16: Protect our precious commons
|Christine Tittle - Jan 8, 2016 8:07AM Share
I read Barry Eberling's report on Christian Palmaz's application for permission to use a helicopter on his property so that since he "lives and breathes aviation" he can satisfy his "incredible passion," to use his own words. His ambition is to set the "gold standard for what it means to have a helipad for private use in Napa County" ("Proposed helipad creates waves in east Napa
," Dec. 27)
But there are problems with such a standard, golden or not.
: The people in Napa County don't want helicopters flying overhead.
They stated so emphatically in 2004 when 3,500 petition signatures were enough for the supervisors to create Ordinance P 04-0198 prohibiting helicopter landings at wineries. I was instrumental in that drive. In the Palmaz case, almost every single immediate neighbor of his - 187 of them - have signed petitions objecting to such a permit as have 377 of the general public just by word of mouth and not in response to any organized effort.
One might ask, for what purpose would one grant the request? is it to satisfy one person's "incredible passion?"
: Any assurances regarding flight paths and operation heights, which Palmaz assures the county he will follow, lie outside county's ability let alone jurisdiction to enforce. The county's jurisdiction extends exclusively on land use. Once the helicopter rises even one inch off the ground, the sole enforcing agency becomes the Federal Aviation Administration whose standards involve safety and only safety. For all practical purposes, once Palmaz is allowed to use his property to land a helicopter, he may do as he pleases as long as it is deemed safe.
: There are several thousand properties within Napa County that would satisfy FAA safety standards for helipads and thousands who can afford one.
We, as humans, are blessed with the ability to imagine such a future. We had better make use of it.
: Helicopters are not as safe as they are being portrayed. Just this past month, three non-military crashes occurred: Dec. 2 at Rancho Santa Fe; Dec. 10, McFarland; and Dec. 24 on the island of Fiji. All in all, six people dead. The Eurocopter model Palmaz proposes to fly has had 33 crashes since April 2004, 13 of them in this country. Bell helicopters have an even worse safety record. Attorney James Crouse (helicopterlawyers.com) who follows the industry, has compiled statistics that show that while airplane accident rates are 0.175 per 100,000 hours of flying, those of helicopters are 7.5. That is a staggering 42.85 times higher. One might ask, for what purpose would one grant the request? Is it to satisfy Palmaz's "incredible passion?" Or is it for us to find out what a "gold standard looks like?"
: Studies have shown that helicopter noise hurts some wild animal species of which there are plenty in that vicinity, though according to residents who have lived there much longer, not as many as before Palmaz Winery spread thousands upon thousands cubic yards of cave tailings over wetlands without prior grading permits for which the Bay Area Water Board leveled its highest ever fine.
In its 1987 survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that helicopter-induced noise "impacts all wildlife - especially waterfowl and colonial nesting species - ranging from minor behavioral responses to severe changes in the use of the area." One might ask, for what purpose would one grant the request? Is it to satisfy someone's "incredible passion?"
: Many towns have engaged in this experiment. In the Hollywood Hills, the problem has become so intrusive that even performances at the Hollywood Bowl are being disturbed prompting Senators Feinstein and Boxer to introduce Senate Bill 208/470 for appropriate regulation. Other communities such as Torrance and Long Island, New York have introduced complaint hot lines; an administrative nightmare and cause for residents' frustration for which there is almost nothing counties and cities can do once they have permitted landings. Is Napa County willing to go there just to satisfy an individual's passion?
Are there benefits for helicopter flights in this county? Indeed there are.
Wherever emergencies occur, crime, fires, injuries for which no landing permits are required. As far as Palmaz's offer to make his heliport available for emergencies, only a few thousand feet down the road is the Napa Valley Country Club with plenty of sites for emergency landings.
When it comes to the convenience of individuals and their joy rides, there is no one single means of transportation that impacts so many people in so many negative ways as private helicopters. Not one to be dismissed is the fact that residents within the impact radius of airports and heliports, must disclose this potential nuisance to any eventual buyer.
Sign the Napa Vision 2050 petition opposing personal helicopters
NVR version 1/8/16: Many reasons to oppose helipad
|Daniel Mufson - Dec 1, 2015 6:39PM Share
Duane Cronk LTE 12/8/15: Kudos on development forum
NVR wrap up 12/1/15: Grassroots groups look to flex political muscle
Alex Shantz LTE 11/28/15: Forum will address growth issues
(On Mon Nov 30th, not Fri)
The Napa County Green Party
will host a panel discussion entitled, “Growth in Napa County: A Community Forum,” on Mon., November 30th from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. in the Napa County Library Community Room located at 580 Coombs Street in Downtown Napa.
The purpose of the panel is to present multiple community perspectives on various aspects of growth in Napa County and spark a robust county-wide discussion. Topics and panelists will include: The Impact of County Development on the Cities (Chris Malan and Geoff Ellsworth), Syar Mine Expansion Proposal (Kathy Felch and David Allred), Watson Ranch Project (Mike Schneiders), and Downtown Napa Development (Karen Garcia and Lowell Downey).
This panel will highlight the varied and deeply interconnected issues concerning development and growth in Napa County. Attendees will be able to examine and discuss how issues ranging from the County’s revised definition of agriculture, wine tourism, low-paying jobs, lack of low-income and affordable housing, increased traffic, deforestation, and poor air and water quality are all interwoven in terms of development in Napa County.
“In order to understand these issues and the wide impacts, they have to be viewed holistically. This is what the panel hopes to accomplish by bringing together a wide range of stakeholders,” stated Alex Shantz, Co-coordinator for the Napa County Green Party. “Our goal is to bring together community members from throughout the County to discuss areas of concern and, more importantly, what we can do about them.”
|Chris Malan - Nov 30, 2015 8:30AM Share
Napa County has a problem with growth that is severely harming the environment and consequently, our health, safety and welfare. Politicians should not approve development projects that at build-out will degrade our fresh water resources and fail to comply with our environmental laws.
Between Jan. 19, 2014, and Feb. 7, 2015, the city of St. Helena failed to properly manage and maintain its wastewater treatment plant so that 5.035 million gallons of partially treated wastewater surged from a torn holding pond, contaminating groundwater and nearby wells. The state recently issued a $290,177 settlement penalty (reduced from $498,465) because of harm to the environment. Since then, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board is considering orders that will direct the city of St. Helena to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant to meet new requirements or face more penalties and civil liabilities.
From 2014 and 2015, the city of Calistoga’s Dunaweal wastewater treatment plant released to the adjacent Napa River, elevated levels of pollutants in violation of their National Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems permit, NPDES. A recent Conditional Waiver issued by the water quality control board, with a reduced settlement for mandatory minimum penalties, was recently signed by the city in the amount of $12,000.
In addition, Calistoga’s wastewater treatment plant utilizes efﬂuent storage ponds adjacent to the Napa River that have been percolating into the river for many years. The infrastructure of this problematic facility, which has operated under a cease-and-desist order for the past year, has not been able to handle the sewage load of its current population and has necessitated emergency discharges into the river when ﬂows are low; yet, the city of Calistoga has approved extensive new resorts/housing developments despite public protests.
The Napa River is not a sewer! The Napa River is home to a unique assemblage of ﬁsh that need protection as more species slip into extirpation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency listed the Napa River as impaired (polluted) in 1988 due to pathogens, nutrients and sediment.
Invasive plant growth and algae are plaguing our waterways due to bio-stimulatory contaminates such as phosphate. During rain events these contaminants mobilize and flow to the receiving waters of the state. When this contaminated water is held in our municipal reservoirs and subject to warm days and sunlight, algae grows and multiplies exponentially.
Some of the many species of algae are harmful to human consumption and can form lethal toxins. Unfortunately, the current acceptable treatment for algae is bleach; however, chlorine has harmful byproducts that cannot exceed allowable limits in potable water. Both Napa and Calistoga cities used too much bleach in 2015 to treat municipal water from our reservoirs, hence the public had to drink contaminated water from bleach byproducts known as tri-halomethanes, which are carcinogenic.
In the meantime, no new wineries, hotel and spa facilities, housing nor vineyards should be considered or constructed (if previously approved) that will cause further stress to the communities’ sewer capabilities and water treatment facilities.
Our cities alone cannot assure that freshwater supplies remain potable.
The county shares the burden to collaborate with them to establish clean water policies and protective watershed zoning. Most of Napa County is agricultural watershed zoning, which allows for deforestation by vineyard development. Currently, there is a timber harvest and conversion to wine grapes planned for Bell Creek municipal watershed that will directly impact water quality for Bell Canyon Municipal Reservoir. In the Milliken municipal watershed the county approved or is approving clear-cutting of over 30,000 oaks. These lands are subject to high intensity pollution from industrial chemicals and pesticides used in the production of wine grapes.
However, this industry is not alone in polluting our streams, rivers and aquifers. Cattle continue to graze throughout our watersheds in and close to streams.
As residents, we also share in the responsibility to manage our homes such that chemicals don’t mobilize to the streams, rivers and ocean. Recent studies show that glyphosate, a byproduct of industrial chemicals such as Roundup is carcinogenic. This, too, is making its way into our food and water supply.
