Eternal vigilance is the price of preserving the Napa Valley.
 - Former Planning Dir. Jim Hickey 2008
This website is intended to create an online place for the residents of Soda Canyon Road and its tributaries Loma Vista Drive, Soda Springs Road, Ridge Road and Chimney Rock Road, located in Napa County, California.

It was born out of the threat of a large tourism-winery project proposed at the top of our remote and winding road. But this is only one of many development projects now being proposed throughout Napa county and this site has begun to advocate on behalf of those impacted communities as well. And we are not alone. The negative impacts of wine tourism on rural agricultural communities are being contested by residents all over the state and the nation.

While some vineyard acreage has been added in the last 20 years, there is already much more winery capacity than needed to process Napa grapes in the county. Yet more wineries are being approved, not to support Napa agriculture, but to provide venues to bring more tourist dollars into the county. On the valley floor the dominance of tourism over wine making is represented by French and Persian Palaces, Tuscan Castles, Aerial Trams and a vast sculpture garden of ego-fueled modernist statements. The great old wineries have been refurbished to bring a whiff of Disneyland or Planet Hollywood to the Valley. Highway 29 has traffic jams worthy of San Francisco and the Silverado Trail is beginning to resemble a two lane freeway (or worse, Hwy 29!). In the watersheds, clear cutting of forests for the estate-winery fantasies of plutocrats brings good-life enterprise to even the most remote neighborhoods.

County residents have always supported the wine industry for the character of the environment and economy it has produced. But that support is eroding as wineries proliferate, most too small and inefficient to supply the export distribution chain. Winery tourism and marketing events have moved from an incidental and subordinate aspect of winery economics to the reason for their being. The impacts of this shift, in traffic, affordable housing and neighborhood commercialization, are no longer palatable, and the pushback of residents hoping to maintain the rural, small-town character that they grew up with or found here is the result. Until the industry adopts a less destructive way of marketing their goods (and the internet age offers other ways in addition to traditional legwork), until it recognizes the enormous difference in community impacts between grape processing and tourist processing, the industry should expect condemnation from those more concerned about the future quality of their lives and their environment than the quality of tourism experiences occurring next door.

But expanding tourism is only one facet of the ongoing urban developement, and this site has also begun to recognize that the loss of the rural character we all treasure is is more than just one industry's problem. It is the mentality, a part of the American DNA, promoted by all development interests and enabled by governments controlled by development interests, that growth is good and lack of growth is death. Napa County has made a very strong commitment to protecting its rural environment and economy. As one grapegrower has said, this is one place on earth where agriculture might be able to hold out against urbanization. Yet the growth, in wineries, tourism facilities, industrial projects, housing projects, commercial centers continues.

If the county wishes to maintain its rural environment for the next 50 years, it needs to reject a growth economy based on the unlimited profitability of continued urbanization and commit to a stable economy, based on the limited amount of agricultural land with an appropriate mix of wine, tourism, industry and housing that provides the quality of life worth having and the survival of an industry worth supporting. Unless we act now the rural, small-town life that still exists here, as well as the rural environment that is our home on Soda Canyon Road, will soon be gone.

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Upcoming Events (full calendar here)

Tue, Mar 28, 2017

County Community Vision Roundtable (3 of 5)

More Information Here

Mar 28th Location: Calistoga Community Center, 1307 Washington St, Calistoga
Thu, Mar 30, 2017

County Community Vision Roundtable (4 of 5)

More Information Here

Mar 30th Location: Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School multipurpose room, 1316 Hillview Pl, St. Helena
Mon, Apr 3, 2017

County Community Vision Roundtable (5 of 5)

More Information Here

Location: Yountville Elementary School cafeteria, 6554 Yount St, Yountville
Tue, Apr 4, 2017

Board of Supervisors

Mar 21st hearing agenda and documents

9B County ordinance definition of agriculture back again!
More wordsmithing needed - processing, marketing not yet subordinate and incidental enough.
[Mar 21st recap here]
Wed, Apr 5, 2017

County Planning Commission

Flynnville Wine Company new winery
2/15/17 agenda and documents
Mitigated Neg Dec document
County's Flynnville page
60000 gal/yr, 9800 vis/yr, 60 trips/day, 15 employees
[continued from Feb 15th]

Behrens Family Winery Major Mod
Mitigated Neg Dec
10,000 more gal/yr, 11920 vis/yr, setback variance

8A Whitehall Lane Winery Use Permit
County Whitehall Lane page
10000 g/yr, no visitation, 3 trip/day
[continued from March 15th]

Proposed Zoning Amendment

Latest Posts

Below are the latest posts made to any of the pages of this site with a link to the page in the upper right corner.

Gallo buys Stagecoachon: The Rector Watershed

Bill Hocker - Mar 24,17  expand...  Share

SRPressDemocrat 3/23/17: Gallo buys Napa County vineyard

A Community Vision- Napa County to Host Roundtable Discussions on: Vision 2050

NV2050 Admin - Mar 22,17  expand...  Share

Napa County will host a series of local meetings throughout the valley to gather input and ideas for a community vision that can help shape the Board of Supervisors priorities. Meetings will be conducted in English and Spanish.

The first one is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, March 23rd.

The schedule is as follows:
    · March 23: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., McPherson Elementary School multipurpose room, 2670 Yajome St., in Napa;
    · March 25: 10 a.m. to noon, American Canyon High School cafeteria, 3000 Newell Dr., in American Canyon;
    · March 28: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Calistoga Community Center, 1307 Washington St., in Calistoga;
    · March 30: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School multipurpose room, 1316 Hillview Pl., in St. Helena; and
    · April 3: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Yountville Elementary School cafeteria, 6554 Yount St., in Yountville.

The roundtable discussions follow the board’s strategic planning retreat, which highlighted current and future opportunities and challenges the county faces.
The small group roundtable format will be led by county staff and consultants at The HR Matrix whose goal will be to collect information about areas of focus.

The silting of Rector Creekon: The Rector Watershed

Bill Hocker - Mar 22,17  expand...  Share
Rector Creek Siltation, Feb 2017
At the Yountville City Council on Mar 21st, 2017, the residents of Soda Canyon Road presented a white paper on the dangers of the potential pollution of Rector Creek and Rector Reservoir caused by the construction of the Mountain Peak project. The project envisions moving massive amounts of earth around on a constrained site bordering one blue line tributary to the reservoir and bisected by another.

The construction calls for 29,500 cubic yards of cave spoils, another 19,000 cy of other excavation, the removal of approx 7 acres of topsoil so that the excavated spoils can be distributed on the site and then the recovering of the spoils with the topsoil (calculations here). The excavated crushpad, through which all of the cave excavation must be moved, is within 100 ft of Rector tributary. A major fill area, comprising 2 acres of soil removal, placement of spoils and redistribution of topsoil, is just adjacent the tributary that bisects the site. A second area of fill surrounds a wetlands area of the site that also drains within a few hundred feet into the canyon.

The environment concerns are obvious. Silting from vineyard development in the Rector watershed in the 1990's caused damage to the Rector Reservoir filtration system resulting in millions of dollars in repairs. The county should be requiring Environmental Impact Reports (EIR's) to assess similar impacts on this project and other land clearing projects now going on in the watershed. The Mountain Peak project was approved by the Napa County Planning Commission on a 3-1 vote at the beginning of the year and is now on appeal to the Napa Board of Supervisors. An EIR should be required.

Rector Watershed White Paper

The Definition of Agriculture returns! (updated)on: The WDO

Bill Hocker - Mar 21,17  expand...  Share

Update 3/21/17

NVR 3/23/17: Napa County still struggling with its agriculture definition

After a presentation by Dir. Morrison to the BOS today on changes to the definition of agriculture in county ordinance §18.08.040 (item 9B here) and a stream of citizen arguments about the apparent equation of processing, marketing and housing in the definition and the confusion and inconsistencies that the definition portends for the "right to farm" and for unintended development in the county (and a couple of industry reps supporting approval as being in line with the developer-friendly definition they created for the General Plan in 2008), the Board had their say.

Sup. Dillon started out expressing frustration that the definition was not given appropriate context for the benefit of the two new board members and others unfamiliar with the long and fraught history of the definition in the county, seeming to feel that the definition was being presented as a fait accompli for their approval and not given appropriate due diligence appropriate to its primal significance to the county's soul. Chair Pedroza, obviously anxious to despatch the issue as quickly as possible, after rigorously enforcing the 3 minute rule for public comments, ran into wordsmithing issues from Sups. Gregory and Ramos who, with fresh eyes, were concerned about the ambiguity of the relation of agriculture to agricultural processing and agricultural processing to marketing.

Dir. Morrison spent a fair portion of the last two years dealing with this issue and seemed vexed that it was headed back to staff and council for yet another editing session. The item was continued and the Board will consider the definition of agriculture again at its April 4th, 2017 meeting at the very precise time of 11:15am.

Norma Tofanelli has updated her letter on the real dangers and conflicts of placing marketing activities, farm worker housing and all other accessory uses, under the "right to farm" protections of the code of ordinances. Her letter is here.

Geoff Ellsworth reiterated his opinion that the definition might be called the "Knott's Berry Farm ordinance", an issue more discussed here.

Ginny Simms (the only speaker with enough status to be able to ignore the 3 minute rule) brought forward the need in the definition for "bright-line" conditions that separate farming from processing and that separate processing from marketing. The various conditions sprinkled throughout the General Plan and the Code of Ordinances present some very muddy lines indeed, and this current proposal seemed to do nothing to brighten things up. A muddy definition is, of course, a boon for developers seeking to turn ambiguity into building projects.

Update 9/23/16:

The vote was 4 to 1 (Comm. Phillips voting no) to send the revised definition on the BOS with recommendations for some staff clarifications on the verbiage.

NVR 9/26/16: Napa wrestles with definition of agriculture

Correspondence received at or prior to the meeting is here. The correspondence, particularly the two legal letters, reinforce the points made by Norma Tofanelli below. It has become obvious that, from the 2008 General Plan revisions on, there has been a consistent effort on the part of corporate development interests to weaken the protections that have allowed Napa County to remain an agricultural economy and kept it's agricultural lands free from development. Following the squashing of community concerns in the APAC hearings and the election a development candidate in the Supervisorial primary, re-defining the meaning of agriculture to allow urban development in its name is a principal part of the process, as James Hickey recognized in the quote at the top of the WDO page.

Update 9/21/16:

Today, Sept 21st 2016 public comments will be heard on the proposal for changes as shown in Dir. Morrison's email below to the definition of agriculture as set out in Napa County ordinance 18.08.040

NVR 9/19/16: Napa planners to discuss agricultural definition

While my initial view was that the additional convolutions generated by the changes will just create more uncertainty about the definition of agriculture (an uncertainty that tourism entrepreneurs and real estate developers will continue to milk), Norma Tofanelli has shown just how easy it will be to create milking stations going forward - the probable intention of the changes. The new definition, if adopted, will give the legal basis to claim that winery event centers, country stores and other tourist venues (Nut Tree comes to Napa) no longer need use permits to be built. They will be allowed "by right" just as real agriculture (you know, the growing and harvesting of crops) currently is.

She writes:
    If the additional uses (ag production facilities, ag product sales, marketing events, farm worker housing) are added into the base definition of §18.08.040 you will be mandated by at least §§18.16.020 and 18.20.020 to allow such uses without a use permit:
      §18.16.020 - Uses allowed without a use permit.
        The following uses shall be allowed in all AP districts without use permits: A. Agriculture;

      §18.20.020 - Uses allowed without a use permit.
        The following uses shall be allowed in all AW districts without use permits: A. Agriculture;

    In addition, the uses will be protected by:
      §2.94.010 - Definitions.
        "Agriculture" shall have the same meaning as "agriculture" as defined in Section 18.08.040 of this code.

Her 3/20/17 version of the letter is here.
Her previous 9/19/16 version is here


At the coming planning commission on Sept. 21h, 2016, Planning Director David Morrison is asking for public comments (and commissioner recommendations to the BOS) on a revision to the Napa County Ordinance 18.08.040 definition of agriculture, to bring it into alignment with the Napa County General Plan policy AG/LU-2, the County's prime definition of agriculture. It seems to go a bit further than just alignment by clarifying that the "related marketing sales and other accessory uses" mentioned in AG/LU-2 are "incidental and subordinate" to agricultural production uses. "Related accessory uses" are defined in other parts of the county code as being incidental and subordinate to production, but omission of that clarification from the two principal definitions of agriculture has been a lingering concern. The notice for the subsequently re-noticed Sept 7th hearing is here.

Director Morrison sent along the email below [superceeded by this 3/20/15 markup] which shows proposed changes (in red) to the principal county ordinance defining agriculture. He also sent along a second email modifying the changes (shown in blue), cobbled on at the recommendation of staff and the county council.

From: "Morrison, David"
Subject: Agricultural Definition Ordinance
Date: August 26, 2016 at 5:29:19 PM PDT


The Napa County General Plan includes the following:

Policy AG/LU-2: “Agriculture” is defined as the raising of crops, trees, and livestock; the production and processing of agricultural products; and related marketing, sales and other accessory uses. Agriculture also includes farm management businesses and farm worker housing.

Action Item AG/LU-2.1: Amend County Code to reflect the definition of “agriculture” as set forth within this plan, ensuring that wineries and other production facilities remain as conditional uses except as provided for in Policy AG/LU-16, and that marketing activities and other accessory uses remain incidental and subordinate to the main use.

This Policy and Action Item were also reviewed extensively by the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee, Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors over the past year. In April of this year, the Board unanimously reconfirmed their support for this Policy and directed staff to implement the Action Item. As a result, I will be presenting the ordinance change shown below to the Planning Commission on September 7 and will be asking that they recommend approval to the Board of Supervisor (amended text is shown in red font and 9/4/16 additions in blue):

On the same meeting, I will be recommending that the Planning Commission accept a PBES department policy establishing guidelines for the use of variances.

If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding this item, please contact me directly.




Section 18.08.040 - Agriculture

"Agriculture" means the raising of crops or livestock and includes the following:

A. Growing and raising trees, vines, shrubs, berries, vegetables, nursery stock, hay, grain and similar food crops and fiber crops;

B. Grazing of livestock and feeding incidental thereto;

C. Animal husbandry, including, without limitation, the breeding and raising of cattle, sheep, horses, goats, pigs, rabbits and poultry and egg production, except as provided in subsection (I) of this section;

D. Production and processing of agricultural products, including agricultural processing facilities notwithstanding requirements for obtaining a conditional use permit;

E. Marketing, sales, and other accessory uses that are related, incidental and subordinate to the main agricultural use, notwithstanding requirements for obtaining a conditional use permit;

F. Farmworker housing as defined in Section 18.08.294;

G. Sale of agricultural products grown, raised or produced on the premises;

H. Farm management uses meeting all of the standards in subsections (H)(1) through (H)(6) of this section. Farm management shall mean the operation, maintenance and storage of farm machinery, equipment, vehicles and supplies used exclusively for agricultural cultivation and harvesting where all machinery, equipment, vehicles and supplies are leased or owned and operated by the farm manager whether that manager is an owner, tenant, or agricultural contractor, and regardless of whether properties managed are contiguous or under similar ownership, provided that at least seventy-five percent of the managed acres are within Napa County. Farm management shall not include manufacturing for sale or retail sales of any kind and shall not include businesses devoted to equipment storage, rental or repair rather than farming. Farm management shall not include the operation, maintenance or storage of equipment used for construction of structures, even if those structures are in support of agriculture;

    1. Offices used for farm management shall meet the definition of accessory uses in Section 18.08.020;

    2. Farm management activities established or expanded after June 30, 2006, alone or in combination with any wineries subject to Section 18.104.220 shall not occupy more than fifteen acres or twenty-five percent of the parcel size, whichever is less;

    3. No single farm management building or structure newly constructed or expanded after June 30, 2006 shall exceed five thousand gross square feet. Multiple smaller buildings are permitted as long as they conform to the lot coverage standard in subsection (H)(2) above;

    4. Uncovered storage areas shall be screened from preexisting residences on adjacent parcels and from designated public roads defined in Chapter 18.106. Screening shall generally consist of evergreen landscape buffers;

    5. Farm managers shall possess all applicable local, state and federal permits and licenses;

    6. All exterior lighting, including landscape lighting, for farm management uses shall be shielded and directed downward, located as low to the ground as possible, and the minimum necessary for security, safety, or operations. Additionally, motion detection sensors must be incorporated to the greatest extent practical. No flood-lighting or sodium lighting of buildings is permitted, including architectural highlighting and spotting. Low-level lighting shall be utilized in parking areas as opposed to elevated high-intensity light standards. Prior to issuance of any building permit for construction, two copies of a separate detailed lighting plan shall accompany building plans showing the location and specifications for all lighting fixtures to be installed on the property shall be submitted for department review and approval.

I. Agriculture shall not include the raising and keeping of more than twenty-five roosters per acre, up to a maximum of one hundred roosters per legal parcel, except as may be permitted pursuant to Chapter 6.18.

Focusing a light on ordinance 18.08.040 frankly raises more questions than it answers. Agriculture "means" the raising of crops and livestock which "includes" a bunch of other things that are not the raising of crops and livestock? Huh? The ordinance begins with the lofty goal of defining "agriculture" but then spends 75% of the text in the weeds of farm management and roosters. If farm management is so well covered what about other agricultural uses. Wineries get entire additional sections of the code. But it seems like canneries, dairies, slaughterhouses, tanneries are also allowed under this wording. As well as their incidental and subordinate accessory produce stands, produce/dairy grocery stores, butcher shops, leather apparel stores, seed or hay supply stores. As will be, I assume, the facilities needed to process and market marijuana in the (near?) future.

The blue additions add even more confusion. Although there may be a different legal meaning, the dictionary indicates the word "notwithstanding" is synonymous with "in spite of" - meaning what?, that the requirements for obtaining a conditional use permit contain a different definition of agriculture? (the latest 3/20/17 ordinance mark-up is here and I'm glad to see that "notwithstanding" is gone.) Are these the requirements? Shouldn't the requirements be changed to reflect this prime definition, rather than this definition be qualified to accommodate inconstancies elsewhere? Should the conflicting requirements have to be stated here as well? (Recall also the county's recent dismissal of the Oak Woodland Initiative for not including the text of referenced documents.) More questions about the County's definition of agriculture seem to be raised than answered here.

Independent of the eccentricities of 18.08.040, the effort to introduce one more repetition of the "incidental and subordinate" nature of marketing to production into the county code is greatly appreciated. It would be even better if that language was also included in AG/LU-2 itself. But I have to admit that the concerns over the definition of agriculture now seem to be a somewhat academic exercise. There is nothing incidental or subordinate about the impacts that the "marketing of wine" is having on the quality of life and rural character of Napa County. Those impacts, whether in traffic, housing shortages, deforestation, infrastructure costs, are beginning to dominate life in the county, just as they threaten to dominate our lives in the remote area at the top of Soda Canyon Road. Nothing in the General Plan or Code of Ordinances has been altered enough in the last year to change the trajectory of urban development that threatens the rural character of the county.

Last year, in the public angst that led to the formation of APAC, and before Sup. Pedrosa received his developers' mandate, there was some optimism that those impacts might be engaged with an expectation of abatement. And that the continuing winery proliferation that is the leading edge of the transfer of a resident-based agricultural economy into a corporation/plutocrate-based tourism economy might be slowed. As the three winery use permits that will probably be approved on Sept 7th may attest, that transfer continues unabated.

Many articles on this WDO page fret over the definition of agriculture.
APAC posts on the definition of agriculture are here and here and here and here

Ag Definition Letter to the BOSon: The WDO

Norma Tofanelli - Mar 21,17  expand...  Share

20 March 2017

Napa County Board of Supervisors
Chair Alfredo Pedroza and Supervisors:
Brad Wagenknecht
Ryan Gregory
Diane Dillon
Belia Ramos

    re: Changes to Definition of Agriculture (§18.08.040)

The stated “purpose and intent of the proposed ordinance amendments are to conform the definition of agriculture in the County Code with the definition adopted in the 2008 General Plan." AG/LU-2.1 is relied upon for authority.

    Action Item AG/LU-2.1: Amend County Code to reflect the definition of “agriculture” as set forth within this plan, ensuring that wineries and other production facilities remain as conditional uses except as provided for in Policy AG/LU-16, and that marketing activities and other accessory uses remain incidental and subordinate to the main use.

AG/LU-2.1 does NOT mandate amending Napa County Code §18.08.040 to include additional uses into the definition of agriculture. These additional uses have already been populated into the code, ie: §§ 18.08.370, 18.08.620, 18.16.030 and 18.20.030. Marketing activities at wineries have been further clarified by Ordinance No. 1340 and Resolution No. 2010-48.

The mandate of AG/LU-2.1 is to ensure that the identified uses remain conditional uses that require a use permit. As currently proposed, the ordinance, instead, has the potential to undermine our agricultural land protections by unnecessarily creating conflict and uncertainty within the code itself.

1) The proposed ordinance amendments §18.08.040.D & .E create conflict within current code.

§§18.16.020 and 18.20.020 mandate that “Agriculture” shall be allowed in all AP and AW districts without a use permit:

    §18.16.020 - Uses allowed without a use permit.
      The following uses shall be allowed in all AP districts without use permits:
      A. Agriculture;

    §18.20.020 - Uses allowed without a use permit.
      The following uses shall be allowed in all AW districts without use permits:
      A. Agriculture;

If §18.08.040 is amended to include additional uses to be conditioned by use permit (§18.08.040 D & E), those sections will be in conflict with the mandate of §§18.16.020 and 18.20.020 to allow “agriculture” (as defined by §18.08.040) without a use permit (“by right”).

How will such conflict and uncertainty ultimately be resolved? Instead of ensuring that these uses remain “incidental and subordinate”, addition of these uses into the definition of “Agriculture”

§18.08.040 may ultimately allow them by right, without a use permit, in any zone that allows "agriculture" as defined by §18.08.040.

2) Such accessory uses will also be protected by Napa County’s “right to farm”:

    §2.94.010 - Definitions.
    "Agriculture" shall have the same meaning as "agriculture" as defined in Section 18.08.040 of this code.

    §2.94.010 (4)
    "Agricultural operation" means all operations necessary to conduct agriculture as defined in Section 18.08.040 of this code...

    §2.94.020 - Right to farm - Conditions.
    No existing or future agricultural activity, operation or facility, or any of its appurtenances, ... shall be or become a nuisance, public or private, due to any changed condition in or about the county, ...
    (Emphasis added)

Marketing and such “accessory” uses clearly are not intended to be afforded Napa County’s right-to- farm protections. But, the word "shall" is mandatory and legally binding - it allows no discretionary interpretation. Once the proposed definition is adopted, all uses identified in §18.08.040 will be protected by Napa County right-to-farm regulations. Napa County will have no means to mitigate the detrimental impacts of such urban uses on ag lands.

Not only does the ordinance as presented have the potential to create conflict within County code, it is redundant and not necessary to achieve the mandate of AG/LU-2.1, which is to ensure that the identified uses remain conditional uses that require a use permit. Current code already requires agricultural processing facilities to obtain use permits; “marketing, sales and other accessory uses” are already conditioned by use permit and required by code to be “incidental and subordinate to the main use”.

I urge you NOT to carelessly approve changes to the definition of agriculture, §18.08.040. The consequences, unintended or otherwise, will ultimately facilitate even more destruction of our ag lands, which we are losing daily, inch by inch, through conversion to increasingly urban uses, under the mask of “agriculture.”

Norma J. Tofanelli
Fourth-generation Calistoga farmer

PDF version of this letter is here

Why You Should Care About the Definition of Agriculture (updated)on: The WDO

Eve Kahn - Mar 20,17  expand...  Share

Update 3/16/17: Editor's note: On Mar 21st 2017 the Board of Supervisors will consider changes to the County Code of Ordinances to reflect 2008 changes to the General Plan which include agricultural processing, tourism processing (marketing) and farmworker housing projects all as part of the definition of agriculture. (item 9B here)

[letter first published in this NapaVision2050 newsletter in Dec 2016]

Prior to the 2008 County General Plan (GP) update, the definition of Agriculture in our County ordinance was quite simple: Agriculture is the growing of crops, trees, and livestock. Many other uses may be permitted/allowed but must remain related, subordinate, and incidental to the main use.

