Eternal vigilance is the price of preserving the Napa Valley.
 - Former Planning Dir. Jim Hickey 2008 (RIP 2017)
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, lack of 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 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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Tue, Jun 5, 2018

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Beaulieu Vineyards Major Mod
No production increase, 44700 more vis/yr, more food, 49 more parking spaces, left turn lane, lot line adjustment to go from 13.5 to 47 acres
County Beaulieu page
Project Description from Initial Study checklist 2016

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.

Who's opposing Measure D? on: The Heliport Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - May 22,18  expand...  Share

Update 5/22/18
Napavision 2050 has published a great breakdown of the Palmaz no-on-C contributions and the family links to Bill Dodd.

Follow the Money: Who is funding No on Measure D? Who is funding Bill Dodd?

Helicopters make a lot of very irritating noise. Who would want to have more of them overhead? Well, our State Senator Bill Dodd for one.

At the end of Patricia Damery's very clear refutation of the falsehoods made by Sen. Dodd in the ballot arguments opposing Measure D (Arguments against Measure D are wrong), the Register's editor reached out to Sen. Dodd to respond: too busy to speak about it, he said; there might be unintended consequences; "the people" and supervisors should be left to handle these matters.

It seemed a bit sheepish. Particularly considering his concern over fake news.

Private use heliports will benefit perhaps less than one tenth of one percent of the county's population. Yet the thump-thump-thump of helicopters will impact everyone, particularly as more and more of the county's plutocrats opt to hili-commute rather than subject themselves to Napa's increasingly congested roads.

Why is the opposition being led by Sen. Dodd? His constituency is now well beyond the parochial issues of Napa County. Why is he willing to sign his name to bogus claims to benefit a small handful of people, while harming the quality of life for the rest of his Napa constituents and the county's visitors?

Well, one might speculate looking at the donor list:

Perhaps it's the $17,000 from the Calif. Association of Realtors who know how much value a helipad would add to properties aimed at plutocrats. Or perhaps it’s the $16,800 from the Halls, who might want to assure the future buyers of the remote Walt Ranch estates of their right to a heliport. Or perhaps it’s the same amount from the Woolls who might want a quicker way to get friends and family from home to their remote estates.

Or, just perhaps, it’s the $8,300 from Christian Palmaz. (On top of his $10,000 donation to the No-on-C campaign. And on top of the $116,000 donated to no-on-C from other family members.) If Measure D passes his stalled application for his own heliport is dead.

Members of the Palmaz family are no ordinary Bill Dodd donors. In 2008 the Palmaz family donated $500,000 to Justin Siena school for the "Dodd Stadium" - to honor Sen. Dodd's parents. He might have been thinking about that when decided to oppose the heliport initiative.

Major political donors expect special consideration from their representatives. It’s the American way (unfortunately). But that consideration needs to weigh what donors want against the larger public good.

In the short term, the defeat of Measure D will immediately benefit one very influential family. The appeal to the Supervisors of the Palmaz heliport application is scheduled just after the election. In the longer term it may benefit an increasing number of the uber-rich, some no doubt already Bill Dodd donors, who can afford to heli-commute .

But the impacts will be on us all. In a county that claims to be a bastion against the ills of Bay Area urbanization, an ever increasing din of helicopter traffic diminishes the environmental character for Napa residents and visitors who value the peace and quiet to be found here.

Given his responsibility to represent the entire county, and not just his major contributors, Sen. Dodd’s opposition, and his untruthful opposition ballot arguments, have not been well considered.


Bill Hocker - May 4, 2018 11:09AM

Norm Manzer has submitted a letter to the editor along the same lines:

Why is Measure D on the June ballot? Unless you are new to town, everyone is well aware of the two-year drawn out procedure to process the application by 33 year old Christian Palmaz for a private heliport on his property in Coombsville. Palmaz doesn’t like the 15 minute drive from his home to the Napa County Airport where he parks his personal copter. Regardless of the impact upon his many neighbors; four public hearings listening to his hired guns explain how his personal helicopter won’t bother anyone; and the County Planning Commission’s ultimate denial of his application, Palmaz is appealing that decision to the Board of Supervisors to be heard AFTER the election.

Most commercial use of helicopters has been outlawed for many years now, but the loophole for personal use and abuse has been left wide open. More than 1,000 hours of County staff time have already been spent processing the Palmaz application, and yet no effort has been put forth by our Board of Supervisors to preclude a repeat of such a request by our new billionaire residents. None, NADA.

While Measure D will have no direct impact upon the Palmaz pending appeal, should it by some chance be defeated, it will be the lead argument by Palmaz before the Board of Supervisors that “the citizens of Napa County are in favor of private heliports.”

When you receive your Voter’s Information Booklet in the mail you will be surprised to see that our own Senator Bill Dodd is the lead opponent to Measure D. And why, you might ask? Dodd urges everyone to vote NO on D because it is unnecessary and is only “in search of a non-existent problem”. Personally, I liken it to getting an immunization shot before I get a disease instead of after the disease, provided I survive the disease.

And so it comes to mind, just why would Senator Dodd take such a position that is so contrary to the peace and quiet of our Napa Valley? It is quite obvious that the extremely wealthy carry a great deal of political clout, and once the County approves one such private heliport, our new neighbors in their $15,000,000 homes will not be satisfied driving their cars to reach their new third home in Napa County.

Let’s Follow the Money. Step back almost 10 years when then Supervisor Bill Dodd was leading the private-public partnership for the renovation of the Justin-Sienna athletic stadium. Supervisor Dodd was following in the footsteps of his parents who were ardent supporters of Justin-Sienna, and for whom the new stadium was going to be named Dodd Stadium. While the renovation totaled $2.5 million, the only substantial contribution mentioned in the Napa Register was “The Palmaz family of Napa made a $500,000 donation.”

According to the 4/28/18 Napa Register the NO on D campaign has received $11,000 in donations, $10,000 of which is from Christian Palmaz. I don’t know about you, but somehow the definition of “coincidence” doesn’t fit here. Ten years ago Palmaz donates half a million dollars to a campaign for naming the stadium after the Dodd family, and today we have Senator Dodd carrying the ball for the No on D campaign with possible benefit to Palmaz.

Please join me and everyone else in voting YES on D. Enough is enough. Let’s put a stop to such events as the Dodd/Palmaz “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

Norm Manzer, St Helena

Napa Groundwater Sustainability Alternative on: Watershed Issues

Bill Hocker - May 21,18  expand...  Share

Click image to open Basin widget. Click on Napa basin in widget for basin data
Update 5/21/18:
Chris Malan has passed along the email below from the State Department of Water Resources which indicates that the Napa Subbasin has been reclassified in a draft document from a medium to high priority basin. It is unclear how this change would affect Napa's Groundwater Sustainability Alternative but does indicate that the Napa Subbasin may be of greater concern than the county has suggested. A public comment period on the Draft runs through July 18th, 2018.

Chris writes:
"The Department of Water Resources, DWR, just released the draft prioritization of groundwater basins as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, SGMA. THE NAPA SUB BASIN has been re-prioritized from a MEDIUM basin of concern to a HIGH basin of concern NOW REQUIRING A Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) and a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA).

The North Coast Stream Flow Coalition through the Institute for Conservation Advocacy Research and Education (ICARE) along with our collaborative partners Clean Water Action (Jennifer Clary), Union of Concerned Scientists, and Nature Conservancy have been working diligently on this issue since 2015 by working closely with DWR making comments on the regs and BMPs. ICARE hired Peter Pyle, hydrologist, to make expert comments on the Napa Sub-Basin alternative where the County WAS side stepping the formation of a GSA and GSP. There has been a lack of transparency and factual information about undesirable results, such as land subsidence, surface water depletion, salt water intrusion, decline in water quality, wells going dry etc."

From: Lauren.Bisnett@WATER.CA.GOV
Subject: DWR Releases Draft Prioritization Under SGMA
Date: May 18, 2018 at 1:45:19 PM PDT

DWR Releases Draft Prioritization of Groundwater Basins Under Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

The DWR Sustainable Groundwater Management Program today released a draft prioritization of groundwater basins as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The 2018 SGMA Basin Prioritization is scheduled to be finalized by fall 2018 after a 60 day public comment period that starts today and runs through July 18, 2018.

Basins throughout the state are ranked high-, medium-, low-, or very low-priority. Basins ranking high- or medium-priority are subject to SGMA. Of the 517 groundwater basins statewide, the newly released draft prioritization identifies 109 basins as high- and medium-priority, which includes 14 basins newly ranked as high- or medium-priority. Additionally, 38 basins previously ranked as high or medium-priority are now ranked as low- or very-low priority and are no longer subject to SGMA. Draft prioritization results can be viewed using DWR’s newly developed visual application tool, the 2018 Prioritization Dashboard.

DWR will hold a public webinar May 30 to present the draft results, followed by statewide public meetings at the end of June. DWR will be taking public comments on the draft results, including additional data or information that is consistent with statewide datasets identified in the Basin Prioritization Process and Results Document. For more information, please refer to the 2018 SGMA Basin Prioritization Frequently Asked Questions.

When the 2018 SGMA Basin Prioritization is made final, the basins newly subject to SGMA must form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) within two years and develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) within five years, or submit an Alternative Plan within two years. DWR provides a wide-variety of resources and services to support local agencies and GSAs in implementing SGMA.

Low- or very low-priority basins are not subject to SGMA, but are encouraged to form GSAs and GSPs, update existing groundwater management plans, and coordinate with adjacent basins to develop a new groundwater management plan.

For more information or to submit a comment, please visit:

Dan Mufson of NapaVision2050 has sent a copy of his 2/15/17 letter in response to the County's Sustainable Groundwater Management alternative critical of the alternative's lack of consideration of an increasingly dryer climate future.

Update 4/25/17:
NVR 2/25/17: Napa County says groundwater picture continues to be good

Update 2/15/17:
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:
Donoviel LTE 2/26/17: Concerns over water plan
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

Chris Malan has sent this informative email concerning the WICC workshop that was held on Nov 3rd, with the resulting workshop report to be presented to he BOS on Dec 13th 2016 [now Dec 20th]. [Sorry, but I only received this email after the workshop.]


Public comment is open on the County's recent study of groundwater (gw) in the Napa Valley, in order to comply with the California State Law: Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, SGMA.

A workshop is being held tomorrow, November 3rd, from 3-6 at 2121 Imola, Napa County Office of Education.

Public comment (3 minutes) is allowed after their consultant presents the study.

You can review the Draft Basin analysis (DBA)/Napa Valley Groundwater Sustainability documents here.

There consultant is Luhdorff and Scallimini (LS) who say gw in the Napa Valley aquifer is stable and does not need gw management.

Their document is lacking in these areas (to mention a few):
  • False baseline of gw surface elevation: historically gw was at the surface (0 mean sea level) level in Calistoga-now gw is 10 feet below the surface in Calistoga and there is on-going dewatering of the Napa River from Calistoga to Hardman lane.
  • misleading information about groundwater quality-LS admit that gw quality is poor in many areas of the County due to boron, arsenic, nitrogen and heavy metals but dismisses this by calling it ‘normal’.
  • misleading information about the root zone modeling outcomes-LS discuss root zone modeling on the valley floor but ignore the upper/wild watershed in their water budget-this allows them to not model the impacts of deforestation on gw recharge
  • ignores Public Trust values and resources
  • fails to discuss or define ‘ undesirable results’ required by SGMA such as: declining gw quality, wells going dry, fish kills, dewatering of the Napa River and streams, salt water intrusion, land subsidence; all of which are occurring now, on-going and re-occuring since January 2015. If ‘undesirable results’ are present in the Napa River watershed, the County is required to do a Groundwater Sustainable Plan, GSP, by 2020 and a Groundwater Sustainable Agency, GSA, by June 2017.
  • mischaracterizes the water budget elements-discusses the vines production at 20,000 acres and holding and ignores the recharge area in the hills where deforestation and vines are being planted by thousands of acres each year
  • fails to account for the major use of groundwater at 60% during drought-causing dewatering of streams
Because of this, Napa County shouldn’t have this Alternative monitoring plan but instead get going on a Groundwater Sustainable Plan, GSP.