Our watershed continues to be grazed by cattle and deforested for grapevines. These activities in watersheds not only destroy wildlife habitat but spoil our potable water where our forests purify our water source and restore our aquifers. Additionally, we know that forests are excellent for storing and sequestration of carbon to help prevent climate change. Every one of us has a responsibility to protect our watersheds, which we rely upon for water in order to live, recreate, fish and swim.
All of this needs attention and change by all.
Come to the Monday, Nov. 30, Growth Forum, 7 p.m. at the Napa County Library, for a community discussion on these and other topics.
NVR version 11/30/15: Napa river is not a sewer
|Patricia Damery - Nov 25, 2015 5:45PM Share
At a time like no other in recorded history of climate change, I continue to be shocked and disgusted by our Napa County government's business-as-usual stance in regard to our environment.
Last March, our planet surpassed the tipping point of 350 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere, the upper limit considered safe, until the plants in the northern hemisphere started blooming; 97 percent of international climate scientists say this is due to human activity.
There are things we can still do to mitigate the damage to our climate, which in Napa County include protecting our oak woodlands, our forests and watersheds, the continued development of sustainable energy sources, and keeping fossil fuels in the ground. For Napa County, this involves stopping the urbanization of our Ag Preserve, Ag Watershed, and forest lands, planning our cities in ways that include availability to mass transit, and creating affordable housing for those working here.
But, sadly, after nine months of APAC meetings and discussions, economic considerations of the wealthy few continue to trump and define land use decisions. Last week, the Planning Commission, in a vote of 3-2, overturned the Planning Department's recommendation to disallow a variance (and I am relieved the Planning Department made this recommendation) for Summers Winery. It is as if the discussions and recommendations of the APAC committee did not happen.
Maybe to some it is a small issue -- a granted set back from the highway. Okay, but add to this the retroactive permitting of a non-permitted winery. This is yet another variance and yet another forgiveness in a long history of such practices in our county, practices which effectively urbanize our Ag Preserve and Ag Watersheds.
The practice of building without permits and then asking for forgiveness is taking the law into your own hands. This year, this has included a winery which dug non permitted caves with a punishment of waiting a year before it can brought before the Planning department again — to be permitted! This is lawlessness and our Planning Commission and our Board of Supervisors are supporting it with their habit of forgiving after action is taken. But more seriously, in terms of the environment, it is death by a thousand cuts.
Each of us, regardless our economic base, is faced with the conundrum of thinking of our personal interests in context of the common good, which above all, includes the environment. This is especially true for our governing officials whose job is to champion the common good. One wonders: do our Planning Commissioners and our Board of Supervisors understand that they are letting special interests bend the rules which were made to collectively protect the agricultural, social and environmental fabric of our county? Do they realize these decisions effectively erode land use decisions by the populace, rules made to protect our agricultural lands?
What do we, the citizens, do now? When the governing officials do not act for the common good, what is our recourse? It is time for serious thought, and then it is time for serious action. Please ask your district supervisor to reconsider the Planning Commissioner he or she has appointed in terms of their standing up for the rules in place and for the recommendations put forth by APAC. Don't let a few (and economic interests) redefine our protections.
The NVR version is here: Stop urbanizing ag lands
(read the comments)
|George Caloyannidis - Nov 10, 2015 2:03PM Share
We had a lot of discussions over the Vision 2050 "negative" image; something which seems to trouble many.
In 1970, Albert Hirschman - an economist at Princeton - wrote a little book; Exit, Voice, and Loyalty
in which he explored the options of dissent to the direction of large-scale enterprises, from the railroads in Nigeria to the war in Vietnam. In each of these enterprises were great failures and the individuals in positions of responsibility had three options in the way they could respond: Exit meant they could quit the enterprise. Voice meant to stay on the job and speak publicly for change in direction. Loyalty meant to stay on the job and keep supporting a failing direction.
Hirschman observed that in the majority of enterprises, most people chose loyalty and very few chose voice. Those who chose exit (which is what I did when Greece came under a military dictatorship) had only a small effect on the enterprise.
If gross errors and injustices are to be corrected, voice, as Hirschman says; "must be fearless and fierce, loud enough to be heard".
In his review of a recent book on Max Planck's life
, Freeman Dyson - a Princeton scientist - draws parallels to Hirschman's model in comparing Planck's choice under the Nazi regime, in which he opted for loyalty, to his son's Erwin who chose voice and was executed for it, and to his friend's Einstein who opted for exit and later reverted to voice from the safety of the United States, which without comparing myself to Einstein, I did as well.
The reality is that Vision 2050 has no option but that of voice, one "to be heard loud and clear" which is the privilege we have protecting us from Erwin's fate. We can only be proud of it by making the most effective use of it, because it is the only avenue available to us if we want to change the direction of the Napa Valley piece meal destruction.
|Gordon Evans - Nov 6, 2015 3:55PM Share
Hi Folks - Time for another unscheduled update:
1. New well at 2100 Atlas Peak Rd.
Many of you have been wondering about this very visible project (now completed). Here’s what I found:
The well was apparently drilled sometime in the ’70’s, driller info and logs N/A. The casing was 8” diam., composition UNK. The well was sleeved with a 6” casing, composition UNK, sometime in the late ’80’s, again driller info and logs N/A. Depth was about 250’, the same as our well here at 2381 APR. When the Sellers moved out, they still had water in their storage tank, which also supplied the limited residential needs for realtor showings and such while the house was vacant. The prospective Buyers discovered the well was putting out only 1-2 gal./min. Through negotiations, it was apparently decided not to spend any more money investigating the existing well for possible rehabilitation, rather to concentrate on drilling a new one. The new one is located approx. 30’ from the old one, and is approx. 600’ deep, cost unknown. I’m told they got plenty of water (60 gal./min.) at 400’. This anecdotal “evidence” of “deep” water availability in the AP area has been backed up by the realtors with whom I spoke.
FYI - Current well drilling costs for a 6” casing run $50-52/ft. Add to that: $1500 for permits, sanitary seal, etc. and, if necessary, a new (2hp) pump & related equipment at $10,000. All costs are approximate, depending upon access, trenching, availability of electricity, etc. Lead time is running approx. 6-8 weeks minimum, regardless of drilling firm used.
2. Assessor’s Parcel Report Language.
In checking on the above project, as well as my own residence and a few others in the area, I discovered that almost every rural property outside the MST (Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay) Basin, basically the valley floor, was listed as “Not in a groundwater deficient area." Through some rather tortuous navigating of various County departments, it appears that this is the default language used in software supplied by a (unnamed) third-party vendor to Public Works that characterized any parcel not falling within the study boundaries of the 2003 USGS MST Groundwater Resources Report
That report was a joint venture with the County collecting and assimilating data during 2000-2002, and cost several hundred thousand dollars, and applied ONLY to the confined MST Study Area Boundaries, NOT the much larger MST Drainage Basins. That (geographically limited) data was relied upon heavily by the BOS in affecting the County Groundwater Conservation Ordinance No. 1294
adopted on August 7, 2007 and changes to the County Water Availability Analysis
adopted on May 13, 2015. In short, unless a parcel located in the MST Drainage Basins was not specifically identified through the permit process as having a “water problem,” it was assumed that no problem existed, because those areas had not been studied! I thought the language was misleading in its inference that there was sufficient groundwater. I believed it should be changed the to something more realistic, e.g., “groundwater data unknown, no data available,” or something similar.
Several discussions with Steve Lederer, County Director of Public Works, led to a modification, and it now reads:
"GW Ordinance: Parcel not in a designated Groundwater Deficient Area (actual groundwater conditions may vary)”
It’s not as misleading, but still has enough legal “wiggle room” to remain somewhat ambiguous. At least it should mean something a bit different and worth further pursuit to anybody who’s interested in a particular parcel and bothers to read it.
Of greater import, however, is the extent to which that original language and the 2003 report have been relied upon by various government agencies in the decision-making process to promulgate programs, policies and statutes - that may never be known.
3. Monitoring Wells in the MST Watersheds.
Items #1 & 2 above led to researching the number and location of any monitoring wells outside the aforementioned MST basin. This info is NOT publicly available (I was told for reasons of privacy on privately-owned parcels and “national security,” i.e., the threat of terrorism on public lands). Discussions with Steve Lederer and Patrick Lowe, County Natural Resources Conservation District Manager, led to the following email response on 10/29/15 from Lowe:
"Our monitoring program was expanded over the past several years to fill in areas where we had data gaps and to address State requirements under the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) legislation. You’ll find more about this in the annual report and studies on the website. As we add wells, the county’s costs go up due to the staff time needed to monitor the wells, from a minimum of twice annually to monthly for some. So we have to focus our efforts/resources on wells that meet our program needs and address state requirements.
However, we are setting up a new program for well owners that may be outside of our current program needs but are interested in monitoring their wells. This will get underway in early 2016 with public workshops to provide more information and gauge the level of interest. If there is enough interest, we will provide training on portable “sonic” monitors that will be available for checkout, as well as information on relatively inexpensive monitors available for purchase. I’ll have both of these monitors available at the (League of Women Voters) Forum on November 23rd if you’d like to take a look at them.