We are a county that has valued our Ag lands. In 1968 the Napa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) put in place the Ag Preserve, the first ever in United States, which protects most of our lands outside of cities and towns from development.

However, the huge success of the Napa wine industry during the 80’s necessitated an ordinance to keep winery development consistent with the protection of Ag Preserve. On January 23, 1990, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved the Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO). This ordinance defined a winery as an “agricultural processing facility” for “the fermenting and processing of grape juice into wine.” The ordinance also allowed for wineries to sell and market wine, but such marketing activity must be “accessory” and subordinate to production.


Every 10 years the Napa County General Plan (GP) is updated. The Steering Committee for the 2008 update was comprised mostly of industry representatives and winery owners eager to expand their business options. The updated GP, approved by the Board of Supervisors on June 3, 2008, expanded the definition of Agriculture to include not only the raising of crops, trees, and livestock, but also the production and processing of agricultural products and related marketing, sales and other accessory uses. Agriculture now also includes farm management and farmworker housing.

The second event began with the economic downturn of 2008. The wine industry pressured the BOS to include direct marketing as an accessory use of agriculture. The BOS approved this in 2010. This means that VISITATION, WINE AND FOOD PAIRINGS, AND RELATED EVENTS, are consistent with “accessory use of agriculture”.


For parcels zoned Ag Preserve (AP) or Ag Watershed (AW), agriculture is a use “by right” (without a use permit). And the Right-to-Farm ordinance (signed by everyone buying property in Napa County) states that the County will not consider the inconveniences or discomforts arising from agricultural operations to be a nuisance. If you live next to a vineyard or winery, you have to accept the noise, odors, dust, chemicals, and operation of machinery which go along with agriculture. If you object, your alternative is to go to court.


What happens, then, when visitation, wine and food pairings, often four or five course meals, and outdoor marketing events are included in the Definition of Agriculture— not just accessory uses?

Are these marketing events provided the same level of protection under the Right-to-Farm as those of actually farming? Are these uses consistent with the protections of Measure J, the 1990 initiative amending the Napa County general plan that sought to preserve all agriculturally designated land? Any change in agricultural land use must be with voter approval. RESTAURANTS ARE SPECIFICALLY CITED AS GROWTH THAT HAS TO GO INTO THE CITIES OR ONE OF THE VERY SMALL URBAN NODES IN THE UNINCORPORATED AREA, UNLESS VOTERS ARE WILLING TO ALLOW AN EXCEPTION.

What about Housing on Ag lands in this Change of Definition of Agriculture? Who really qualifies as a Farmworker – often called Agricultural Workers? Are the chefs or kitchen/wait staff at wineries and event centers the new Farmworkers? Can high-density housing be built on our Ag Preserve and Ag Watershed lands to accommodate them?

Changing agricultural lands to include expanded commercial uses (by right) violates the intensity of uses and protections under Measure P, which extends Measure J’s protections until 2058.

One of the key phrases in Measure P: to protect the County's agricultural, watershed, and open space lands, to strengthen the local agricultural community and preserve the County's rural way of life. By expanding what is allowed (whether by right or by permit), the rural way of life is/can be destroyed. The number of unintended consequences is significant.

This issue will be coming to the Board of Supervisors soon. Please contact your Supervisor requesting that the definition to Agriculture not be modified until all the unintended consequences are understood.

Diane Dillon
Alfredo Pedrosa
Ryan Gregory
Brad Wagenknecht
Belia Ramos

The Raymond Decisionon: Tourism Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 19,17  expand...  Share

The orgy next door
NVR 3/20/17: Split Napa County Planning Commission approves Raymond Vineyards changes

On Mar 15th 2017 the County Planning Commission, after years of presentations, approved modifications to the Raymond Winery use permit. It has been a tortured process involving the recognition and allowance of years of permit violations, the clash of two iconically different players in the valley, and the impacts of the subordination of wine making to wine marketing in the economy.

The use permit application has pitted Raymond's owner, the flamboyant good-life entrepreneur Jean-Charles Boisset, against his next-door neighbor, mega-grapegrower Andy Beckstoffer, in a symbolic battle for the soul of Napa County. As has happened in countless, but increasingly intense, planning commission battles over these last years, the forces for more tourism development have won over the preservation of Napa's agricultural heritage, and a few more acres of vines get paved over for buildings and roads and parking lots.

This is the second Raymond proposal to come before the Commission. The first in 2014 ran into concerted opposition not just from Beckstoffer, but also residents on Zinfandel Lane faced with ever increasing traffic to the winery. The proposal was dropped after 2 continued hearings. Beckstoffer continued to challenge Raymond on non-compliance independently of the use permit request.

Raymond defused Zinfandel Lane opposition in this second project by buying an adjacent property, giving the winery direct access to Hwy 29 and dividing the service, visitation and employee traffic load into two access points. It also added another entertainment venue to the complex. It was apparently enough to placate residents of Zinfandel Lane who did not turn out for this meeting, although it did rile the residents of problematic Whitehall Lane junction just across Hwy 29 from the new Raymond driveway.

Mr. Beckstoffer was not assuaged by the new proposal, and, although he did not make the impassioned defense of the ag preserve that he has made in previous hearings, his lawyer made a CEQA-esque presentation in preparation for the appeal and, no doubt, court challenge ahead. The commissioners voted 3 - 2 to approve. Comms. Basayne, Scott and Gill seem to be reliable pro-development backers so far this year. Comms. Gallagher and Cottrell seem to be taking the position that where there's controversy on projects extra concern must be given to the negative impacts. I wish that all of the commissioners were willing to make the effort to balance the lives of impacted residents, the potential future impacts on the rural character of the county and on the integrity of the concept of the Ag Preserve, against the increased profits of individual applicants. (Comm Cottrell in her dissent made a strong argument against the precedence of "recognizing and allowing" non-compliance that this project embodies.)

As reported in the NVR article, Comm. Scott repeated a statement often used in these hearings to justify pumping up winery tourism:

    “The marketing of wine has changed dramatically and direct-to-consumer sales and relationships are what create wine club members and purchasers of wine. Frankly, I don’t think a lot of our wineries would survive without the marketing events they need to establish those customer relationships."

Given the impact that this assertion is having on the number of tourist venues being proposed and approved in the county, and the impact that the increased tourism will have on our resources, environment, infrastructure, and the rural quality of life that is the hallmark of the county, someone should be asking if tourism is really necessary to the survival of the wine industry. What percentage of the wine industry is dependent on at-winery sales to survive? Why are so many wineries able to survive with very little or no winery visitation? Isn't it only new entrepreneurs, who must poach customers from established brands for the finite quantity of Napa wine available, that must rely on d-t-c tourism marketing because they are too small to be distributed? Are those new brands simply being approved because they increase the tourism draw to the county? Are there other methods to promote the sale of high-end wines besides the destructive invasion of mass-market tourism into the county?

Of course, Raymond is not a startup needing the tourist trade to kept it afloat in post 3-tier world. It is a mature and successful business acting on the reality that there is more money to be made in entertainment than wine. The Ag Preserve was created in the knowledge that there are many enterprises more profitable than making wine, and that controls were necessary if an agricultural economy were to survive. Raymond has flouted those rules to increase profits. And several acres of prime Rutherford acreage has been lost to roads and parking lots needed for its several tourism venues. Tourism, and the urbanization necessary for its success, is hardly less a threat to agriculture now than the housing business was in the 1970's. The dissenting commissioners were right not to recognize, allow and increase the changes that Raymond has requested.

3/15/17: PC hearing video[approved 3-2]
3/15/17: PC hearing agenda and Documents
2/1/17: PC hearing video [hearing continued]
12/16/15: Beckstoffer SMW letter on Raymond to BOS
4/29/15: Beckstoffer Abbott & Kindermann letter on Compliance to BOS
8/20/14: PC hearing video [hearing continued]
8/2014: PC hearing agenda and documents
8/20/14: Beckstoffer statement at Aug 20 hearing
7/16/14: PC hearing video [hearing continued]

A standard condition of complianceon: Compliance Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 18,17  expand...  Share

At the Mar 15th, 2017 use permit hearing for the Raymond Winery, in her dissenting opinion to the 3-2 approval of the project, Commissioner Anne Cottrell made a statement that should be considered as a "standard condition of approval" for any winery asking for forgiveness for use permit non-compliance. After citing several objections to the application, she said:

    "My biggest issue of concern about this project is the issue of non-compliance... We have several violations that have occurred over quite some length of time. I think about other projects that this commission has seen. Two that jump to mind are the Caves at Soda Canyon and Summers Winery, both of which had fewer violations than we have at present. In both those situations the Planning Commission said to the applicant you need to live within the terms of your use permit before we will grant an expansion of entitlements. We've also heard from the community the importance of this body being consistant in applying the rules and regulations. I feel that if we have asked other violators to live within the terms of the use permit, we need to ask that of Raymond as well. It's worth noting that problems with non-compliance are not just about checking boxes to say we're following the rules. It goes beyond that. It's not only an unfair business advantage to other wineries who are following the rules, but it's also straying from the General Plan's goal to protect the Ag Preserve. The General Plan and the county codes flow from the concept of ag protection, and the violation of those codes undermines the ag preserve."

The labor shortageon: Open Comments

Bill Hocker - Mar 17,17  expand...  Share

Two articles point to big problems for the agriculture and and tourism industries:

LA Times 3/17/17: Wages rise on California farms. Americans still don’t want the job
NVR 3/15/17: Napa hospitality businesses collaborate in new ways to find workers

Highway improvements increase traffic (updated)on: Traffic Issues

George Caloyannidis - Mar 16,17  expand...  Share

Katy Freeway, Huston - never wide enough
Update Editor's note: NVR 3/16/17: Napa officials talk about scrapping Hwy 29 widening in American Canyon
This is one of the few government acknowledgements that road widening doesn't relieve traffic congestion, it enables future development and induces traffic increases to fill the lanes available, a fact already known to traffic researchers. This comes one day after the City of American Canyon presented their plans to widen Hwy 29 to encourage more development. Kudos to the NVTA.

Dignitaries always flock to ribbon-cutting photo ops, but established traffic findings throw a damper on the champagne.

Research at UC Davis -- one of the best in the nation on traffic studies -- has shown that the widening of traffic arteries does not alleviate traffic congestion. In fact, as Professor Susan Handy who was a contributor to that research explained during her last April's presentation at the NV2050 Forum on the Tourism Economy, the widening of traffic arteries alleviates traffic congestion for between one and two years and then makes congestion even worse than it was before. Though Caltrans has not yet adopted that policy, it has posted it on its website. In the face of overwhelming evidence, it will surely follow in time.

That the widening of arteries alleviates traffic congestion is intuitive but the reason why it makes it worse is more complicated.

During the congestion easing phase, all traffic increasing projects which undergo CEQA review evaluate current traffic conditions and are given a green light on their traffic impacts which they might not have gotten had those improvements not taken place. In other words, more traffic-increasing projects are approved than would have been otherwise. This facilitates more traffic until the previous saturation point is reached. But the net effect is that more traffic is dumped on the side streets of communities and overall congestion gets worse. Not to mention increased parking requirements.

A great example of this pattern is the Highway 29/Trancas Street underpass. For those who remember traffic conditions before those improvements more than a decade ago, there was a bottleneck at that location but nowhere else further Upvalley. That ribbon cutting celebrated the easing of traffic congestion. But here we are today, the percentage of pass-through traffic remains at less than 10 percent, but additional development was facilitated by valid CEQA review and here we are with the intolerable conditions of today.

It is great that the eyesore utilities have been placed underground and that the easier left turns will facilitate better traffic flow for a while, but overall traffic will increase because of them. When the rest of the developed world is abandoning traffic lights in favor of roundabouts, St. Helena will get one more of those traffic-delaying relics to facilitate an unwise development project. Make no mistake; even more development will slip under the CEQA radar during the coveted window and the quality of life of local up-valley communities will suffer.

Sip the bubbly with caution!

Weekly Calistogan 10/4/16: Highway improvements will increase traffic

Roads on Mt. Veederon: Vision 2050

Patricia Damery - Mar 15,17  expand...  Share

The following letter from Napa resident Chris Bell addresses the deplorable conditions of the roads on Mt. Veeder, conditions increasingly common on our county roads. Although the County continues to support growth in tourism and wine sales, the situation with our country roads is precarious and dangerous and the County contends there is little money to fix them . Mr. Bell raises the question: what about residents? With so much money pouring in from the hospitality and winery businesses, why is so little being used to ensure our roads are safe? Bell offers a solution.

My wife and I went to a sort of "town hall" meeting last week that the residents up Mt Veeder pulled together after enduring some pretty tough and dangerous situations in last month’s storms. There were about 50 of us there with our district supervisor and the head of the county road department and local fire chiefs.

As we drove north for the 15 minute drive up Mt Veeder road to the meeting we passed three places where the road was only one makeshift lane. It had either caved off into the creek, or a landslide had come down into the road. The road was temporarily filled back in or graded to allow a tight and very slow passage…And then another one lane section that has caved off the hillside and has been that way for so long the temporary guard rail is now covered with moss…There were also a few other large sinking spots that were on the verge of failing with another good storm. None of the ditches that allow drainage were flowing because they haven’t been cleaned out in years and the pot holes and huge fishers in the road promoted many a hit the brakes quick situation.

Remembering back about a month ago, we had a massive landslide just south of us on Redwood road that shut off the southbound path into Napa for a week, making this northbound route the only way out for about 600 people. This “detour” makes the normal 7 minute drive to Napa about an hour and 15 minutes during traffic hours.

What we learned in this meeting is this:

Our county road maintenance is paid for by a gas tax and hasn’t been changed since 1993. What has changed is that now we have very efficient cars and electric cars, and revenue from gas tax has shrunk over 25% since 93. It seems most of that budget goes to Silverado Trail because of the high volume of traffic there.

Napa county passed "Measure T" last year but won't see any funds available until 2018 at which point they will be able to begin the year’s worth of engineering and planning to repair our road. So today, in 2017 the road is barely passable…it’s the only way out if there is a road failure heading south, and it's not going to be fixed until maybe 2021.

Now consider this scenario…This road travels thru some of the most wooded forest in California, and there’s about 600 people, numerous wineries, commercial vineyards, a few 10-30 million dollar estates, it’s a well driven back route for bikes and cars between Napa and Sonoma and a well traveled route for Mt Veeder grapes during harvest. And according to the officials, it will be 4 or 5 fire seasons between now and the time ANY if this is fixed???

If a fire starts up on the mountain we will have a mass exodus down the mountain at the same time we have potentially 100s of large emergency vehicles and equipment heading up the mountain… many of them weighing 10-20 times over what the roads have people admitted is a very low weight limit on the current road. Remember the footage of the residents in Lake County last year having to flee thru the burning roads to escape?

What we now have the potential for is a headline that reads "Hundreds trapped (or killed) in Mt Veeder fire"…followed by billions in losses to property because firefighters couldn’t get up the mountain with heavy equipment and emergency services.

This is scary and potentially possible.

Now here’s the ironic part…Napa county generates massive dollars annually in wine and tourist related businesses for the county and creates a hefty income for the federal coffers…And according to Google Napa county property tax records show an all time high of $30 billion last year. So there is plentiful dollars generated by the use of the roads and land in Napa County… yet the politicians have created and are allowing a potentially life threatening situation on ours ( and I’m sure most other) Napa county roads.

If you consider how many bottles of wine are produced in Napa County, and added a 5 cent a bottle tax ( charged to the buyer not the winery) on every bottle that went out of this valley to pay for the roads that everyone who makes, buys and drinks the wine uses…we would have ample funds available every year by now to stop this dangerous situation. But the valley gets richer, the tourists get drunker, the airport hosts more private jets and our roads get busier every year as we sit there and listen to all the red tape and political reasons why our rural county roads are not on any high priority lists for immediate repairs. It’s time to rethink how this is working out now that lives are now in danger for our rural residents.

Political talk and justifications for "5 year plans" to repair and make our roads safe will be a huge liability when we have a tragedy that cost the lives of Napa residents.

In 2017 in one of the richest producing counties in the nation there is no excuse for this scenario to even be possible. But this is the reality on Mt Veeder in Napa, California, 2017.


Bill Hocker - Mar 16, 2017

Unfortunately, despite the vast amount of development that has occurred in the county over the last decades, all promoted and sold on the basis of the tax revenues that would be raised by the expanded economy, the taxes and fees generated are never enough to pay for the impacts the new development creates. George Caloyannidis makes that point here and is the subject of many of his other articles as well as other articles on the SCR Growth Issues page.

Community meetings on the "big picture"on: Open Comments

Bill Hocker - Mar 14,17  expand...  Share

NVR 3/15/17: Napa County looks at strengths, weaknesses during retreat

A few community members attended this County workshop on Mar. 14th designed to allow Supervisors and County department heads to sit down together and discuss county strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the coming years. It was a good exercise in team building and displayed a congenial county staff interested in the county's future.

The brief agenda described it as "the first of three strategic planning retreat sessions to identify the Board's priorities over the next three years and develop metrics to evaluate progress in implementing these priorities". There will be two more such staff workshops, on April 24th and May 22.

But before April 24th there WILL be 5 community (public) workshops on Mar 23rd, 28th, 30th, Apr 3rd and Apr 10th to to gather input and ideas for a community vision that can help shape the Board of Supervisors priorities. Meetings will be conducted in English and Spanish.

The notice and locations are here, and meeting dates and locations are also shown on the Calendar.


Amber Manfree - Mar 15, 2017

Is it just me, or are county employees concerned about all the same things we are?

Traffic, locals/working professionals being priced out, class conflict, decisions not being based on data, residents concerns not being incorporated in planning decisions, road conditions... the county being sued.

It's a familiar sounding list!

I think it's missing biodiversity/conservation/limits to growth issues, though.

Glenn J. Schreuder - Mar 15, 2017

I think we are witnessing the hollowing out of the Napa community:

- Spiraling housing costs.
- Projected declines in public school enrollments.
- Absentee home ownership - vacation/2nd home ownership all over cities from Napa northward.
- Monocultural agriculture (lack of agricultural diversity)
- A single dominant, primary industry (lack of economic diversity)
- Distant corporate ownership replacing family ownership of the means of production.
- A generation of kids who will find they need to leave the community they grew up in or risk becoming part of a significant economic under-class (with some limited exceptions i.e. kids from wealthy families)
- Conspicuous, ostentatious, tasteless displays of material wealth.

Definitely not the Napa I grew up in and not the one I fell in love with.

The spell is broken.

Roundup Red: Alert! (updated)on: Watershed Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 14,17  expand...  Share

It's in there. Will it kill you?

Update NYTimes 3/14/17: Unsealed Documents Raise Questions on Monsanto Weed Killer

KGO-TV 4/28/16: Weed Killer could be lurking in some California wines

"A lab test of 10 California wines concluded they all contain the active ingredient from weed-killer, glyphosate, a chemical classified a 'probable carcinogen' by the World Health Organization. This I-Team investigation is sending shock waves through wine country."

NVR 5/23/16: Activists stir debate over reported weed killer in wines
Wine Industry Insight 5/3/16: Some see conspiracy in missing wine-pesticide story pulled by San Francisco TV station
WineWaterWatch page on the issue with screen shots and transcript of the piece
The original Moms Across America article is here

Goodbye, Napa Valleyon: Vision 2050

George Caloyannidis - Mar 10,17  expand...  Share

We thought we would share with you a recent letter to the editor to the St. Helena Star, written by Chuck O'Rear. As many of you have, we knew Charles (Chuck) O’Rear and his wife Daphne Larkin.

Some people, like Chuck, have helped put the Napa Valley on the map, set it on a solid foundation towards a bright future and entrusted it to our local governments for its stewardship. Chuck's odyssey, rather late in life is a testament to our failed leadership from Calistoga to American Canyon. That leadership continues to remain oblivious to the distraction it keeps promoting week after week invoking mock environmental analyses and lending nothing but a deaf ear to citizens who have been sounding the alarm and continue to do so at public hearings.

I could do without all those irresponsible leaders if the Napa Valley could get its Chuck O'Rears and other locals back who have been leaving in alarming numbers. Supervisors, Mayors, Council members and Planning Commissioners you have done it! You took our valley from us and handed it over to those who never put in a day's honest work in its behalf.

As Chuck says: Goodbye, Napa Valley; and it is for good.

Deforestation leader: Cal Fire or County?on: Watershed Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 9,17  expand...  Share

Napa County generates the most Timber Harvest Plans in the State!
At the BOS on Mar 7th 2017 (item 9A here) the Board considered a request by the California Department of Forestry (Cal Fire) that the County should become the lead agency on deforestation projects within the county that involved Timber Harvest Plans (THP's). The staff letter on the issue is here. Normally in projects that involve THP's (i.e where there is harvesting of timber species in preparation for agricultural or development clearing) Cal Fire acts as the lead agency for CEQA review and the county chimes in on conservation regulations where appropriate. But as the Cal Fire administrator indicated at the hearing, Napa County ECP and CEQA review has become so much more thorough that they feel it is better for the County to be the lead agency with Cal Fire providing their own input to the county. Their concerns were first aired in this letter concerning 4 projects they currently reviewing. Two of the projects are well along in their Cal Fire review and two of the projects are only at the Notice of Preparation (NOP) stage. Apparently after a meeting between Cal Fire and the County it was decided that Cal Fire would retain lead agency status on all 4 projects as indicated in this letter two months later. It wan't clear how the decision was made.

Given the punishing process on Walt Ranch, given the fact that Cal Fire doesn't seem to charge for CEQA reviews?!! and given the much more opaque process that Cal Fire uses, I can understand why developers would be anxious to avoid having the county as the lead agency, and assigning lead agency to Cal Fire might be seen as a way to lessen the scrutiny that deforestation projects might otherwise receive, essentially an end run around the more robust concerns that the county and its citizens have concerning these projects.

Sup Wagenknecht asked the Cal Fire administrator if the proposed arrangement was unusual. This would be the first such arrangement, she indicated. In addition to the greater thoroughness of the County ECP process, she said, Napa has the most timber conversions anywhere in the State, a remarkable statement but understandable when looking at the many patches of converted timberland on Google Map images of the watersheds (see photo).

The Supervisors passed a motion to make the County lead agency on future development conversion projects that involve THP's, and to request, at Sup Dillon's insistence, that Cal Fire make the county lead agency on the 2 "NOP" projects currently under review.


Chris Malan - Mar 9, 2017

At the Napa County BOS [see list of acronyms at end] yesterday they voted to approve two changes in regards to the approval of erosion control plans for the conversion of lands to vines.

1. ECPA CEQA process for THP/TCP is now going to be done through Napa County. This is good for us for several reasons:

  • costs go up for the applicants because the County charges and the state didn’t for CEQA admin on THP/TCP

  • we have local access to the complete THP/TCP file (before we had to travel to Santa Rosa to see the complete THP file and Sacramento for the TCP)

  • the THP/TCP goes through CEQA and the ECPA also-so there are technically two opportunities to comment-the BOS want a ‘road map’ of the approval process-therefore, we will see where all the opportunities are for public hearings

2. The PBES is now taking over the ECPA process from the RCD who was NOT qualified to oversee these engineering plans . This is good news on several fronts because:

  • The RCD along with the vineyard consultants developing the ECPAs can no long 'play games' with modeling the hydrologic soil groups (HSG) post deep ripping and deforestation. They have been claiming that deep ripping (after deforestation) improves soil infiltration of water thereby improving groundwater recharge, decreasing runoff and erosion post project.

  • the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board (SFRWQCB) met with LRC and our consultant on 12.2016 to understand the failings of the ECPA modeling so as to properly implement the WDR for vineyards in Sonoma and Napa Counties to comply with the 303(d) listing of the Napa and Sonoma River for sediment pollution (first ever DWR for vineyards in the State).

    LRC has been communicating with the SFRWQCB since 2000 along with filing a CEQA lawsuit on the Sediment TMDL and inadequacies of the ECPs not meeting water quality parameters to support salmonids.

    The CEQA process for the draft WDR finally gave a window of opportunity to collaborate with the SFRWQCB developing a WDR that adequately deals with the failings of the ECPAs and properly implementing the Sediment TMDL.