Background on why Napa County has chosen to do a DBA, (just continued monitoring) instead of Groundwater Sustainable Plan (includes a plan for sustainable extraction of gw): The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), historic legislation enacted by Governor Brown in September 2014, provided a new structure for sustainable management of California’s groundwater basins. On January 1, 2015 the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) began implementing the Act, including the development of new regulations to guide local groundwater sustainability efforts. SGMA established a sustainability goal for groundwater basins throughout the state, prioritized basins, established a timeline for implementation, and provided for new Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA). It also required the development of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs), or Alternatives that are equivalent to them, to ensure that basins are operated within their sustainable yield.

In basins that have ongoing successful groundwater management programs, a local agency may elect to submit a Basin Analysis Report Alternative that demonstrates that the groundwater basin is being sustainably managed. With direction from the Board of Supervisors on March 3, 2015, Napa County began work to implement SGMA through development of a Basin Analysis Report for the Napa Valley Groundwater Subbasin. Napa County was well suited to meet the requirements for this Alternative due to its groundwater sustainability program, which includes: an ongoing and evolving groundwater monitoring network and program, annual groundwater conditions reporting, an Updated Hydrogeologic Conceptualization and Characterization of Conditions Report (2013), development of new groundwater/surface water monitoring facilities along the Napa River, and a long-term public education and outreach program through the Watershed Information & Conservation Council of Napa County.

You should come tomorrow and listen to the presentation and be prepared to say something about the process and lack of correct information being presented to the both the WICC Board tomorrow and subsequently the BOS on Tuesday December 13, 2016 at a Special Meeting.

Keep in mind that if the BOS approve this Alternative to be submitted to the Department of Water Resources by January 1, 2017, and the DWR accepts this bogus Alternative this denies us groundwater management for an undetermined amount of time.

Our aquifers deserve our voice if we want sustainable gw for future generations. The time to act is now.

Chris Malan

The WICC Nov 3rd workshop agenda with supporting documents are here.
The county's page on groundwater sustainability is here

DIssenting voices to the County's proposed alternative to SMGA requirements by Gary Margadant and Gordon Evans among others are summarized in this response to comments, one of the documents in the Nov. 3rd workshop packet.

In an email to WICC Board Member David Graves after the Nov 3rd workshop, Mike Hackett of Angwin writes:

"Good morning David,

I need to fully understand why the County has painted itself into a corner by going "all-in" for the alternate plan. Initially, what individual or group came to that determination? Was it Patrick Lowe's regime, WIIC recommendation, BOS? I would hope it wasn't from the consultant group L&S. Our year long study related to enhanced protections for our watershed [the subverted Oak Woodland Initiative] uncovered strong needs for preservation of our oak woodlands and riparian corridors. This is about the future of not just supply, but equally important the quality of that supply. How can we plan for our children's future without ensuring quantity and quality?

I know you would agree that our water resource is THE most important resource needed to sustain life. Why are we gambling with this absolutely-necessary resource for life itself? What was the reasoning for selecting the alternate plan? It would be heartbreaking to think it was about $$. We need and will continue to demand an ongoing process like a sustainable groundwater plan. I simply am dumbfounded that we're trying to cut corners here! Dumbfounded!

Lastly, L&S appear to have cherry picked data and modeling to support the alternate plan, which is disturbing enough. But more scary is that their future assumptions are based on current conditions: like no increased development. What a "crock." We have the demand for 5,000 more acres of conversion from forest to vineyard in the pipeline right now. Many of those 113 wells are recently on line. We are gambling with our most important resource. This is outrageous and very troubling. I've admired your intellect and participation for several years now. Why do you not see the contradiction here? Those of us who are only in this fight because of the need for truth, justice and the dignity of life will continue to educate our fellow citizens that we are being sold ' a bill of goods" leading to the ultimate destruction of our Valley. We will continue until our last breaths to awaken our residents to these corporate blind ambitions.

Mike Hackett"

Measure D - legislation or initiative? on: The Heliport Initiative 2018

George Caloyannidis - May 21,18  expand...  Share

Though disappointed that the Napa Valley Register Editorial Board fell short of endorsing Measure D, which I sponsored, I couldn't agree more with the rationale that major changes in the code ought to be made through the legislative rather than the initiative process. But there is theory and there is Napa County reality. Sadly, they have been diverging further and further in the past decade.

What are people to do when faced with a looming problem of private heliport proliferation in the most desirable communities in the country when the legislators fails to recognize it and act?

Our supervisors have not only ignored this national trend but have been fully aware of it locally through the three-year-long process at the Planning Commission during the Palmaz family application for a personal use heliport. These hearings consumed just under 20 percent of the commission's hearings in a single year, and over 1,100 hours of staff time. Not the best use of the county's administrative resources.

Even worse, they have ignored the 70 to 90 neighbors of the Hagen Road community repeatedly attending these all-day hearings, anxious that an approval would destroy their quality of life and require them to disclose the presence of a heliport in their neighborhood when selling their homes. It takes an unusually serious concern for so many people to devote so much of their time fighting an issue.

This should have been enough for the county to pick up on public sentiment of private heliports spreading in our neighborhoods. If this was too much to hope for, it was inexcusable for the county not to accommodate a proposed ordinance by the law firm of Farella, Brown & Martell to address this issue through the legislative process, as the Register would have preferred.

The mere preparation of the proposed ordinance was an estimated $10,000 gift to the county. Instead of a 'thank you', it was rebuffed with an estimated 18-month waiting period and a fee of almost $2,000 before it would be considered. Mr. Farella did what any self-respecting person would do.

In stark contrast, the supervisors allocated time to review a disastrous staff recommendation to redefine a "small" winery to be larger than 53 percent of all existing wineries. And more time on how to "streamline" the hearings process by cutting public testimony from 3 to 2 minutes. They made time to approve 892,000 additional gallons of wine production, more and more winery visitors and events at one winery after another, many of them as rewards to egregious violators.

In answer to the Register's recommendation, if the county increasingly shows contempt to citizens' requests, shuts down or merely tolerates public testimony, when it makes every effort to accommodate scofflaws, all to the benefit of a handful while ignoring issues of wide concern, what options do the people have other than initiatives or replacing those occupying the peoples' chairs?

From personal experience, initiatives take an enormous commitment by dozens of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ultimately, they are a gift to the community because they offer it a choice, a choice only because the legislative process was denied them.

Nonetheless, initiatives have legislative benefits as well. They serve as warnings to governments that clouds are gathering in its skies. It is up to the elected officials to take notice to avert the looming storms.

With a state senator as Bill Dodd, who has never once attended a hearing on his major funder Mr. Palmaz' application, obviously uninterested in gauging public sentiment on the wider issue, takes the lead in opposing Measure D, he becomes the poster child of the rapidly evolving crisis in our increasingly incestuous county government.

Protect Napa Valley wines, water and communities on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Geoff Ellsworth - May 21,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geoff Ellsworth
City Council member, St. Helena

Sierra Club is for Measure C on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Diane Shepp - May 21,18  expand...  Share

Sierra Club officially endorses Measure C.

As a body we decry misrepresentations made by its opponents.

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

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

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

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

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

Where is their credibility now?

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

Diane Shepp
Chair of the Napa Group of the Sierra Club

Measure C in The Guardian on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - May 18,18  expand...  Share

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

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

Hotel explosion rocks Napa on: City of Napa

Bill Hocker - May 18,18  expand...  Share

Update: 5/18/18
NVR 5/18/18: Napa planners grapple with housing demands of 250-room Marriott hotel

More about the impact of this project and other projects around bottleneck junction is here.

Update: 5/15/18
Peter Mott LTE 5/15/18: Peter Mott: Time for a hotel moratorium

It is great to see that even some of those members of our county governments that have been supporters of tourism development have begun to believe that continued expansion of the tourism industry is unsustainable if the goal is to retain the rural small-town character that draws tourists here and makes this a desirable place to live. There needs to be a limit of tourism activity in relation to real life or real life ceases to exist. Many already feel that line has already been crossed, and the vast increase in hotel rooms in the municipalities and wineries in the county already in the pipeline means that the tourism impacts we already feel will only get worse. But If more of our officials, like Mr. Mott, are willing to begin opposing tourism urbanization now, and begin thinking in terms of a sustainable stable economy rather than a unsustainable growth economy, there may still be some hope for the survival of a quality of life treasured by both visitors and residents in the future.

Update: 3/2/18
NVR 3/2/18: Napa planners ask is Foxbow too much hotel for the neighborhood

NVR 2/28/18: Napa city planners to take up Foxbow hotel plan in Oxbow District

Oh No! Another over-scaled, over-wrought hotel crammed onto First Street.
This one is more apartment-looking than the previous version, an advantage if the tourism market crashes at the end of this hotel bubble.

Preliminary review at the Napa City Planning Commission Thursday, Mar 1st, 2018 at 5:30pm. Staff report is here.

Update: 1/6/18
NVR 1/6/18: Napa planners comment on Wine Train’s future hotel, rail depot on McKinstry Street
The Staff report on the project is here. (large file)

NVR 12/23/17: Top 10 of 2017, No. 7: Hotels, tourism continue Napa boom

Update: 12/04/17
Dan Mufson sends this article from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat regarding hotel development in Healdsburg:

SR Press Democrat 12/2/17: Healdsburg City Council to discuss limits on future downtown hotels

While it's hard to compare the nebulous disorganization of Napa's downtown with the iconic organization of Healdsburg's town plaza, the impacts here of rampant tourism development will likewise wipe out any sense of "small town" character that Napa does possess as 5 and 6 story hotels, and the throngs of their patrons, begin to dominate the Napa streetscape.

Update: 11/31/17
NVR 11/28/17: Downtown Napa's newest luxury hotel opens its doors

Kudos to Mr. Johnstone for telling it like it is: "You walk in and you think you're in New York." and "How many hotels does downtown need? I hope we're not overdoing it."

Update: 9/29/17
NVR 9/29/17: Meritage Resort's massive expansion takes shape in south Napa
NVR 9/06/17: Napa, developer start talks on new City Hall, housing and hotel
NVR 8/18/17: Napa planners approve 5-story Black Elk hotel in Oxbow district

Update: 8/14/17
City report on the hotel explosion this Tuesday

Napa Vision 2050 has just sent out this notice about a staff report to be presented to the Napa City Council on Aug 15th, 3:00pm about the various hotel projects going on in the city. You are encouraged to attend.