I also followed up with our groundwater consultant (LSCE), to provide additional information on your MST related questions:
The County’s groundwater monitoring effort in the MST area focuses on the MST groundwater subarea in order to track conditions and trends in areas where groundwater use is concentrated and where geologically-controlled groundwater storage units have been mapped. This approach is consistent with the monitoring effort led by the USGS for the 2003 study, as well as the 1977 USGS study by Johnson. In fact many of the wells now monitored by the County were previously monitored by the USGS. The MST groundwater subarea boundary is consistent with the 2003 study area boundary.
The County recently added two volunteered wells to the monitoring network that are located in the watersheds upslope of the MST groundwater subarea. These are accounted for in the 2014 Annual Monitoring Report by their location in the Eastern Mountains subarea. These upslope wells were added to the monitoring network, in part, to provide data on conditions in the vicinity of the MST subarea and to potentially inform the understanding of how much groundwater flows into the MST subarea as subsurface contributions from the watershed areas to the east.
As you indicated, it is possible that in the future there will be a need for additional monitored wells in the watershed areas outside of the MST groundwater subarea.
Luhdorff & Scalmanini, Consulting Engineers
500 First Street, Woodland, CA 95695-4026”
Curiously, Lowe’s earlier email response to me of 10/27/15 stated:
"We do have monitoring wells throughout the MST and our groundwater consultant LSCE has indicated that we don't need additional wells at this time. I will keep you in mind should our needs change in that area. While we don’t provide precise well locations, you may want to take a look at the 2014 Napa County Comprehensive Groundwater Monitoring Program – Annual Report for additional information and maps. You can find it on the Watershed Information & Conservation Council (WICC)/Groundwater website, under the monitoring link.”
4. SGMA (State Groundwater Management Act).
Our neighbor Chris Malan has discovered that the County may be trying to do an "end-run” around the SGMA of 2014. She writes, "Napa County BOS (Board of Supervisors) has fast tracked, without County-wide public hearings, to an GSP-Alternative, which is to continue to study the aquifers and NOT DEVELOP a SUSTAINABLE GROUNDWATER PLAN/SAFE YIELD." While doing a little digging on the County WICC (Watershed Information Center & Conservancy) website, as she suggested, I came across this sentence, which I extracted from this document
"In addition to groundwater monitoring, Napa County is also developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan-Alternative (GSP-A), or Groundwater Basin Analysis, for the Napa Valley sub-basin. Its purpose is to demonstrate the continued sustainability of our groundwater and to address requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).”
I don’t know if there are provisions in SGMA for this procedure, but the cynic in me says that their agenda is already geared to saying there’s no major problem now and they’ve got things under control, but are probably scared to death about the State telling them what to do. Rest assured, Chris and others are following up on this.
5. League of Women Voters Groundwater Forum (What’s Up With The Water Below?).
They are hosting what should be a very interesting and timely presentation at the Napa Main Library, 580 Coombs St., Napa, CA 94559 on Monday, Nov. 23, at 7 P.M. Tentative agenda items (plus a Q & A period) include:
A. Overview/Welcoming Remarks (Joyce Kingery, LWV & Supr. Brad Wagenknecht)
B. Update on the Drought, El Nino, Valley Fire and local water resources, Phil Miller, Deputy Director, Napa County Public Works
C. State Groundwater Management Act - “What is SGMA, what are we doing locally, what’s next?”, Patrick Lowe, Napa County Natural Resources Conservation District Manager
D. Local Groundwater Conditions & Monitoring in Napa County - Improving our understanding: what we have learned, what we need to know, expanded groundwater monitoring, next towards sustainability, Vicki Kretsinger, Luhdorff & Scalmanini, Consulting Engineers
As stated earlier, WAAP is an information vehicle only, and does not solicit or accept financial aid. There are also many fine people who are working hard as volunteers on all our behalf to address our mutual groundwater concerns. However, these activities necessitate the use of experts (attorneys, engineers, hydrologists, geologists, biologists, etc.) who are familiar with the labyrinthian workings of government proceedings, and that requires money. You are heartily encouraged to contribute to one or more of the following:
A. The Living Rivers Council, P.O. Box 2076, Livingston, MT 59047 (www.conservationcongress-ca.org)
B. The Sierra Club Foundation or The Sierra Club Environmental Law Program, Napa Group, P.O. Box 5531, Napa, CA 94581 (www.SierraClub.org)
C. Defenders of East Napa Watersheds (DENW), 153 Ridgecrest Dr., Napa, CA 94558 (Attn: R. Cannon, Treasurer) (www.denw.info)
D. Napa Vision 2050 (NV2050), P.O. Box 2385, Yountville, CA 94599 (www.napavision2050.org)
E. Protect Rural Napa Educational Fund, P.O. Box 5184, Napa, CA 94581 (www.protectruralnapa.org)
These entities may be either 501(c)3 tax-deductible or 501(c)4 non-deductible, so check with the individual organization. Please earmark your funds for a specific use or project here in Napa County.
7. Help Wanted.
If any of you have the interest and the time to help a beleaguered soul research and prepare these newsletters, your assistance would be greatly appreciated. No pay.
8. Photo of the Week:
Note the language from the Napa Valley Vintners, “SOILS: Volcanic in origin, with basaltic red color, shallow with limited water retention, so irrigation is often required.” (Taken at Sattui’s Castello di Amarosa, Nov. 4, 2015)
|Bill Hocker - Nov 1, 2015 5:59AM Share
Glenn Schrueder sends this link:
Tom Wark, fermentationwineblog.com: Critics of The Napa Valley Wine Industry Are Losing Badly
Tom Wark is a wine marketer and publicist and he seems to think that the wine industry is in need of some in-your-face public relations work at the moment - which implies to me that the "critics of wineries" are not losing as badly as he claims. He bashes NapaVision2050 to make his points.
On the basis of the discussion at the bottom of the article, Rob McMillan on his Silicon Valley Bank Wine blog published Picking A Side In the Napa Winery Fight.
After invoking NIMBYism (shorthand for the notion that defending one's community against development is less socially worthy than consuming it for profit) and proving that the vast majority of the population really likes the wine industry (no questions about the tourism industry apparently) he then takes a side:
"I am taking a seat on the side that protects the Valley from wanton growth, deforestation of the hillsides, unfettered growth in new wineries, ruination of streams and habitat, and the destruction of the nature and character of the regions in which we live. We don't need every winery approved without planning for infrastructure."
Sounds like he and NapaVision2050 are on the same side. Is Rob McMillan about to join the NIMBY army? Or does "planning for infrastructure" simply mean more roads to lubricate further development and diffuse NIMBY traffic angst?
He does zero in on the real issue driving the urbanization of Napa county: "its job growth more than tourism". To which I heartily agree. The real question should be how do we control job growth. Unfortunately the pro-growth side in the debate doesn't seem to see job growth as the problem to be solved, just the traffic it creates. More infrastructure and creative solutions
|Gary Margadant - Oct 20, 2015 10:45PM Share
An encounter with the dreaded media. "Self-righteousness meets self-righteousness, boom!" KPIX 5 Emily Turner interview of David Graves and Diane Shepp. The text below is not the whole interview and commentary.
KPIX video 10/20/15: Some Napa Valley Residents Seek Stricter Rules On Winery Tourism
NAPA (KPIX 5) — Wine and Napa go hand in hand, but the influx of people enjoying Wine Country has changed the landscape, the industry and many argue the quality of life.
Diane Shepp moved out of the city to avoid grid lock and urban sprawl. Thirty years later, Shepp said it has reached her Napa haven. A wine cave and tasting room the size of two football fields is slated to go in next door and bring 25,000 people a year to her one lane road.
Shepp and her group, called “Vision Napa 2050,” are fighting for stricter regulation of the wine industry, including the cutback of special events and a return to the focus of winemaking over marketing.
“It is overdue, long overdue,” Shepp told KPIX 5.
The rules regulating the wine industry haven’t been changed in 25 years. There are now 800,000 more tourists and 230 more wineries in the county. So for the first time in a quarter century, Napa County is creating new rules, and that process has become a bitter battle.
“It’s sort of like the perfect mix. Self-righteousness meets self-righteousness, boom!” said David Graves, a winery owner.
Graves said it’s explosive because a major winery revenue source is under attack. New restrictions could cut back on the tourism and tasting industry- that make up thirty percent of his business .
“We can sell to them directly, as opposed to through an increasingly clogged distribution system that has got lots of brands, lots of competing areas,” Graves told KPIX 5.
If that changes, Graves said smaller wineries would face major economic impacts- and new brands wouldn’t be able to enter the market. He understands the need for more controlled development, but worries that process may hurt the industry that spurred it all in the first place.
“If we just sort of say we’re done, then it’s kind like what Woody Allen said about sharks- if you don’t move forward, you die,” Graves said.
“Napa is a famous wine producing region, for good reason, and now it’s becoming an adult Disneyland.” Shepp said.
|Daniel Mufson - Oct 14, 2015 8:23AM Share
October 03, 2015 5:30 pm •
It is clear that Napa County is entering one of its periods of soul-searching, periods that in the past have produced the Ag Preserve, the Winery Definition Ordinance, and alternating waves of growth and no-growth sentiment.
The talk is much the same as previous rounds — what is agriculture? What activities are appropriate for rural areas? What is the best way to preserve our unusual swaths of open space?
And, of course, how much of a good thing is too much?
This new era began as a series of diverse and seemingly unrelated controversies, in various spots in the county with names that meant little to anyone outside the neighborhood: Walt Ranch, Silver Rose, Yountville Hill, Davies Winery, Syar quarry.