    The SFRWQCB staff asked for a meeting with LRC and our hydrologist for information about how to deal with the ECPA failings in the WDR. We met and discussed the 'games' being played by the RCD and applicants consultants on manipulation of HSGs post ripping and deforestation producing false information about runoff, infiltration and erosion.

    LRC declared these scientific truths with the SFRWQCB that: 1.) water infiltration may increase slightly after ripping but then the soil compacts and the pores close and water sheets off. 2.) because of #1 there is increased rate of runoff in some soil types that has not been mitigated for in the past (WALT Ranch vineyard project in litigation now) because the RCD and consultants had a theory that the water infiltration increased post ripping through the newly ripped loose soil. This is now completely debunked by the LRC consultant along with the NRCD who confirmed our consultant is correct. The SFRWQCB agreed too!

    So successful is LRC on this through past litigation and open communication with SFRWQCB during the WDR comment period that a workshop is being held on March 18th and outreach is happening with the vineyard consultants that they can NO longer make these false claims to get a pass on CEQA that the project impacts on hydrology and sediment discharge are less than significant! Because the SFRWQCB agrees with LRC the WDR requirements for hydrology and sediment must be properly modeled!

    Finally yesterday the County of Napa's PBES department engineer testified to the BOS that vineyard projects that do deep ripping (often preceded by deforestation) can no longer apply their false theory and manipulate HSG modeling to get a pass on rate of runoff, erosion and recharge.

Living Rivers Council has worked on this for over 17 years and finally there are changes coming through the SFRWQCB telling the Counties that their erosion control plans must have robust engineering/modelling that shows scientific evidence of deep ripping and deforestation impacts on soil types. This is a much higher CEQA bar now for these projects. The SFRWQCB is collaborating this with the NCRWQCB for the implementation of their WDR in Sonoma County and beyond!

FYI-with this the WDR will be rolled out soon and the BMPs for vineyards will be such that the ECPA must demonstrate no increased rate of runoff-this will limit the amount of deforestation in certain soil types.

Cal Fire told the BOS that Napa County has the most TCP’s in the STATE! We need to really use this in our Initiative language, PR and fundraising. This means that Napa really needs initiative protection.

Chris Malan

Hydrologic Soil Groups (HSG)
Timber Harvest Plan (THP)
Timber Conversion (TCP)
Wastewater Discharge Requirement permit (WDR)
San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board (SFRWQCB)
North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB)
Resource Conservation District (RCD)
National Resource Conservation District (NRCD)
Living Rivers Council (LRC)
Best Management Practices (BMP)
Erosion Control Plan Application (ECPA)
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
Board of Supervisors (BOS)
Planning Building and Environmental Services (PBES): Napa County department where ECPAs are processed
Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire)

Chris Malan - Mar 9, 2017

We know now that the County planning staff are hearing us (italicized and copied from the BOS agenda letter here):

There have been two recent items of note regarding the ECPA review process.

On January 20, 2017, staff sent a notice to stakeholders and interested parties indicating that PBES would no longer accept hydrologic analyses and vineyard ECPAs designed in reliance on modified hydrologic soil group (HSG) assumptions. The HSG methodology is no longer recommended by either the Resource Conservation District or the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and is not supported by Department engineering staff. We are working with those applicants who have not yet transitioned to the preferred approach.

(LRC debunked the Walt project soil analysis claims that after grading the soils are more permeable therefore, groundwater has a high recharge value with vineyard development-an utter false assumption. I wonder what this will do for our litigation)

Recently, CalFire held a training exercise on private property in the Soda Canyon area. It generated complaints from nearby residents who were concerned that illegal brush clearing and/or grading was occurring. Section 18.108.050.(H) of the County Code exempts the creation and/or maintenance of firebreaks required by, and completed under the direction of the California Department of Forestry. However, the exemption does not specifically address fire training exercises. Similarly, work to create fuel breaks (not fire breaks) is being proposed by Napa Firewise. Staff is working closely with both Firewise and CalFire to ensure that necessary fire prevention work is allowed to move forward, in a way that does not impact the environment or create violations of County Code.

(so we know now that the grading on Soda Springs road was actually NOT Allowed and NOT specifically exempt!)

Citizen Power!on: Vision 2050

NV2050 Admin - Mar 8,17  expand...  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!

Greenbelt Alliance and the Ahwahnee Principleson: Growth Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 7,17  expand...  Share

At Risk: Napa City powerpoint slide during the final Napa Pipe deliberations
Greenbelt Alliance: At Risk: The Bay Area Greenbelt
NVR 2/4/17: Greenbelt Alliance has praise and warnings for Napa County

The Greenbelt Alliance has done their periodic checkup on the trajectory of urban development in the Bay Area and in Napa County. The county has received a few dings. The specific callout on winery development and other tourism development is noteworthy, a case strenuously made for the last 4 years by numerous community groups. Three other projects of specific concern were also called out, Napa Oaks II, Watson Ranch and Syar.

The Report seems to have generated a discussion about the pace of development in the county, with Director Morrison at pains to stress that winery development is within development parameters laid out in the 2008 Napa County General Plan.

NVR 2/27/17: Wine country growth within general plan numbers

The General Plan, at least in those areas of interest to the wine industry, were heavily influenced by the industry's perspective, a notion substantiated during the APAC hearings when wine industry members on the committee would preface their comments with "When we were working on the General Plan update..." As is evident from the equation of marketing to processing in the AG/LU-2 definition of agriculture in the Plan, that interest was already shifting from a need for new processing capacity to accommodate increasing vineyard acreage, to a need for more tourism d-t-c sales to increase profitability in the face of a leveling grape supply. Despite Dir. Morrison's statistic that 4315 acres have been developed since 2006, the net increase in producing vineyard acreage up to 2015 ( from crop reports) hovers around 1000 acres. Using 2008 as the datum the net increase hovers closer to 100 acres.

As is pointed out, while the raw numbers of new wineries being developed hewed to predictions made in the EIR for the General Plan update, the impacts of wineries as tourism generators was lightly discussed if at all. Many winery expansions are now being done strictly to increase visitation, encouraged under loosened marketing restrictions made in 2010 to the Winery Definition Ordinance. Net vineyard increase, and the need for new processing capacity, has leveled out since 2006, while approved visitation slots have increased by 2.4 million, with some 400,000 slot requests still under review. In the NVR article on wine country growth, the Vintner's Rex Stults restates the canard that this doesn't represent an increase in vistors, but that it just divvies up the 3.3 million tourists already here among ever more wineries. He didn't mention which wineries were going to give up their visitors to the newcomers.

This renewed long term look at the development trend in the county is hopefully the beginning of the combined effort by the County and municipalities to look at urbanization here. The concern was touted as the "big picture" in the May 20th 2014 joint BOS/Planning Commission meeting that led to APAC, is hopefully being reconsidered. (Interestingly Sup. Dillon just referred to the "Big-picture thinking" in this 3/8/17 article on LAFCO. Sup Gregory talked about promoting high rise buildings in Napa City.)

The Ahwahnee Principles

This renewed concern is also possibly responsible for the raising of the Ahwahnee Principals, a set of urban growth restraining principles originally proposed in 1991 as part of the slow growth movement that gave rise to the Greenbelt Alliance in the 80's. Director Morrison has combed the General Plan to find the correspondences between the Principles and GP policies. The Board of Supervisors will probably take some action on a resolution to formally adopt those principles at their meeting on Mar 7th 2017. Let's hope this is the beginning of a closer look at the urban development impacts we are all beginning to feel here, and not just chest thumping in response to the Alliance callout.

One of the "Whereas's" in the resolution caught my eye because it speaks to the urbanization of the county as it pursues the development of a tourism economy to replace its agricultural economy:

    Whereas, cities and counties face major challenges with the existing patterns of urban and suburban community development that create: congestion and air pollution resulting from our increased dependence on automobiles, the loss of precious open space, the need for costly improvements to roads and public services, the inequitable distribution of economic resources, and the loss of a sense of community;
The current d-t-c marketing strategy of the wine industry is in fact based on bringing ever more visitors and hospitality employees into the county resulting in "congestion and air pollution resulting from our increased dependence on automobiles". The industry has survived quite well as an export industry and the vast majority of Napa wine is still trucked with relative efficiency out of the county, one truck handling several thousand bottles. In the new economic model one car is used to haul a few bottles out of the county on a two-way trip. In addition, the County's encouragement of more winery development in the watersheds insures that that there will be a lot of car traffic within the county once the cars cross the county line. This hardly fits the Ahwahnee principle on automobile use.

The importation of this transient community also requires the construction of hospitality facilities and infrastructure needed for visitors and employees, most of whom are also commuters, requiring "the need for costly improvements to roads and public services".

The d-t-c model is also encouraging the development of ever more wineries being built not to process grapes (all of Napa's grapes are already being processed into wine) but to process tourists, consuming agricultural land with unnecessary buildings and parking lots and hence exacerbating "the loss of precious open space".

And the development of a tourism economy is beginning to have a severe impact on the "sense of community" in towns which lose affordable housing and local businesses, and in rural areas which transition from residential-agricultural communities to commercial-agricultural zones.

And what of "inequitable distribution of economic resources"? I'm not quite sure what the intent is here, but it could mean, as one resident at the Palmaz hearing said, that this is becoming a place "of, by and for the 1%er's", a result, I might argue, of the glitzy promotion of this as a world-class tourism and good-life destination. It is the fact that a handful of plutocrats and corporations are destroying the sense of community and consuming the precious open space and creating the need for ever more taxpayer-funded infrastructure, all adversely impacting the environment and quality of life for the rest of us, that has driven the community resistance to Yountville Hill, Wools Ranch, Calistoga Hills, Walt Ranch, Napa Oaks, Syar, Angwin PUC, Mountain Peak and Palmaz. Even in a high-median-income place like Napa, the impacts of an inequitable distribution of economic resources are keenly felt in this new age of plutocrats.

Update 3/7/17: At the hearing on this issue Eve Kahn brought up the number of references in the Ahwahnee Principles to "watersheds" and noted that none of the "whereas" statements of the resolution mention watersheds.

Standard Conditions of Approval at the BOS (updated)on: Growth Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 7,17  expand...  Share

Update 3/7/17: The Standard Conditions of Approval for wineries were approved by the Supervisors with only one change required by Richard Mendenhall, lawyer for the Napa Valley Vintners: deleting the word "original" from the expression

    "At least 75% of the grapes used to make the winery’s wine at the winery shall be grown within Napa County. [ADD THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT IF A PRE- WDO WINERY: provided that this requirement does not apply to the winery’s original __________ gallons of production that were approved prior to the adoption of the Winery Definition Ordinance.]"
Wineries may have added new capacity to their "original" capacity before the 1990 WDO, and it must be clear that the added capacity is also exempt from the 75% rule. Insuring grandfathered rights seems to be the principal function of industry lawyers whenever county changes are proposed.

The Farm Bureau's Cio Perez brought up the issue that retail sales of wine should be included in the SCofA as a by-appointment function. Mr. Mendenhall, as he did previously (see original 8/5/16 post below), was adamant in stating that the WDO did not require appointments for the retail sales of wine at a winery. Drop-in liquor stores are OK in the ag zones.

No discussion was given to the Standard Conditions of Approval for Other Projects or Special-Area Projects which were also approved. Wine is all anyone seems to care about in Napa County.

Update 3/3/17:
The Standard Conditions of Approval for development projects in the county, approved by the Planning Commission on Dec 21st 2016, will be reviewed and possibly adopted by the Board of Supervisors on Tues. Mar 7th.
Agenda Letter is here

Update 12/6/16:
PBES has just released updated Standard Conditions of Approval for non-residential development in the county with markups of changes made since the Aug 3, 2016 presentation to the Planning Commission:
    Hello Regular Customers of Napa County Planning, Building and Environmental Services,

    On August 3, 2016, staff presented the following new set of proposed standard conditions for Commission consideration and recommendation to the Board of Supervisors: (1) Winery projects; (2) Other Non-Residential/Residential projects; and (3) Specific Plan Area (Napa Valley Business Park) projects in an effort to make the conditions more streamlined and triggered by project milestones. In response to the comments received by stakeholders, the general public and elected/appointed officials, staff requested a continuance of this item to allow additional time to address comments received to date before the Commission makes its final recommendation. Furthermore, staff presented a proposed outline of how the conditions would be reorganized in order to get consensus from the Commission and the public on the new format before updating the draft standard conditions and presentation to the Commission for final consideration. A copy of this outline is also attached for your review and staff was directed to follow this outline when updating conditions.

    Attached, please find the revised proposed changes in “tracked change” format which staff will be bringing to the Planning Commission on December 21st for review and recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. Please note that the staff report, revised proposed draft conditions, and prior public comments for this item will be posted on the County website by December 14th. Upon completion of the Commission’s review, the recommended Standard Conditions will be presented to the Board in January/February for their consideration and adoption. Please note that Commission and the Board of Supervisors will take public testimony on this item.

    Once again, the proposed wording of the Standard Conditions have been modified to standardize language, ensure consistency and clarity, and to avoid any duplication. Furthermore, Staff has standardize project specific conditions that have been applied to projects over the years, and have added conditions from the Building Division and Fire Department to provide more information regarding the permitting process and expectations when applying for such permits.

    As for any significant changes, staff has proposed new language for the “Ground Water Management – Wells” in response to stakeholder comments, as well as, modified other conditions to respond to stakeholder/public comments with exception to those requested changes that would incorporate new policy direction for projects. Lastly, Staff modified the proposed condition and procedure that would carry over previous conditions of approval for Major Modification applications only at this time based upon Commission direction received on August 3rd.

    If you have any questions, comments or suggested changes, please contact me.

    Best Regards,

    Charlene Gallina
    Supervising Planner
    Napa County Planning, Building, & Environmental Services Department
    (707) 299-1355

    Markup Draft Winery Conditions of Appproval
    Markup Draft Other-project Conditions of Approval
    Markup Draft Special-plan-area Conditions of Approval


At the Aug 3rd 2016 Planning Commission Meeting Senior Planner Charlene Gallena presented her revisions of the the county's standard conditions of approval for winery projects (in addition to the conditions for other development projects) submitted to the planning department. These are the conditions that applicants can expect to be imposed when they submit their applications for approval. Normally this would be somewhat boring stuff, the very definition of boilerplate. But, of course it becomes very important boilerplate considering the contentiousness of winery development in the county.

The proposed conditions of approval are here.
The County 8/3/16 PC agenda item 10A with links to documents and the staff report is here.

The NVV's lawyer, Richard Mendenhall raised some points about the winery conditions, one of which set off some bells. The new standard conditions of approval regarding wine sales stated that "Retail sales shall be limited to only those persons visiting by appointment or attending marketing events. No drop-in retail sales shall be permitted." This is entirely consistent with the fact that tours and tastings have been allowed at wineries only by appointment in new use permits since 1990. Mr. Mendenhal sought to remind everyone that wine sales have never been restricted by the "by appointment" provision ot the WDO. I don't know if anyone else was struck by this revelation but I was immediately agog. (Much as I was finding out that the supervisors and mayors could agree to city annexation of county land without the voter approval required under Prop P).

A whole bunch of questions were suddenly raised. Anyone at any time can drive into every winery in the county to buy wine. How does the county monitor whether a patron is a buyer or a taster? Is someone buying wine not allowed to sample the goods? How does a neighbor know whether the vans arriving next door are there to taste wine or just to buy it? Are people who buy a bottle at a winery and then drink it at a picnic table buyers or tasters? It makes the "appointment only" provision a bit meaningless. And it opens an entirely new strategy to reduce the barriers meant to keep a rural industry from being overwhelmed by urban commerce. Does it matter whether the winery is being used as a bar or as a liquor store when it comes to neighborhood impacts?

Most interestingly, Mr. Mendenhal wished not to discomfort the commissioners with this revelation by pointing out that the number of people dropping into a winery just to buy wine would be very small, so no problem. He didn't think it so small, however, to think it not worth mentioning. So when it comes to the direct-to-consumer function of wineries, so touted as the reason that the modern winery with its neighborhood impacts is built, it is not being built to sell wine to visitors but only to sign them up on a wine club list?

(As an aside, in a somewhat interesting admonition to the department, Mr. Mendelson advised not repeating a lot of verbiage in the document and "don't restate the law, just refer to it." It is interesting in that an entire legal case is being built against the county in regard to the county's invalidation of the Watershed Protection Ordinance for the November ballot on the basis that one document was referenced rather than reprinted in the initiative.)


Gary Margadant - Aug 31, 2016

The Planning Department is revamping the Conditions of Approval (COA) and the subject will return to the Planning Commission in October. First Blush was 8/3/16, second meeting scheduled for 9/7/16 but this will be pushed into October. A notice to stakeholders will be out very soon.

Funny, but the main comments have come from NVV and NVGG. Stakeholders - Architects, Engineers, planners, etc. have yet to offer feedback.

The COA, if helpful with direction to the owner and Stakeholders and should include references to County Code and other directives that help the reader interpret and act on the Conditions of their USE Permits. Especially for the employees of the Planning Dept (including enforcement): Their efficiency, clarity and time is our money and their reputation.

Ease of communication and enforcement should be the guiding goals of the new COA, something supported by the Industry Groups, see the attached letter.

The COA is in 3 parts, Winery, Non-Winery and Other. I have included the Winery portion. The other parts are available at Item 10A:


Date: Wed, Aug 31, 2016 at 5:03 PM
Subject: Napa County Development Process - Standard Conditions of Approval Update for Discretionary Projects (Status Update)
From: "Gallina, Charlene"
Cc: "McDowell, John" , "Morrison, David"

Hello Regular Customers of Napa County Planning, Building and Environmental Services,

On August 3, 2016, the proposed Standard Conditions of Approval Update for Discretionary Projects were presented to the Planning Commission for their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. Based upon public testimony received, the proposed new outline for organization of Standard Conditions, and direction by the Planning Commission, staff recommended at this meeting that this item return to the Commission on September 7th. To date, staff is still working on revisions to the standard conditions and has been meeting with stakeholders to address issues associated with this revision and will not have this item ready for the September 7th meeting. To accommodate this work effort, it is likely that staff will be returning to the Planning Commission sometime in October. Once I have a designated meeting date, I will sent out notification.

If you have any question, please contact me or John McDowell.

Best Regards,
Charlene Gallina
Supervising Planner

Vallejo Cement Factory (updated)on: Growth Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 7,17  expand...  Share

Update VTH 3/7/17: Vallejo Planning Commission rejects Orcem/VMT project
Update 2/27/17: Sierra Club statement on the proposed project

Update 3/10/16: Two websites are up in opposition to the ORCEM plant and are promoting a new direction in Vallejo's waterfront development:
Voices of Vallejo
Fresh Air Vallejo

Peter Brooks LTE 3/8/16: Vallejo or Napa — whose river?
Geoff Ellsworth 5/16/16: Mare Island is Napa Valley!


Judy Irvin LTE 2/17/16: Vallejo development threatens Napa

I have perhaps risen to the bait of the provocative title of this LTE, but a look at the location of the plant does give one pause in considering the addition of a new heavy industry operation in the San Francisco Bay, even though down stream (a pretty flat stream at this point) from Napa. Fish must swim past the factory to reach the Napa Valley, and the breezes that cool the Valley first pick up the factory's emissions.

City of Vallejo info on the project is here
The project website is here.

Vallejo Chamber of Commerce Supports Residents: No Cement Factory!on: Vision 2050

NV2050 Admin - Mar 5,17  expand...  Share

VTH 3/7/17: Vallejo Planning Commission rejects Orcem/VMT project
VTH 3/6/17: Vallejo commission meeting Monday [3/6/17] to discuss Orcem/VMT

Press Release

On Monday, February 27, 2017, Vallejo's Chamber of Commerce (CoC) decided to support the City of Vallejo’s Staff recommendation, the vision formed in the New General Plan, and the wishes of the residents of Vallejo in opposing the Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT)/Orcem Project application. With this, they are proving themselves to be the next generation of leaders and relevant in bringing prosperity to Vallejo and our neighbors in coming decades.

Given we are well into this new age of information and business without borders, it begs the question: How does a CoC serve a purpose in the 21st century? If it upholds the vision and values of its community, then yes. If its members are the puppets of a dinosaur corporation, then it is time to let it die since it is no longer an "advocate on behalf of the community at large." Time for those people who are starting new businesses—co-working, Kickstarters, and home-based but global—to form a new kind of chamber.

CoC’s may no longer be defined by city boundaries. Their service territories can span as little or as much as the businesses forming them desire. CoC’s may focus their members around specific needs such as women-owned, LGBT, heritage, or regional- or shared-cyberspace goals.

However they form, they must be open to coalition building with neighboring and/or like-minded chambers because CoC’s are key in introducing B2B (business-to-business) to nurture growth. Sadly, profit can sometimes drive decisions that are in opposition to the health of a community. Right here on our own Napa River we've seen it: The “green” cement company planning to produce portland cement, the many meetings between Syar and Orcem: these relationships must be questioned: Who benefits?

That word ‘benefit’ is so important to the Millennial generation, that Deloitte studies show over 70% of Millennials demand companies value equally the 4-P’s: People, Planet, Purpose and Profit. And when major players like Unilever are now lead by CSR (corporate social responsibility), integrating it into all departments, ‘Benefit Corporation’ is no longer the stepchild of business, but the worldwide B-Corp movement. “B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.”

The challenge for any ‘institution’ is remaining relevant in this fast-paced climate; Vallejo’s Chamber of Commerce is heading in the right direction with this declaration supporting City Staff's recommendation for permit denial of VMT/Orcem.

Thank you,
B. Todi
Account Strategist, Tesser
Fresh Air Vallejo Volunteer

Watershed Initiative set backon: Vision 2050

Jim Wilson - Mar 2,17  expand...  Share
NVR 3/3/17: Appeals court backs Napa County in watershed initiative dispute

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

I'm very sorry to have to report this sad news. We received word yesterday that our appeal has been denied. Our attorneys disagree with the decision, of course, and are studying the opinion and considering our options. It is indeed annoying, and incredibly disappointing that we've come to this point after so much effort.

I will say however that we've never been more determined to place our measure on the ballot. Napa is a tiny county, and while the locals here in the past might not have been a hotbed of activism, people here get it! What we're seeing now is there's a groundswell of tremendous support for our work to get this initiative passed. The environment that sustains us and governs us cannot continue to wait for the protections offered by our measure, given the current threats to our forests and streams.

The initiative will enhance no-cut stream buffers to protect water quality, as well as put a cap on the amount of oak woodlands that can be destroyed. Our allies in Napa and throughout the State have been a terrific help in their commitment to action on our behalf. Recall Patricia Damery's comments last year, not long after the County removed our initiative from the ballot, speaking for all of us when she addressed the Board of Supervisors:

    "People want the opportunity to learn more about the issue of our watersheds, what keeps watersheds healthy, and to vote. Forests and our oak woodlands are essential to a healthy watershed. Watersheds are essential to clean, abundant water for now and into the future. Water is critically important to health, and we should have the right to vote on matters that affect our health."

It isn't quite what we'd hoped for but we're confident we can do this! Thank you for your patience. I look forward to updating you soon on next steps.

Palmaz at the Planning Commission - Day 1 on: Palmaz Heliport

Bill Hocker - Mar 1,17  expand...  Share

NVR 3/1/17: Napa County planners open Palmaz heliport hearing

The first of two (or three) days of hearings on the proposed Palmaz heliport on Mt. George occurred today at the Napa County Planning Commission. 2 members of the public spoke in support of the project. 46 people spoke in opposition.

The Palmaz heliport is one of the numerous projects that have roiled all who feel the rural tranquility that has been the hallmark of Napa County is slipping away into the maw of an urbanized future. Like Walt and Syar and Yountville Hill and Woolls and Mountain Peak (and APAC) and numerous other projects around the county, the residents come out in mass to protest these tangible examples of the loss of Napa's irreplaceable rural character. Government councils patiently give them due diligence and then sanction more development on the basis that impacts have been abstractly rendered "less-than-significant". But the impacts are significant, in traffic, loss of affordable housing and local businesses, the littering of vineyards and hillsides with building projects, deforestation, ever more taxes for infrastructure, and now the looming presence of skies filled with helicopters.