AND Black Elk Hotel is up for its use permit on Thursday

On Thursday, Aug 17th at 5:30, the City Planning Commission will take up the Black Elk Hotel Use Permit. The project, a 4 story barnish block of a building cutting off the Oxbow district from the rest of the city, is shown in the rendering below. The staff report and documents are here.
[approved, alas, 4-1 by the Planning Commission 8/17/17]

Update 7/14/17
NVR 7/4/17: Proposed four-story Oxbow hotel to receive Napa planners’ scrutiny

The Black Elk Hotel had a preliminary review by the Napa City Planning Commission on July 6th 2017. The Staff Report and Documents are here. It is a very innappropriate building for the location, out of scale, a visual barrier to the Oxbow district, of "barnish" shape and materials out of place in its urban setting, a box of a building trying to squeeze as many hotel rooms as possible on the small site, which brought to mind a 19th century tenement house.

What became very apparent here, and in all of the hotel projects in the news recently, is that the city has no master plan for the development of the city, no commitment to integrate housing and real people and businesses into the tourism economy, and no design guidelines to regulate what the character of the place will become. As with the rural areas of the county, the future of Napa City is being irrevocably altered in this developer boom period, and the Planning Commission decisions about Napa's future are being made on an ad hoc basis, one isolated project at a time, without looking at the long term result. Which, of course, will be a hodgepodge of developers' schemes, some with good taste and some without, trying to maximize the money to be made from the tourist trade on every square inch of the city, while the residents are forced out.

Update: 7/2/17
NVR 7/2/217: As hotels increase, do Napa residents benefit? Readers, officials weigh in

Howard Yune, Napa city reporter for the Register, had to previously ask readers what they thought about Napa's hotel explosion, and he gives some of the responses in the above article. He had to ask because the Register, in a blow to the free exchange of ideas in a democracy, decided to discontinue the ability to comment online to news articles last year. There were, no doubt, legitimate concerns leading to the discontinuance. But for those seriously interested in issues in Napa county, like the explosion of hotel development, citizen reaction to the news is an important part of the story. The problems that the paper experienced with responses, I think, had much to do with the anonymity of the posts and the freedom that gives to be irresponsible in posting. Require real names and let the comments continue.

Update: 6/20/17
It's hard to keep up with this issue:
NVR 6/25/17: Downtown Napa hotel plan calls for merging Zeller's and former post office sites
NVR 6/22/17: Surging hotel taxes become a larger part of the new Napa city budget
NVR 6/20/17: How many hotels are enough -- or too much? Contact the Register

The hotel explosion raises several issues.

First, the loss of a community. Hotels not only bring in more tourists, but they increase the 24-hour tourist population. At some point, as the ratio of tourists to residents increases, and as jobs, commercial activity and housing continue to shift from resident-serving to tourist-serving, the sense of normal, small-town community life will be lost to the collective endevour of catering to, and being the local color for, the tourism experience. And the real town and its community will disappear. (St. Helena is at the forefront of this phenomenon.)

Second, a financing dependency. TOT revenue and other in-lieu fees are welcomed as a quick fix for the deferred infrastructure and service costs needed to mitigate the impacts of previous urban development. But low wage jobs are created by the hundreds and the money isn't there for affordable housing. Traffic and parking problems explode. The increased tourism and employee population require additional infrastructure and services which then encourage more new project approvals and so on. Ultimately the place becomes a dense tourist trap, devoid of residents, and, much like Oxbow is now, packed with people wondering what's so special about Napa.

Third, the loss of Napa's rural soul. The number of hotel projects, like the amount of traffic, is a symptom of a community losing it's resitance to development pressure. That pressure was was contained in Napa for the last 40 years by a combination of politicians and citizenry with a clear vision of an un-urbanized future, and an industry dependent on an agricultural product. But as the landscape and vineyards are slowly filled with buildings to exploit the expanding tourist population, the vision of a rural enclave in the urban Bay Area is harder for politicians and their citizens to imagine, and the industry is finding that more money is to be made by providing wine-related experiences than from making wine. The importance of agriculture fades beyond its use as a stageset for TOT-paying visitors.

Update: 6/17/17
A neighbor just sent over a link to the latest Napa Life, Paul Fransons's weekly "insiders guide to the Napa Valley." The June 19th, 2017 issue is here. Scroll down to the section on "Lodging News". Below the summaries of the latest hotel projects in the Register he has a list of the projects currently in the approval and proposal pipelines. While I struggle to keep up on this site, as an insider he has a much better handle on these things. And it is a bit freightening.

Most freightening of all is the mention of a Ted Hall 80 room hotel in South St Helena (described in this 2015 NVR article). Ted Hall (recent profile here) is perhaps the most revered grower-vintner in the county, one of the few statesman in an industry filled with entrepreneurs. Each trip to the planning commission to present his winery projects turns into a lovefest (just as the hotel project did). He will probabaly make the most sensitive, ecological integration of agriculture and overnight accommodation it is possible to make. And he will set the precident for lesser lights to follow for the next phase of the "wine" industry in its transition to an entertainment industry. Now that the winery restaurant is firmly established as an acceptable "incidental and subordinate" use allowed at wineries, it is only a matter of time before the winery b&b begins to make its way into the definition of "agriculture" as well. A euphanism will have to be invented - "immersive agricultural experience" perhaps - to make sure no one would mistake a winery for a hotel. But with the precedent set by this most solid citizen of the County, every good-life entrepreneur will now want a hotel-of-their-own to go along with their winery.

Update: 6/8/17
Cohn LTE 6/8/17: Slow the stampede of development and his petition
And the concurrences:
Don and Arlene Townsend LTE 6/16/17: When is enough enough?
Lynn Korn LTE 6/12/17: Enough already
Barbara Cioppone LTE 6/8/17: All for the rich people

A lot of proposed Napa hotel projects in the news:
NVR 6/8/17: Cambria Hotel coming to Napa's Soscol Avenue (And subsequent sale)
NVR 6/5/17: Napa Valley Wine Train owners plan $100 million resort development
NVR 6/2/17: Design of south Napa Marriott hotel leaves city planners cold
NVR 5/17/17: Altamira family reviving plans for a winery/hotel project on Silverado Trail
And other projects:
NVR 6/14/17: Napa approves 4-story building for Bounty Hunter wine bar, restaurant

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


Harris Nussbaum - Jul 10, 2017 7:27PM

[Statement to Napa City Planning Commission 7-6-17 Black Elk Hotel ]

Thank you for listening. I have a few questions.
1) How will you know when there are to many hotels downtown and what will be the impact when all the commercial development in progress is completed?
2) What will be the impact as more and more tall buildings are built?
3) When do you think we will have to many cars in, out, and around Napa? (pause)

Almost everyone I talk with who lives here feels we have reached that point and worry about the future of Napa and their quality of life.
We often don’t think about the impact on our schools. Enrollment is declining because many people with children can’t afford to live here. Staff is being significantly reduced, schools are closing, and over 100 teachers are being laid off this year alone and it will continue. How will this affect your children or grand children?

I’m sure it looks good if you can get more occupancy taxes, but it cost more than you are getting. If you haven’t read James Conway’s article in which he says Napa’s current level of development is not economically supportable due to the requirements of infrastructure and on going maintenance, please read it.
You talk about the need for housing, but keep building hotels and other businesses that employ people who can’t afford to live here. Local businesses are closing because they can’t afford the rent.

There is so much to say about the problems being created by traffic, parking, police, fire, and all the other services needed to run a city. Here is a copy of the letter to the editor I recently wrote. Please read it.

I’m not anti business, but I know to much of anything is a problem and will destroy this jewel called Napa. You are our friends. Please do what you are meant to do and protect us. Take a step back and see where we are. Consider the cumulative impact and what infrastructure is needed before any more hotels or large businesses are approved. Work with the County to solve these problems, because what each of you do affects the other.

And finally, create venues where the people feel they are really heard and have equal opportunities to speak.

Thank you!

Glenn J. Schreuder - Feb 2, 2017 9:07AM

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

Carl Bunch - Feb 1, 2017 5:37PM

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.

Shelle Wolfe - Feb 1, 2017 5:36PM

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.”

Daniel Mufson - Feb 1, 2017 4:04PM

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!!

Rally for Measure C on: Watershed Initiative 2018

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

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

Measure C Rally

Jim Wilson
Randy Dunn

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

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

The Measure C Rally

Cindy Grupp and Patricia Damery
Mike Hackett's granddaughter Morgann

Kellie Anderson
Jay Golic and Jim Wilson
Measure C crowd

Supervisors' Unfair Political Practice against C? on: Watershed Initiative 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Fact-based reporting on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - May 16,18  expand...  Share

Register photo of the rally
The real rally

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

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

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

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

Bill Hocker responds:

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

Sean Scully responds:
Thanks, Bill.

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

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

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

Bill Hocker responds:

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

Wine industry decries winery proliferation on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - May 14,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote Yes on C.

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

Enough is enough on helicopters - vote for Measure D on: The Heliport Initiative 2018

Norm Manzer - May 14,18  expand...  Share

Why is Measure D on the June ballot? Unless you are new to town, everyone is well aware of the two-year drawn out procedure to process the application by 33-year-old Christian Palmaz for a private heliport on his property in Coombsville.

Palmaz doesn’t like the 15 minute drive from his home to the Napa County Airport where he parks his personal copter. Regardless of the impact upon his many neighbors; four public hearings listening to his hired guns explain how his personal helicopter won’t bother anyone; and the county Planning Commission’s ultimate denial of his application, Palmaz is appealing that decision to the Board of Supervisors to be heard after the election.

Most commercial use of helicopters has been outlawed for many years now, but the loophole for personal use and abuse has been left wide open. More than 1,000 hours of county staff time have already been spent processing the Palmaz application, and yet no effort has been put forth by our Board of Supervisors to preclude a repeat of such a request by our new billionaire residents. None, nada.

Should Measure D by some chance be defeated, it will be the lead argument by Palmaz before the Board of Supervisors that “the citizens of Napa County are in favor of private heliports.”

When you receive your voter information booklet in the mail you will be surprised to see that our own Sen. Bill Dodd is the lead opponent to Measure D. And why, you might ask? Dodd urges everyone to vote no on D because it is unnecessary and is only “in search of a non-existent problem.”

Personally, I liken it to getting an immunization shot before I get a disease instead of after the disease, provided I survive the disease.

And so it comes to mind, just why would Sen. Dodd take such a position that is so contrary to the peace and quiet of our Napa Valley? It is quite obvious that the extremely wealthy carry a great deal of political clout, and once the county approves one such private heliport, our new neighbors in their $15 million homes will not be satisfied driving their cars to reach their new third home in Napa County.

Let’s follow the money. Step back almost 10 years when then Supervisor Bill Dodd was leading the private-public partnership for the renovation of the Justin-Sienna athletic stadium. Supervisor Dodd was following in the footsteps of his parents who were ardent supporters of Justin-Sienna, and for whom the new stadium was going to be named Dodd Stadium. While the renovation totaled $2.5 million, the only substantial contribution mentioned in the Napa Valley Register was “The Palmaz family of Napa made a $500,000 donation.”

According to the April 28 Napa Valley Register, the No on D campaign has received $11,000 in donations, $10,000 of which is from Christian Palmaz. I don’t know about you, but somehow the definition of “coincidence” doesn’t fit here.

Ten years ago Palmaz donates half a million dollars to a campaign for naming the stadium after the Dodd family, and today we have Sen. Dodd carrying the ball for the No on D campaign with possible benefit to Palmaz.

Please join me and everyone else in voting Yes on D. Enough is enough.