Gradually, it became clear that there was a broader set of common threads, particularly a sense by residents in these areas that their concerns were not being addressed. They began to meet at planning commission and supervisor meetings and other venues and compare notes.
This loose group in part led to the March “Growth Summit,” which in turn led to the recent Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee, which looked at possible ways to control development and tourist visitation in the Ag Preserve. And it led to an organized group, calling itself Napa Vision 2050.
The Editorial Board met with representatives of this group recently to discuss their history and mission. We were impressed by their passion and organizational ability. We applaud their interest in grassroots politics and making sure that the voices of average residents are represented.
So far, the group has mainly served as a watchdog or devil’s advocate on a series of projects, questioning the assumptions of planners, developers and environmental consultants. They jokingly referred to it as “whack-a-mole,” a process where proposed projects are coming forward so fast that there is little time to do anything but hop from one issue to the next.
While we may or may not agree with their positions on individual projects, we appreciate the role they have taken for themselves. We are also pleased that they share our view that issues in Napa County must be viewed holistically – a problem in Calistoga or St. Helena has implications in Napa and American Canyon and vice versa. The time has passed for the kind of geographic isolationism that has been the hallmark of Napa County life and politics.
It would be easy to dismiss Napa Vision 2050 as a coalition of NIMBYS. Most were motivated to action by projects in their own backyards that would have affected their lives and property values. Most of their activities so far have involved saying what they are against rather than what they are for.
The group members assured us at our meeting that they are aware of the danger of appearing to be NIMBYs, or of falling into the trap of saying only “no.” They said they would develop a positive vision and a political program as inclusive as possible given their diverse membership.
We hope they follow through on this promise. To become an effective political force, they will need to live up to their name and articulate a coherent vision for the county 35 years from now.
More broadly, however, we hope that Vision 2050 — and everyone else interested in development and growth issues — takes a step back and looks at the bigger issues facing the county.
As we have noted before, the details of wine industry growth in the Ag Preserve may be important, and they certainly dominate the discussion today, but they are not the main problem Napa County faces.
Instead, we are facing the results of a large and growing imbalance between housing prices and family incomes. As is the case in the urban areas of San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area, the middle class is being squeezed out of Napa, leading to increased traffic as workers commute in. The working poor, unable to afford to move out and commute, are being squeezed into substandard and overcrowded conditions in the shadowy corners of our prosperous valley.
We can talk all day long about permits, visitation, setbacks, parcel sizes, variances and code compliance at wineries, but what will really determine how Napa County looks and feels in 2050 is how well we deal with the relentless pressure of gentrification in our cities.
NVR Editorial Board 10/3/15: Napa County In 2050?
|Daniel Mufson - Oct 3, 2015 4:31PM Share
This presentation was made to the Napa County Planning Commission on Sept. 30, 2015 as they were considering the recommendation of the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee regarding possible changes to the definition of agriculture in the County General Plan. (click to view the full presentation
|Nancy Tamarisk - Sep 25, 2015 7:57AM Share
On a recent evening, 100 people crammed the Napa library to share their concerns about development trends in Napa and its impact on our overburdened infrastructure. The meeting was convened by Vision 2050, a county-wide coalition of grassroots groups and individuals whose mission is to advocate for sustainability of our finite resources.
The crowd expressed overwhelming agreement on the importance of over a dozen issues to Napa’s future, including the need to develop protections for our quality of life, agriculture, natural resources and open space.
People shared their opinions aloud, via a paper-and-pencil survey and a vote on priorities.
So what did this group of citizens want us to know?
On the survey, people ranked the importance of each issue on a 1-5 scale. Over 80 percent of respondents rated the following six issues as important or very important to them (score of 4 or 5): protection of watershed and oak woodland; protecting wildlife and riparian corridors; stronger standards of development for wineries and hotels; protection of water for agriculture and residents; maintaining open space for recreation and ecology; and traffic congestion.
Six more issues were rated as important or very important by a smaller majority of 60–74 percent: adoption of a living wage; minimizing “event center” activities in agricultural areas; keeping marketing/hospitality out of the definition of agriculture; minimizing variances for wineries; developing proximity worker housing; and developing a climate action plan.
Finally, in the lowest range, considered important or very important by a “mere” 53 percent, was development of alternative transportation/light rail.
A second exercise, a forced-choice vote, allowed each audience member to choose up to four of the 13 issues as high priority. It revealed the following four top priorities: protection of water for agriculture and residents; avoiding commercialization/marketing in agricultural areas; traffic congestion; and developing stronger standards for development of hotels/wineries.
While these surveys were not scientific, they do reflect the feelings of a substantial group of engaged Napans who turned out for a two-hour meeting on a hot summer night. I heard not a single diatribe specifically targeting agriculture or wineries. But I did hear a great deal of concern about the effects of rapid development on local quality of life, on the character of our agricultural lands, and on our watersheds and wild lands.
Our community simmers with the energy to defend these core values of Napa County. Vision 2050 vows to be a leader in this effort.
NVR version 9/25/15: Setting priorities in protecting the Valley
|Lisa Hirayama - Sep 24, 2015 5:39PM Share
There is a growing grassroots movement in Napa County. Anyone reading letters to the editor will know that those participating in this movement are labeled by their detractors as anti-growth/anti-tourism.
The pictures painted by the writers of these letters inform us that tourism and more wineries are necessary to sustain economic viability. They argue that without this growth, the economic base of the Napa Valley will collapse. This is a false reality, and like all false realities, this one distorts the truth. So what is the truth?
The first truth is that we all need a safe, dependable water supply. On Sept. 15, the Napa City Council began considering policies and procedures surrounding the issue of “trucking water.” Many Napa city and county residents probably do not know that the City of Napa sells water to county users outside the city limits.
A PowerPoint presentation that evening identified four categories of water sales: construction, residential, commercial and irrigation. There is a need to supply water during construction to keep dust down, and the presentation noted that most of the water supplied for this reason is used within the city. There are also county residents who are without water for various legitimate reasons and the city supplies the basic domestic water needs of those residents.
There is one commercial account the city serves: The Carneros Inn. This development was approved by the county, which was assured that there would be an adequate water supply to support the development. This information was incorrect. Currently, the city of Napa sells trucked water to Carneros Inn because without this water, this county-approved development could not survive.
Residents of the area fought the inn development years ago because of concern for their water supply. Now these residents must also depend on the city to provide their water because their supply is no longer adequate. Is this the type of development we are expected to support to maintain economic viability? Is it the average citizen’s economic viability that is at risk if we fail to support such development? Or is it the economic viability of a few that is being served instead?
Another use of trucked water is irrigation. This is used to support some vineyards, and it's true that the number of vineyards supported this way by the city of Napa is small. It's also true that trucked water accounts for a small percentage of the city’s total water supply.
But the quantity of trucked water is not the issue. The real issue is development in areas that do not have the necessary resources to support such development. If the city of Napa must provide water, then that's a development that's been allowed by the county that is unable to be self-supporting.
Is vineyard development in areas with insufficient water something that is to be expected in order to maintain economic viability? And if so, whose economic viability is being sustained by these developments? Who gains, and at whose expense is this gain achieved?
If the grassroots movement must address the false reality of an anti-growth/anti-tourism image, then let the truth be told about what issues represent reality. Should we be expected to sacrifice our water supply on the Altar of Economic Viability so a relatively few vineyard and winery owners can make profits most of us can only imagine?
Should we support construction of a six- or eight-lane highway through The Valley allowing tourists easy access to their destinations all on the Altar of Economic Viability? Should we support more hotel rooms with low paying jobs for people that must now commute in and out of the Napa Valley each day because they cannot afford to live here, thus adding to the already crowed roads?
Should we support unsustainable development, the sole purpose of which is to provide large incomes to a relatively small group of people? Should we support vineyard development in the watersheds because the developer says there is plenty of water to support it?
No, it is false to say the grassroots movement is anti-growth/anti-tourism. The reality is much different. Sustainable, intelligent growth is their real goal. It is sustainable growth that will maintain the health and safety of all of us in Napa County, not just the financial health of a few, some of whom do not even call the Napa Valley their home.
NVR version 9/21/15: The false choice in development issues
(read the comments)
|Daniel Mufson - Sep 16, 2015 7:44PM Share
[The editorial board of the St. Helena Star has endorsed the framework if not entirely the content of Napa Vision 2050. The editorial is here
. And here:]
If you ask a representative of Napa Vision 2050 about what's ailing Napa County, you won't get one concise answer.
And that's OK, because there really isn't one.
After meeting recently with three members of the fledgling advocacy group — Dan Mufson, president; Mike Hackett of Save Rural Angwin; and Geoff Ellsworth of Citizens' Voice St. Helena — we were impressed by their appreciation for the complexity of the challenges posed by growth.
They understand that no silver-bullet solution can solve a set of problems this amorphous and multifaceted. The goals they proposed to us included stronger enforcement of winery use permits, protecting watersheds, keeping wineries away from urban residential areas and requiring businesses to pay employees a living wage.
For some grassroots groups, a lack of focus can be disastrous. But in the case of Napa Vision 2050, we agreed with Mike Hackett that their diversity of backgrounds, interests and goals is actually a strength.