The Palmaz heliport should be a no-brainer. The discomfort of the entire population of Napa county having to bear the noise of more helicopters overhead is put against the desire of one person with means to avoid the 10 mile drive to the airport. Given the more remote location of the proposed alternative pad site, it is not even about saving time. There is no public welfare benefit, only a major impact. And yet the county staff has made every effort to find a way that the project can be approved. But, as one protestant said to the commission in the packed chamber "Your job is to oversee the welfare of the community. The community is here and they don't want this project."

While many speakers made the case eloquently about noise and wildlife impacts and the precedent it would set in a place crawling with plutocrats potentially lusting for a helicopter-of-their-own, it was the last public speaker that appropriately seemed to sum up the big picture of Napa's future and what's at stake here:

    "My name is Stephen Winiarski. I have a house out there on Mt. George Ave. I'm coming late to the hearing and I don't know what's been said up until now, but I do feel like we're at a watershed moment for the valley where we need to collectively decide what kind of future we want for the valley here, whether it's something that's going to be of, by, and for the 1%er's, or it's going to be something that's for all of us. I feel like the idyllic and bucolic and tranquil nature of the valley which, given, is under pressure, there's something we all need to decide - how we want that to be preserved and how helicopters would negatively impact that lifestyle and that way of life that we all enjoy here in the valley. I think that once this starts then there's really no going back, and there's going to be more and more helicopters. Everyone who can afford it, and wants to have one and has the recsources and place to do it will do it. I understand that the staff is recommending approval. I find that a betrayal, honestly. I just wanted to make my thoughts and feeling known and how negative I believe the impacts would be for all of us. Thank you."

Las Vegas and the lessons of growthon: Vision 2050

George Caloyannidis - Feb 28,17  expand...  Share

During the Napa Vision 2050-sponsored forum on the "Tourism Economy" in April 2016, one of the panelists, Mr. Eben Fodor of the planning firm Fodor & Associates who conducted studies on the long-term fiscal impacts of urban growth, cited his 1998 findings on the Thornburgh mega destination resort in Oregon.

He calculated that after all fees and public improvement costs were paid, the net uncollected cost of incremental service capacity for a single residential unit was $33,408 for a total unaccounted public cost of $46 million.

As we have come to believe that growth and a balanced budget are the barometers of a healthy economy, the Thornburgh development in spite of its enormous size of 1,375 homes, hotels and golf courses did not garner the proper attention, considered specific to that development.

But, during a recent visit to informed friends in Las Vegas and based on a Feb. 6 article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there is evidence that that metropolitan area -- one of the fastest growing in the nation -- which hosts 75 percent of the state's population is experiencing similar negative development-induced effects. Both Las Vegas and the Napa Valley are tourist-based economies, and as they both found out in 2008, they are singularly vulnerable when the economy contracts.

But, according to Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International, the Las Vegas economy is poised for a "giant leap" with 170,000 new visitors, especially from China. The projected $200 million in economic growth will fuel additional casinos, hotels and a variety of new entertainment venues and homes.

In addition, when one considers the beginnings of some economic diversification attracting company headquarters and some 42,000 manufacturing jobs, the massive housing developments that keep prices and rents affordable ($875 for a 1-bedroom) in the ever-expanding outskirts, one would think that the Las Vegas fiscal future based on such growth couldn't be brighter.

However, there are signs that the growth model is not working out as planned for existing residents. For the past 12 years, Nevada has had and made do with a 3 percent cap on the annual property tax increase on owner-occupied residential units and an 8 percent tax on other residential and commercial properties. But instead of the cap being lowered by the revenue of the tens of thousands of new residential and commercial units as would be expected, there is a push to increase it. If development growth is a metric of economic success, shouldn't services improve and their costs go down rather than up?

According to the Journal, local officials rationalize that, "population continues to rise, oftentimes growing the demand for government services, but property taxes haven't grown at the same rate." This just proves Mr. Fodor's point. Here now, we have a major city asking its residents to finance its growth. Who benefits?

One must also consider that Las Vegas -- the only major U.S. city established in the 20th century -- has not yet faced the huge bill for the maintenance of the massive expansion and increased tourist use of the infrastructure due in the next several decades. But in the Napa Valley, that future arrived a long time ago.

The reality, as Mr. Fodor explained, is that once the economy enters the vortex of development growth, government becomes increasingly beholden to the immediate revenue of developer fees and other taxes just to keep up with the increased demands growth itself generates. "We do not charge developers enough," he said. The evidence is in the unending general revenue bonds, measures, fees, assessments and taxes to finance the repair and expansion of roads, schools, water districts, sewer plants and more growth-serving public employees and their pensions.

The big growth winners of the model are the handful of developers. The enablers are the growth-dependent governments playing catch-up to balance their ever- increasing budgets one year at a time. The loser is the working middle class that is footing the bill of this ingenious arrangement. And so the income gap widens.

Of course, there is good and bad growth. There was a time when the development growth model was in a contributing mode, the one that builds our bridges and roads. But when it crossed the line from contribution to exploitation on so many levels as it has, it left potholes in its wake for the common man to fix, a sign that the model has run its course.

It is high time for our small valley to explore new paradigms if it is to survive the induced-growth model pursued by its governments. The decades-old words of Robert Parker calling it, "the most beautiful wine country in the world" are hanging by a thread.

NVR version 2/28/17: Las Vegas and the lessons of growth

Apocalypse Now! (updated)on: Palmaz Heliport

Bill Hocker - Feb 28,17  expand...  Share

NVR 2/27/17: County prefers Mount George site for Palmaz heliport

UPDATE 2/17/17:
The County Planning Commission Hearing for the Final Environmental Impact Report on the Palmaz Helipad 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

Comments may be submitted to project planner Dana Ayres at

County's Palmaz Heliport page including Final EIR is here

The conclusion of the FEIR: "Project operation would result in helicopter noise associated with approaches and departures occurring at the heliport...This impact would be significant." Duh!

The SCR Palmaz page is here
The NapaVision 2050 Palmaz petition page is here


Henni Cohen - Feb 27, 2017

[Email to County Planner Dana Ayres]

Dear Ms. Ayers,

I am writing to express my opposition to the prospect of the approval of a private heliport in Napa County. There is no justification for its approval.

The issues of noise, even with a "low-noise helicopter," restricted number of flights per week, and 'mitigation measures' as hinted at by the consultants who prepared the EIR, have been addressed by other concerned citizens.

The crucial question is why such a facility is needed? The individual in question does not live in an inaccessible area where there is no other way to get to his property. He is within an easy drive of the Napa airport and, surely, the drive would not take longer than a helicopter ride. And what about the times when there is bad weather that would prohibit the flying of the helicopter? The individual would have to drive to his residence under those circumstances. The heliport is merely an extension of the individual's sense of entitlement, to the detriment of his neighbors and Napa County, not a necessity.

If commercial helicopters are banned, shouldn't private ones be as well? They present the same noise, intrusion, and privacy issues that were the basis for the ban on commercial helicopter use.

I do not live on Hagen Road, nor near the proposed site of the heliport. However, as I live off of Soda Canyon, where the number of wineries seems to be proliferating to the detriment of our rural life and there are a number of large properties, I am very concerned about the slippery slope that will be created if the Palmaz heliport is approved. Once one such place is permitted, how can the County deny the application for other heliports? I would hate to see the skies of Napa become congested by private helicopters. Not a pretty thought. The many balloons one sees, especially during the summer, are bad enough, with their noise and sometimes intrusive positions above our homes.

I respectfully suggest that the Planning Commission take these points into consideration as it decides whether to approve or deny the application for the Palmaz heliport. And I believe that the only decision is to deny the application for a private heliport in Napa.

Thank you for your consideration.

Henrietta Cohen

Stephen P. Rae - Feb 28, 2017

[Email sent to Planning Commission]

28 February 2017
Napa County Planning Commission
1195 Third St., Suite 305
Napa CA 94558

RE: Palmaz Personal Use Heliport Use Permit #P14-00261-UP

Dear Chairperson and Commission Members:

I am writing to register my opposition to the granting of this personal use heliport Use Permit (#P014-00261-UP). The permission to establish such an obtrusive use associated with a residential use in rural Napa County displays a willingness to permit additional such uses in the future, and encourages others to consider doing so.

Currently, the citizens of our County endure frequent helicopter and low level plane traffic over residential and recreational lands. Over the years such traffic has increased. This traffic encroaches on the peace and tranquility that characterizes our valley. The land use assessment of this project fails to reflect the value of the quality of life in our county and disclose how this project may induce its subsequent deterioration.

I am surprised that the potential for this project to encourage others to do the same has not been assessed. And, I am surprised that reference to future review by the Airport Land Use Commission is understood by County staff to address the air traffic consequences of the use permit. Similarly, do we know whether County limits on frequency of use and air traffic patterns will be enforceable over time?

I believe that the Use Permit would open the door to increasing use of the site beyond County limitations and the encouragement of others to establish similar uses throughout the county wherever land and funds are available. Therefore, I suggest that the future cumulative effects of this project do not conform to General Plan considerations, violate the spirit and intent of land use limitations reflected in recent votes by residents, and constitute encouragement to proliferate similar uses in the Napa Valley.

Of course the No Project Alternative does not meet the personal wishes of the applicant. But, when does such a personal convenience outweigh the long-term consequences of further degrading the quality of life in the Napa Valley. Please DENY this use permit application.


Stephen P. Rae, PhD

Open Letter To Alfredo Pedroza, Chair, Napa County Board of Supervisors.on: Vision 2050

Daniel Mufson - Feb 27,17  expand...  Share
When the Rains Don't Come: Irrigation Pond Bottom, January 2014
Alfredo Pedroza, Chair
Napa County Board of Supervisors

On December 13, 2016 you and the rest of the Board voted to approve the Napa
Valley Subbasin Analysis Report which concluded that the Napa Valley Subbasin
was now and will continue to be sustainable for the next 20 years. The report
was prepared by Luhdorff & Scalmanini at a cost of over $600,000. This report
provided extensive modeling in an attempt to prove its assertion of sustainability.

At the hearing on December 13, 2016 on this Report (Agenda item 9A), using
data from the consultant’s slide presentation, I raised concerns about how the
county would protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens if the projected
water budget were on the negative side as the consultant presented. These data
slides which do not appear in the final report that showed a projected water
budget (2016-2025) deficit of 14,300 AFY, projected for hot and low rainfall
conditions. The report also made an assumption that the State Water Project
allocation would remain at an average of 42%. This is not realistic as the
allocation has been dramatically cut in recent years to as low as 5%. I raised the
possibility of our municipalities needing to use ground water for their supplies
under these conditions.

Neither you nor staff ever discussed or answered these important questions.
And then last week on February 24, 2017 the County presented its Draft Climate
Action Plan at a Special Meeting of WICC. The draft plan reached an opposite
conclusion about the future Napa environment and water supplies more dire than
those in the Subbasin Report. The draft conclusions were essentially the issues I
had raised in December. I quote the report below:

    “… the County is still currently vulnerable to water supply
    issues due to drought and other factors. The County will face
    challenges in providing sufficient water supplies in the future
    due to climate change effects, coupled with an increasing
    population (i.e., mostly in the incorporated areas) and increasing
    water demand. While the County has already taken steps
    towards achieving long-term groundwater sustainability, there is
    still a possibility that water supply availability may change in the
    future and will need to be further addressed. [Appendix C 21/26]"

So my question is, which report is correct? One says our water situation is fine
thanks and the other concludes Napa County has water vulnerability. One report
was issued by Public Works and the other by Planning, Building & Environmental
Services. The County paid substantial money to consultants to produce both
reports in addition to devoting what appears to be considerable staff time.

Both reports were reviewed by WICC. Which report is correct?

Has anyone actually read the reports other than the volunteer members of Napa
Vision 2050?

Does no one see the contradictions?

When will our community see our governing officials address this glaring
important and expensive inconsistency?

The future health, safety and welfare of Napa’s residents depends upon getting
the right answer.

Will you act to get the County’s money refunded if you determine that one report
is found to be erroneous?

Will you act to have Napa County rescind its Subbasin report from the DWR?

“We can no longer afford to make infrastructure decisions that do not explicitly
account for climate change. Instead, the [government] must tackle adaptation
issues head-on. This will require more research to better model and understand
future impacts, a commitment to incorporating such research findings into
planning, and on-the-ground projects that protect vulnerable communities and
industries.”[Alex Hall and Mark Gold (Institute of the Environment and
Sustainability at UCLA), Sac Bee, 02/26/17]

Napa Vision 2050 recommends that WICC to hold a Public Forum on the
methodology used to create these reports and their conclusions. Methodology
should also be the main topic at the May Watershed Symposium.

Daniel Mufson, President
Napa Vision 2050
PO Box 2385
Yountville, CA 94599
Diane Dillon
Ryan Gregory
Belia Ramos
Brad Wagenknecht
Notes from Napa County Climate Action Plan, Appendix C, Climate Change
Vulnerability Assessment for Napa County, February, 2017

“For purposes of this assessment, where possible, climate change effects in the
County are characterized for two periods of time: midcentury (around 2050) and
the end of the century (around 2100). Historical data are used to identify the
degree of change by these two future periods in time. The direct, or primary,
changes analyzed for the County include average temperature, annual
precipitation, and sea-level rise. Secondary impacts, which can occur because of
individual or a combination of these changes, are also assessed and include
extreme heat and its frequency, wildfire risk, and snowpack (CNRA2012a:16-
    • Increased Temperatures
    • Increased Frequency of Extreme Heat Events and Heat Waves
    • Changes to Precipitation Patterns
    • Increased Wildfire Risk
    • Increased Likelihood of Flooding
    • Sea-Level Rise (with elevated groundwater and salinity intrusion)

“… the County is still currently vulnerable to water supply issues due to drought
and other factors. The County will face challenges in providing sufficient water
supplies in the future due to climate change effects, coupled with an increasing
population (i.e., mostly in the incorporated areas) and increasing water demand.
While the County has already taken steps towards achieving long-term
groundwater sustainability, there is still a possibility that water supply availability
may change in the future and will need to be further addressed. [Appendix C

“Increases in temperature, along with the frequency of extreme heat events and
heat waves, can also affect the agriculture industry, which is a large driver of the
County’s economy. The significant, overall outcome of warming is the likely
reduction in yield of some of California’s most valuable specialty crops (CNRA
2014: 21). More specifically, climate change could have serious effects to the
wine industry in Napa County, which produces an average of 90 percent of
American wine (Mayton 2015). The County currently has 400 wineries,
C-14 Napa County Draft Climate Action Plan producing more than 9.2 million
cases of wines totaling over $1 billion dollars in sales. The wine industry in
Napa accounts for $10.1 billion of $51.8 billion economic impact from
winemaking and related industries in California (Napa County 2013:28).
Increases in temperature and moisture could impact the growing of wine
grapes, by causing late or irregular blooming and affecting yields (Lee et al.
2013:1). [C-13]”

“Increased average temperatures and a hastening of snowmelt in distant
watersheds, along with local and regional changes in precipitation and timing of
runoff in local watersheds, could affect both surface and groundwater supplies in
the County. As a result, the County could struggle in the future in providing
Napa County Draft Climate Action Plan C-15 adequate water supplies to its
residents. Water users could face shortages in normal or dry years, if demand
continues to increase. The points of sensitivity identified because of changes in
precipitation patterns are shown below in Figure 14.”

“In terms of agriculture, changes in timing and amounts of precipitation could
affect local aquifer recharge for groundwater supplies in the future, which could in
turn affect water supplies for agricultural uses. Conversely, as the weather gets
warmer with climate change, agricultural demand for water could intensify
because in extreme heat conditions water evaporates faster and plants need
more water to move through their circulatory systems to stay cool (CNRA
2014:21). More specifically, attempts to maintain wine grape productivity and
quality in the face of warming may be associated with increased water use for
irrigation and to cool grapes through misting or sprinkling (Lee et al. 2013). [C-
15]” The use of GW for misting was not mentioned in the Subbasin Report.

“A changing climate is expected to subject forests to increased stress due to
drought, disease, invasive species, and insect pests. These stressors are likely
to make forests more vulnerable to catastrophic fire (Westerling 2008:231). While
periodic fires are natural processes and an important ecological function,
catastrophic fire events that cannot be contained or managed, can cause serious
threats to homes and infrastructure, especially for properties located at the
wildland-urban interface (i.e., where residential development mingles with
wildland areas) (California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection 2009). Ecological
functions are further impacted as the risk of fire increases. When it does rain in
burned areas, more soil washes off the hills and into roads, ditches, and streams.

Napa Valley Ground Water Sustainability-A Basin Analysis Report for the
Napa Valley Subbasin

“The ability of the SWP to deliver water to its contractors in any given year
depends on a number of factors, including rainfall, size of snowpack, runoff,
water in storage, and pumping capacity in the Delta. Biological opinions on
threatened and endangered fish species are new significant factors affecting
SWP deliveries. The actual delivery, or yield, varies from year to year and is
described as a percentage of the contractual entitlement. Annual SWP deliveries
are a percentage of Table A water, including additional amounts in some years
from the carryover of unused allocations from prior years or water purchased
from the allocation of other SWP contractors. While 100% of the Table A
entitlement may be available in wet years, lesser amounts are delivered in
normal, single-dry, and multiple-dry years. The current SWP Final Delivery
Capability Report 2015, issued in July 2015, projects that under existing
conditions (2015), the average annual delivery of Table A water is estimated at
61%. [78]”

Wine country crash courseon: Traffic Issues

Glenn J. Schreuder - Feb 27,17  expand...  Share

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) finally released its 2014 data of its ‘relative’ ranking of California counties by Vehicular Collisions. The rankings are given for years 2008-2014 here.

It takes forever for OTS to finish a year (in this case 2014) because they have to gather vehicular Collision data from over 360 separate police agencies in California and compile it into a statistically meaningful report. My understanding is the state uses this data to dole out highway funds (think ‘blood alley’ which was that stretch of Hwy 101 on the way to Salinas back in the 70’s and 80’s. Caltrans spent big $ to make it safer)

So how this highly statistical report works in broad, general terms is that it looks at:

· Collision data from each of the 58 counties in California,
· The number of accidents of different types, then,
· The OTS compares that information to both the ‘population of each county’ and also the ‘estimated number vehicle-miles driven in that county’, then,
· OTS develops this data into a ranking system whereby each county is ranked, apples to apples, against all other 58 county.

So say for calendar year 2014, Napa County is the 7th worst county in California in the category of “Total Fatal and Injury” accidents. It’s ranking is expressed as “7/58” or using words “Napa County is the 7th most dangerous (or worst) county out of the 58 counties in California when measuring the total number of fatal and injury accidents”.

I added a color coding scheme to help with the interpretation the data, please refer to the Color Coded Legend at the bottom of the page. This is solely my own idea and not that of the OTS. I did Napa County and Sonoma County.

Napa Traffic Accidents 2008-12

Sonoma Traffic Accidents 2008-12

I think the data tells an important story but I will allow you draw your own conclusions regarding the meaning of this information.

SR PressDemocrat LTE 2/26/17: Close to Home: Are Sonoma County’s byways becoming inebriation highways?
NBC 2/16/12: Driving Drunk In Wine Country

Helicopter Landings in Napa Countyon: Vision 2050

George Caloyannidis - Feb 23,17  expand...  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.


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.

Ubercoptors? Heli-no!

Moving mountains: earthmoving on Mountain Peak on: Mountain Peak Winery

Bill Hocker - Feb 22,17  expand...  Share

The excavation of 33,000 sf of caves and a crushed on the Mountain Peak site, and the necessary topsoil clearings, redistribution of the excavated spoils and replacement of topsoil, means that a lot of earth will be moved in the project. The amount is enough to justify a great deal of concern in terms of soil runoff into the watercourses adjacent and bisecting the site, and of the impact of dust on neighbors surrounding the constricted site. How much earth will be moved?


Mountain Peak Civil Plans
Mountain Peak Updated Cave Plans
Note: the cave feasability report on the project has not been updated since the initial proposal of the caves at about twice the size of current proposal.

Cut and Fill

CUT quantity from table on Civil Plan UP4 (cy means cubic yard)
Cave excavation: 21070 cy x 1.4 bulking (soil expansion factor shown on updated cave plan) = 29498 cy
Other cut from table on Civil Plan UP4 (crush pad, parking lot?): 14000 cy x 1.4 bulking = 19600 cy
total excavated spoils to be redistributed = 49,098 cy

Spoils FILL areas shown on Civil Plan UP1: 10,100 cy + 5,900 cy = 15,900 cy
Spoils FILL NOT noted on plans: 49098-15,900 cy = 33,198 cy destined for the service driveway and berms at southernmost area of the site.

Will the service driveway and berms around parking require actually require twice as much in spoils as the designated spoils areas? That area is at most 3 acres. (33,198 cy of spoils on 3 acres would average about 8 ft high)

Just a quick analysis of the amount of cut and fill shown on plans indicates unanswered questions about the ability of the site to accomodate all of the spoils.

Topsoil Removal

Note that the amount of dirt to be excavated and repositioned on the site is much larger than just the cuts that produce spoils. 2-3 feet of topsoil must be removed in all areas to receive spoils, stored on the site and then recovered over spoils.

From the site plan it appears that about 7-8 acres (most of the southernmost part of the site, the two fill areas and the wastewater tanks and holding pond) will have to be stripped of their topsoil and replaced after the distribution of spoils. 7 acres of topsoil, 2 feet deep, would be 22,600 additional cy of earth to be moved, stored and moved again back into place. 45,200 cy of earthmoving.

Total amount of earth being moving around the site

In all about 94,300 cy of dirt and spoils must be moved around the site. To put that into perspective, if the earth moved were piled on a football field (including end zones) the pile would be 44 feet high, the height of a 4 story building. (higher if the pile has sloping sides, of course).

Cakebread makes a valiant efforton: Traffic Issues

Bill Hocker - Feb 21,17  expand...  Share

NVR 2/21/17: Cakebread Cellars ends experiment to get employees off Highway 29

While 2 weeks is not enough time to gage the workability of any pilot project, much less something as game-changing as getting people to stop using their cars, the attempt is to be commended.

$440/day per bus? The County spends $6 million dollars each year to bring more tourists here, resulting in the need for ever more workers to tend to them, ever bigger traffic jams on Hwy 29 and ever more taxes to beef up the infrastructure. If they reallocated funds for just one year, they could fund about 4 free 50-person buses for the next 10 years, while slowing the tourism binge that is adding to the traffic, housing and infrastructure problems.

That would be pilot program with a chance to succeed.

Last Chance: Make your Public Comment on the Climate Action Plan!on: Vision 2050

Jim Wilson - Feb 21,17  expand...  Share
URGENT: Napa County's Climate Action Plan is nearing completion. If it becomes a reality, we'll be stuck with yet another "half-way measure" that places short term profit over the long term health and well-being of our dangerously compromised climate. This is outrageous.

Thursday, February 23, is the final public meeting on Napa County's Climate Action Plan (CAP). The county has contracted with Ascent Environmental to prepare a Climate Action Plan detailing measures that the county will take to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in alignment with state targets. This document can be critical to our efforts to control regional warming or it can be a drain on time and resources if it supports business as usual.

Unfortunately, our CAP is being finalized using antiquated measuring standards at a time when both the State and our regional air district (Bay Area Air Quality Management District) are shifting focus to “short-lived climate pollutants” which have a much greater warming effect than CO2 ((e.g. Methane, Black Carbon, F-gases and Ozone). Methane is 34 times more powerful and black carbon 900 times more powerful than CO2. Their global warming potential is even higher in the near term (ten years) when we still have a chance to postpone irreversible climate tipping points. We need to focus where GHG reductions can be most effective because the CAP will determine what future measures developers take to reduce emissions-- so let's make sure we get it right!

The CAP will require projects to comply with a dead-on-arrival GHG Consistency Checklist. Projects that comply are eligible for CEQA streamlining and need not analyze their GHG emissions. But this Checklist will not be prepared in time for in-depth public comment. Nor will it comply with recent GHG laws and regulations.