NVR version with editors note 5/14/18: Enough is enough on helicopters - vote for Measure D

My name was misused on advertisement on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Harris Nussbaum - May 10,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time’s Up: To protect local water supplies, Napa County voters must approve Measure C on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Mike Hackett - May 10,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Hackett and Jim Wilson

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

Traffic Jam Sessions on: Traffic Issues

Bill Hocker - May 9,18  expand...  Share

NVR 5/9/18: Imagining a Napa County future of uncluttered roadways? Think again.

The County Planning Commission was given an introduction to the first draft of the new Circulation Element that will eventually replace the current one in the General Plan. Public comments may be submitted to the county staff through June 1st after which the staff will address the comments and produce another draft of the element by this summer. And then there will be planning commission hearings on that draft.

Video and docs of 5/2/18 PC meeting
Existing Circulation Element (2008)
The new Draft Circulation Element
NCTPA Vision2040 Report (2015) with Fehr & Peers study

From the staff presentation it seems that the new circulation element will emphasize policy aimed at reducing Greenhouse gas emissions, and as such will work in tandem with the county's stalled Climate Action Plan which may be taken up by the commission in June.

Commission discussion ranged from more electric charging stations to public transport to more affordable housing and the need for regional solutions. The discussion seemed focused at mitigations for problems we already experience or that can be expected in the future. No one talked about reducing the root cause of traffic increases, i.e. the amount and type of tourism and industrial development occurring in the county that generates more traffic and encourages visitor and employee travel. No one ever discusses the possibility of moving from a growth mentality that assumes an ever larger economy with ever more development to the consideration of policies for a stable economy with a finite limit on growth that gives the opportunity to stabilize emissions and then perhaps find ways to reduce them. Reductions in existing GHGs are hard, production of new GHGs from more development and population importation are way too easy, and a net reduction in GHG production will never be achieved as long as "growth" rather than stability is the goal.

In public comments after the discussion Dave Whitmir, who will shortly be replacing Comm. Basayne on the planning commission, spoke about some initial suggestions in looking at the new policies. Despite a concern over his opposition to measure C, one issue he brought up made my day:
"Regarding Circulation policy CIR 36 (pg 20): Should there be an action item for this policy to review the new development approvals and insure that roads are adequate for the demands placed upon them? And I would specifically call out some recent approvals on Soda Canyon and Atlas Peak and the concerns of resident in those areas about whether or not those roads are safe to handle that kind of traffic."

He is off to a good start in my book.

St. Helena Endorses Measures C and D on: Campaign 2018

Bill Hocker - May 9,18  expand...  Share

SH Star 5/9/18: St. Helena City Council endorses Measure C

George Caloyannidis sends word that the City Council of the City of St. Helena, with Vice-mayor White absent, voted unanimously to endorse Yes on Measure C, and with Mayor Galbraith recusing himself due to his home's proximity to the Palmaz estate, voted to endorse Yes on Measure D.

Yes on D! on: The Heliport Initiative 2018

NV2050 Admin - May 8,18  expand...  Share

If you do care about keeping Napa a quiet, rural valley... PLEASE VOTE YES on D!

Have you ever lived under a helicopter path? Maybe you should ask someone who has! We’ve heard also that several owners are supposedly in the wings waiting to apply for backyard helipads upon the outcome of this election. Keep our skies and neighborhoods safe, clean and quiet.

HOW can YOU help?
  • PLEASE Forward this email message to ALL your Napa County friends! (put friends’ names in the BCC field to insure privacy and prevent 'reply to all’ messaging)
  • Post 'VOTE YES ON D’ on your social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, NextDoor..)
  • Place Postcard (sent in mail) in your car window or house window….
  • Put up a Yard Sign: VOTE YES ON D/NO PERSONAL HELIPADS (signs currently on order with NapaVision2050, but make your own for now)
  • Volunteer for tabling at Farmers’ Markets or canvassing neighborhoods
  • Write a Letter to Editor of Napa Register, Weekly Calistoga, St. Helena Star, American Canyon Eagle
  • Donate campaign $ — Mail check or click DONATE button here (Write in “notes” for Measure D)
  • Don’t forget to VOTE!!! Yes on D — Watch your mail for the ballot

Don't let the opposition's arguments fool you. READ the existing statute and the proposed measure word for word. In essence, Measure D simply controls "PERSONAL HELICOPTER USE" to ensure Napa neighbors...its primary citizens, enjoy the life we pay for (through taxes) without threat to property values or quality of life. Helicopters by PG&E, Cal Fire, Police, Emergency Medical services are all operating right now and land wherever they need to. Measure D precludes future personal use heliports AND specifies under what conditions helicopters performing aerial agricultural operations may land at vineyards. It does nothing else. Measure D does NOT change existing laws relative to allowing PG&E and emergency services to serve and protect you and me. That would be ridiculous.

TAKE A LISTEN (turn up your volume) to what it sounds like when a heliport is in YOUR neighborhood!

YES on D ensures that rural Napa remains pristine...sight and SOUND! YES on D...because it IS personal!


Thank you!


George Caloyannidis - May 8, 2018 4:09PM

Tuesday, May 08, 2018 2:18 PM Tittel/Caloyannidis wrote:

Sorry we will miss you again Bill.

You state that "those organizing the NO campaign listed me first on the ballot arguments".

The ballot arguments are signed by yourself and cosigned by Peter White, Brian Bottari and Matthew Higginbotham. I have a hard time understanding who is the one who "listed" you without them signing the arguments.

If you can clarify this, I will add it in reading your statement at tomorrow's forum as to why you are unable to attend.


On 5/3/18 10:44 AM (GMT-08:00) Bill Dodd wrote:


I regret that the event conflicts with my legislative schedule in Sacramento.

While I don’t apologize for my opposition of Measure D, I regret that those organizing the NO campaign listed me first on the ballot arguments and somehow thrusting me as a de facto leader of the opposition, which I am not.

I bear no ill will towards you or the Yes on D supporters. I believe you are doing this with goodwill and good intention. I simply have a different viewpoint on the initiative process and their negative consequences to our County and it’s processes.

Best wishes,


On May 2, 2018, at 8:30 AM, Tittel/Caloyannidis wrote:

Dear Senator Dodd and Vice Mayor White,

Napa Vision 2050 has organized a forum to discuss Measure D.
Following a brief presentation by me, you may make your own presentation and we will both be given equal opportunity to answer questions by the public.
The forum will be held at the Native Sons hall from 6:30 to 7:30 pm on Wednesday, May 9, 2018.
We would be honored if you would attend.

Wine Spectator seems to see the light on: Tourism Issues

George Caloyannidis - May 8,18  expand...  Share

click image to enlarge
Finally the Spectator has for the first time acknowledged that there are problems in the Napa valley. This is infinitely more important than Conaway's book itself.

Paid subscribers 400,000
International readership estimated at 3.5 million. (The article on Wine Spectator - subscription only.)

Initiative process is healthy for democracy on: Campaign 2018

Kathy Felch - May 7,18  expand...  Share

Article II, section 1 of our California Constitution provides “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their protection, security, and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform it when the public good may require.”

Section II goes on to describe the initiative process as one of the principle methods of alteration or reform at the county level when our government refuses, fails or neglects to provide for the public good. Less than half of the states in our union recognize the right of its citizens to use the initiative process.

We have two county-wide initiatives on our June ballot. Getting on the ballot is a rigorous process requiring the signatures of thousands of Napa County’s citizens so all may vote on the citizen-proposed laws.

Recently, numerous elected and appointed officials, as well as those aspiring to public office, denigrate this precious constitutional right we enjoy here in California -- Belia Ramos (an attorney, no less), Alfredo Pedroza, Mary Luros (also an attorney) and Dave Whitmer.

Now the Napa Valley Register editorializes on Measures C (“right idea in the wrong vehicle”) and D (“the initiative process will lock in whatever unintended consequences there may be . . .”) parroting the same, public relations party line that law is better made by our elected officials with input from stakeholders, that we cannot control the unintended consequences of an initiative without another expensive election, and that these initiatives are just too complicated to have the voters make law.

The initiative process is a healthy one and must be used when our government does not provide for the public good. Our local government’s lack of respect for welfare of the citizens of this county has led in large part to the emergence of these two initiatives.

Lack of respect for citizens is one thing. However, lack of respect for our constitution is a quality unworthy of any government official here in Napa County.

NVR version 5/6/18: Initiative process is healthy for democracy

Don't be mislead by mailers on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Yeoryios Apallas - May 7,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what are we to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

County removes false 'No on C' ballot arguments on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - May 6,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

Yes on C press release on changes

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

Yes-On-C Announcement: Voters Deserve the Truth

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

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

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

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

The press release on the lawsuit is here

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


Bill Hocker - Mar 30, 2018 10:48PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How far do we go to save humanity? on: Growth Issues

Bill Hocker - May 6,18  expand...  Share

GHG generation: agriculture vs tourism
Update 5/6/18
Space Daily: Tourism nearly a tenth of global CO2 emissions

Space Daily, a science blog, has reported on an Australian Research finding on the CO2 cost of tourism dependent economies. (research abstract here.)

The county will soon be taking up the stalled County Climate Action Plan, which will presumably look at the CO2 costs of our increase in visitation and expansion of our vineyards at the local level. But the costs of a mass tourism economy go beyond that. "The multi-trillion dollar industry's carbon footprint is expanding rapidly, driven in large part by demand for energy-intensive air travel". ... to places like Napa.

Wine and Water Watch 7/28/17: Judge Rules Climate Action 2020 Plan Violates CEQA

The Judge's decision in California Riverwatch vs. Sonoma County, et al. , if it withstands appeal, could become a landmark decision. The essence, as I try to interpret the decision's legalese and the supporting plain text newspaper articles and the statement of attorney Jerry Bernhaut who brought the case, is that:

1. The county failed to consider all of the greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts that the county's economic activity generates. For example, how much greenhouse gas is generated bringing a tourist to a winery experience from their point of origin. How much is generated getting a bottle of wine into the hands of a consumer.

2. The county failed to consider a wide enough range of alternative solutions to reduce GHG's in their plan. One alternative not considered, for example, might be a moratorium on the "growth" of new tourism facilities to be able to meet ambitious GHG reduction goals.

The questions being raised get at the fundamental issue of what it will take to reduce global warming. Is it enough to make buildings or vehicles more efficient at burning fuel and still continue to generate ever more urban development inherent in "growth" economies. Can we stop sea level rise, desertification, extreme weather events, or the mass migrations, famine and war caused by a warming climate simply by using solar collectors, bike lanes, vanpool parking spaces, electric powered tractors, or the other tweaks proposed by the Napa County Climate Action Plan? Or does an honest evaluation of the significance of climate change require a look at the impacts of "growth" economies in their entirety, and that slowing or stopping economic "growth", or comparing the GHG impacts of different economic "growth" models, (the conversion of a wine industry to a tourism industry, for example), should be among the alternatives considered given the magnitude of the problem confronting mankind's very existence? In the words of Jerry Bernhaut, “it’s time to admit that perpetual growth on a planet with limited resources and carrying capacity is not sustainable.”

These county Climate Action Plans are, at this point, voluntary efforts to reduce GHG's. It is possible to see that a county may just forgo making a plan rather than confront the development interests which governments usually serve to promote and protect. And even when such plans become mandatory, as the severity of the problem is realized, given that all governments are controlled by prevailing economic interests loathe to change, and indeed that wealth creation by GHG-producing urban development is baked into the DNA of human society, even in hyper-environmentally-conscious California, the chances of addressing the real problem of global warming look slim indeed.

In 2015, George Caloyannidis penned an editorial, "Hodja's Donkey in Napa traffic", about Napa County's lack of consideration of the complete traffic impacts of individual projects under CEQA.