The first step for an organization like this is to get people engaged. They can worry about refining their message later.
At the most basic level, Napa Vision 2050 is trying to protect what we all enjoy: a high quality of life made possible by unique natural resources that fuel a world-class wine industry.
But being such an attractive place has its consequences. People want to visit here, so we need roads and hotels to accommodate those tourists. The businesses that serve those tourists need low- and middle-income workers, who are finding it harder than ever to afford the cost of housing, which has been driven up by high demand among outsiders who want their own piece of the Napa Valley.
Winery development is at the heart of Napa Vision 2050's concerns. The disruption of traditional distribution models and a rise in small boutique wineries have driven a trend toward direct sales and face-to-face marketing, which puts even more pressure on our roads and infrastructure.
But that's where things get complicated. Traffic studies have found that between 15 and 17 percent of traffic on weekdays was attributable to wineries. That includes visitors, employees and other business-related vehicles. If that 20 percent were eliminated, the roads would no longer be congested — but our valley's economic model depends on that 20 percent.
Representatives of Napa Vision 2050 can dispute those numbers, but the fact is that not even a moratorium on new wineries would make the traffic go away. The traffic problem is primarily us, the residents, commuting to and from work and going about our daily lives. And we're not going anywhere.
Or are we? A recent study by UC Berkeley examined the trends toward gentrification and displacement around the Bay Area, and found that Napa County's urban areas are most at risk for displacement due to rising housing costs. That problem isn't limited to the rural areas like Atlas Peak and Angwin that Napa Vision 2050 is primarily concerned with: It's affecting downtown St. Helena, Calistoga and Napa, and it has nothing directly to do with winery development.
We've seen this dynamic play out in the last few years. Low-income workers have resorted to deplorably substandard living conditions, and even middle-class professionals making the county's median income of about $70,000 can't afford the median home price of around $500,000 and rising — and almost $1 million in St. Helena.
If you take some of the ideas espoused by Napa Vision 2050 to their logical extreme, they might even contribute to these problems. A strict mentality “I've got mine, so let's shut the door to everybody else” would drive property values up even further and promote the same exclusivity that's lent the Napa Valley so much allure.
But for the most part, Mufson, Hackett and Ellsworth acknowledge these complexities. We didn't hear them propose a moratorium on winery development or expansion, and they didn't pretend that any of their solutions would solve all of the problems we're facing.
That's why they're not laser-focused on a single goal. They're fighting individual projects like Walt Ranch outside Napa and the expansion of Reverie winery outside Calistoga, but they're also lobbying the Board of Supervisors to place tighter controls on new winery development and crack down on the scofflaws who violate their permits.
They're also encouraging a few people to apply for a soon-to-be vacant seat on the county Planning Commission, and they might end up running their own supervisorial candidates.
By spreading their energies in so many different directions, they're broadening their base – which makes sense on an organizational level – and respecting the complexity of the problems they're fighting.
While we disagree with Napa Vision 2050 on some of the details, we applaud their emphasis on positive community involvement and their refusal to oversimplify Napa County's many challenges.
|George Caloyannidis - Sep 7, 2015 9:31AM Share
Who is she? Who is he?
They are the people who live in this valley, who go about their work and daily activities, the ones who support our schools, support businesses day in and day out in summer and in winter. They are the ones who go to sleep at night trusting that the officials they elected act in their own interest, which simply put is to safeguard their quality of life. Because of this trust, they have not organized, do not lobby and don’t have a financial interest to support candidates with large campaign contributions.
But if increased public participation at county hearings, the flood of letters to the editors, the forming of neighborhood coalitions (I attended one such meeting of 98 participants at the county library at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 18, 2015), and the willingness of residents to devote so much time and energy away from their homes at dinnertime is any indication, they are the ones who feel marginalized by their government when they ought to count the most. They are the forgotten ones.
Whether it is the ever-increasing traffic congestion, the accelerated use and deterioration of the infrastructure on their dime and the depletion of resources by a disproportionate number of outsiders, the gentrification and its associated rise in the cost of living, the erosion of our agricultural identity and natural habitat, they all contribute to an unsustainable loss in the forgotten man’s quality of life.
For those who dispute the government’s cold shoulder to the forgotten man, when was the last time a use permit for a new winery or the rampant legalization of winery violations were denied in the face of local opposition?
Residents spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on research, lawyers and consultants, to formulate legitimate concerns, yet none makes a difference. The moneyed lobbying malaise that has poisoned the entire country’s political process has found fertile ground — infinitely more destructive than the manageable winged sharpshooter — in our heretofore innocent wine country, systematically chipping away use permit by use permit at our quality of life, each masquerading behind the deceitful language of “less than significant impacts,” refusing to acknowledge the profound cumulative ones.
As a result, what has been a beneficial symbiosis between development, tourism and residents for many decades, even the very impartiality and trust in government have reached the tipping point of moneyed influence and any sense of proportionality.
The supervisors’ arguments are disingenuous to say the least:
They tell us that much of the traffic and the overuse of resources is due to development in the cities. But how many come to this valley not attracted by wineries? This is where it all starts. They tell us that traffic increases regardless of what they do but this is not true either; only 9 percent of all traffic is pass-through traffic, the rest is controlled or fueled by policy. Should other communities be so lucky to be similarly positioned!
They tell us that wineries can no longer exist without “the new reality,” meaning the massive inflow of tourism. Yet none of that is true in such concentration in any other premium wine country in the world. The truth is that one can find thousands of international wines in this country, but Napa wines are conspicuously absent around the world.
Under the guise of “the new reality,” we have created the model of lazy winery owners who are no longer willing to put up with the travel around the country, let alone the world in order to sell their wine. Much easier to keep visitors piling in on their way to the 23,000 approved events in a continuous assault on our agricultural character and quality of life.
An even more disingenuous fact is that the disastrous traffic conditions we are experiencing have been predicted by the county’s own 2007 Traffic Environmental Impact Report, where in order to maintain acceptable service level “C,” our arteries will have to expand to six and four lanes up and down the valley by the year 2030. In the meantime we have to deal with bumper-to-bumper traffic. But the deception continues. They tell us this will never happen, fully aware that it is not they, but Caltrans who has control over state highway service levels. When traffic conditions become substandard, one more Caltrans lane next to another will destroy what little we still have of our charming rural roads such as the still-clinging-to-life Highway 29 from St. Helena to Calistoga.
To make matters even more unfair, while arguing the issue of compliance, the supervisors are setting their sights on the small homeowners on Imola and Solano Streets who happen to have a tarp-covered boat on their driveway, considering to cite them, even place a cloud on the title of their properties as means to compel them to remove it. All the while they are willing to accommodate, without imposing a single penalty, scandalous winery violations that circumvent the very California Environmental Quality Act in a systemic way through the selective application of the law on the forgotten man.
What can the forgotten man do? Get informed, organize, lobby, vote for those who will commit to respecting their quality of life.
Napa Valley Register version: The Forgotten Man
|Geoff Ellsworth - Aug 25, 2015 11:54PM Share
NAPA VISION 2050 is a non-profit countywide coalition of citizens groups and individuals whose mission is to advocate for responsible planning to insure the sustainability of the finite resources of Napa County.
Please help us protect our rural communities, unique microclimate and winegrowing region as well as this rare example of a successful Agricultural Preserve known throughout the United States and abroad.
Donate on our Napa Vision 2050 site here
|Mike Hackett - Aug 12, 2015 10:06AM Share
It is clear to all those paying attention, that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the laws of nature and economics in the Napa Valley. When I moved here in the mid-'70s, this valley was all about agriculture. Because of the soil, climate and abundant water, the early grape farmers recognized right away, that this was a very special place to grow grapes and make estate wine. They were purists, driven by their passion to grow the best grapes and make the finest wine. They wanted to show the world that the Napa Valley rivaled the best wines in the world. And they shared their knowledge with each other.
Unfortunately, this success was noticed by large corporations who came in to the valley with the bottom-line mentality. Over the last 20 years, many more wineries have been built to accommodate the world’s growing appetite for high-end wine. At one point along the way, we seemed to have a balance. What was good for the agricultural industry was also beneficial to our citizens.
However, when the recent economic slump hit the United States, wine sales tailed off, tourism rates decreased, and pressure was put on county policies because the tourism industry’s bottom lines were hurting badly. The pressure worked, and with newly minted approval to sell all kinds of things, and have food and events galore, the wineries started evolving into event centers, catering to the tourists and neglecting to care about their community.
Now we the people who live here are feeling all the negative effects when the laws of nature and economics clash. Our roads are crowded, our water future is in doubt, our watersheds and old growth forests are being ripped out, and our basic infrastructure has a much shorter life span. We are out of balance, and need to work together to advance the cause of the average man and woman in this county. The benefits are going to a few while the many suffer the consequences.
This has not gone unnoticed. As James Conaway, respected author and historian on the Napa Valley, so succinctly writes, “Many concerns among residents inevitably boil down to one: thwarting attempts by individuals or corporations who want a larger part of the action than the community is willing to give.” We need to get back into balance.
We sell twice as much wine as we grow grapes here. Half the grapes are imported. We have a special tax levied on hotel guests here, which funds the very existence of the Napa tourist industry’s lobbying effort, to the tune of $5.6 million per year. Already we have 3.5 million visitors per year.