CAP fails to provide feasible forest conversion mitigation.
CAP fails to account for any wetlands and soil conversion GHG emissions.
CAP fails to fully account for winery and vineyard operations GHG emissions.
CAP fails to fully account for visitation GHG emissions.
CAP fails to provide adaptive management monitoring standards as required by CEQA.
CAP fails to comply with Senate Bill 1383 methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbon emission reduction standards.
CAP fails to comply with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District GHG emissions accounting standards.
CAP fails to set measurable targets for.reducing Vehicle Miles Travelled
CAP fails to set standards for new project emissions.

Take a look at the Public Review Draft, also attached, come to the meeting, and ask questions.

• Why does measure LU-1 target retaining only 30% of the existing tree canopy? What would emissions reductions be if 50% and 70% were targeted?
• Is planting 2500 trees each year realistic in terms of space and manpower available?
• How will measure LU-3, prevention of burning 80% of trees removed during land conversion, be enforced?
• How will the Napa CAP pursue the state Air Resource Board's 2018 goals for reductions in methane, black carbon, and F-gases when the CAP inventory does not separate out emissions contributed by these pollutants?
• How will the CAP Consistency Checklist determine the emissions of a project and the decrease in emissions by the CAP measures taken?
• Why don't the transportation measures set goals of reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled as a measurable target?
• What amount of emissions is allowable for a new project? What Threshold of Significance standard will Napa County adopt?


The solution we offer is to hire an expert ASAP to address the inadequacies of the proposed CAP and secure the best possible protections. The critical knowledge and action needed is within our grasp. Please make a generous donation today.

We have a right to a livable climate for a livable planet, now and for our children. Join us in demanding decisive action.


Thursday, February 23, 2017, 3pm

2751 Napa Valley Corporate Drive, South Campus, Building A
First Floor, Conference Room, Napa CA 94558

County Draft Climate Action Plan (updated)on: Open Comments

Bill Hocker - Feb 20,17  expand...  Share

NVR 2/20/17: Napa County proposes carbon-cutting steps to combat global warming

Jim Wilson's analysis of shortcomings in the Climate Action Plan.

The county has issued their Draft Climate Action Plan (CAP) aimed at reducing the County's Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG's) with a request for comments. A WICC Workshop on the CAP is planned for Feb 23nd, 2017.

The announcement with addresses to send comment letters is here. (note that the written comment period has been extended to Mar 10th 2017.)

The County's Climate Action Page is here

The Draft Climate Action Plan is here

The breakdown of GHG's in the county includes 31% generated by buildings and 26% generated by transport, the 2 largest producers of GHG's. The Plan itemizes the 5 greatest GHG reducers in the plan:
  • power domestic hot water heating with renewables
  • replace carbon-powered with electric-powered ag equipment
  • replace carbon-powered with renewable-powered recreational watercraft
  • Preserve Oak Woodlands! (a bit ironic that)
  • Pool employee commute trips
The relationship between building reductions and transport reductions came up in the LEED presentation for our Mountain Peak project on Jan 4th. A great effort was made to reduce energy use (and GHG production) in the design of the building using a LEED scorecard to spur conservation. 70% of the power was to come from the solar panels proposed for the project. Cave air was used to cool the tasting room. There are to be electric automobile chargers and bicycle racks, operable windows, LED lights. The building is LEED platinum, the highest score.

But there was one large LEED category that the building probably didn't score too well in - dealing with the transport GHG's necessary to access the building. The First LEED scorecard topic is "Location and Transportation", described thus:

    "Surrounding density and diverse uses - 5 points - Intent: to conserve land and protect farmland and wildlife habitat by encouraging development in areas with existing infrastructure. To promote walkability, and transportation efficiency and reduce vehicle distance traveled. To improve public health by encouraging daily physical activity."

    And "Access to Quality transportation - 5 points - Intent: To encourage development in locations shown to have multimodal transportation choices or otherwise reduced motor vehicle use, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and other environmental and public health harms associated with motor vehicle use."

Mountain Peak, like more and more tourism venues (few will actually add to the grapes grown in the county and many actually pave over vineyards) are moving into the watersheds of the county, meaning that the tourists and hospitality employees that are necessary for their financial justification must be transported ever greater distances - with ever greater generation of GHG's.

Given this interest in reducing transport GHG's in the LEED process and the large proportion of transport GHG's in the CAP pie chart, I was expecting some discussion in the CAP about the wisdom of continuing to approve industrial and commercial facilities, requiring transport of ever increasing numbers of tourists and employees, in remote areas of the county. While the emphasis in the CAP seemed to be on reducing commute distances by van-pooling employees, there was no mention of trying to keep the jobs and impacts in the winery and tourism sectors located near transit corridors in the future. Of course, in Napa many of the employees are farm workers, and a vanpool system for farmworkers is essential to maintain the true agriculture in the county. But most wineries and the hospitality workers they employ, now approved in the watersheds, will be generating a fair amount of carbon-based traffic around the county, and they are not mentioned.

And how much does this remote dispersal of the tourism industry cost in GHG's?
Well, the EPA estimates here that the average vehicle produces .00042 metric tons of GHG gas (MTCO2) for every mile traveled (based on hwy mpg) . The Mountain Peak project anticipates bringing 44000 trips (120 trips/day) up and down the 6 mile length of Soda Canyon Road each year. Were the winery located on the Trail, the GHG's saved would be 44000 x 6 x .00042 = 111 MTCO2/yr from this one project alone.

Looking at the chart of "remote" wineries in the county here we can make a horseback guess about the GHG's expended to make deliveries (of goods and people) to these existing remote wineries. Using averages, the visitation per winery is 5459 and the distance is 4.4 miles from a major highway and the number of vehicle "trips" each day is 37 or 13505 trips/yr. There are 70 wineries in the sample so the GHG's saved if all those wineries were located on major highways would be 13505 x 4.4 x .00042 x 70 = 1747 MTCO2 /yr. If they were located in the industrial zones, or the Hwy 12 corridor rather than up valley, the amount saved would be considerably more. These 70 wineries represent the GHG's generated by about 400,000 visitor slots. But the county currently has perhaps 120 new or expanded wineries, approved or under review, representing some 2,000,000 visitor slots yet to be occupied. And there is no sign of the proposals abating (or of interest on the county's part to reduce approvals.).

While the CAP looks at several ways to reduce GHG's, making a real effort to curb traffic in the county by not locating development in the watersheds is not one of them. It is not just a winery problem - resorts and housing subdivisions (masked as vineyard developments) are happening in the remote corners of the county as well. Unfortunately, in creating a climate action plan, the county's attitude is to suggest technological solutions to reduce the impacts that further urban development will continue to bring to the county. But there is no attempt to reduce the amount of development that is creating those impacts, and in fact by proposing only technological changes to reduce existing impacts the impediments to future development will only be reduced.

The original ag preserve efforts, which remain the soul of the county's self image if not the reality, used zoning and ordinances to limit urban development in the county. That same commitment is again needed in an era where developers don the cloak of the county's agricultural heritage while they build on the open land that remains as a result. The CAP was an opportunity to take on the ever expanding urban development continuing to pump up GHG's in the county. Unfortunately the CAP proposals are just aimed at making that urban development more palatable and probable.

Donoviel LTE 2/26/17: Concerns over water plan

Transient Party Town! (updated)on: City of Napa

Bill Hocker - Feb 20,17  expand...  Share

The Big City comes to sleepy Napa
Update: NVR 2/20/17: Napa asks, How many hotel rooms are enough?

NY Times 2/1/17: A Waking Giant or a Monster? Developers Eye Once-Sleepy Napa

In the Times article Napa Vision 2050 is recognized nationally for its efforts to slow the urbanization of Napa County. Kudos to Harris Nussbaum and Patricia Damery.

Jim Wilson on the Napa Vision 2050 Economic Forum
It's exactly the effect we heard is coming at George Caloyannidis' Tourism Economy Forum in April of last year:

Samuel Mendlinger:
  • Tourism accelerates the polarization between the population and the very wealthy.
  • Polarization begins when businesses begin to cater to tourists and affluent locals at the expense of townsfolk.
  • Now a major social revolution: small group of elderly people and few young people.

    Q: Whose town is this anyway? What can community do so the power doesn’t get concentrated in the hands of a few?
    A: There are a few only. Locals are usually the last to get a voice in tourism development. Usually money does the talking. Local leaders who are wise enough know that the local people need to be part of the process. Most people don’t really know what their long-term needs are. Community groups need to have experience.

    Know what they’re doing, how to get things done, like NV2050. It’s what attracted me to this event in Napa. Hospitality is about cheap labor. Tourism is about value added.

    Q: Local schools close and students are sent out of town?
    A: Imbalance. Older population crowds out the younger people. Mis-managed tourism.. Petersborough losing its school system,, and its vertical, complete society. Declining school enrollment is a sign that either young adults don’t want to have children, or they don’t see a future in the town.

    Q: How do you organize the population?
    A: NV2050 is a great example. You’re anxious over the future, you’re organizing through people who can organize, and have the time and abilty to see things through. Then expand! It’s bottom up. Top down is very rare.

    Q: How do you recommend citizens get involved in decisions on smart tourism?
    A: Mendlinger: What is motivation for County and City political leaders to get involved? Do they want more development or a higher quality of life for citizens? If interested in business they won’t listen. But if you have wise leadership you’ll do the part of the job that improves the quality of life. Especially in Napa you have a great pool of experience and wisdom. It’s cosmopolitan not provincial. Political leadership has to listen to well-organized citizens who understand how real life works. Citizens can go far. Like this meeting where you have political leadership plus informed citizens. I traveled fro Boston to see how Napa is doing, and I am encouraged by the possibilities. Rural areas - resource extraction areas – when industry pulls out there’s not much reason for community to be there.

    Q: Advice on blasting open “iron triangle” government/agencies/industry?
    A: Mendlinger; How to develop experienced and wise leaders and citizens is the question. I just don’t know how.

Eben Fodor:
  • In an economic impact study, costs are just as important as revenues.
  • Too much tourism can overwhelm a community.
  • Impact studies usually tout all the benefits of a development. Fiscal impacts are often overlooked and no multipliers are used.
  • The reports that go out make the development look great but it’s not. There’s no balanced perspective with costs to the community.

Napa Vision 2050 Economic Forum: Understanding the tourism driven economy
George Caloyannidis' articles on growth and tourism
More on Napa City development here
More on Napa Growth Issues here


Daniel Mufson - Feb 1, 2017

Napa Vision 2050 was asked for perspective on the
state of development in Napa,
as detailed in a story for the New York Times.

Hello Napa Vision 2050 supporters,

Thank you for interest in the mission of Napa Vision 2050.
This past year, Napa Vision 2050 worked for a more effective and organized public voice with wider distribution. We did this to help get the perspective of those who live in our county, to be heard by those who are making decisions on growth and development in Napa County. Well, we are being heard nationally!
I’m attaching an article about Napa downtown just published in the New York Times. Napa Vision 2050's Harris Nussbaum and Patricia Damery are quoted while several more of our coalition members had been interviewed.

It is so satisfying that the article has a link to the Napa Vision 2050 webpage. Please share this with your contacts, and keep our momentum growing!
If only my Mom could see that: A boy from the Bronx makes the Times for doing something good!!

Shelle Wolfe - Feb 1, 2017

Vision 2050, among others, made the NY Times today. Interesting assessment of our situation. It would have been great if the article mentioned the traffic along with the other issues like parking.

Great comment by Patricia Damery… this is what we need to be communicating.

Ms. Damery said “I’m not anti-development,” she said. “I am for balanced development. Downtown is wonderful and so much better than before, but we have to invest in quality-of-life things like mass transit and housing.”

Carl Bunch - Feb 1, 2017

Well, for a very limited time in our lives (all to change as a result of the Presidential election) a government agency is treating its citizens fairly and appropriately and a major newspaper is highlighting the work of a citizens' group on the environment. This, to the great advantage to the citizens who reside here.

The St. Helena City Council, by a 3-2 vote (according to the Napa Valley Register) has actually rejected an application by a winery for expansion of its business. This City Council recently seated, due to a majority vote of St. Helena citizens, two new Council members, including Geoff Ellsworth, a leader in the fight to control the rampant approvals of virtually anything having to do with winery uses of Napa Valley land for the profits of its owners and stakeholders.

The New York Times, in a most important article, featured the work of Napa Vision 2050 regarding environmental issues raised by for-profit corporations and others and which seriously affect critical matters pertinent to Napa citizens, including, among others, watersheds, tree deforestation, and various matters tending to make the Napa Valley one of the world's most desirable places to live.

CONGRATULATIONS!! This has been a long time in coming and we can only hope it’s a harbinger of better things to follow.

Glenn J. Schreuder - Feb 2, 2017

Add another negative consequence to the list of all this economic progress.

SF already has a very low rate of families with kids. Looks like Napa is headed the same way. Maybe I’ll drive to the

central valley to watch a little league game in my retirement years. All this raises the question if Napa is really a good place to call home anymore. Where did all the little ones go?

Higher housing prices will trigger greater enrollment declines in Napa schools

Pass a ban on private helipads (updated)on: Vision 2050

Daniel Mufson - Feb 17,17  expand...  Share

UPDATE 2/17/17:
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.

"Brownie, You’re doing a heck of a job!”on: Vision 2050

Daniel Mufson - Feb 17,17  expand...  Share

Napa Valley Sustainable Groundwater Alternative

In late December Napa County filed a so-called Alternate water Plan with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). It basically said in hundreds of pages, costing taxpayers at least $634,200 in consulting fees alone, that the county had done sufficient monitoring of the Napa Valley Sub-basin water supplies over the past ten years to be able to demonstrate that everything would be just fine over the next 20 years, thank you very much. Or in other words, told the state to leave us alone.

Napa Vision 2050 and our affiliates filled comments taking exception with this conclusion as did:
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists;
  • US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service;
  • The Nature Conservancy.

Two trade groups, the Napa County Farm Bureau and the Napa Valley Vintners praised the report as in, it was a heck of a job!

Our key problems with the county’s report are:

  • Cherry-picked data from a few monitoring wells, errors in calculations.
  • The role of drain tiles in dumping ground water from vineyards was not appropriately accounted for.
  • The report assumes that cities will not need to use any ground water as sufficient water will be available to the them from the State Water Project and the city’s reservoirs for the next 20 years even in the face of prolonged droughts and raising temperatures.
  • Assumes that current use of ground water by vineyards and wineries will be sustainable.
  • Report assumes minimal growth of population and agriculture over 20 years.
  • The Alternative claims groundwater is sustainable yet the Sub-Basin has undesirable results such as: sea water intrusion, groundwater level declines, declining groundwater quality and land subsidence.
  • The county does not have, nor desires to have, a mechanism for dealing with well owners and neighbors who are experiencing loss of water supplies. Currently, they want to study the problems...... avoiding any direct help.
  • The public was afforded minimal opportunity to comment-there was no stakeholder engagement.
  • Details on these comments can be found here.
More Links to Napa's Sustainable Groundwater Alternative can be found here

Napa County Climate Action Plan

We wonder just how much it has cost the County (we taxpayers) to fund this report over the several years of its development in consultant fees and staff time? We feel that the County’s current development of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) is taking a similar approach; using a consulting company that is trying to minimize the largest sources of GHG production--

Come see for yourself at the WICC Climate Action Plan Workshop next Thursday February 23rd, 3PM at 2751 Napa Valley Corporate Drive, South Campus, Building A, First Floor, Conference Room, Napa CA 94558.

We’ll have more on this soon.

Flynnville: what is an appropriate winery?on: The Winery Glut

Bill Hocker - Feb 15,17  expand...  Share

NVR 2/15/17: Worried about size, Napa County delays proposed Calistoga winery
2/15/17 hearing agenda and documents

Napa County Planning Commissioners sent the Flynnville Winery proposal back to staff indicating that the "size and scale" of a winery of 60,000 gal/yr, 25 visitors and 15 employees/day located on Hwy 29 next to the Castello di Amorosa on a brownfield site was inappropriately large. A month and a half earlier 3 of those commissioners approved a winery of 100,000 gal/yr, 60 visitors and 19 employees/day 6 miles up a mountainous dead-end road in an area with virtually no previous tourism, on a site that a requires the removal of 10% of existing vineyards to accommodate the project. I don't disagree with their decision on Flynnville. I strenuously disagree with their decision on Mountain Peak.

Despite many proscriptions in the county's winery definition ordinance, there is no definition of appropriate capacity or visitation. County Planning Dir. Morrison attempted to reduce the arbitrariness with Proposal X in the APAC hearings last year tying both to parcel size, an idea pooh-poohed by the wine industry members and eventually shot down by the Supervisors. Applicants are free to propose capacity and visitation based on their "business plan" which itself is never scrutinized. Staff shows the commissioners comparable existing wineries with similar capacity to assess the appropriateness of visitation. There is no metric to assess the capacity. The grapes grown on the gerrymandered Flynnville site might be enough for 2500 gallons of 75% wine each year. 60,000 gal/yr is just an arbitrary number.

As shown in the county crop reports, the number of acres in vines in the county have not increased much since 2006. But some 6mil gallons of capacity have been approved in that same period. At present all new wineries and winery expansions in the county will have to poach grape sources already used to make wine elsewhere, merely shifting the location of grape processing. Winery capacity, a permanent entitlement that "goes with the land" is often justified on the basis of grape contracts that developers claim to have. Those contracts may have been owned by someone else in the previous year and can be bought by another (desperate) new winery developer before this winery is even built.

The capacity and visitation decisions are left to individual commissioners' sense of appropriateness. (They are given the discretion to deny a project as well but have done so in only one previous project - the original, over-the-top Flynnville proposal made in 2013.) The arbitrariness of their decisions often leaves one shaking one's head in despair as tourist venues continue to proliferate in the agricultural zones.

Most new projects and expansions are in fact being proposed simply to provide additional venues for wine tourism. Unfortunately the growth of the tourism industry has much different impacts on the environment than agricultural processing. By presenting the marketing and sales of wine ( i.e. tourism) as "agriculture" in the 2008 General Plan (policy AG/LU-2 on page 13 here), the analysis of the impacts of tourism development were conveniently avoided in the EIR leading to 2008 General Plan adoption.

A wine-tourism economy has impacts. It inflates rural land values and labor costs and urbanizes the rural environment, undermining the profitability of an agricultural product that must compete in a global market to exist. Winery tourism brings an ever increasing labor force into rural areas and an ever increasing number of tourists to be housed and fed and transported by ever more employees in the municipalities. It is a cascade of urban development impacts that we are already experiencing in traffic, loss of affordable housing, infrastructure taxes, natural resource degradation and the changing rural and small town character so important to us all.

NVR 7/19/17: Napa County Planning Commission delays winery decision amid flood concerns

The Flynnville proposal was continued just before lunch. Surprisingly, it was not to be the major time-consumer of the day. That honor fell to the tiny, 10000 gal/yr, no-visitation Whitehall Lane Winery, a proposal so modest that it was hard to imagine any controversy given the now weekly approval of multiple wineries at the planning commission. The difference? The project is surrounded by respected resident growers and winery owners who don't want another building project (particularly one done by a spec developer) in their neighborhood. Yes, many of the complaints revolved around the drainage issues of Bale Slough that flows through the site (just as the depletion of groundwater became an issue for a respected neighboring vintner on Flynnville.) But as we know, and as Comm. Scott mentioned earlier in the day, these battles must be fought on the technical, "fact-based", nitty gritty issues that can be reduced to numerical "standards" and CEQA subsections. They are not fought over the real and non-quantifiable concern that the ever proliferating building projects are destroying the rural character and way of life that residents, growers, vintners and weekenders alike all treasure. It is that visceral concern that (IMHO) brings forth the energy and money necessary for the fight. Technical problems can be negotiated with technical fixes and CEQA "mitigations". There is no mitigation for the loss of a treasured rural character and way of life.

One of the great disappointments in the ongoing proliferation of winery projects these last 3 years has been the unwillingness of growers and vintners to confront the urbanization of agricultural lands until the buildings are proposed in their own backyard. Growers and vintners ("people who don't normally come to speak to us" in Chair Gill's words) have a great deal more power in convincing county officials than other residents. By remaining quiet they are insuring that eventually their backyards will be filled with building projects, and the rural character of the county that they appreciate and that is their livelihood is sure to disappear. [The project was a continued]

Napa Valley Groundwater Sustainability Alternativeon: Watershed Issues

Gary Margadant - Feb 15,17  expand...  Share

This is a summary of documents and posts on Napa County's sustainable groundwater management alternative plan, titled Napa Valley Groundwater Sustainability - A Basin Analysis Report for the Napa Valley Subbasin, in response to the State's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

State Links:
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)
Sustainable Groundwater Alternative Plan description
List and Map of all water district SGM Alternatives with comments
Comments specifically on the Napa County Plan

County Links:
12/13/16 Staff Presentation of supporting documents for the Napa Valley Groundwater Sustainability - A Basin Analysis Report for the Napa Valley Subbasin to the California Dept of Water Resources (DWR), Item 9A on the Board Agenda.
The County's Groundwater Basin Analysis page
The Nov 3rd WICC workshop and draft report
Napa Grand Jury 2014-15 Report on groundwater

Individual Responses:
Gary Margadant:
What is Happening to Our Most Precious and Irreplaceable Resource: Our Water
Letter sent to the BOS on Dec 19th 2016
Chris Malan, Mike Hackett: Napa's Sustainable Groundwater alternative
Dan Mufson: got Water? Will you have water?
Responses to the Draft Napa Valley Basin Analysis Report

got Water? Will you have water?on: Vision 2050

Daniel Mufson - Feb 14,17  expand...  Share
Comments submitted to the DWR:
February 14, 2017

Bill Brewster
Senior Engineering Geologist, North Central Region
California Department of Water Resources CA
3500 Industrial Blvd, West Sacramento, CA 95691

I am submitting comments on behalf of Napa Vision 2050 regarding the “Napa Valley Ground Water Sustainability-A Basin Analysis Report for the Napa Valley Subbasin (large file)” submitted to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) by Napa County on December 16, 2016. Napa County suggests that the basin is being managed sustainability and therefore no Groundwater Sustainability Agency nor Groundwater Sustainability Plan is required.

We do not agree for the following reasons.

§354.10 Notice and Communication

Napa County claims to have held numerous public meetings. They held meetings but they were not exactly robust town hall meetings. I was at several where there were just a few people in attendance. You should ask the county to provide data on the number of citizens who attended these meetings. Typically these meetings would have two presentations, one by the Natural Resources Conservation Manager and then by the county’s engineering consultant, Luhdorff & Scalmanini. These slide presentations were voluminous, not readily comprehensible and typically took the entire allotted time: At one meeting 11/23/15 at the Napa Public Library, chaired by a County Supervisor, due to these prolonged presentations, there was no time for ANY public input or questions. Similarly at other so-called workshop meetings only three minutes of public comment was allowed per citizen and often the comments were not responded to. The feeling was that they were not seeking public input or discussion: It wasn’t democracy in action.

§344.18 Water Budget

SGMA is intended to strengthen the connection between land use planning and water management. However, the report submitted by Napa County does not address likely future conditions: prolonged drought and increasing temperatures in California. Currently Napa County relies upon three sources of water:
• Ground Water (GW)
• Surface Water
• State Water Project (SWP) via the North Bay Aqueduct.

The Report states that groundwater pumping has provided a substantial contribution to the overall water supply for the Subbasin since at least the late 1980s. Land use mapping by DWR indicates that a shift occurred from predominantly surface water to groundwater as the source of supply for agriculture between 1987 and 2011. “Local supplies have also been augmented since 1968 by water imported for municipal use from the State Water Project along the North Bay Aqueduct and more recently through the use of recycled water”. Augmented is a curious word to use here as it does not reflect that SWP accounts for 50% of municipal water usage in Napa County today.

And more importantly, while residential units in the unincorporated county and agriculture are now the primary users of the GW, the report does not address the possibility of municipalities within the basin needing and using GW extraction to survive. Instead they use a model that says the cities will use surface water:

“…land use units within City water system boundaries of Napa and Yountville were modeled to be supplied by surface water, with the exception of a number of parcels near Yountville which are known to have been supplied by recycled water since 1977”. [Section 6.5.2/Page101 of the Napa County Report]

In the Napa Valley Subbasin, the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the population is increasing, growing across all four of the incorporated municipalities in the Subbasin (City of Napa, City of St. Helena, City of Calistoga, and the Town of Yountville). And while Napa County’s second largest city, American Canyon, is not included in this Subbasin analysis, it must be considered in terms of the prolonged drought scenario that may require all municipalities to switch to GW. In order to protect its citizens, the county government is responsible for contingency planning.