The environmental costs of tourism on: Tourism Issues

Bill Hocker - May 6,18  expand...  Share

A flier arrived in the mail from Visit Napa Valley, the publicity arm of the Napa tourism industry. "Tourism isn't just for tourists" was the message, touting the jobs created and the TOT received. I assume it was sent to every address in the county.

I can also only assume that it was sent to counter the negative impacts that the residents of the county have begun to see and feel as the economy morphs from one based on agriculture to one based on tourism. Costs like traffic, unaffordable housing, loss of local serving businesses, the loss of a sense of community among municipal residents, the loss of rural character as agricultural neighborhoods become tourism venues, and the threat to limited water resources to serve ever-expanding tourism uses in an age of global warming (as in Bali).

Visit Napa Valley has been quite successful in increasing the visibility of Napa as a mass market destination. President Clay Gregory touts the increases each year - although he does downplay the increase in quantity of visitors in favor of the increase in money spent. Still, the TOT take is one of his (and the government’s) principal metrics of success and I'm sure he is intent on increasing it as much as possible. The many hotels currently in the pipeline and coming online in the next few years should add mightily.

This flier comes on the same day as two other pieces of tourist news. The first is the major modification of the Beaulieu Vineyards use permit due to come up before the planning commission on June 6th. The request in the modification is for an increase in the visitation from 167,000 visitors/yr to 213,000 visitors/yr. and another 49 parking spaces to accommodate the increase. No increase in production capacity is requested.

As with many requests coming before the planning commission, it represents the shift of the wine industry into an entertainment industry, and the further conversion of an agricultural-based economy to a tourism-based one.

Beaulieu is, of course, one the handful of "original" wineries at the base of the wine industry in Napa, and I for one, would like to see all winery tourism activity concentrated at the major marquee wineries on that strip of Hwy 29, with a rural-urban line to separate wine tourism from wine production in the rest of the county.

Unfortunately such a tourism zone is not likely to happen. Every plutocrat now buying property in the remote corners of the county has dreams to build their brand into a Beaulieu Vineyards, in terms of visitation if not production. If BV can get 49,000 more vis/yr why not us?

And finally, a news article from Space Daily, a science blog reporting on an Australian Research finding on the CO2 cost of tourism dependent economies. (research abstract here.)

Tourism nearly a tenth of global CO2 emissions

The county will soon be taking up the stalled County Climate Action Plan, which will presumably look at the CO2 costs of our increase in visitation and expansion of our vineyards at the local level. But the costs of a mass tourism economy go beyond that. "The multi-trillion dollar industry's carbon footprint is expanding rapidly, driven in large part by demand for energy-intensive air travel". ... to places like Napa.

This issue has already surfaced in a decision in a Sonoma court case. The cost to the planet of travel to get to a destination is now becoming as important as the cost to the planet once here. If this reality is not reflected in the County's Climate Action Plan it will be a dereliction of the county's responsibility to its residents - and to the world.

NVR Eds: the time has come - just not now on: Campaign 2018

Bill Hocker - May 4,18  expand...  Share

Update 5/4/18
The Yes-on-C campaign has labeled the Editorial Board's "the-time-has-come-just-not-now" approach as absurd, which it is. It is the same approach Sup. Ramos, one of the opponents of Measure C, used on the Raymond decision concerning use permit violations. It is obvious that the time will never come for reform in Napa county if left up to the establishment.

NVR Editorial Board 4/28/18: Our view: The measures on the June Ballot

The Register's Editorial Board opinion on Measures C, D and 3 is a bit disappointing. It seemed that in all three cases they voted, reluctantly, against the ideas that they lavished their praise on. What kind of decision making is that.

On Measure C
"We agree with almost all of what the backers of Measure C say....Where we do disagree with the backers of Measure C is in the notion that we have exhausted all possible avenues to protect the watersheds before reaching for the dangerously blunt and inflexible weapon of a ballot measure."

Actually the Walt Ranch hearings and appeals and court case over a four-year period were a thoroughly exhaustive attempt to protect the watersheds through normal political avenues. Yet it was not enough to save them from substantial deforestation for the development of 35 new vineyard estate sites.

As Nancy Tamarisk of the Sierra Club has recently written: "Initiatives are filed as a last resort when people have lost faith that their government bodies represent them, often when people believe that officials are captive to special interests."

As Tony McClimans has written in a recent editorial about previous efforts to pass more comprehensive watershed protections: "Confronted by staunch industry opposition, decades of board majorities declined to take action."

And Katy Felch writes: "Our local government’s lack of respect for welfare of the citizens of this county has led in large part to the emergence of these two initiatives."

After Barry Eberlings's excellent reporting over the last 4 years, the Editors know that the Supervisors have had numerous opportunities to address "the legitimate cry of frustration" by county residents. The Supes have sided with the moneyed interests every time - just as the Editors have.

Given the effort and the money that it takes to get an initiative on the ballot, by residents that will see no financial benefit from its enactment, it only happens after first exhausting public forum solutions.

If C wins, there will be complicated issues to be worked out. And the courts, the county and the authors will eventually craft a solution. But the incentive will be there to find a solution because the voters have spoken. If measure C fails, the Supes will have no incentive whatsoever to support further protection the watersheds. The voters have spoken. Elections have consequences. The watersheds will be open for development.

On Measure D

"We are not adverse to the change proposed in Measure D, but aviation is a complicated legal area, and this would be, as far as we know, the first such ban in the state, possibly in the whole country...We believe the idea of banning heliports, as simple and appealing as it is, deserves deeper scrutiny through the regular legislative process."

Frankly, there will be no issues if Measure D is passed. It will add a few words to existing code bringing private heliports under the same prohibition that now applies to commercial heliports. Where does the Editors' concern for "deeper scrutiny" come from? "Personal use" is pretty easy to define compared to "commercial use", yet the prohibition of "commercial use" heliports has held up without issue. And not supporting it because it will be the first heliport ban? Was the Register also so weak-kneed when the first Ag Preserve in the nation was proposed?

The Editor's stance again seems like a complete cave to the county's monied interests.

On Diane Dillon

It's entirely appropriate that the Editorial Board's support-but-can't-support opinion is paired with the Image of Diane Dillon and the headline "Experience Counts". The Register has taken Diane Dillon's governance style to heart. Sympathy for the preservationists' viewpoint, a few acknowledgements of the grand success that is the Ag Preserve and then approval of the latest development project or industry-crafted legislation.

She has unfortunately voted wth the "growth" majority in most of the damaging development issues in the county during her tenure: 2008 revisions to the general plan to equate tourism with agriculture, revisions to the WDO in 2010 to allow more tourism at wineries, Napa Pipe to allow the largest single urban expansion in Napa history, the Syar Expansion to increase construction materials needed for development, Walt Ranch to allow vineyard estate development on 2300 acres of undeveloped woodland, the denial of the APAC recommendations that sought to curtail winery-event center proliferation, the addition of winery tourism to the County's definition of agriculture, as well as numerous contested winery projects like Woolls Ranch, Girard, Bell and Caymus, being proposed to increase tourism development. All of these projects were opposed by concerned citizens on the basis of the damage they, and the urbanization they will induce, will do to rural character, resources and environment of the county.

APAC, Walt Ranch, Syar and Palmaz in particular, with intense community participation in each and no tangible accommodation of community concerns beyond modest technical "mitigations", set the stage for the Initiatives. The Editorial Board calls the initiative a blunt instrument to create policy, and wants a more inclusive process. For the residents who have spent four years and tens of thousands of dollars in the traditional development process with nothing to show for it, the initiative is the only instrument still available.

To repeat Nancy Tamarisk:
"Initiatives are filed as a last resort when people have lost faith that their government bodies represent them." Such is the case in Napa County, and it will probably continue to be so as long as corporate and plutocratic developers have more say over the future of the county than the preservation-minded citizens who live here and are driven by the desire to retain something special rather than mine it for profit.

And On Measure 3

"We urge a yes vote on RM 3, though we don’t feel good about it."

Such decisiveness!

Roundup Red: Alert! on: Watershed Issues

Bill Hocker - May 4,18  expand...  Share

It's in there. Will it kill you?

Update 5/6/18
Charlotte Williams forwards this effort by Living Rivers Council (Chris Malan) to present the community impacts of Glyphosate use in Napa to the EPA.
LRC cover letter
Patrick Higgins report: Comments on the Human and Ecological Risk of Glyphosate and Other Chemicals

Update 7/12/17
Nvr 7/12/17: Napa County offers information on glyphosate (Roundup)

Update 6/27/17

Reuters 6/26/17: California to list glyphosate as cancer-causing; Monsanto vows fight

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

Dillon vs. Perez on: Campaign 2018

Bill Hocker - May 2,18  expand...  Share

Update 5/2/18
NVR 5/2/18: In sit-down interviews, Napa supervisor candidates Dillon and Perez make their case to voters

NVR 3/9/18: Dillon and Perez to face off for Napa County supervisor seat

As the makeup of the current Napa County Board of Supervisors goes, Supervisors Dillon and Wagenknecht, both up for re-election this year, might be seen as the conservationist or preservationist wing, as opposed to the majority devoted to development or "growth" interests. As the most senior supervisors, with long service to the Napa community before that, both have have a connection to and a first-hand appreciation of the battles waged to protect the county from urbanization, in the WDO, measures J and P and the 2007 drafting of the current General Plan. As such, over these last 4 years, as changes to the other 3 seats have pushed the board in an even more development-oriented direction, community groups opposed to that development trajectory have looked to them to be allies and defenders of Napa's rural heritage. Unfortunately, in an age of corporate and plutocratic takeover of the wine industry and the push for tourism development to increase profits, they have not been as supportive as needed for the growing efforts to slow the profit- and wealth-fueled degradation of Napa's rural environment and way of life.

Supervisor Dillon is being challenged by former Farm Bureau Board Member Cio Perez for her seat on the board. In 2016, Sup. Mark Luce was successfully challenged from the right by development interests over his flirtation with the idea of banning further wineries in the AP. Now Sup. Dillon is being challenged from the left for not making an effort to deal with the urbanizing forces that Sup. Luce had recognized. Both Sups. Dillon and Luce, each nitty-gritty policy wonks, have honestly sought compromises with a nod to both conservationists and developers. Unfortunately, in this age of developer supremacy (from the President on down!) which pushes for ever more profitable uses of our natural resources and rural heritage, communities throughout the county have been forced to rise in grass-roots efforts to counter the threat. And they need an advocate on the board for their interests.

Sup. Dillon, often a defender of Napa's rural heritage in comments, has unfortunately voted wth the "growth" majority in most of the damaging development issues in the county in recent years: 2008 revisions to the general plan to equate tourism with agriculture, revisions to the WDO in 2010 to allow more tourism at wineries, Napa Pipe to allow the largest single urban expansion in Napa history, the Syar Expansion to increase construction materials needed for development, Walt Ranch to allow vineyard estate development on 2300 acres of undeveloped woodland, the denial of the APAC recommendations that sought to curtail winery-event center proliferation, the addition of winery tourism to the County's definition of agriculture and numerous contested winery projects like Woolls Ranch, Girard, Bell, Caymus, being proposed to increase tourism development. All of these projects were opposed by concerned citizens on the basis of the damage they, and the urbanization they will induce, will do to rural character, resources and environment of the county. The decision to support these projects represent a repudiation of the commitment to maintaining a rural, agricultural-based rather than urban, entertainment-based economy. Sup. Dillon, in these decisions, has not protected "the agricultural lands and rural character that we treasure" envisioned in the General Plan.