County staff revealed two weeks ago that current permits allow as many as 23,000 “events” at wineries in Napa each year. That’s potentially over 60 every single day. We, the residents, should not have to put up with that kind of intrusion in our lives. They use our roads, water and total infrastructure. We the residents pay through our taxes, and the money goes to industry. We need to get back into balance.
The awareness within county offices grows with each debate before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. A group named the Agriculture Protection Advisory Committee was formed by these politicians, but the majority of members are from tourist-related industry. So far, they have voted to block all the ideas floated that would have served the community’s needs more than their own.
An obvious first step would be to rein in the ancillary uses at wineries. With over 23,000 “events” already approved, and tourism’s lobby group hunkered down, it doesn’t look good on that one.
Of course the hospitality industry supports a payroll of $300 million in the valley, with $52 million in tax revenue. That makes for a very strong lobby. That effort has led to the constant refrain heard from developers, “its always better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.” The current philosophy demonstrated from our county Planning Commission reflects that sentiment.
Recently, I’ve sat in the audience and watched the majority of the commissioners forgive every single abuse brought to its attention. These include abuses of use permits, major winery expansion and development where county building department requirements were ignored, even a winery that dug a cave without a permit. All these cheaters were exonerated. We need to get back into balance.
We have reached the critical mass necessary to put the concerns of the community first. We will not have our tax dollars used to line the pockets of the tourist industry any longer. There’s a darker side to Napa’s success, and the residents are shouldering the burden.
NVR version: Napa Valley: From purists to tourists
|Patricia Damery - Jun 24, 2015 9:26PM Share
Believe me, it was not my idea of how I want to be spending any morning of the week! Badger-like, I have defended morning time forever. It is when I write, walk, muse. There is always some competing, worthy cause or project to fight off. Work all too often impinges. So what am I doing?— spending some these precious hours at the APAC meetings (Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee)(every other Monday), the Board of Supervisors meetings (some Tuesdays), and the Planning Commission meetings (Wednesdays)?
It was panic that got me started. Our county officials have become eclipsed by business interests, for whatever reasons: campaign contributions, their own self interests, ignorance as to the conditions on, and literally, in the ground. But the environment— and water— have changed the conversation. This was brought home to me by the threat of what is being termed an event center next door.
We fight for what we love. My husband and I have lived on this ridge for 22 years now on the edge of one of the few remaining oak savannas. Two hundred-plus year old trees skirt the edges of a beautiful meadow. Sadly, we do not own it most of it. Our neighbor, who valued it, had to sell it in the economic downturn of 2008 to new neighbors who view this oak savanna as an opportunity for a superior Cab, and the land as a site for an expensive winery. Water? almost an afterthought, at least until the drought. This ridge is a story of dry and low preforming wells.
When our neighborhood discovered what this neighbor had in mind, we quickly gathered, and then educated ourselves to the much larger and similar picture in our county. It seemed any project proposed, however egregious, was being approved. This is when I got serious about attending some of these meetings with the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, and then APAC.
But what I learned surprised me. I have enjoyed attending! I have to confess how little I knew about how county government works: how these rules and regulations we abide by get made and, hopefully, changed. What is the relationship of the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors? Who is elected and who is appointed? How does change happen? Who holds power, and what kind of power? And last, but certainly not least, where does the environment stand in all this?
I am surprised that despite (in my opinion) some very bad decisions continuing to be made, I feel more a part of our local government. I have enjoyed meeting with my local neighborhood group, Dry Creek Road Alliance, and I have met some incredible people that I never would have under other circumstances. Many are retired and using their various areas of expertise in support of citizens' voices being heard around land use and the environment. It is the best use of older citizens' talents— for the common good.
We are in for the long haul, for almost certainly, it will be that! But our presence is critically important. So if you haven't yet attended one of these meetings, consider doing so, if even for a portion of the meeting, if only occasionally as you can. Pick up a Vision 2050 button, pin it over your heart, and join the citizens' voice. A schedule and agenda for the various meetings can be found on the County of Napa site where you can even sign up for emailed meeting announcements at My Napa County.
|Bill Hocker - Jun 17, 2015 10:50AM Share
Third general meeting of Napa Vision 2050 at the Napa County Main Library, June 16th 2015
More than 50 people attended the third general meeting of Napa Vision 2050. In addition to representatives of the numerous Napa community groups under the Vision 2050 umbrella there were representatives of Sonoma groups active in similar issues as well as individuals from organizations involved in affordable housing and living wage groups.
|Patricia Damery - May 19, 2015 10:22AM Share
One of the most important documentaries to see in this fifth year of severe drought is “The Russian River: All Rivers -- The Value of an American Watershed.”
The film features the Russian River and the impact of the ignorance, exploitation and neglect of it, particularly by commerce and agriculture. It should be required viewing for every governing official, vintner and voting citizen. It is particularly pertinent for those of us who live here in the Napa Valley and are concerned about its environmental future.
I raised my sons through their early years on that river. We learned her many moods: her rushing insistence in the winter which we could hear even as we drifted to sleep; the way she took the town, flooding homes and businesses alike, when the rains went on for too long.
One of my worst experiences with her happened the summer I took my sons, aged 2½ and 7 months, swimming at the quiet beach that used to be Ginger’s Resort. We sat in the shallow water and played. And then we learned that Santa Rosa had another “accidental” spill of sewage and we were sitting in it. It was during this time that a masked local businessman, affectionately known as Manure Man, took his tractor and manure spreader to Santa Rosa and spread manure around the courthouse, stating, “If it’s good enough for Guerneville, it is good enough for Santa Rosa!”
Sewage spills upstream contaminated our wells for days after. The Press Democrat printed a picture of a Santa Rosa city official drinking a glass of treated water from the sewage treatment plant, showing how safe it was, a picture we scoffed at. These were war days: a battle of those downstream from those farther up. It was really a coming-into-consciousness of how much we impact each other. What is that old saying? — we all live downstream?
“Russian River: All Rivers -- The Value of an American Watershed” is gripping in its scope: This is not just the Russian River, folks! It’s all rivers! If we keep up our ignorance of how we manage water, watersheds and rivers, we are going to be out of water!
It is also a wake-up call: There is still something to be done. This need not be a battle, but rather an awakening to the impact of our actions and a gathering of all sides to protect the commons: our land, our watersheds, our rivers, our air.
This is not about property rights, right-to-farm, profit, tourism, individual entitlements: It is about survival. The documentary has several screenings, including a 7 p.m. screening on Wednesday, May 20, at Copia Center in Napa. Although there is no charge, there is a request for a donation at the door. You do need to make a reservation, however, as there is usually a full house.
The screening is sponsored by Friends of the Napa River, Green Party of Napa County, Institute for Conservation Advocacy, Research & Education, Napa Vision 2050 Coalition.
Napa Valley Register version: Documentary Shows danger to our watersheds
|George Caloyannidis - May 12, 2015 5:11PM Share
The Palmaz family is applying for a conditional use permit to construct a helicopter landing pad and fuel storage area on their estate below Mt. George east of Napa city. This letter
sent to the residents in the neighborhood of the winery explains the request. Should this project be approved, the implications for the serenity of the whole of Napa County are not hard to imagine as mega-wealthy Napans begin to act on their new-found helicopter envy. We encourage you to let the Supervisors and Planning Commission know your concerns and opposition to the proposal.
Palmaz Residence Private Use Helicopter Application
4031 Hagen Road, Napa, CA 94558
(put P14-00261 in the global search box)
According to extensive California case law, Conditional Use Permits are to enable a municipality to control certain uses which could have detrimental effects on the community or that they are in the best interest of public convenience. The Palmaz application serves no public purpose and can only have detrimental effects on the welfare of this community.
Please sign the petition on the NapaVision2050 website.
or Print and mail in this petition
George Caloyannidis' detailed analysis of the proposal is here
|Daniel Mufson - May 1, 2015 8:24AM Share
Carl Bunch adds this note to Sup. Pedroza:
Al, thank you so very much for your leadership and influence in connection with the captioned permit application. You are who we're looking for in these kinds of outrageous activities by winery rule scofflaws. We really appreciate your efforts as a member of the Napa County Board of Supervisors.
|Bill Hocker - Mar 30, 2015 12:24AM Share
NVR 3/29/15: A new coalition, Vision 2050, will scrutinize county's future
Thirteen people sat around a table at a house on a rural Dry Creek Road hillside talking about a Napa County future they intend to help shape.
They are on the steering committee for a new group in town, Vision 2050. What unites them as they fight their varying growth battles is the shared idea that development threatens rural Napa.
This coalition might attempt a 2016 land-use ballot measure if its doesn’t see changes in Napa County policies to its liking.
Kathy Felch, a member of Stop Syar, opposes the proposed Syar quarry expansion near her neighborhood. She said citizens feel a “hapless hopelessness” when they don’t think their voice matters.
“But that’s changing,” Felch said.
Ginna Beharry, a member of the Dry Creek Road Alliance, opened her Dry Creek Road home northeast of the city of Napa for this recent Vision 2050 meeting. She expressed concern about proposed large wineries on not-so-large parcels.
She pointed to the proposed Yountville Hill Winery on Highway 29 outside Yountville as a key example of what she said she thinks is going wrong.