SGMA requires that each agency shall establish a sustainability goal; specifically: Each Agency shall establish in its Plan a sustainability goal for the basin that culminates in the absence of undesirable results within 20 years of the applicable statutory deadline.

The report states that GW levels have been stable over the hydrologic base period (1988-2015). But as noted above, during this period of growth, significant quantities of water began to be obtained from the SWP to meet the needs of the municipalities. This suggests that the Subbasin system has not been truly sustainable.

During the recent prolonged drought, California has markedly lowered the SWP allocations and mandated water conservation measures from the municipalities and issued guidance documents such as, “Safeguarding California Implementation Action Plans 2016” to ensure that people and communities are able to withstand the impacts of climate disruption:

• “Loss of snowpack storage may reduce reliability of surface water supplies and result in greater demand on other sources of supply”.
• “As climate change reduces water supplies and increases water demands (as a result of higher temperatures), additional stresses are being placed on the Delta and other estuaries along the California coastline.”
• “Each local water agency will have to contend with impacts to their local watershed, as well as upstream and downstream watersheds that influence local water supply or water quality constraints.”

This Napa County GW Report does not address the likely impact of prolonged hot, dry weather on the ability of the state to deliver SWP water; for the surface water sources in Napa to be able to supply sufficient pure water and therefore the impact of the (at least) four municipalities demanding GW to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens.

A sustainable yield analysis by Napa County established that the maximum amount of water that can be withdrawn annually from the Subbasin groundwater supply without causing an undesirable result is within 17,000 acre-feet-per year (AFY) to approximately 20,000 AFY. The average municipal use in the Subbasin has been 17,300 AFY over the 1988 to 2015 study period. Thus, this analysis predicts that if the municipalities were required to use GW, the Subbasin would become unsustainable.

At the hearing on this Report (Agenda item 9A) before the Napa County Supervisors on December 13, 2016 using data from the consultant’s slide presentation, I raised concerns about how the county would protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens if the projected water budget were on the negative side as the consultant presented data slides which do not appear in the final report that showed a projected water budget (2016-2025) deficit of 14,300 AFY, projected for hot and low rainfall conditions. There was also an assumption made that the State Water Project allocation remains at an average of 42%. This doesn’t seem realistic as the allocation has been dramatically cut in recent years to as low as 5%. I raised the possibility of our municipalities needing to use ground water for their supplies under these conditions. No one, no Supervisor nor Public Works employee attempted to answer these issues and none have provided answers as of the submission of this comment letter.

It is important to note that, in earlier county documents the possible need for GW use by municipalities was discussed, and apparently forgotten. In November 15, 2005 a report, “2050 Napa Valley Water Resources” prepared by West Yost & Associates was presented to Napa County Flood Board:

“As municipalities consider potential increases in GW use, they should exercise caution, so that they do not adversely impact existing GW users”.

“An increase in Unincorporated [Water] Demands is possible, primarily due to an increase in vineyard demand [due to densification of vineyard plantings].” Various scenarios for municipal water supplies were presented that showed shortfalls by 2020 or 2050. To mitigate these shortfalls it was suggested that they use GW, purchase entitlements from other cities, purchase additional SWP entitlements, construct additional municipal GW wells, recycle water.

In response to the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Napa County has submitted an Alternative Submittal, Basin Analysis Report, where an analysis of basin conditions presumes to demonstrate that the basin has operated within its sustainable yield over a period of at least 10 years. However, this has been accomplished through extensive utilization of state surface water by the municipalities as they used less surface water. This suggests an unsustainable water balance especially as hotter, drier weather is forecast.

Napa County Grand Jury Report

In addition to the 2005 report cited above, it must be further noted that the Napa County Grand Jury issued a report, “Management of Ground Water and Recycled Water: Is Napa County in Good Hands?” on March 31, 2015. [They] investigated Napa County’s management of groundwater for the following reasons:

• Continued drought
• Napa County’s reliance on agriculture and its need for water
• Many newspaper articles expressing concern over increased
development and asking, “Where will the water come from?”

Despite the efforts by the County, this Grand Jury does have some concerns that we believe need to be addressed:
• The differences between what the well drillers and the geologist stated
and what the County believes is happening on the Valley floor with
respect to groundwater levels and aquifer recharge.
• Most well owners have groundwater extraction limits that cannot be
enforced by the County. With the exception of the MST, their
groundwater usage is not monitored, even for large water users. There are
provisions in the new SGMA that would allow the local agency to
impose fees to fund the costs of groundwater management, including the
costs of monitoring users’ groundwater usage.
• The County does not have a groundwater management contingency plan
in place should the drought continue.

This Grand Jury would stress that there are some troubling issues and that the County would be better served planning for a potential future disaster vs. waiting for it to happen and then trying to put a plan together quickly. Citizens should expect their governmental officials to be prepared for all potential outcomes and have procedures or policies in place that they may rely on when needed.

R1. By December 31, 2015, the Napa County Public Works Department to
develop a contingency plan, approved by the Board of Supervisors, that lays out the major steps to be taken in the event of severe drought conditions.
R2. By June 30, 2016, the Napa County Public Works Department to require major groundwater users to meter and report their water usage on a quarterly basis to ensure all well owners are following prescribed usage rates.
R3. By June 30, 2016, the Napa County Public Works Department to adopt policies to encourage all other groundwater users to meter and monitor their well water usage.

The Board of Supervisors responded that they would evaluate these recommendations, in the context of the Alternate Groundwater Sustainability Plan in their correspondence with the Superior Court Judge Stone on August 11, 2015 but they have not.

§354.34 Monitoring Networks

However, the Supervisors have not developed a contingency plan regarding GW allocation in the face of a prolonged water emergency affecting this Subbasin.

The Supervisors had promised the Grand Jury and the Superior Court significant outreach to and input from the public on Grand Jury Recommendations 2 and 3 regarding water metering and monitoring. No one can say that there has been significant outreach to the public on this topic or the Basin Analysis Report as evidenced by the non-existent turnout at “public” sessions. There is no plan to meter and monitor GW usage.


We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Alternate Submittal proposed by Napa County. Napa Vision 2050 asks that you do not approve the Report as it does not address the likely scenario of prolonged drought conditions in the state and the Subbasin which will likely culminate in undesirable results within 20 years. It does not address how the municipalities, with the largest populations centers, are to survive if the SWP supplies and surface supplies are curtailed and/or degraded in their quality.

Daniel Mufson, Ph.D., President
Napa Vision 2050
PO Box 2385
Yountville, CA94599

Concerns over Milliken Damon: Watershed Issues

Chris Malan - Feb 14,17  expand...  Share

Holes in Milliken Dam
NVR 2/14/17: Holes are the key to protecting concrete dam outside Napa

From: Chris Malan
Date: Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 8:50 AM
Subject: Milliken Dam
To: Mary Luros, Juliana Inman, Peter Mott , Jill Techel, Keith Caldwell, Alfredo Pedroza, Brad Wagenknecht, Diane Dillon, Ryan Gregory, Belia Ramos, Scott Sedgley

Orville Dam failure reminds us of our own aging Milliken Dam and it’s lack of full structural integrity since 1924.

Several years ago, the State Division of Dams and Safety (SDDS) ordered the owner of Milliken Dam, the City of Napa, to lower the water surface level in the reservoir such that the pressure against the dam would be reduced due to unacceptable long term ‘cracking' in the dam’s concrete structure.

It took many years for the engineers to come up with a design remedy short of lowering or removing the dam itself. The State engineers accepted the City of Napa’s remedy to bore 5 holes in the face of dam in hopes of keeping the water surface level 16 feet below the rim of the dam.

Given the winter storms and the earthquake in Angwin a few days ago I have these questions about Milliken Dam:

  1. How long has the dam been spilling this year? If so, for how long? Do you expect the dam to spill if it hasn’t yet? If so, when?
  2. Are the 5 holes bored in the dam efficiently keeping up with the volume of water coming into the reservoir such that the water surface elevation is kept the required 15 feet below the dam’s concrete rim to reach as required by the SDDS
  3. Are there any new structural failures of the dam? If so, what are they?
  4. When was the last time the Division of Dams and Safety inspected Milliken Dam? When was the last time new recommendations were made? If so, what were they?
  5. Who is the official at the SDDS that inspects Milliken Dam? When did SDDS last inspect the dam? Are the SDDS’s monitoring reports available to the public? If so, please provide a link.

Above Milliken Reservoir
These questions should be answered in a publicly noticed town hall meeting or put on the Napa City Council’s regular agenda.

Not only is public safety of utmost concern, but there is unique and valuable aquatic habitat below the dam. Both interests must be protected ahead of any dam failure possibility.

Given climate change (deluge to drought), increased erosion and runoff from watershed degradation (vineyards in the hills above Milliken Dam), and the age of this defective Dam, I would like to request that this issue be put on the City Council’s agenda for full public disclosure about the status of Milliken Dam.

Please advise.

Thank You,
Chris Malan
Institute for Conservation Advocacy, Research and Education,

Executive Director

What is Happening to Our Most Precious and Irreplaceable Resource: Our Wateron: Vision 2050

Gary Margadant - Feb 13,17  expand...  Share

Editor: This interesting read researched and written by Gary Margadant and Elaine de Man describes why we need to think carefully about Napa County's alternative plan for groundwater management. In the next days we will post some of the public comments on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act alternative submitted by our Board of Supervisors to the California Department of Water Resources. It is critically important that citizens become aware of the stakes involved to our future water supply.

The number of wineries in the Napa Valley has more than doubled over the last twenty years—from about 280 in 1996 to around 570 now--all using free water from the ground. This growth is unsustainable, yet local government and wine industry trade groups continue to fund and market Napa Valley, attracting visitors from around the world at a rate that increasingly overburdens our roads and resources. What we don’t see, however, is what is happening underground to our water supply.

In 2014 Governor Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to address the alarming depletion of regional groundwater. Among other things, this act requires local governments to form a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) to create and implement a Groundwater Management Plan for water basins that have been designated as medium- or high-priority. The floor of the Napa Valley from Calistoga to Napa, more formally known as the “Napa Valley Sub-Basin,” is considered a medium-priority water basin.

Sustainable Water Management?

Instead of following SGMA’s plan, the Napa County Board of Supervisors opted to take an end-run by submitting an “alternative” plan to the GSA. Napa County claims that the groundwater in the Napa Valley has been sustainably managed for the past 10 years. To support that idea, the County hired consultants Luhdorff and Scalmanini (LSCE) to prepare a report on the state of the Napa Valley Sub-Basin and county’s management of it. The report, entitled Basin Analysis Report, was completed late last year and claims that the Napa Valley Basin has been ‘stable’ for the last 10 years, eliminating the need for a Groundwater Sustainability Agency or the Groundwater Management Plan that would otherwise be required by the state.

Careful examination of the LSCE report determined that there could be catastrophic errors in acting on the conclusion that the Napa Valley Sub-Basin has been adequately managed over the past 10 years. Recommendations by citizens were made to the Board of Supervisors that more study was needed. Nevertheless, this report was accepted, approved, and submitted to the State of California by the Napa County Board of Supervisors.

Factors not considered in this report:

* The report does not consider the impact of the changes in climate that we already are experiencing on groundwater supplies, including the impact of hot days, the effect of drought on groundwater and the diminution of water supplied by the North Bay Aqueduct (NBA).The NBA is a pipeline carrying water from the Sacramento River to Napa Valley and Solano Valley. The NBA water supply is dependent on the Snow Pack in the Sierra Mountains. In a drought, the amount can be reduced to 5% of normal, requiring cities in Napa County to rely only on their limited water reservoirs, Hennessey and Milliken (Napa City), Bell (St Helena), Rector (Yountville, Veterans Home), Kimball (Calistoga).

*Most of the grapes grown in the Napa Valley are grown on the valley floor. These grapes are grown using groundwater extracted from wells drawing on our aquifers.

*The amount of water extracted through these wells is not metered.

*Some well owners are not required to report groundwater extraction at all.

*Some are required to self-report to the county the amount of groundwater extracted.

*Water use estimations are part of a winery use permit, yet the water amount actually used is never verified.

These groundwater extraction reports are not available to the public. The bottom line is that no one really knows how much groundwater is being extracted from our aquifers. If the county is successful in dodging the establishment of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency, business will continue as usual and groundwater extraction will continue to go unmetered and unknown.

An Uncertain Water Budget

Part of the flawed LSCE analysis includes a “water budget”: a determination of how much water flows into the valley through rainfall versus how much water is removed from the valley or captured in ponds and reservoirs before reaching the valley floor for consumption by residents or agricultural irrigation. The chart below, not based on water meters, calculates that there should be a net gain within the aquifer of 6,000 acre ft/yr.

But, the data collected over the last 10 years does not show that to be the case. The aquifer has remained stable, not grown and will not grow in the future.

How can that be? As the LSCE chart indicates, uncertainty in the individual budget components (italicized) of “Upland Runoff” and “SW Outflow and Baseflow,” which represent the greatest amount of water flowing into and out of the aquifer, bear the greatest degree of uncertainty.

As some of these conclusions are based on hypothetical, calculated information, we might conservatively assume they may be off by 2%. And if we take a worst case scenario which is less input AND more outflow than shown we might see that:

Upland Runoff is actually 145,000 minus 2,900 (2%) or 142,100 ac-ft/yr
and, SW Outflow and Baseflow are 176,000 plus 3,520 (2%) or 179,520 ac-ft/yr

If that is the case, we would have an annual change in Subbasin Storage of negative 37,420 ac-ft/yr.

What the LSCE report fails to state is the actual margins of error in the calculations. So the question is, is the 2% margin of error we estimate a risk we are willing to take?
If the answer is yes, it would 1. save the county money by not having to create a new agency (GSA) and 2. avoid more bureaucracy. But we believe the answer is No. Ongoing monitoring of our water supply is paramount to the future of the wine industry and residents of the Napa Valley. Vineyard development of our hillsides and watersheds is rampant with more applications in the pipeline at the County’s Planning Department. No data has been presented to back up the LSCE report assumption that hillside vineyard development will not impact the “upland” flow of water into the subbasin. Although data may be available from wells that are already located in strategic areas, the groundwater levels are subject to the impact of hillside development. If those wells are not identified and we don’t have access to the data, we have no way of knowing what the negative impacts of the conversion of hillside forests to vineyards might be.

The consequences of the County’s current course of action are too high: lowered groundwater levels, degraded water quality, land subsidence, and saltwater intrusion into groundwater. These are the same undesirable results that SGMA was designed to curtail! It is imperative that we take the long view in this time of global climate change and inform the State of California of the serious errors in the County’s report and the dire consequences to our Napa Valley if we do not establish accurate groundwater data by metering. The fate of our water supply is in the State’s hands now.

Please use this link to comment to the State of California Department of Water Resources by February 15, 2017.

Talking points:

1. Although the County report prepared by Luhdorff and Scalmanini claims the Napa Valley Sub-Basin has been adequately managed over the past 10 years, there appear to be serious errors that could be catastrophic to the county’s water supply. More study is needed before such an alternative plan is granted.

2. The report does not take into consideration the impact of the development of the hillsides on the groundwater in the subbasin.

3. Until we have more available hard data on groundwater levels, water quality, land subsidence, and saltwater intrusion into groundwater wells, we cannot make responsible decisions on groundwater management. Recommend that use permit holders be required to monitor wells and to submit data to the county.

4. Any abuse of water use, when metered and identified, must be corrected.

Please also contact our Board of Supervisors and encourage them to support and enact this crucial monitoring of groundwater to fully understand the impact of hillside planting and wells on our groundwater supply.
From the Water Balance charts in the NV Basin Plan.

The so-called wine industryon: Tourism Issues

Bill Hocker - Feb 7,17  expand...  Share

Google Maps definition of "Napa County"
NVR 2/5/17: At Napa Valley wineries, the visitor is king

This article is one of the most forthright explanations of the "wine industry" in Napa, an industry no longer driven by the production of wine but by the production of visitor experiences.

Rob McMillan hits on an essential point. “What we have planted right now in Napa is effectively what we’re going to have.” Since 2006 the number of Napa acres in grapes has leveled out - no doubt with new vineyards in the hills offset by covering valley vineyards with wineries and parking lots. (view the crop reports here).

Most of the limited supply of Napa wine will continue to be sold by major winery distribution throughout the world, because that's probably where the real money is for Napa's real wine industry. The minor percentage left is being divided into ever smaller pieces by the ever increasing number of brands too niche-market for wholesale distribution, targeted specifically at the direct-to-consumer tourist and wine club trade. It is this fraction of the industry that has become the preoccupation of residents, county government and the industry alike. The building projects and the influx of customers for such retail commerce have impacts on everyone in the county.

Even given the limits on grape production, the number of new wineries and winery expansions being approved is greater than ever before. Since 2006 the county has approved some 175 new or expanded winery permits (from this county report), most of which have not yet been built. There are currently about 50 new or expanded winery requests in the planning department (my own chart here). The Planning Commission is beginning to hold 3 sessions per month to deal with the logjam of applications. Together these new production facilities will increase county wine-making capacity by 6 mil gallons but Napa wine output by nothing. They must use grape sources that are already being used elsewhere to make Napa wine, with no net impact on the Napa brand "wine industry". (Actually there is an impact: niche vintners outbidding everyone to fill their new tanks are raising grape prices and undercutting the competitiveness of Napa's wines on the world market.)

Thus the necessary redefinition of "wine industry", based on wine tourism rather than wine making (actually made in 2008 changes to the County General Plan) . Most of the applications since 2006 have been predicated on the 2.4 million added visitor slots (from the county report) which developers are depending on for their business models to succeed. The object is to increase the amount of money that can be made per bottle on an ever dwindling amount of wine to be sold.

Rob McMillan pointed out in a 2014 presentation that visitors are willing to spend more sitting down than standing up. This latest NVR article mentions wineries that are cutting back on wine production while increasing more pampered visitor experiences, or cutting back on visitation to increase the quality of the experience. In 2010 revisions to the winery definition ordinance, "tours and tastings", the bulk of winery visitation, were for the first time allowed to include food service (more here). Since then wineries have moved toward more intimate seated tastings with expensive wine pairings, turning wineries into defacto restaurants to supplement the parties previously allowed as "marketing events".

But one can imagine, even without another recession, a leveling off of tourism as well. Short of more freeways, anathema to all concerned about urban sprawl, the pain of getting here both for tourists and workers is beginning to take a toll. And the touristic nature of experiences here is already becoming a turnoff to aficionados looking for authenticity. The competition for the tourist trade as well as for grapes, as the new wineries and expansions come online, will be ferocious. It will be interesting to see how well the new wineries will fare against the well funded corporate players as grape and visitor scarcity increases. For those that can't sell out to the corporations (who may already have their own bundle of niche wineries), the pressure will only increase to allow brew pubs, b and b's, weddings, yoga retreats, resorts, amusement parks, casinos, anything to prop up the existence of buildings and jobs and business models that never should have been created. At worst (or maybe best) we will end up with another generation ghost wineries.

Unfortunately the NVR article is strictly about the wine industry conversion to a tourism industry and not about the broader impacts of wine tourism on the character of Napa County and the lives of Napa residents. Wine tourism has impacts that wine making does not, and that difference is a large part of the resistance that the industry and governments have received from residents all around the county in the last couple of years. The increasing traffic; a prized rural landscape filling up with buildings and parking lots and clear cut hillsides; the loss of local businesses, affordable housing and community consciousness in the towns. the need for ever more taxes and bond measures to pay for the infrastructure of an ever increasing workforce and number of visitors; the demand on limited water resources for ever more development.

The essence of the original ag preservation ordinances was to severely limit urban development in the county to insure that agriculture can survive. The conversion of the economic base from wine making to wine marketing through tourism, requiring as it does an urban infrastructure to support millions of visitors, will eventually destroy the rural character of the county and the goal upon which the Ag Preserve was based. The visitor is king, but of what? As the Google Map default image for "Napa County" shows, Napa is already becoming an ersatz Magic Kingdom. How appropriate.

"Too Egregious"on: Vision 2050

Daniel Mufson - Feb 7,17  expand...  Share

Milliken Reservoir leading up to the Walt Ranch at the top of picture under the wing. Photo by Napa Vision Aerial Photo Team
Napa Vision 2050 applauds the decisions of five groups to sue Napa County over the permitting of the Walt Ranch development.

The litigants include the Center for Biological Diversity, the Napa Sierra Club, and three local groups: Circle Oaks County Water District, Circle Oaks Homeowners Association,
and the Living Rivers Council.

“Lawsuits are a last resort, reserved when all other options have been exhausted. This project, which would destroy 160 acres of woodland, more than 14,000 trees, was just too egregious. We had to challenge it by any means available.”
— Nancy Tamarisk, Vice Chair of the Napa Sierra Club

This project has certainly stirred so much concern. Thanks to everyone who has shown up at hearings and on the streets, made public comment and written letters, imploring our elected officials to listen to expert witnesses presenting conflicting data from with applicant's studies. Besides tree destruction, objections have been raised against the potential for pollution of Napa City's Milliken Reservoir. The project also presents hazards to our threatened species, the groundwater source for the Circle Oaks community, ground instability, and dewatering of Milliken Creek.

Stay tuned...We'll keep you up to date on the latest!

Napa Nostra? (updated)on: Vision 2050

Bill Hocker - Feb 3,17  expand...  Share

Update Dottie Lee LTE 2/3/17: Don't denigrate good citizenship
NVR 1/18/17: Napa's wine battles turn to pizza skirmish

From the NVR article: 'Stults called Vision 2050 “a small, divisive group of people with the ambition of taking down the Napa Valley wine industry.”'

I don't speak for Napa Vision 2050, but there are many people in the county who are concerned about the changing nature of the wine industry, and the impact of that change on the rural character of the county and the quality of their lives, and that have no interest in "taking down the wine industry". Quite the opposite; the wine industry, built by resident vintners and growers that valued not only the success of their industry but the preservation of their rural communities has always had the respect of the other rural residents that benefit from the maintenance of a rural environment and small town life that was its product.

But the industry, as the industry itself constantly mentions, is changing. And the nature of that change is toxic to residents that treasure the bucholic pleasure of an agricultural economy. It is difficult to know whether the wine industry is becoming, or is just acting as a cover for, the tourism, entertainment, real estate and consturction interests that are beginning to engulf us all with development. Traffic is only a symptom of a development boom that is filling the vineyards with buildings and parking lots, and clearcutting hillsides for estates, resorts and more vineyards to replace those paved over on the valley floor, and for the tourism conversion of the municipalities that eliminates affordable housing and decimates the sense of small-town community life. And for the mining of parklands to build it all.

In a previous generation the wine industry fought the urbanizing trajectory that those industries represent. Urbanization is the death of agriculture. One is left to wonder why now, after 40 some years of the wine industry being the defender of a rural environment, it is now up to the residents, against all odds including the bullying of the wine industry, to try to save the rural environment which an agricultural economy needs to exist.

A year and a half ago, the Napa Valley Vintners launched a PR campaign dubbed Our Napa Valley, casting the urban impacts as solvable with wider roads and more housing, i.e. more development. Until the wine industry returns to the notion that curbing development is in its own best long-term interest, as well as the interest of all citizens concerned about preserving the rural character of this place, skirmishes will no doubt continue.