A small hope may exist that Sup. Dillon, if re-elected, will liberate her preservationist roots and be the voice and vote that Napa needs if it is to remain a sustainable rural-agricultural enclave in the Bay Area for the next 50 years. Her appointment to the planing commission, Anne Cottrell, is proving to be a consistent voice for that preservation ethos against the base commercialism of the wine and tourism industries, and gives a glimmer of hope.

But right now, seeing equivocating decisions that tout preservationist bona fides while supporting more development, that's a big if. Unfortunately, needing developer support to fend off a challenge from a more staunchly preservationist on the left will make her future support of conservation issues even less likely.

Cio Perez, with deep farming roots and a long and vocal commitment to support the original ideals of the Ag Preserve to insure that agriculture remains the prime economic engine of the county in the face of tourism and good-life urbanization, now appears to better represent the aggressive defense needed to protect the Ag Preserve ideals against the assault. Cio Perez at this point is a surer choice to fight to preserve Napa's agricultural economy and rural environment which is the source of its renown and the treasure of its citizens.

The remains of authenticity on: Open Comments

George Caloyannidis - May 1,18  expand...  Share

Last Sunday, the Dry Creek Valley north of Healdsburg had its annual open house. The Dry Creek Valley is known for its great Zinfandels but also for many Rhone varietals which they keep blending in all kinds of different configurations including the most common Bordeaux ones. But also some unusual ones like Burger, Counoise, some of which they bottle unblended. Frick is a must tasting room, way up on the mountain with generously bearded Mr. Frick will serving you wines you never had in your life. All, in a shed with a tin roof.

Among the countless newcomers, there are also some which have been there forever. Wineries like Perdroncelli and Teldeschi, with roots going back to the 1940s. These are the most interesting to me because they still produce old style wines at amazing prices because they paid nothing for the land for their extensive vineyards, several owned by brothers, sisters and cousins. How about Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon, Wisdom for less than $ 25. A really beautiful, tame wine you can have with practically anything without getting buzzed. For me a great meal is one where you settle down, keep nibbling slowly in the company of your favorite person or friends until the entire bottle is finished a sip at a time without you falling asleep the minute you relax.

One such winery is Teldeschi, founded in the mid 1940s. No stainless steel there, no flat roofs, slick concrete and endless walls of glass. A real winery there. The tasting room has an 8-ffot worn out counter serviced by one of the Teldeschis. They may leave in the middle of a pour because someone needs something somewhere else. No hired personnel here who are told what to say. These are real people smelling of decades of wine. and they sell an amazing array of wines, the flag ship being Estate Reserve Cinque Terre.

When I asked current winemaker Dan Teldeschi why the latest vintage of Cinque Terre is the 2002, he said, I am tired of making so many wines, so I decided to make only one from now on. We can make a good living this way. Dan is in his fifties and says, there is more life out there beyond wine. And if you engage him, he will open his Ports and fortified Muscats. But it is the Cinque Terre that sings a unique song. 58% Franc, 13% Carignane, 12% Merlot, 12% Syrah and 5% Petite. At 14.2% alcohol and lots of sediment, it is a joy to keep sipping to the last drop.

The Saturday before, I was out at the Calistoga Framer's Market informing the public about my private heliport ban Christine and I have placed on the ballot. It will be the first in the nation. The people who try to fly their fancy helicopters have nothing to do with the people who can sit down with real friends and keep sipping a Cinque Terre over a perfect roasted chicken with potatoes roasted in the same pan. Or how about with Kim David's incredible beef cheek enchiladas! These people are from a different culture. The say, it is my property and no one is going to tell me what to do with it. When you ask them what about your neighbors? They say, I don't give a s... You couldn't have people like that at your table and then go to bed happy. Let them go to the French Laundry.

While at this Saturday market, Dawnine Dyer from down the street dropped by and while talking about the nice things in life to ease standing out in the cold morning, she said: Have you ever had the chicken this farmer grows? Said farmer is known for his amazing Arugula but I never had his free range chickens. "They are as good as the ones from Bresse". Coming from Dawnine who knows how to cook, this was something not to be taken lightly.

So, Christine put this chicken in the oven with some small potatoes halved in the pan, some onions, carrots and peas and then a bottle of the 2002 Cinque Terre. Only 4 or 5 cases left at $ 50, an unheard price at Teldeschi but worth every penny of it for a wine that tastes delicious, though unique but not fundamentally unusual but in need of a different vocabulary to do it justice.

While Dan is simplifying his life producing a single wine from now on, how can one thank Dawnine with other than with a dinner with a Cinque Terre.

No-on-C bogus claims on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - May 1,18  expand...  Share

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

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

There are two interesting aspects to this claim.

More development without vines than with?

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wine Industry recognizes negative impacts of wineries

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Dodd's fake Measure D arguments on: The Heliport Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - Apr 27,18  expand...  Share

Update 4/25/18
George Caloyannidis has sent this additional rebuttal to the lies in the ballot opposition statement.


Measure D strictly prohibits landings for PRIVATE HELICOPTERS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY. Not those for PG&E, police, Cal Fire and emergency rescue operations or any other public services. Helicopter landings by these public service providers are NOT PRIVATE USE. In addition, they are already protected in existing County Code. They are therefore EXEMPT.

Measure D also amends existing Code by restricting helicopter landings at vineyards which perform aerial operations for direct agricultural production only in emergencies. PG&E, police, Cal Fire and emergency services are NOT PERFORMING SERVICES FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION. They are therefore EXEMPT.

Why was this part of Measure D necessary? Because existing Code has been abused by wineries by transporting executives, consultants and visitors which is already against the law.


George Caloyannidis has sent a challenge to Bill Dodd and the cosigners of the opposition ballot statement for Measure D to justify their false statements regarding the impacts of the initiative and the erroneous implication that the organizations that employ the signatories, Reach Air Medical Services, PG&E and the City of St. Helena are also opposing the initiative.

The moneyed interests of Napa and their civil servants, seeing their privileged status being challenged by the residents of the county, again exercise the hubris of outright lies to try to get their way. Measure C supporters took them to court and the lies were stricken. These lies are equally egregious.


April 18, 2018

Dear Senator,

I am one of your constituents who voted for you to be our California Senator. I am also the sponsor of Napa County Measure D, the so-called Personal Use Helicopter Initiative.

As the author of the Arguments Against Measure D, you have assumed the leading role in its opposition. Moreover, you have done so in your privileged capacity as our Senator. As your statements cosigners, you have assembled: Brian Bottari, (signed "PG&E"), Matthew Higginbotham, (signed "REACH Air Medical Services") and Peter White, signed, ("Vice Mayor of St. Helena"). Your statements as they will appear on the ballot carry the full weight and credibility of a California Senator, and misleadingly those of the St. Helena City Council and those of PG&E and REACH none of which have endorsed them.

While arguments against an initiative may contain statements which opponents believe to be against their philosophy, or against the general interest of the citizens, or containing inaccurate provisions, they may not contain statements which are false and misleading.

The following arguments you have inserted in the ballot are patently false and misleading:

1) "Helicopter operators providing essential services may be restricted from landing on private property. When emergencies occur operators need flexibility to conduct their mission effectively".

2) "Utility contractors like those working for PG&E, won't be able to use helicopters to replace power poles or service lines just as they successfully did after the October fires".

I need to point out to you that the existing provisions in Napa County Code 18.120.010 exempt and protect the above services which are in no way affected by Measure D restrictions which specifically and solely prohibit personal use heliports and limit landing at vineyards during helicopter aerial operations for direct agricultural production.

Napa County Code specifically exempts helicopter landings by right for:

1) "Distribution lines installed to convey gas and/or electricity locally to individual services or to another such line", and: "Cable television lines and telephone lines other than long distance cables", and:"Helicopter emergency use facility landing sites".

2) "Emergency medical services landing sites", upon granting of a use permit.
The County Counsel Impartial Analysis confirms as much: "County Code currently allows emergency medical services landing sites upon grant of a use permit. Measure D does not change or affect this provision".

Measure D does not in any way modify, restrict, expand or eliminate these sections of the Code which enable providers to deliver the services they currently do and will do so in the future. Measure D addresses only personal use helicopter landing sites defined in the Code as: "For the owner, their family and occasional guests". To argue that PG&E, medical and emergency service helicopters are for personal use or that they conduct aerial operations for agricultural production is utterly false and misleading.

You and your cosigners have been invited to participate in forums organized by the Democrats of Napa Valley on April 16, the Hagen Road community scheduled for April 24 and The League of Women scheduled for April 25. Thus far you and all your cosigners have refused to participate.

Dear Senator Dodd:

At this point in time when the trust in governments and institutions is in crisis both nationally and just as much locally, and In the interest of the integrity of the voting process, I urge you and your cosigners to reconsider and participate in defense of your statements in the above remaining and future planned venues.

George Caloyannidis

Grower/Vintner Support for Measure C on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Yeoryios Apallas - Apr 26,18  expand...  Share

Update 5/6/18

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

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

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

From “Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The view from the Trail on: Growth Issues

Bill Hocker - Apr 24,18  expand...  Share

Update 4/25/18
NVR 4/25/18: Gateway to the city of Napa getting stealth solar farm
Exactly the solution needed for the Rector dam corporation yard!

NVR 3/17/18: State wants half-acre solar array along Napa's Silverado Trail

The Trail is already filling up with garish homes and event centers and parking lots and left turn bumps and now the indignity of an industrial power plant.

OK, OK it's churlish, and un-PC, to bad-mouth solar power. But we should recognize, as solar power provides more and more of our energy, that solar collectors are attractive only in their novelty and their benefit toward maintaining life on earth. In fact they are little different in appearance than a full parking lot.

As every home and business begins to burden the landscape with an array, the landscape will suffer. We see even now the jarring apparition of arrays climbing the hillsides behind homes and wineries, with little thought about their visual impact, but much admiration for the "green" commitment of their owners. And large solar arrays, as with the half acre at Rector, are significant money makers that will further speed their adoption, particularly in areas with a lot of open space - like Napa. It is really time for a solar array ordinance to "mitigate" (I would prefer "eliminate") their visual impacts going forward.

About the Rector array: this is an ideal opportunity to propose a 6-8' berm (a modest bit of earthwork perhaps garnished with vines) at the front of the property to hide both the panels and the corporation yard with its industrial detritus. It could be constructed perhaps with a bit of the 1400 acre feet of silt washed down from the vineyard development in the hills that currently diminishes the capacity of the reservoir. A definite win-win for all.

Supervisors are an extension of the wine industry on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Nancy Tamarisk - Apr 23,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'If government won't set limits,' residents will on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Donald Williams - Apr 23,18  expand...  Share

Measure C is about more than saving trees and water.

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

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

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

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

Nope. The numbers must be limited.

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

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

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

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

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

The money behind all those big No-on-C signs. on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - Apr 23,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

Sonoma County Winery Event Ordinance Petition on: Sonoma County

Bill Hocker - Apr 23,18  expand...  Share

Preserve Rural Sonoma County is petitioning the county government to define and enact a Winery Event Ordinance that it promised its citizens in 2016 based perhaps on this report. Without seeing the final ordinance, it is difficult to know if it will be crafted to limit such events or simply give them legal authority to happen. If the Napa Winery Definition Ordnance is any example, the dominant commercial interests will draft and eventually modify such an ordinance to their liking making challenges to such events more difficult. The devil is in the details. Residents need to be a forceful presence in the drafting of the legislation.