Chris Malan has long fought local environmental battles and is on the Living Rivers Council. She talked about hillside vineyards and the effects these can have on watersheds and the streams flowing to the Napa River.
“If you get up in an airplane, you’ll see a patchwork effect of what it’s done to our forests,” she said.
Different battles, common threads. Vision 2050 is a coalition of local groups that seek to merge their individual voices into a much louder voice.
From the Sierra Club to Protect Rural Napa to Get a Grip of Growth, they will try to flex some combined muscle. Vision 2050 wants to make certain that world-famous Napa County’s glitz and glamour don’t swamp its agriculture and open space.
David Hallett lives in Soda Canyon northeast of the city of Napa and is a member of Protect Rural Napa. He talked about an inverted pyramid, with Vision 2050 at the bottom supporting its individual member groups at the top.
David Heitzman lives in rural Circles Oaks between the city of Napa and Lake Berryessa. He is a member of Defenders of the East Napa Watersheds, a group fighting the proposed Walt Ranch hillside vineyard development in the hills between the city of Napa and Lake Berryessa.
Heitzman said Vision 2050 might hold a California Environmental Quality Act workshop. Citizens could learn the ins-and-outs of state-required environmental impact reports, a legal force so powerful that they can delay, and sometimes even stop, major, proposed projects.
“We’ve got to be armed with the knowledge and then we can make a difference,” Heitzman said.
Chairing Vision 2050 is Dan Mufson, a member of the Watersheds Alliance for Atlas Peak. He became involved in local growth battles several months ago after learning about the Walt Ranch proposal.
Vision 2050 formed partly out of frustration, Mufson said. For example, he mentioned how the Planning Commission has allowed some new wineries to be built closer to roads than county rules allow.
“Lately, it just seemed for all the effort we were putting in, nothing is really happening,” Mufson said. “We go to the meeting and talk about why we don’t think there should be a variance and the next thing you know, there’s a variance.”
Basically, group members say they think things are getting out of control. Napa has too many wineries that are tourist centers, Mufson said.
As a political action committee, Vision 2050 might back its own candidates. If it can’t change the mind of existing elected officials, it might try to change elected officials.
Vision 2050 held its first meeting more than a month ago and 50 people showed up, Mufson said. To keep the meetings manageable, the various groups chose representatives for the steering committee.
But Vision 2050 doesn’t have the only vision for the valley. Wine industry officials talk about a changing economic landscape that has seen small wineries depend more on tourism and direct-to-consumer sales.
Even so, Rex Stults, a spokesman for Napa Valley Vintners, welcomed the formation of Vision 2050.
“We live in the Unites States of America,” he said. “It’s a free country …everybody deserves to have a voice in the process.”
Working with other stakeholders is nothing new for Napa Valley Vintners, Stults said. The vintners worked with the Sierra Club, Friends of the Napa River and other groups on the Napa Green effort to establish environmentally sound wineries and vineyards.
“Once you get everybody in the room to sit down, you try to figure out what our vision is for Napa Valley. I think you’ll find it’s not going to be really disparate,” Stults said.
Napa Valley Vintners invited Vision 2050 to its recent meeting on potential Indian casinos in the valley. Both groups would likely oppose this type of development.
County Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said Vision 2050 has his attention.
It appears to him various neighborhood organizations attending county meetings found they had similar issues. They seem to have come together organically, he said.
Wagenknecht expects Vision 2050 will be taking part in the county’s upcoming Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee effort to look at county growth policies.
“It will be good to have them be part of APAC,” he said.
After only a few weeks of existence, Vision 2050 seems to have found a niche and role.
“We’re going to be the watchdog and say, ‘Is this a proper application? Is it being scrutinized like it should be?’ ” Beharry said.
|Patricia Damery - Mar 16, 2015 12:12AM Share
Many of us are reluctant to be characterized as NIMBYs when we object to projects in our "backyards" such as event center wineries or vineyard incursions into our hillsides and watersheds. Such a designation often implies a narcissism.
The American Dictionary defines NIMBY (Not-In-My-Back-Yard) as "a person who objects to the siting of something perceived as unpleasant or potentially dangerous in their own neighborhood, such as a landfill or hazardous waste facility, especially while raising no such objections to similar developments elsewhere." Many definitions include that this objection is to a project that is also for the common good.
We protect what we love. Many of us, and maybe most, love this valley we call home. A project next door that we perceive as harmful in some way to us or to our environment sparks this love. Often our individual situations reflect much larger issues in our county, in our country and in our world. It wakens us to the way things may be out of balance, and in the case of land use issues in our valley, to the ignorance that would further degrade our hillsides and watersheds, our air and community fabric, whether that ignorance be our own or of those ambitions that seek profit, regardless of impact.
These projects often pushed by developers and financial interests can rarely be called "in service of the common good."
Thank goodness for NIMBYs! But our love of homeland and our life here — our sense of place — must extend to a larger vision of where we are going. Vision 2050 is a growing movement in Napa County in which a dozen-plus local citizen groups are gathering out of love of this land and our lives here. We are in serious need of changes in our policies around the environment and water, climate action, and economic pressures that have defined our commerce without substantive regard of those who implement it: our farm and hospitality workers.
This is a movement that needs all of us -- residents, growers, wineries, laborers and local governing officials -- to join in truly acting for the common good.
Napa Valley Register version: Let's hear it for the NIMBY's
|Daniel Mufson - Feb 17, 2015 10:00PM Share
The Grand Coalition --> Vision 2050
Next Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015 Meeting @1:00PM
The Horseman’s Clubhouse, 1200 Foster Road (map)
(Directions: Off 29 @ Imola, go west to end of road, turn left (south), 1/3 of a mile on left is the Horseman’s)
1. Coalition Goals and Objectives
2. Preparation for March 10 Meeting
The coalition Steering Committee, with members from all around the county, has met weekly since the Marriott meeting and has discussed how we can affect positive changes in our home. The mission statement and name reflect our desire to bring about responsible planning.
Our Mission is to: Advocate for Responsible Planning to Insure Sustainability of the Finite Resources of Napa County
On March 10 the Supervisors will hold a meeting with the Planning Commission to discuss the future of Napa. The official agenda has not yet been issued. However, the agenda per Morrison will be:
1. A broad view of past trends and future projections regarding demographics, housing, economics, and the wine industry.
2. A summary of the NCTPA travel study (the first time it has been presented to the Board of Supervisors). The full study is here
(via the St. Helena Window
). Just the conclusions are here
3. A presentation on tourism data. You can bone up on this study
and this study
done in 2012
There will be time for public comment. We are also looking to set up a place to submit comments electronically after the March 10 meeting, so that the conversation can continue.
Since we met last there have been many more development projects thrown into the hopper. It’s been taking so much energy to study them and respond while all the time wondering why so many variances are always granted. Don’t they ever say no? (One Supervisor did proudly tell me that indeed they rejected a project several years ago)
We want a seat at the planning table—as citizens we own the table don’t we? Unfortunately no one from the county staff has approached us to ask our opinions, as they have from the industry, so we need to speak up. We need to meet and plan how we want to respond to issues of growth: At this coalition meeting we will designate response teams to prepare our public comments on these topics:
· CAP (GHG); Oak Woodlands; community rights
· Commons; It’s our table
· Cumulative Analysis
· CQEA (Variances)
· General Plan (Watershed/Ag; Hillside Development)
· Public Costs of new (tourism) development
· Water (WAA)
· WDO Ordinance
Our Marriott meeting was quite exciting. This one will be more so. Please invite a friend to come with you. Feel free to call or write with your comments.
|Mike Hackett - Feb 6, 2015 1:27PM Share
Good afternoon everyone,
As the Chairman of Save Rural Angwin, and a participant and advocate of the Grand Coalition, I met today with Cio Perez, Committee Chair regarding Land Use Issues of the Napa Farm Bureau, who is filling the large void created with the passing of Volker Eisele. Volker was on the SRA Steering Committee and held all the power positions at the Farm Bureau over the years. SRA has been supported, in every way, by the Farm Bureau, and this important connection must be maintained.
Along with the Vintners, the Grape Growers, Land Trust, Sierra Club, etc. the Farm Bureau is a voice of reason and restraint, and a powerful and influential group. Much like the Grand Coalition, they are defining their next step in regards to the same issues we are tackling in Angwin, Yountville, Dry Creek Road, Soda Canyon Road, Walts Ranch and Calistoga, etc. etc. These issues of inappropriate watershed destruction and winery expansions that border on entertainment centers are central to their concerns much the same as the Coalition's.
Cio has, and continues to lead through example. His passion for maintaining the watershed in Napa County is unsurpassed. Cio and I agreed that without the watershed, there will be no wine industry. And for that reason alone, we must all get on board the train that will establish new visions for what is appropriate and what is not. Protecting watershed is in NO WAY in opposition to farms, ag land protection or vineyards or open space. They are, in fact critically aligned.
Just like the Grand Coalition, the Farm Bureau needs some time to define their strategies and to examine all the facts. I believe we will soon see the day when the Grand Coalition will be in step with the Farm Bureau's position. In my opinion, they will be our staunchest ally. And we need to give them time to tackle these issues and offer their recommendations.
I urge each contributor of the Grand Coalition to establish a visit with Cio. He is open to opinions, both dark and light, and having the support of the F.B. as we roll out our own mission and strategies, is an imperative we cannot overlook.