The pizzagate archive:
NVR 2/3/17: Don't denigrate good citizenship
NVR 1/30/17: Wealth, power and entitlement
NVR 1/20/17: Redefining Vision 2050
NV2050 1/22/17: Give pizza a chance
NVR 1/18/17: Just say no to bullying
NV2050 1/15/17: The wine industry strikes back
NVR 1/18/17: Napa's wine battles turn to pizza skirmish
NVR 1/10/17: Suffering a lack of leadership
NVR 12/310/16: No. 1 story of 2016: Wine industry under fire

Honor and Verificationon: Compliance Issues

Geoff Ellsworth - Feb 1,17  expand...  Share

[Statement made at the Planning Commission hearing for the Raymond Winery Major Modification on Feb 1, 2017]

I am Geoff Ellsworth, speaking as a resident of St. Helena. I have concerns regarding cumulative impacts from after-the-fact approvals such as this. Impacts including traffic, greenhouse gasses, safety issues on our roadways and water uses. I believe not addressing the impacts from overages is unfair to our citizens and also is detrimental to our democratic process. To issustrate this I'll make the point that while citizens had a chance to weigh in on the original permitted levels, they had no chance to weigh in on the unpermitted overages and the associated impacts. By allowing after-the-fact approvals we lose all undrstanding of what kind of impacts we are trully looking at. Particularly when looked at cumulatively with other overages we're seeing around the county.

I believe a proper compliance and enforcement program must be in place before we continue with further approvals so that we can start to get an understanding of what type of impacts we are truly dealing with, the effects on our community and also to prevent the further escalation of overages

-we need a system to verify visitation numbers.
- regarding the WDO the policy that food service revenue is limited to cost recovery only, we need a system in place to verify this.
- also we need a water monitoring system - where the use is capped based on the permit and metered - to make sure that everybody is honoring our honor system.

One thing that is becoming clear - democracy is an honor system. In order to protect our democratic process we as citizens must stand up to insure the rules are adhered to, rules set in place to protect our community.

Napa City's Oaks - Once they're gone, they're gone (updated)on: City of Napa

Bill Hocker - Jan 31,17  expand...  Share

Napa Oaks Development

Update 1/31/17: The Greenbelt Alliance, an organization dedicated to preserving open space in an urbanizing world for 60 years, has just issued a 2017 report At Risk: The Bay Area Green Belt which features the Napa Oaks Project as open space under threat of development. (No mention of Walt Ranch?) More here from the Stop Napa Oaks group.

Stop Napa Oaks petition
Stop Napa Oaks Facebook Page

LTE 6/10/16: Development will have huge impact
LTE 5/4/16; A test of character
LTE 5/3/16: Don't destroy gateway to Napa
LTE 4/18/16: Development would scar the land
NVR 5/3/16: Homebuilder revives plans for rejected Napa development
City of Napa: Napa Oaks II Draft EIR Released for Public Review*
(there is a 45 day review period for the DEIR but since the city offers no date for the release it's impossible to know when the comment period ends. Intentional?)
NVR 8/1/12: Neighbors demand study of Napa Oaks II hillside subdivision

In true developer fashion this project is named for the environment it destroys. (I grew up in an LA suburb called Sherman Oaks, none of which remained). A part of the oak studded hills that define the rural character of the Napa Valley is to be littered with suburban McMansions. The immediate question when looking at Google maps is why this parcel is within the city limits, surrounded as it is on 3 sides by identical county open space. Not as bad as the absurd Napa gerrymander of Stanly Ranch, but still one of those unfortunate bumps in the urban-rural line that just invites urban expansion into the countryside.

The battles of communities throughout the county these last two years to maintain what is left of Napa's rural character in the face of a resurgence in developer zeal and money has been both heartening, because the desire still exists to retain this place as separate from the rest of the suburban sprawl of the bay area, and discouraging In that governments seem ever more willing to sacrifice that character to developers' interests.

Update 9/4/16: Anderson Ranch Development

Now a second housing project, by the same developer pursuing the Napa Oaks project, is proposed to carve up more of the few remaining Oak Hillsides within the city:
NVR 9/4/16: Planners endorse 37 east Napa homes despite privacy, tree concerns

Stand up for your rightson: Watershed Issues

Mike Hackett - Jan 29,17  expand...  Share

    "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." - Alice Walker

At the women’s rights and anti-Trump rally on Jan. 21, we were all energized by the size, unity and spirit of the assembled citizens. When our congressman, Mike Thompson, spoke of conviction, courage and determination that this is the time to “stand up,” we all roared with strong approval and understanding. We were there to stand up for the rights of women to control their own bodies, the right to adequate health care for all Americans, the right to marry whomever one may choose and the right for all people, of all colors, ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs and socio-economic status to determine their own future; in other words, the right to self-determination without influence from the corrupt and small greedy segment of the one-percenters. These rights are bestowed to all our citizens from the basic structure of our bill of rights and our democratic system of government. They should include every race, gender and class.

I feel compelled to point out that the balance of power is off-kilter not only in Washington, but right here at home in the Napa Valley. I was shocked to read that a wine industry lobby spokesman felt compelled to call Forge Pizza with a “courtesy call,” to tell the owners they shouldn’t be getting in the middle of a dispute between Napa Vision 2050 and the Napa wine industry.

Yes, Vision 2050 is providing the needed resistance to expansion of vineyards into our hillsides, where the future of our water will be determined by whether we can enact and enforce sufficient protections for our watersheds. The environmental groups that comprise Napa Vision 2050 are totally supportive of the wine and tourism industry, but not at the expense of the citizen’s rights to a healthy, sustainable and quality future.

Vision 2050 understands that with climate change, we don’t have the time to allow any more mistakes. 2016 was the hottest year on record, for the third year in a row. If we want to ensure that there’s adequate water supply in the future, we must protect our County’s watersheds at all cost, even if that means capping the allowable deforestation on our hills for more wine grape production.

Portions of the wine industry lobby are, unfortunately, led by that small greedy segment of the very wealthy; by the same kind of bullies that many of us feel are stealing our rights at the national level. The wine industry creates thousands of jobs and donates millions to needy causes. But now some in the industry are turning a blind eye to residents’ rights and are seemingly interested in turning Mother Earth into a toxic, unlivable planet in the name of quarterly profits.

Is our level of democracy at risk right here at home? Yes it is. Last year, when the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative was drafted and more than 6,300 citizens “stood up” to get it on the ballot, County Counsel mandated it be pulled at the last minute due to a supposed “small legal technicality.”

Most disturbing is that the other two measures that the county actually helped get to the voters, contain these same “legal technicalities.” Why was the watershed initiative jerked from the ballot? It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that the long arm of the bully segment within the wine industry reaches deeply into our county political machine, perhaps because some within the industry saw this initiative as a real threat to their continued vineyard expansion into our hillsides, at the expense of our watersheds. The issue will be decided in the Court of Appeal this summer.

One need look no further than the friends who have filed in support of the watershed initiative to understand what’s at stake: California Native Plant Society, California Wildlife Foundation, Corporate Ethics International, Environmental Defense Center, Forest Forever, Forest Unlimited, Greenbelt Alliance, Save the Bay, Planning and Conservation League, Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, Environmental Protection Information Center and Sierra Nevada Alliance.

This watershed initiative example and the fundraiser show that democracy is in trouble in Napa County. If a small group dedicated to a sustainable future can’t even hold a fundraiser without being attacked by big business, we need to “stand up.” Local businesses should not be forced to pick a side when it comes to supporting a sustainable future for Napa County. Why would holding a fundraiser for a small community group alienate the wine industry lobby?

This is a clear illustration of the over-sized influence this industry has in our community. Local residents have a right to organize and share information about a sustainable vision for our community. What’s at stake on the national level is exactly what’s at stake here at home. So let’s all “stand up,” right here, right now, to ensure our democracy shines with a brilliance never seen before.

NVR LTE version 1/29/17: Stand up for your rights

Happy Birthday Napa Vision 2050!on: Vision 2050

Daniel Mufson - Jan 25,17  expand...  Share
Jan 20, 2015
It's been two years since our first meeting as
"The Grand Coalition."

25 people were invited and 50 showed up and it's been non-stop activity ever since to advocate for clean air and water; public health issues; compliance of wineries to their use permits and protection of our watersheds.
In two short years we have matured and grown, a coalition of 14 citizen groups who want to protect our valley from corporate pillaging of our environment. We are vintners, growers, doctors, lawyers, psychoanalysts, artists, teachers, and educators working to protect and preserve #OurNapaValley for future generations.

Join with us also on Facebook.

Redefining Napa Vision 2050on: Vision 2050

Harris Nussbaum - Jan 24,17  expand...  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

Give pizza a chanceon: Vision 2050

Daniel Mufson - Jan 22,17  expand...  Share

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    - Mahatma Gandi

So here we are a week since this unsavory “Pizza Money” story began. Thank you all who said hello at the magnificent Women’s Rally and talked to me of “pizza rights!”

The Good News: You-- the #Real Napa Neighbors-- stood behind us and we raised more money than months of Sunday pizza dine & donates.

Now the bad news is we missed having a fun time with you, our Neighbors, and we haven’t received an apology from the Napa Valley Vintners for scuttling our dine and donate scheduled for today. Rex Stults, an NVV executive of spoke for that organization when he said “I would have a hard time believing that a local restaurant wants to do a dine & donate for Vision 2050 and alienate the Napa Valley wine industry who they rely upon for a large part of their business.”

The bottom line is we had an agreement with Forge which they backed out of after getting a “courtesy” call from the Napa Valley Vintners, interference pure and simple. So the Napa Valley Vintners, who profess in their propaganda to be part of the community in our Napa Valley, would force local businesses not to serve the #RealNapaNeighbors ? Neighbors who are for wineries complying with their permits and not destroying the watersheds?

Gandi got it right - first we were ignored, then we were laughed at, now we're being attacked.

Napa County Land Trust (updated)on: Watershed Issues

Bill Hocker - Jan 20,17  expand...  Share

NVR1/20/17: Large swath of Napa County land near Calistoga protected
NVR 9/4/16: Effort underway to protect 856-acre forest in Angwin
NVR 11/28/15: Land Trust receives 110-acre donation near Chiles Valley
NVR 6/18/14: Land Trust acquires 1,380 acres on Atlas Peak


Land Trust CEO Doug Parker is quoted as saying “We’re interested in building a corridor of contiguous, protected land across the ridge on the east side of Napa Valley.” On the map below it would appear that the stretch from RLS State Park to Lake Hennessy is looking quite promising. From Lake Hennessy to Skyline Park it seems like a much more difficult proposition. A trail down the ridge just below the huge Atlas Peak Sutro Ranch Preserve is blocked by two private estate developments, Circle S and Walt Ranch. The Circle S development has discussed the possibility of a 500+ acre conservation easement. Would that include a public trail? The Walt Ranch development has yet to weigh in on a conservation easement.


The Napa County Land Trust map with other projects superimposed in pink.

Just Say No to Bullyingon: Vision 2050

Kathy Felch - Jan 17,17  expand...  Share

Sometimes things just take your breath away. This time it was the long powerful arm of the wine industry reaching out to snatch pizza funds from our nonprofit, Napa Vision 2050, a two-year-old organization devoted to protecting the health and environment of Napa County. This is the wine industry that won the nation’s top place in direct-to-consumer sales in 2016. Napa county’s wine industry sales are expected to surpass $1 billion dollars for the second year in a row, according to the Napa Valley Register.

Saturday evening I got a call from an administrator for a new local restaurant trying to build their business here by connecting with our community. On behalf of Napa Vision 2050, I had arranged a Dine and Donate event at this restaurant for January 22 – supporters come in, show the restaurant’s flyer about the event and a percentage of their bill comes to our organization as a fundraiser. We had worked out a monthly Dine and Donate schedule through November of this year.

The announcement for our first event on January 22 went out to the Napa Vision 2050 mailing list, which includes many representatives of wine industry trade organizations and wineries. Evidently we tipped them off to something they did not like. Within twenty-four hours, the restaurant had received so many calls from wineries and the industry objecting to its partnering with us that the restaurant cancelled the events.

I think your readers ought to know what this industry is capable of doing. Our Napa County belongs to us all… not to any one industry. Do they think they own the county? Our events would have helped this restaurant reach into our community and it would have helped us raise money to make Napa a better place for all of us. Jeepers, a pizza fundraiser?

Kathy Felch
Vice-President, Napa Vision 2050

Mountain Peak: not remotely appropriateon: Mountain Peak Winery

Bill Hocker - Jan 16,17  expand...  Share
The grade and pass leading up to the Rector Plateau
On Jan 4th 2017, the Mountain Peak Winery was approved by a 3 to 1 vote at the Napa County Planning Commission. Comm. Cottrell, heeding the interpretive guidance given by Supervisors in the 2010 WDO (from Exhibit A, Item III here) to consider the remoteness and access constraints in determining marketing and visitation numbers, decided that she could not support the visitation and marketing requested. The location is 6 miles up a winding dead-end road, up a steep grade and pass, the only access to the isolated plateau of the Rector Reservoir watershed. The project is proposed to be a 100,000 gal/y winery with 14575 yearly visitors and 19 employees.

In the last year, in a reasonable effort to provide some objectivity to the arbitrary requests for visitation that applicants make in presenting their projects, the Planning Department has begun providing charts to the planning commissioners comparing the applicants requests to wineries of similar capacity, similar siting, and in the same locality. The charts presented to commissioners regarding Mountain Peak are here. In addition, the applicant provided several "comparables" of their own on page 14 of their project narrative here.

At the Jan 4th Planning Commission meeting, Deputy Director of Engineering Rick Marshall, the chief county road engineer, drew a distinction in the Mountain Peak decision for Commissioners to consider when looking at comparable wineries: "I think a tough decision for you today is the distinction between roads that are dead end versus those that are not." He elaborated on the funding difficulties that the county faces in maintaining its roads, indicating that dead end roads might be rather low on their repair priorities as funding comes available in the future. (There is more on the road issues raised in the hearing here) He concluded by asking: "Is it appropriate to put this land use on this dead end road?... I hand it back to you at that point."

In our Jan 4th 2017 community presentation to the Planning Commission, we looked at the details of those comparables with particular emphasis on the dead end nature of the road. Soda Canyon Road is one of the longest dead-end roads (along with Atlas Peak road) in the county. This presentation, highlighting the dead end nature of the road, was made by Glenn Schreuder and is included here:

[Presentation given to the Planning Commission on Jan 4th, 2017 at hearing for Mountain Peak Use Permit P13-00320]

Honorable Commissioners,

My name is Glenn Schreuder and my family has lived in upper Soda Canyon continuously since 1956. I would like to present some comparisons to the Proposed Mountain Peak Project that have been made which give some context to the appropriateness of the size and visitation requested for the project.

Comparison 1: from applicant
I wish to respectfully draw your attention to the “Comparative Analysis of Daily Visitation” contained on page 14 of the 18 page applicant's Project Statement, as revised on March 15th, 2016. Five Wineries are listed in “Comparative Analysis of Daily Visitation”: Chappellet, Ladera,Oakville Grade, Schramsberg and Somerston.

Purportedly selected for their location on “Hillside Roads”, well sort of hillside roads, but I’ll get to that shortly. The analysis also represents that the daily visitation for MPW is 58% of the norm when compared to these five wineries of similar Gallons per Year.

Mountain Peak
100000 g/y
Road Configuration
6.1 miles, Dead End Road

As shown in the above chart, the analysis clearly cherry picks 100K Gallons per Year (GPY) “hillside” wineries with material visitation entitlements that are not located on dead-end, one way in and one way out rural, residential roads:
  1. Chappellet: Located on CA Hwy 128 (aka Sage Canyon Road, NOT on a dead end road and NOT in the heart of a rural neighborhood, it’s actually a driveway on a state highway toward Winters, CA.
  2. Ladera: Located on two-way in/out White Cottage Road a short distance from Angwin (a census-designated place with a population of ~3,000)
  3. Oakville Grade: Located on the two-way in/out Oakville Grade, not a dead-end.
  4. Schramsberg: Located up private Schramsberg Road off of CA Hwy 29 (not a neighborhood, a private road to the winery).
  5. Somerston: Located again on CA Hwy 128 (Sage Canyon Road) NOT a dead-end road and NOT in the heart of a rural neighborhood).
As a result this analysis is, in essence, comparing five apples to one orange which is misleading.

Comparison 2 from County:

Further, in regard to the County-created Exhibit F “Updated Winery Comparison, 100,000 GPY”, of the 18 wineries listed in the comparison, 14 are indicated to be on the “valley floor” and only 4 are indicated to be “hillside” wineries.

Mountain Peak
100000 g/y
Road Configuration
6.1 miles, Dead End Road

According to Google Maps:
  1. Kent Rasmussen Winery has its tasting room in the Napa Valley Corporate Park.
  2. Pahlmeyer Winery has its tasting room at 811 St Helena Hwy #202, St Helena,CA
  3. Trinchero Napa Valley also its tasting room at 100 Main St, St Helena, CA, and
  4. Moss Creek Winery is located at Moskowite Corners, at the corner of Hwy 128 and Steele Canyon Rd

None of these four wineries appear to really be ‘hillside’ wineries at all, like the MPW project is. While some of their vineyards may potentially be somewhere in the hills, three have tasting rooms on the valley floor and Moss Creek, while remote to the valley floor, is right off CA Hwy 128 on the way to Winters and Davis, CA.

While all 18 wineries appear have use permits for 100,000 GPY, and varying levels of annual visitations, none of these 18 wineries are substantially similar to the MPV project in terms of (a) being in a very remote dead-end box canyon location and (b) having very limited access in terms of a safe, properly maintained roadway to serve it. I’m really unclear what conclusion can be drawn from this exhibit other than if MPV were on this list it would be a non-homogenous member by way of its inherently out-sized proportions in comparison to roadway access.

Comparison 3: Atlas Peak

A more appropriate comparison would be to compare wineries up another long, dead-end road in the county, Atlas Peak Road:

Mountain Peak
100000 g/y
Road Configuration
6.1 miles, Dead End Road

  1. Kongsgaard 9.4 miles up Atlas Peak road, 12,000 GPY, no visitation allowed.
  2. Alta 9.0 miles up Atlas Peak road, 5,000 GPY, 208 visitors allowed per year.
  3. Ripe Peak 8.8 miles up Atlas Peak road, 1,500 GPY, 1,456 visitors allowed per year.
  4. Vin Roc 8.1 miles up Atlas Peak road, 18,000 GPY, 416 visitors allowed per year.
  5. William Hill 1.4 miles up Atlas Peak road, 720,000 GPY, 13,000 visitors allowed per year.
(Note that William Hill Winery is almost on the valley floor, adjacent to the Silverado Countyr Club, and even then only has only 13K/year visitors allowed. It is almost certainly not by accident that a winery of this scope and scale is not 6+ miles up a dead-end road like Atlas Peak or Soda Canyon).

Comparison 4: Soda Canyon Rd

And another more “apples to apples” comparison would be to compare MPW to other wineries on the dead-end Soda Canyon Road itself:

Mountain Peak
100000 g/y
Road Configuration
6.1 miles, Dead End Road

With the exception of Antica Napa Valley, which owns approximately 1,200 acres of contiguous land at the very end of Soda Canyon Road and therefore can only be compared in terms of its parcel size to production and visitation ratios, all of the wineries on Soda Canyon Road have production levels of between 12,000 and 30,000 gallons. And all, including Antica, have visitation levels from none to about a third of the Applicant's request.

In summation

It is clear from this comparison that the wineries selected for comparative analysis in the applicant's project statement are only comparable to the extent that they have the same GPY and varying degrees if visitation, otherwise their locations are far away in terms of distance from Upper Soda Canyon and are not remotely comparable in terms of the traffic impacts that Soda Canyon road (as a dead-end road) and its residents would suffer.

The conclusion from this number crunching: There are no comparables in these examples to the size and visitation requested by Mountain Peak on dead end roads. The 100,000 gal "hillside" wineries presented by the county in fact were on state highways or had tasting rooms on the valley floor. The Applicant's examples included large wineries accessed directly off highways and major through roads. Of the examples on Atlas Peak Road, the only winery with equivalent visitation was near the flats next to the Silverado County Club. And on Soda Canyon Road the only winery with more than 30,000 gallons on the road had one third the visitation requested by Mountain Peak.

At the hearing Mr. Marshall added this in terms of comparables: "I was trying to think of - you know as soon as I say it, likely somebody will disagree - an example to me that’s similar is Diamond Mountain. It’s a similar narrow windy, mountainous terrain, and it’s a dead end." He didn't know its capacity or visitation, however. It is 10,000 gal/y and 1500 visitors per year.

A more extensive comparison of appropriateness
Comparables can be used in 2 ways, of course. They can encourage excessive requests to be scaled back to more "normal" values. But they can also be used to justify excessive requests based on a few perhaps excessive examples, guaranteeing an ever increasing upward trend. As more remote watershed wineries are added to the list the degree of excess becomes more apparent.

While looking up the location of Diamond Mountain Winery I realized that a comparison could be made to many other "remote" wineries (more than about a mile from a highway) in the county. Using the NVV's excellent map here I have made this list of other wineries using data from the County's winery database here. I have included all of the applicant's examples here even though Schramsburg, with a private drive directly off Hwy 29 could hardly be considered remote.

Click here or on the map to view the "Remote Wineries" analysis.

Analysis: The list linked above shows wineries located in the Napa watersheds. It was made to compare the capacity and visitation proposed for the Mountain Peak project to that of other remote wineries in the county as a whole.

Mountain Peak, when compared against these 71 watershed wineries falls within the upper 10% for capacity and visitation. It has:
  • 2 x the average capacity (3 x if the 2 huge pre-WDO wineries are excluded)
  • 5 x the median capacity
    Only 6 wineries have larger capacity, all pre-WDO wineries.
  • 2.5 x the average visitation
  • over 7x the median visitation
    Only 7 wineries have larger visitation, 4 pre-WDO with public tasting.
  • is 2 miles further from a major highway than average, and 3 miles further up a dead end road than average.
  • 3 x the average trips per day generated
  • 9 x the median trips per day
In summary, while the applicants on the Mountain Peak project argued that their numbers fell in the middle range of the comparable wineries that they selected and that were presented by the County, the reality is that, as the particulars of selected wineries are looked at and as watershed wineries are looked at as a whole, the Mountain peak capacity and visitation numbers are at the extreme upper end. It should also be noted that:
  • Mountain Peak is the first tourism-centric winery on the Rector Plateau, with 3 times the visitation of the much larger Antica Winery. The only other winery on the plateau was specifically denied tours and tastings by the ABC because of access difficulties.
  • It also has at least 3 times the average visitation of all 8 existing wineries of Soda Canyon Road, and visitation equal to the sum of allowed visitation of all those wineries.
Comm. Cottrell was certainly right to consider those numbers in making her decision.

And finally two other comparables:
A couple of other wineries that have been reviewed by the Planning Commission since the approval of Mountain Peak also throw some light on the appropriateness of the Mountin Peak decision. They are the Flynnville winery just south of Calistoga and the Black Sears winery outside of Angwin.

NVR 2/15/17: Worried about size, Napa County delays proposed Calistoga winery

In the Flynnville case the Planning commission felt that the project, despite its presence directly on Hwy 29, and adjacent to the Castello di Amorosa mega-winery was too intensive a use at 60,000 gal/yr and 25 visitors/day, in comparison to Mountain Peak at 100,000 g/y 60 vis/day 6 miles up a winding dead end road. I would argue that if the decision on Flynnville is correct (which I think it is) then the decision on MountainPeak is grossly negligent.

NVR 2/27/17: Isolated Napa County winery allowed 16 visitors a day

In the Black Sears approval, the Planning Commission noted the remote character and the appropriateness of a 20,000 g/y winery and 16 vis/day, 4 employees on a 60 acre parcel.

“It is unusually remote,” Planning Commissioner Comm. Scott said [at the hearing] . “I mean, literally it’s at the end of the road. It’s a long road.” While it is 3 miles further from a state highway than Mountain Peak at 9.2 miles, it is only 2.5 miles from the heavily traveled Howell Mountain Road and the town of Angwin that links the Napa Valley to Pope Valley. Mr. Scott had no similar concerns about the remoteness of Mountain Peak.

Comm. Basayne said that the project "truly introduces modest visitation in a remote location... This is something we are trying to embrace." Not very interested to embrace it on Mountain Peak.

Comm. Gill approved of a project that was "modest and to scale" and commented on the "great neighbor relations". Neither of those conditions applied to Mountain Peak but she approved it anyway.

Comm. Cottrell complimented the "modest level of visitation given the remote location" and of the neighborhood support the project received. Having denied the Mountain Peak project over similar concerns, she remains the one commissioner not hypocritical in her sense of appropriateness.