The Petition is here

Sonoma County's General Plan relating to tourism activities seems light years ahead of Napa's in recognizing that the impacts of wine tourism are "detrimental to the primary use of the land for the production of food, fiber and plant materials". This enlightened approach to tourism may however only reflect the fact that the plan has not been revised since 1989, and that the age of enlightenment will pass with the next update.

Policy AR-6f: Local concentrations of visitor serving and recreational uses, and agricultural support uses as defined in Goal AR-5, even if related to surrounding agricultural activities, are detrimental to the primary use of the land for the production of food, fiber and plant materials and may constitute grounds for denial of such uses. In determining whether or not the approval of such uses would constitute a detrimental concentration of such uses, consider all the following factors:

(1) Whether the above uses would result in joint road access conflicts, or in traffic levels that exceed the Circulation and Transit Element’s objectives for level of service on a site specific and cumulative basis.

(2) Whether the above uses would draw water from the same aquifer and be located within the zone of influence of area wells.

(3) Whether the above uses would be detrimental to the rural character of the area.

Unfortunately, as the petition shows, even this clear-eyed policy has not been enough to prevent an explosion of event centers in the intervening years.

Arguments against Measure D are wrong on: The Heliport Initiative 2018

Patricia Damery - Apr 21,18  expand...  Share

I want to express my outrage and disappointment in State Sen. Bill Dodd’s argument against Measure D (Yes on Measure D prohibits permitting more private heliports).

Dodd argues that under Measure D’s terms “Utility contractors, like those working for PG&E, won’t be able to use helicopters to replace power poles or service lines as they successfully did after the October fires.”

This is dead wrong. Measure D does not change County Code about the use of helicopters to install and maintain distribution lines to convey gas or electricity.

Dodd also states, “helicopter operators providing essential services may be restricted from landing on private property in Napa County if Measure D is approved.”

Again, dead wrong. Measure D does not change County Code about emergency use facility landing sites or emergency medical services’ landing sites. (Code 18.120.010/A.9).

Let’s be clear: this Measure D does not affect airspace or flight at all. It simply regulates landings of helicopters.

Did Dodd read the text of the initiative? Measure D makes two changes in County Code: 1. prohibiting personal use airports and heliports and 2. prohibiting helicopter landings at vineyards unless unavoidable, such as in emergencies. Aerial applications by helicopter for agricultural production are still permitted.

A Napa Valley Register article quoted Dodd as saying that his argument was based on the 9111 report commissioned by the Board of Supervisors to give “independent” legal analysis on the measure. Given the facts above, this analysis, as argued in front of the Supervisors by the Measure's attorney of Moscone, Emblidge, is flawed.

Senator Dodd has been invited to participate at several forums, including the League of Women Voters, to defend his statements but thus far has avoided participation.

Why would a state senator present “facts” that are so wrong? Are perhaps special interest funders behind him? Democracy requires access to the facts. How else can we make informed decisions?

NVR version 4/21/18: Arguments against Measure D are wrong
PDF: Argument Against Measure D and rebuttal
NVR 4/3/18: Backers of Napa County ballot measures cry foul on opposition arguments


Bill Hocker - Apr 21, 2018 9:30AM

At the end of this LTE in the Register the editor adds a note with a response from Bill Dodd:

Editor's note: The Register asked Bill Dodd about the issues raised by the author. He said his legislative schedule has made it difficult to accept invitations to speak on this initiative. He said his opposition to Measure D, and also to Measure C, relates to possible unintended consequences, which would be difficult to fix if the legislation is enacted by ballot initiative. The people and supervisors of Napa County, he said, "are perfectly capable of handling these issues" without resorting to initiatives.

By "the people", if in fact Sen. Dodd used the expression, it can be assumed that he didn't mean the 7000 individuals that signed the initiative petition or any of the individuals that might vote for the initiative. One suspects that "the people" in this case represents the monied interests in the county, some of whom contribute to his campaign (like Christian Palmaz), "people" that are used to having the Supervisors make development decisions in their favor without the interference of pesky voters.

A tipping point - winery voted down by the PC on: Tourism Issues

Gary Margadant - Apr 18,18  expand...  Share

NVR 4/20/18: Napa Planning Commission rejects proposed Mount Veeder winery

TODAY, of all days, with only 3 days until Earth Day, the Napa County Planning Commission turned, sorry, TURNED DOWN a WINERY PROPOSAL. (hearing video here)

A winery was proposed just down the road from my home on Mount Veeder, that had no grapes on the parcel, located on the corner of Mt Veeder Road and Dry Creek Road. Yet had 17,000 sq ft of caves, 30,000 gal capacity and a small home for the winemaker. squeezed into the only flat space of a 50 acre mountainous parcel

I opposed it as a neighbor and the President of the Mt Veeder Stewardship Council and produced the letters here and here to remind the PC of what was at stake....It is a residential neighborhood in the mountains with few homes visible from the road.... we like it that way, we moved up here just for that seclusion, but the owner had other ideas for, what I felt, was a spec winery.

It was not a huge fight, but rather a discussion of a shoehorn into the mountains of a winery that could not meet the 300 ft setback requirement from Mt Veeder Road. Not to mention the proximity of Dry Creek, a major spawning stream for Steelhead Trout. Joelle Gallagher, Terry Scott and Ann Cotrelle voted it down based on the square peg in the round hole argument, the inappropriate nature of the proposal on a site that had no grapes.

The proposal just did not fit the site, and it was obvious. They were trying to sneak the Cave Spoils off site and pretend that the road traffic, bicyclists and Trucks (remember the 12 ton limit). so they voted it down stating that even if it came back in a revised version, that it would remain unacceptable.

So we had a victory of sorts. They may appeal to the BOS but I welcome that as a time to continue our arguments to retain our neighborhoods. Vineyards, yes. Vineyards with a Winery, Maybe. Winery without a vineyard, NO.

I only wish this had happened 4 years ago.


Bill Hocker - Apr 20, 2018 8:45AM

This winery was the 2nd (or 3rd) to be denied a use permit since 2010. Girard was denied on a 2-2 split that was later approved on appeal. Flynnville in 2013 was continued, but denied in all but name. (A greatly reduced Flynnville project was eventually approved.)

In all, some 134 wineries have been approved since 2010, so each of the minuscule number of denials is worth scrutinizing. The event is so rare that the commissioners had to ask county council what happens if they deny - what are the next steps. (The denial can be appealed to the BOS. The applicant can re-apply from scratch after one year.)

The Commission split along predictable lines. Comms. Basayne and Hansen, the development wing, voted to continue. Comms. Cottrell and Gallagher, the preservationist wing, voted to deny. Comm. Scott, appointee of the Dodd-Pedroza development establishment, went rogue here (as he has before) siding with the preservationists.

I want to believe that the denial represents some sort of direction - the tipping point that Gary Margadant referred to in his post. Particularly following on the Caldwell deliberation which generated a discussion about land use planning as something other than an accommodation to developer's business models.

But this was a project easy to criticize. Jammed by topography next to 2 roads and a creek, needing variances, with a huge cave and no place for spoils, and no room or suitability for vines, and no commitment on grape sourcing, the project had little to recommend it to the commissioners. It was, perhaps, a poor precedent to hang a trend on.

And yet, after the Caldwell continuance, which came quite close to a denial, in two projects in a row, this planning commission has delivered on the scrutiny needed to slow the proliferation of winery projects that are commercializing and urbanizing Napa's landscape. Is it a tipping point, a turning tide? Let's hope.

Ginna Beharry - Apr 18, 2018 9:30PM


Measure C: the war of words on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - Apr 18,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

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

This promises to be a very well debated initiative. Public comments at the hearing were evenly split between pro and con and there was more than a little hyperbole: "beginning of the end of agriculture", "sincere ignorance" of proponents, a "weasel wording" 9111 document, a "voraciously aggressive" supervisor. The legal response to the 9111 report was made by Perl Perlmutter, who drafted the initiative.

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

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

Cio Perez kickoff party: Apr 18th on: Campaign 2018

Kellie Anderson - Apr 17,18  expand...  Share

As you may know, my friend Cio Perez is running for Napa County Supervisor in District 3.

As Cio himself says, Diane Dillon should be applauded for her service. But I agree with Cio that we need someone with ag experience for a change.

So many issues affecting the future of our air and water, and the sustainability of our land and economy have been either kicked down the road or decided upon in favor big wine developers.

Cio believes this is because the Board lacks genuine scientific and agricultural experience. If the board understood the science, Cio believes, it would act with more urgency to protect our natural resources.

As a third-generation St. Helena farmer, Farm Bureau leader and UC Davis-educated Viticulturist and Oenologist, Cio will bring a sorely needed new perspective to the board.

I hope you will join me for Cio’s kickoff party Wednesday, April 18th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Native Sons Hall on 1313 Spring Street in St. Helena.

This is a free event. But if you become as hopeful as I am about Cio’s respectful and authentic brand of leadership can make a difference, then I hope you will also join me in making a contribution to his campaign.

In the meantime, please visit to learn more about Cio’s campaign, log your support or even make a contribution online.

Ag Preserve's 50th Anniversary on: Growth Issues

Bill Hocker - Apr 9,18  expand...  Share
From the EPA Integrated Climate and Land Use Scenarios website with Napa County boundary added. Click on maps to enlarge.
Update 4/10/18
NVR 4/10/18: Napa County toasts the agricultural preserve at party

NVR 2/4/18: Will Napa's 50-year-old agricultural preserve continue to protect the Napa Valley?

The EPA apparently thinks so. Residents who are experiencing the impacts of booming tourism and industrial development currently happening in the county aren't so sure.

It is worth noting that the EPA doesn't see the construction of Napa Pipe or Watson Ranch happening in the next 50 years. Let's hope they know something we don't. Of course they also don't anticipate the construction of the Meritage Resort, Napa Valley Commons or the airport industrial area (definitely suburban rather than ex-urban uses). In fact, there is almost not a single change shown for Napa in the next 50 years. Either development ceases entirely after 2020 - and in some cases reverts! - or Napa’s development data was inadvertently purged along with the global warming data.

It is also worth noting that Napa has lost thousands of acres of farmland and separately gained thousands of acres of urban development since 1984 according to these articles:
NVR 7/8/16: Napa sees farmland total shrink slightly over two years
NVR 10/31/15: Shrinking Napa farmland raises questions for Farm Bureau

Napa Ag Preserve website

Waiting for clean water on: The Rector Watershed

Bill Hocker - Apr 7,18  expand...  Share

NVR 4/7/18: Assemblywoman Aguilar-Curry: Going to bat for Napa County

While touring the veterans’ home, she saw a sign that said to turn the water faucet on five minutes before drinking the water.

It may be rusty pipes. Or possibly some of the 1400 acre feet of silt that has now filled up Rector reservoir most probably from the vineyard creation in the over-developed watershed in the hills above.

China Syndrome on: Tourism Issues

Bill Hocker - Apr 4,18  expand...  Share

Update 4/4/18
NVR 4/4/18: China tariffs on U.S. wines raises concerns among Napa Valley vintners
NY Times 4/2/18: China Finds California Wine Pairs Well With a Trade War

The restriction on a major export market will probably only increase the pressure to sell wines as a tourist good here. But then the number of tourists coming to the Valley may decrease as well.

Update 10/7/17
Wines&Vines 5/15/17: A winery trend stalling?