Thank you all.
Chair of Save Rural Angwin
Allen Spence adds:
It seems that we are totally supportive of wineries and vineyard but opposed to over developing both Winery Entertainment Centers and Water consuming Vineyards when we are blind to the critical tipping point of too much.
|Bill Hocker - Jan 23, 2015 2:40PM Share
I also attended the initial Grand Coalition meeting. I agree with Sandy Ericson that given all of the energy surrounding these developments over the last year such a meeting would be inevitable. Yet even the inevitable needs a bit of help sometimes, and thanks are due to the efforts of Dan Mufson of the Watersheds Alliance of Atlas Peak for organizing it.
Those in attendance came together because a wide variety of projects had ended up being proposed in their backyards: resort developments in Calistoga, housing developments in Angwin, rural tourism wineries near Yountville and on Mt. Veeder, Dry Creek and Soda Canyon Roads, urban wineries in St. Helena, vineyard conversions on Atlas Peak, quarry expansion in Coombsville. The issues for each sometimes overlapped, sometimes not: traffic, tourism impacts, water depletion, watershed deforestation, viewshed destruction. Much of the meeting was spent just acquainting one another with our individual interests and strategies to date. Our hopes for this coalition were also expressed; some saw it as an extension of the individual battle they were waging, and were ready to name it and to discuss the strategies to get the message out, assuming a common purpose identical to their own. Others were more appropriately circumspect, seeing this as only an introduction to a potential coalition. The process was a bit like blind men feeling an elephant. It was understandable that no statement of purpose (or name or bumper sticker) came out of the meeting. It was too big to take in even in three hours.
At some point in the meeting it seemed as if some center of gravity had shifted in the direction of watershed preservation. In PC and BOS meetings the Atlas Peak contingent has been quite ferocious in its opposition to deforestation and water depletion and the Mt. Veeder, Calistoga, Angwin, Coomsville and Dry Creek groups all see deforestation as one of their main concerns. Watershed preservation has also been led by Chris Malan, a lion of activism over the last two decades. Wilderness preservation also fits in with a longstanding tradition of community activism, and the Sierra Club, the logical umbrella group for wilderness prootection, was also in attendance. But, it is an important issue that has only tangential importance to those confronting the impacts of the tourism onslaught into the county and of the many development impacts that people are already experiencing all over the valley.
A series of words had been written on sheets of paper on the wall as potential talking points. I listed some of them above: traffic, tourism, etc... The elephant in the room was the one word not written (perhaps because it was too obvious), the one word that brought everyone to this room: development.
Ginny Simms gave a keynote of sorts at the beginning which, IMHO, should be the building block of the purpose here. It was summarized below as promote slow, smart, sustainable growth. She has fought the encroachment of urban growth into the rural county for decades both inside the system and out (her interview on the JLDagfund site begins on page 214 here
). Her current organization, Get a Grip on Growth, manages to summarize in its name her decades of battle. Her efforts and that of the other preservationists have given us a rural environment that all think is worth fighting for now, 45 years on.
But (here comes the pie-in-the-sky) we now need to do more, because despite the groundbreaking legislative battles that have been won to control growth, the war is still being lost, the outward signs of which have brought the participants to this room. Simply slowing growth means that the agriculture and the rural life that are treasured may disappear more slowly, one stop light, one parking space, one acre of vineyard or forest at a time, but they will still disappear. The purpose now should be to find the will and the means to stop growth, reverse it if possible, and to allow a stable agricultural economy to survive in an ever urbanizing world. It is perhaps a goal as unthinkable as the ag preserve was in 1966, but Napa, given the value of its agricultural crop, may be one of the few places where that goal is possible.
Were I to devise a mission statement for this group (easy since I don't have to bear the burden of consensus - or plausibility) it would be:
dedicated to the furthering and protection of an agricultural, rural, small-town economy and way of life for the entire Napa County in the midst an urbanized world.
|Daniel Mufson - Jan 23, 2015 1:54PM Share
Thank you all for participating in our Grand Coalition meeting on Tuesday. It was a remarkable and a most pleasant sight to have so many concerned citizens from all over convene to discuss common concerns about over development. I have reviewed my scribbled notes and the those scribed by Jim Wilson and extracted the following points:
-Promote slow, smart, sustainable growth
-Long term sustainability of natural resources, of land use
-BOS are powerful; only 3 can change things
-Don’t get rolled over; use methods to make them hear us
-Find our commonality
-Stand up for quality of life; Ag is not the best and highest use of all land
-Seek a moratorium
-Encourage compliance with existing regulations
-Move from swatting flies to regulation changes e.g. CAP
-Be a coalition, share resources, coordinate responses
-Law, jobs, money [define the battle, strategy, weapons]
-Wine industry is not our enemy
-Get a seat at the table
With 50 attendees it was difficult to get to the point of specific organizational plans. We agreed that a steering committee should be formed to continue the dialog. Therefore, I have invited leaders of the key groups present to meet as a steering committee to flesh out how we might work together.
|Bill Hocker - Jan 21, 2015 5:11PM Share
Sandy Ericson of the St Helena Window
attended and has given a description of the meeting in an email which I take the liberty of copying here (since I can't figure out how to link to the email directly):
It had to happen. Yesterday at the Marriott Hotel in Napa, 50 leaders of neighborhood (some un-named) and district organizations came together. The goals were to organize and pool their energy, resources and plain ol' clout in the on-going struggle for citizens' interests to be represented as winery expansion reaches saturation. The meeting was historic and will result in more highly skilled opposition to proposed plans, not to mention major changes in the County's political climate. Some of the players: Get a Grip on Growth, Save Yountville Hill, Mt. Veeder Stewardship Council, St. Helena citizens, Calistoga citizens, Defenders of the East Napa Watersheds, Save Rural Angwin, Living Rivers Council, Protect Rural Napa, Sierra Club.
The mood was balanced but serious and the room was highly aware of the need to move decisively and soon. Budget season is upon us, there are 40+ pending applications, the drought is on-going, Direct To Consumer is turning wineries into Disney sets and daily life is gridlock. Nonetheless, over and over, people came back to the greatest threat, the loss of trees, wildlife and natural resources that once gone will never return as we face a rising climate heat.
It is critical now that there be a moratorium on applications and a County-wide summit meeting of all interests to establish a new philosophy/policy/plan for our collective future. Meeting room combat over every application without a breather or a new approach is a waste of time and resources -- just the costs of EIR's and attorneys alone will be exorbitant. To begin the thinking, here's a short one-page place to start. It is about fundamental ethics.
The issue is also about business. The thinking of many in the wine industry goes like this: Too many wineries mean too much demand for NV grapes, which will mean either more vineyards in the hills (with little water) or demand from wineries to drop the 75% NV grapes rule. Then what?
Sandy has an encyclopedic knowledge of the issues we face and her emails are always an informative (and often entertaining) read. Please sign up for her email list here.
|Daniel Mufson - Jan 19, 2015 7:57PM Share
Meeting of the Grand Coalition to Save the Napa Valley
Tuesday, January 20 at 1 PM Napa Marriott 3425 Solano Avenue
Community activism has been largely responsible for the increased scrutiny of the cumulative impacts that current development practices are having and going to have on the county. It is up to all of the community groups that have just been born, or operated in isolation for many years to join together to represent the one constituency that has consistently been left out of previous planning decisions - the residents.
- Bill Hocker Jan 8 2015
We have all been mobilized to fight some outrageous project at our doorstep. In many cases we’ve met one another and shared thoughts on how to cope with the onslaught. We all agree we need to take action to find a way of changing some of the rules so that we are not forever consigned to fighting neighborhood fires. The purpose of this meeting is to begin that action.
Please come prepared to briefly introduce your group-but more importantly to describe what course of action you foresee to get a grip on this growth mania fueled by those who would destroy the wonderment of Napa County. The Supervisors will hold a meeting with the Planning Commission on March 10 and so we need to have our thoughts and plan of action in place by then. Making a list is the easy part. We will need experts to help us prioritize the plan and to be wise in how we approach the effort. A note from Geoff gives you an idea of the complexities, “Many in our camp are reticent to reopen WDO for fear of losing even more ground to the hospitality industry, that’s why many are talking about increasing parcel size, implementing Climate Action Plan and redesignating AG/Watershed zoning instead of going back into WDO, basically building the protections around it.”
To stimulate your thinking, here’s a list of issues that have suggested:
• How do we get a moratorium on winery and vineyard conversions until a cumulative analysis can be performed?
• Ag/Watershed/Open Space: how do we make watersheds more important as the best use of hillside land over ag?
• WDO changes
• Climate Action Plan, originally presented in 2010, needs to be adopted by
• How do we establish a Mandatory Oak Woodlands Management Plan?
• Compliance with existing regs (if 40% of self-questioned wineries are out
of compliance with their permits what does that portend for all of the wineries?)
￼Save the Date: We have made arrangements for the documentary: “Russian River: All Rivers” to be shown at the Cameo Theater on March 5 at 5:45. The producers will be in attendance. This will be a good opportunity for us to get out the “votes” for watershed conservation.
￼Gravestones of Trees: Deforestation in Angwin
This haunting photo by Duane Cronk shows 13’ high piles of downed and chipped trees to make way for a vineyard!
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