The Wine Industry Strikes Backon: Vision 2050

Daniel Mufson - Jan 15,17  expand...  Share

Saturday Night Massacre: Goliath Gobbled our Pizza Money

A note from Napa Vision 2050 President Dan Mufson:

I have a disturbing story to tell you. This is a story of bullying and intimidation - the kind you read about in coal country. You don’t expect it here in Our Napa Valley.

On Friday we sent you an email newsletter describing the Register’s No. 1 story of the year, “Wine Industry Under Fire” and we told you of our January 22 fundraiser wherein we had partnered with Forge Pizza restaurant for a dine and donate event where they would give us a percentage of each check when you showed the Napa Vision 2050/Forge flyer.

That was Friday. Well, by Saturday night apparently enough wine industry reps and wineries had called the Forge to complain about our Dine and Donate agreement that Forge cancelled the fundraiser. Let’s get this straight, the billion dollar wine business objected to our nonprofit, dedicated to the health and environment in Napa, Our Napa Valley, collecting some donations from the pizza that its supporters purchased. The wine industry’s fingerprints are clearly all over this episode.

So now you have it, the magnanimous, gracious, “community-minded” wine industry steps in to deny us our pizza money—it would be hilarious if it weren’t true. Rest assured, Napa, we’re not going to be bullied away. We are your neighbors from all over the county. We have spent over $200,000 out of our own pockets fighting for sanity in growth, fighting for clean air and water. We’re continuing the fight against the expansion of the Syar Mine and its carcinogenic pollutants, the Walt Ranch deforesting Atlas Peak, digging into why Napa County has the highest rates of cancer among all California counties, shining light on the wineries who violate their permits and the County government that allows all of this.

You know we always look to Our Napa Valley to come together in these efforts. We’ve got a big lemon here. Let’s make a lot of lemonade. Big Bully Wine scuttled our Forge Dine and Donate so we’ll have to do our fundraising elsewhere. Scratch the Forge Dine and Donate on January 22 -- we’ll let know real quick when and where our Napa Vision 2050’s Fundraising Pizza Party will be.

Yours respectfully,

Dan Mufson
Napa Vision 2050

The road not widened (updated)on: Traffic Issues

Bill Hocker - Jan 14,17  expand...  Share

UPDATE NVR 12/14/17: Supes choose Pedroza to bring home transportation dollars

The comments below (one of many posts on the SCR Traffic Issues page devoted road widening) highlight why transportation improvements will not relieve the congestion they are touted to fix but will, in fact, cause the pace of urban development to increase, increasing the congestion and eventually encouraging urban uses to swallow up agricultural land. Napa agriculture has survived this long in the bay area because the road widening mania of the 60's and 70's was thwarted by resident vintners and growers interested in preserving their industry and way of life. With the wine industry now dominated by corporations and good-life entrepreneurs promoting tourism, traffic problems have become a major obstacle. Increasing urban development in Napa County is, of course, what Bill Dodd and now Sup. Pedroza were placed in office to do.

Dec 12, 2015

Derek Anderson, running for supervisor against Mark Luce in the next election, has just penned an interesting editorial asking taxpayers to "widen our main transportation arteries thought the valley, from American Canyon to Calistoga" in order to "fix" our traffic problems.

The road widenings necessary to mitigate the anticipated traffic in 2030 were, in fact, enumerated on this page of the draft environmental impact report (obtained by George Caloyannidis) prepared prior to the 2008 modification of the County General Plan Circulation Element. (This element is currently again under review by the County.) To achieve an "LOS D" level of service in 2030 (on an A-F scale) the following road widths would be needed:

Southern Crossing - 8 lanes
Hwy 29 - 6 lanes throughout
Silverado Trail - 4 lanes throughout
Soscol from 29 to downtown- 6 lanes
American Canyon Rd - 6 lanes
Six Flags to Am Can Rd - 6 lanes
Green Island Rd - 6 lanes
Deer Park to Angwin - 4 lanes
Hwy 128 - 4 lanes throughout

The DEIR rejected these mitigations saying "While the above roadway improvements would reduce the peak hour and daily levels of service to acceptable levels, [these] improvements are not considered feasible given the environmental effects associated with the roadway widening and these improvements world be inconsistent with the vision set forth in the General Plan Update. The following statement from the Summary and Vision section of the proposed General Plan Update summarizes the Coutny's provisions: ' This General Plan will preserve and improve the quality of life and the rural character of the County by proactively addressing land use, traffic, and safety concerns in addition to sustaining the agricultural industry.' Widening of these roadways would result in more severe environmental impacts (beyond what is addressed in this DEIR) associated with visual resources, water quality, noise, air quality and growth inducement."

In all probability the wine industry exists because of road widenings that were opposed in the 1970's, leaving only the orphaned stretch of freeway along the west side of Napa CIty, the only bit of freeway in the county. While road improvements are often promoted as relieving congestion, their actual function is to make further development possible and inevitable. (We need only look at the recent widening of Jameson Canyon and its impact on the intersection with Hwy 29 pictured in the map at the top of the page, or the 29/Trancas underpass, to realize that widenings don't relieve congestion - they just bring more traffic.)

Had freeways been built into and through the valley as originally envisioned it is highly unlikely that the agricultural use of the land could have held out against the pressure for more urban development. The people and government of Napa county have long recognized the role of road building as a precursor to urban development and wisely shunned it even in the knowledge that, as the 2007 DEIR indicated, the unmitigated impact of traffic congestion will result.

In Mr. Anderson's call for road widenings, we begin to see the shift in development interests that continuing tourism development is beginning to bring. While traffic congestion affects all, it has become a major impediment for the growth of the tourism industry, a constant complaint in travel articles written about the county. So far many vintners seem to believe that they can have it both ways, the financial benefits of ever increasing tourism without a development impact on the agricultural resource that is the base of their industry. They feel that the development impacts can be contained with in the RUL's of the municipalities while they continue to develop their wineries, pretending that their new buildings and parking lots are a part of an agricultural process, when they are in fact an urban expansion of tourism venues into the vineyards. The need for more wineries to process Napa grapes has long been fulfilled. The need for more roads to access the ever increasing winery venues is becoming critical to the tourism industry.

There is a need for alternatives to begin to confront the congestion we have, a light rail system, a realistic bus system, worker or tourist shuttle systems (and not helicopters!). But those will only help if the amount of development currently occurring stops. Just as with road widenings, transport systems will never keep up with developers. It is time to visualize a stable economy and amount of development that the county's agriculture can support, and reject an ever expanding economy that will eventually consume agricultural land to keep the expansion going.

The call for road widenings is not really to relieve existing congestion but to allow further tourism development to proceed. A cascade of further development will come in its wake. The traffic problems will never be "fixed". If Mr. Anderson's vision of road building is realized, as has been feared and rejected in the 1970's through 2007, it will be the end of Napa's great experiment in maintaining an agricultural preserve in an urban world.

Suffering a lack of leadershipon: Vision 2050

Daniel Mufson - Jan 13,17  expand...  Share

The title of the No. 1 story of 2016 ought to have been: Local Governments Under Fire, as it highlighted many issues: watershed destruction, public health, campaign finance and a lack of stewardship by the Board of Supervisors. As such, we, the members of Napa Vision 2050, think the title of the article, “Wine Industry Under Fire,” (Dec. 31) is somewhat misleading.

We participated in each of the stories mentioned in this article: Napa Vision 2050 has been the leader in raising awareness of the out-of-control growth of the wine and wine tourism industries. However, our focus is not the industries nor the associations and institutions whose mission is to promote their expansion. We welcome responsible winery development, which enriches the life of every Napa Valley resident and contributes to its brand in the best possible way.

At the same time, there are the problems that stem from lack of oversight by our government officials. Too often, there is little or no consequence when wineries violate their use permits or escape environmental review. As the valley floor becomes increasingly planted out, wineries bully themselves into hillsides, destroy neighborhoods, build in inappropriate locations that need to truck soil and water and export sewage in order to operate, and mow down tens of thousands of mature trees to plant vineyards. This all contributes to an overgrowth of wineries whose visitors and workers flood our streets.

When such enterprises are promoted to the detriment of a healthy infrastructure, our common resources and the environment, something is dangerously out of balance. And it is not just the wine industry that is responsible for such offenses. The proliferation of hotels and resorts and the expansion of carcinogen-spewing mining operations contribute to conditions that increasingly make our home county inhospitable to those of us who live and work here.

Who is watching out for the interests of the general public?

We are supposed to have “a sheriff” in town who has been elected to safeguard our collective quality of life. Unfortunately, our Board of Supervisors seems to have become beholden to the interests of these industries, neglecting the commons. Our supervisors accept campaign contributions from these industries, then consistently vote 5 to 0 in favor of their projects. We suffer from the lack independent leadership.

This is the void Napa Vision 2050 fills. Our mission is to promote the health and environmental sustainability of our community and to inform the public and raise awareness of these circumstances that affect us all.

Daniel Mufson

Napa Vision 2050

1/10/17 NVR version: Suffering a lack of leadership

Round one to Mountain Peak (updated)on: Mountain Peak Winery

Bill Hocker - Jan 12,17  expand...  Share

Video of the hearing
NVR 1/4/17: Napa County Planning Commission approves Mountain Peak Winery

After almost three years since the fateful day that neighbors on Soda Canyon Road discovered a tourism winery was planned for their remote rural community, the County Planning Commission has approved the project, their first approval of 2017. The vote was 3 to 1 with Heather Phillips' seat still unfilled.

Comm. Cottrell voted to deny, arguing that the level of visitation was inappropriate for the remote location, following the Supervisors direction to planning commissioners to consider the remoteness and access constraints in determining visitation numbers. It was, I think, a courageous vote in support of residents interests and the county's rural legacy in a county government and in an era that is ever more dominated by developers.

There will be an appeal to the Board of Supervisors. Perhaps they can summon a bit of that courage as well.

The approval came despite 900 county-wide signatures of opposition to the project, including the majority of the Soda Canyon Road community. Unfortunately, the interests of many concerned citizens in the preservation their rural communities appear to count for very little against good-life entrepreneurs and a tourism industry pretending to protect agriculture with ever more buildings and parking lots.

In perhaps one of the few unexpected moments of the day, Comm. Basayne asked County Road Engineer Rick Marshall about the comparison made by the planning department between this project and several other 100,000 gal wineries on mountain roads in the county. My thoughts on his very informative responses are related separately here.


George Caloyannidis - Jan 12, 2017

How far have we come when we consider Cottrell's vote "courageous"!

Woodland Initiative Update, Jan 2016on: Woodland Initiative

Jim Wilson - Jan 11,17  expand...  Share

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

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

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

Here's a summary of the amici letters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The end of the Trail? (updated)on: Soda Canyon Road

Bill Hocker - Jan 10,17  expand...  Share

black: existing wineries & left turn lanes
red: proposed or approved
The Silverado Trail, along the east side of the Napa Valley, is still a great ride (for cars and bicycles) at times other than the afternoon rush hour. Well banked curves and maintained surface allow a meditative, almost zen-like, cruise through the rolling landscape of vine rows and valley vistas. It is the ride that defines the Napa Valley as an Eden, a paradise on earth, for visitors and residents alike. It is a last local vestige of America's great passion for the open road. And it is about to disappear.

Two more wineries on the map are coming up before the Planning Commission: The Sam Jasper winery willl be reviewed by the Planning Commission this Jan 18th, 2017. And the Grassi Winery is scheduled to be reviewed on Feb 1st, 2017. Together they will add another 50 trips/day going through the Soda Canyon intersection, adding to the 15 trips/day approved for the Beau Vigne in September and 130 trips/day just approved for Mountain Peak. The applications call attention once again to the issue of continued development on this most iconic of Napa's highways.

This particular section of the Trail is becoming quite impacted by proposed wineries. It is a harbinger of the development sprawl happening along the Trail and throughout the county. (As we use every opportunity to point out, there are currently some 100 new or expanding wineries approved, most not yet built. There are some 60 more in the planning department awaiting review (18 more added in 2016). As we have seen lately, the department and commissioners seem invigorated since the election to begin moving as many projects as possible through the pipeline, as they must in their failing attempt to keep up.

Above is a map of the Soda Canyon intersection. There are now at least 8 existing or proposed left turn lumps on the Trail in the 2 minute drive between Hardman Drive and Black Stallion Winery. Little will remain of the 2-lane Trail. It will now be a section fraught with the driving angst of merging traffic. Will all of these turnouts make it safer? Maybe for those forced to become familiar with the concept of middle lane refuges. For most drivers there will still be the heart attack (and involuntary swerve), as a car dashes out from the left straight at their car and at the last second turns into the refuge lane.

The number of vehicle trips generated by the proposed wineries is adding up. Counting the Mountain Peak project, up Soda Canyon Road next to me, there are now almost 360 more trips/day planned of this bit of the Trail. That's only 3% of the 11,000 daily vehicles that use the Trail at this point. Is the increase significant? Soda Canyon Road is already rated at Level of Service (LOS) F on weekday and Saturday afternoons and traffic signals are already warranted on weekday afternoons. They will shortly be needed on Saturdays as well. It is harrowing to make the left turn into the continuous stream of 55 mph traffic at rush hour. The traffic backs up behind the Soda Canyon stop sign waiting for one's rendezvous with fate. Perhaps all the left turn bumps and merging traffic will slow things enough to make the turn less dangerous? I doubt it.

The Soda Canyon intersection, like many intersections along the Trail and Hwy 29 already requires signalization for safe operation. The cost of those signals are contributed to by mitigations fees added to the use permits. The signals don't get put in, I think, not just because that mitigation fees aren't enough to cover the costs (and the money is needed elsewhere), but because everyone knows what signalization means - a rural place is becoming a suburb. It is the death of the open road.

This map begins to give a sense of the winery strip mall that the rest of the Trail will become in the future. There are still 3 or 4 parcels in this stretch available for wineries . Given the present trajectory, projects will be proposed soon. (The property just north of the Reynolds Winery has recently sold.) It is logical that the lower part of the Trail will reach winery buildout the earliest. Looking up into the valley from Skyline Park, one can sense the urban landscape oozing north. The widening of the Trail, now being done one left turn bulge at a time, reflects that flow.

Is it too late to save the Silverado Trail? The openness of the landscape along its route defines Napa County to the rest of the world. As the area around Soda Canyon Road shows, that iconic image will become screened and diminished by development if more protections are not put in place. It is past time to realize that the Trail is more important to Napa than just an access route to ever more wineries or just traffic relief from Hwy 29. The expansive views from the road are the mental images that everyone retains of this place.

If the present development trend continues, the enjoyment of the Trail as the meditative cruise needed to be at one with the rolling majesty of the valley and its bounty, a single experience more important than all the winery "experiences" combined in maintaining Napa's image as a premier wine making region, will soon be gone.


My other take on a similar theme, the visual damage to the Trail's Edenistic landscape caused by winery construction, is here.
Also related: The Trail at Soda Canyon is drying up.

[Email sent to Dep Planding Director John McDowell regarding this]

Mr. McDowell,

Sorry for this rambling note - I know you are busy.

I wanted to thank you for going out on a limb to voice your concerns yesterday about the potential for art advertising to become a big issue in the future and the need to get on top of it now. You know better than everyone else, the policy seems to come only after irreparable damage has been done. Director Morrison's disinterest in confronting the issue was disappointing. It is obvious that with the branding success of the rabbit, every vanity vintner in the county will want to put their personal artistic stink on the Napa landscape to drag in tourists.

This relates to a concern that has been brought up by the Reynolds Winery. I will probably be sending in this screed in some modified form to commissioners when the time comes. As usual not too much about the specific project, more about the trend that the project is contributing to. The area around the Soda Canyon junction is beginning to reach buildout levels

My question - is it too late to save the Silverado Trail? - is one that needs to be asked of the planning department. I would argue that the openness of the landscape along the Trail defines Napa County to the rest of the world. As the area around Soda Canyon Road shows, (and the Titus winery showed) that iconic image is becoming screened and diminished by development. And now we have billboards masquerading as art to worry about. The Trail is not on the state's list of eligible scenic highways. (Incredibly, only the most urbanized roads in the county are eligible). Has anyone at the county proposed the Trail as a scenic highway? What is necessary to get that process started? I hope that the visual importance of the Trail to the identity of the Napa Valley is discussed in the revision of the circulation element.

The art as signage issue also brought up another concern that has always bothered me. I assume that the 600' setbacks were initially put in place to protect the agricultural character of the county - buildings set in an agricultural landscape. (Any documents that you know of that explain the thinking behind the setback ordinance?) Yet houses, outbuildings, parking lots or signs (particularly billboard sized pieces of sculpture) have just as great an impact in obstructing the agricultural landscape as a winery building. Why can't the ordinance be expanded, particularly along the Trail, to exclude all urbanization within the setback? (Just as housing is now being proposed to be included in allowable building development area?)

I took up David Heitzman's request to google "Napafication'. It seems to be synonymous, whether in positive or negative articles on wine around the world, with wine regions becoming tourist traps. I think I have been very naive in thinking we can protect a place from a fate that has already occurred.

Groundhog Day at the Planning Commission. Again.on: Vision 2050

Patricia Damery - Jan 9,17  expand...  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.

18. Alternative transport solutions (updated)on: Solutions

Bill Hocker - Jan 8,17  expand...  Share

Update 1/8/17:

NVR 1/8/17: Wine Train willing to explore employee commuter service

It appears that since the sale of the Napa ValleyWine Train to a new owner in 2015 (it never should have been sold to a private entrapreneur in the first place) that the sensible idea of using the tracks for commuter and tourist cars is now a consideration. One inexpensiive solution is field tested here. While the talk is only of a commute line between Napa and St Helena, the line really needs to be able to run from the Vallejo ferry terminal, to an airport parking structure to Calistoga.

But one thing should be made very clear in all these discussions of alternative transportation: they will only, at best, serve to reduce the rate of increase in road traffic in the future, not decrease it. Development projects representing thousands (if not tens of thousands) of new trips each day have been approved or are in the planning pipeline, and more will continue to be proposed. Effective public transit projects take decades to realize, and will always lag the urbanization they attempt to mitigate.


NVR 4/21/15: Transportation plans face financial roadblocks

Most of the article was devoted to the issue of cycling (and walking) as a solution to traffic problems and the paucity of funds to make it a reality. I rode a bike to work during my 15 year professional career and I'm not unsympathetic to the idea of using bikes where possible. But as a transportation solution to reduce the hundreds of thousands of daily portages necessary to make society function, predictably in all weather, bicycle lanes are really just a sop built to placate the roomful of vocal activists that show up at every meeting seeing their spartan self-righteousness as a planetary solution. Accommodating bicycles costs a lot of money that might be devoted to real transport solutions - like the use of the wine train tracks as a cable car-styled people mover up and down the valley (feasibility tested here), or a wine-industry-subsidized hospitality-, winery- and farm-worker transport van system linked to parking structures at the airport. Or perhaps for the education and support necessary to reverse population growth and the need for ever expanding transport networks (my own self-righteous planetary solution).

A discussion on one solution with very long odds of success, building affordable housing for the workforce in Napa County, was discussed at a community meeting here:
Panel looks at ways to keep Napa affordable. They saw no easy solutions. Napa Pipe, in one of the most ambitious efforts to add affordable housing to the county, will actually be creating more low paid commercial, hotel and nursing home employees in the project than than can fit in the 190 affordable units proposed.

One proposal not brought up: having developers pay for the real costs, in housing needs, community and transport infrastructure, community services etc, etc, that their development schemes create, but which remain unfunded. The full impacts of development need to become part of the developer's decision to add more people to the county.

Mountain Peak: the road issueon: Mountain Peak Winery

Bill Hocker - Jan 6,17  expand...  Share

Tourbus stranded on the Soda Canyon Grade
A surprise witness

In perhaps one of the few unexpected moments of the Jan 4th, 2017 Planning Commission hearing to consider the Mountain Peak winery project, Comm. Basayne asked County Road Engineer Rick Marshall about the comparison made by the planning department between this project and several other 100,000 gal wineries on mountain roads in the county. His very informative response:

    " I think a tough decision for you today is the distinction between roads that are dead end versus those that are not. And so some of the roads that were mentioned in the testimony [on the planning dept's list of similar wineries and the applicant's own list of similar projects] are not dead end roads. They are otherwise very similar, they’re narrow, they’re windy, they’re mountainous terrain, but they’re not dead end. This one is. It’s not the only one. I was trying to think of - you know as soon as I say it, likely somebody will disagree - an example to me that’s similar is Diamond Mountain. It’s a similar narrow windy, mountainous terrain, and it’s a dead end.."

He then concluded by saying "Is it appropriate to put this land use on this dead end road?... I hand it back to you at that point." which drew more than a few laughs in the room. But, of course, he did express his opinion in making the distinction between the two types of mountain roads: this road is different to him, and should probably be treated differently by the planning commissioners.

He didn’t know how big or what the visitation of the Diamond Mountain winery was. We had to look it up: Diamond Mountain Winery is a 10,000 gal/yr winery with 1500 visitors/yr, a tenth the scale of Mountain Peak.

Unfunded impacts

Rick Marshall also provided additional words of discouragement for the project. Some of the commissioners have been trying to push road improvements on Soda Canyon Road to the top of the county's priority list in an effort to dampen residents concerns over the dangers of the road shown in their testimony of opposition to the project.

Mr. Marshall gave no offers of support. The county will not have significant funds until 2019 (from Measure T taxes) to begin major repairs on all of the county's 450 miles of roads, and there are many more significant roads on their priority list before the lightly used mountain roads (particularly dead end roads that serve a very small population).

The lack of funding to maintain the county's roads, an obvious sore spot for Mr. Marshall, raises the issue that I have often mentioned on this site: the unfunded costs of development. (see here as well)

At every planning commission meeting, in the county or in the municipalities, the point almost always comes up that new development, whether buildings or vineyards, will increase the amount of tax revenues flowing to government coffers based on the more productive use of the properties, a good reason to approve the projects.

Unfortunately Mr. Marshall's situation shows what a lie those claims are. An enormous amount of vineyard development has gone on in the county in the last 25 years, a substantial amount on the Rector plateau. 1500 acres of vines and numerous high end homes have been developed here. Taxes on the high-end wines made from those high-end grapes, and the TOT from tourists here to drink the wines, and the increased value of the properties, and the fees charged to permit the developments, should be contributing to a budget surplus in the county used to provide basic services like road maintenance for property access. The reality is that that new tax money flowing in can't keep up with the costs of dealing with the impacts created by the development.

On Soda Canyon Road the (literal) impacts of heavy equipment traversing the road to create and tend all those vines has taken a substantial toll. Yet the county doesn't have the money to repair the road and must depend on tax bonds levied on all of the county's citizens to pay the costs. Everyone living in Napa County is essentially subsidizing the few owners profiting from the vineyards, as they would to provide safe access to Mountain Peak. At the July 20th hearing, Dan McFadden, the road's biggest brain, brutally assessed the issues facing the County in approving a commercial winery at the top of the road.

There is an argument to be made that governments (and the taxpayers that fund them) would be financially better off by not allowing development in their domains and letting nature have its way wherever possible, or at least by charging the substantial fees that would really cover the long term impact costs of development, fees that would make developers much more careful in their development decisions. Of course that is not the American way, a culture built on unencumbered land speculation over the last two centuries. Unfortunately, we must continually pay the price, perhaps especially now in a new era of developers, to subsidize that speculation.

A question of liability

And finally Mr. Marshall addressed the rate of accidents on the road. He indicated that he monitors carefully all accidents on Napa County roads to determine places that need mediation to insure the health and safety of the public. Soda Canyon Road does not stand out in its rate of accidents on the mountain roads in the county. It is different, however, in that most roads have individual accident prone points that the county can focus on in their remediations. Soda Canyon road has a much more even distribution of accidents along the road, and is much more difficult to remediate with a single fix.

After our extensive public campaign to point out the dangers of Soda Canyon Road, with hundreds of pages of testimony and graphic and tabular exhibits in both the Relic winery ABC hearing and the Mountain Peak hearings, one thing is abundantly clear: as an access for a tourism facility like Mountain Peak, and with the county's acknowledged lack of resources to mitigate any dangers, the county will have clear and documented liability in approving this project should a tourbus fall into the canyon on the grade.

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