Unfortunately not before leaving some potential damage to the nature of Soda Canyon Road. In all fairness, we can point to the sense of community that opposition to commercial exploitation of the road has fostered.

NVR 4/27/16: Visitors from China: As numbers grow, the search is on for ways to increase their welcome

It appears that Napa is gearing up for true bulk tourism à la Castello di Amorosa and Bunny Foo Foo - with Chinese characteristics. This article makes the wine industry seem actually gleeful at the thought of the money to be made from Chinese masses, an attitude, I suppose, shared by western entrepreneurs since the Treaty of Nanking. (Opium the drug then being peddled). Are Dominus or Harlan really itching to open their gates to the multitudes? Are there any vintners left in the county more interested in making wine than selling wine-pairing experiences with Chinese food?

And what if the dreams are realized? The totality of Napa brand red wine produced each year will now supply 14 days of Chinese wine consumption - and Chinese wine consumption is growing rapidly. How will the Napa vintners keep their Chinese customers happy? The end of the 75% rule is definitely in sight.

Unfortunately, we on Soda Canyon Road seem to be on the front line of the invasion with a winery event center being developed in conjunction with Hong Kong wine tourism interests. Given the stars in the eyes of the good-life impresarios, and a board of supervisors increasingly becoming a hardened tool of development interests, the effort by residents to save Napa county from its rendezvous with a theme-park-tourist-trap destiny seems more quixotic than ever.


Daily Mail (UK) 3/17/15: Chinese rivalling French to buy Bordeaux vineyards
Napa Broadcasting's Jeff Schectman's interview with the author of China's Lust for Bordeux and the Threat to the World's Best Wines.
Financial Times 6/12/15: China’s grape rush
NVR 6/23/15: Thousands of Chinese visitors throng to Napa Valley this spring
Guardian (UK) 1/29/14: China becomes biggest market for red wine, with 1.86bn bottles sold in 2013
Taste 2013?: California Wines Get Boost from China Trade Mission
Wines&Vines 11/1/12: Fund Seeks $100 Million to Buy Vineyards
Real estate promo: Chinese Buyers Invest in Napa Valley Real Estate
Mountain Peak Developer 10/25/10: China Aquires Taste for California Wines
And this from 2010

Farm Bureau sells out on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - Apr 3,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Atlas Fire: the Documentary on: The Atlas Fire

Bill Hocker - Apr 2,18  expand...  Share

NBC Dateline 4/1/18: Fire and Faith

The NBC Dateline Documentary on the Atlas Peak fire that aired on Sunday Night, Apr 1st, is still available at the above link. Perhaps someone will be able to get a more permanent copy (hopefully without ads).


Glenn J. Schreuder - Apr 2, 2018 11:08AM

I remember not liking taking off in a helicopter in such heavy crosswinds, very scary to say the least!

Anne Palotas - Apr 2, 2018 11:06AM

Seeing the paramedic without the helmet reminded me of him grabbing both by myself and Glenn by the collars, walking us toward the helicopter. Remember that Glenn?

Lauren Griffiths - Apr 2, 2018 11:00AM

Last night Dateline aired Fire & Faith - an episode featuring the Atlas Fire and the rescues.

I think it can be streamed if you jump through some hoops with a free NBC app.
The Dahans and BeauVigne winery are interviewed.

There is some incredible footage of this horrific event. The helicopter rescues were miraculous.

James Conaway's third (and last?) volume on Napa on: Growth Issues

Bill Hocker - Apr 1,18  expand...  Share

Update 4/1/18
Sonoma PD 4/1/18: James Conaway, chronicler of Napa Valley wine industry, warns money threatens to ruin America’s Eden

Update 3/16/18
3/16/18: KQED Forum: James Conaway podcast interview with Mina Kim
NV2050 3/15/18: Berkeley James Conaway Reading: Napa at Last Light

Update 3/14/18
NVR 3/14/18: Author Conaway talks to Napa County grand jury

NVR Review 3/8/18: Writer James Conaway paints a harsh portrait of Napa Valley in his latest book
and NVR excerpts

The Atlantic 3/18: Rich People Are Ruining Wine
And Tom Wark's dismissive response

The Economist 3/6/18 Book Review: James Conaway on the Napa Valley Wine Wars

Sacramento Bee review 2/28/18: Napa expert grim about the state and direction of the valley: ‘I don’t see any hope’

Publisher's Excerpts

Update 2/28/18
Napa at Last Light - America's Eden in the Age of Calamity

Just in time for the 50th Anniversary of the creation of Napa's Agricultural Preserve, James Conaway completes a third book defining the historical arc of this special place. The title, one can assume, reflects his take (and that of many Napans) on the direction of that arc.

James Conaway will be at several book signings in the Bay Area in March. Dan Mufson has forwarded this schedule:

Sat., March 10, 2018 in Napa
1:45pm Arrival
Hosted by Napa Bookmine
580 Coombs St
Napa, CA 94559

Mon., March 12, 2018 in Napa
6:30pm Meet & Greet
7:00pm Film & Discussion
580 Coombs St
Napa, CA 94559
James Conaway will be speaking about the Watershed Initiative along with discussion participants Tosha Commandant, Bill Pramuk, and Warren Winiarski

The Flier for the event is here

Tues., March 13, 2018 in Berkeley
6:45pm Arrival
1491 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94710
This event will be sponsored by Napa Vision 2050.
Books Inc. Announcement here

Thurs., March 15, 2018 in Calistoga
6:45pm Arrival
130 Lincoln Ave.
Calistoga, CA.

The other two volumes:
2002 Napa: The Story of an American Eden
2003 The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley

5/29/17 America as one big hole
James Conaway, in a recent blog post and now in a Register letter, has called attention again to the dangers of life in an age dominated by developers (and now ruled by our first developer-in-chief) to those who would seek to preserve some of their cultural and natural heritage for future generations, not to mention its enjoyment in the here and now.

50 years ago Napa's agricultural preserve was created as a dam to hold back the floodwaters of development lust that was drowning the rest of Bay Area agriculture in building projects. The issue in Napa then was housing development, and it seemed for a while that the minimum-parcel-size zoning and the popular-vote-required re-zoning protections put in place to stop housing subdivisions have worked. An industry based on an agricultural product has survived and prospered and the housing projects have been held at bay.

But development lust is not so easily suppressed. Within the tight constraints of the Agricultural Preserve, the General Plan and Measure J, the formulae had to be jiggled just enough so that a new generation of development interests could begin pumping money into Napa real estate ventures. The magic component: tourism and the hyping of a good-life destination. Define those as "agriculture" and the flood gates open.

It is often said that Napa has become a victim of its own success. It's success was created by careful legislative crafting by politicians and citizens concerned about the preservation of its agricultural heritage. But the victimization is wholly attributable to development lust of a few seeking ways to exploit and cash in (or out) on that success. Wine makers are bought out by good-life entrepreneurs, vineyard real estate is promoted as building sites for every plutocrat's fantasy of a winery-of-one's-own. And the buildings and parking lots and commuting tourists and employees continue to come. The urbanization of ag land in the rest of the county will not be as swift as the development of Watson Ranch, but in the long run it will be just as sure.

James Conaway has been a perceptive student of the cultural and physical transformation of the County for 25 years. The upcoming third book in his series on the Napa Valley will no doubt reflect on the change that has come to the county in that time. Its proposed name, unfortunately, is a bit depressing for those of us who have hoped the fight to save this place was not hopeless: Napa at Last Light.

The urban cancer In Carneros on: Growth Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 30,18  expand...  Share

Update 3/30/18
Roger Wolff LTE 2/30/18: Regarding the Carneros Resort Hear! Hear!

NVR 3/20/18: Napa council votes to offer city water to Carneros Resort for 50 years
NVR 12/6/17: LAFCO opens door to piping Napa water to Carneros resort

12/4/17 LAFCO hearing video

"Perpetual Growth is the creed of the cancer cell."
   - Paul Ehrlich, 1990

How does urban development begin even within a regulatory regimen specifically tailored to inhibit that development? A connected developer manipulates a government to push through an inappropriate project, then moves on (in this case to Napa Pipe) leaving the owners to deal with the negative impacts foreseen from the beginning. The owner then pleads with government to solve the problems lest he goes bankrupt. Urbanization, like some cancers, may begin in an isolated location and then grow just slowly enough to hide its inexorable spread until its too late to be stopped.

Note that a 2015 state law shepherded by Bill Dodd, whose election as Supervisor in 2000 shifted the board in a more development-oriented direction, allows cities to extend infrastructure to county parcels without requiring city annexation of the properties. A growth inducing bill if ever there was one.

The appropriate solution in the case of the Carneros Resort is not to aid urban expansion with growth inducing infrastructure. Cut out the tumor. Or at least cut down the size of the project to match the amount of water available from its wells. A County committed to maintaining a healthy agricultural environment shouldn't be encouraging urban tumors to survive and grow.

The LAFCO infrastructure expansion area for the Carneros Inn (and properties in the neighborhood) is the green dogleg on the bottom.

The history
1/1/09: Urban Land institute Case Studies: Carneros Inn
12/12/03: The Carneros Inn Opens in Napa Valley's Winegrowing District
Simms, Kahn LTE 8/26/02: Slow-growth groups oppose Lodge
NVR 9/4/02: Carneros Lodge plan slashed, then approved
SHStar 11/29/01: 12 percent of Carneros groundwater considered 'not significant'

Another traffic study for American Canyon on: Traffic Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 29,18  expand...  Share

AmCan Eagle 3/28/18: American Canyon provides $250,000 for south county traffic study

Another study - when it's already incredibly apparent that the only relief for American Canyon's traffic problems at this point is a freeway around, or through the middle of, the town.

Much like the up-valley people critical of the profusion of event-center wineries pushing the levels of tourism into the county (a charge vehemently denied by the wine industry - "we're just catering to the tourists that are already here") at least two of the 5 city council members want impact fees on wineries to cover the costs of road improvements. Despite denials from the wine industry and their minions in the county government, these city council members see a link - as I do.

But it's a bit ingenuous to try to re-focus the blame, even if somewhat justified. The Am Can city council, encouraged by the development entities that control it, has approved enormous amounts of industrial development and housing development and they are probably going to approve more. They have never done anything within their power to slow traffic creating development.

The concept that somehow the problem can be studied away while the building boom continues unabated is a bit naive. As with every "growth" problem in Napa County, the real solution is to stop growing. The idea that an economy must be always growing, with ever increasing jobs, ever increasing construction, ever increasing profits is a 1% solution promoted by the 1% that receive the profits. The other 99% must just accept more traffic, more urbanization, more taxes, and a loss of a quality of life inherent in being in a small town.

It is a battle worth waging, and is being waged, rather unsuccessfully, up valley. But given the projects already approved, the large industrial commitment that Am Can and Napa have already made, the Napa Pipe mega-project already under construction, and all those approved hotels and wineries that will soon need tourists and employees, the outlook is a little bleak to solve the traffic problems in American Canyon - beyond a 65mph bypass.

It is not an outcome that I would want; a massive traffic jam in American Canyon and around the airport is one of the most reliable ways of cooling development lust further up the valley. The NVTA recognized the same reality in considering not to pursue a highway widening between American Canyon and Napa. It is unfortunate, but at this point it is a zero sum game - solving American Canyon's traffic problems means increasing the rate of urbanization in the rest of Napa county.

The time for a change on: Campaign 2018

Donald Williams - Mar 27,18  expand...  Share

Sometimes change creeps gradually and we neither notice nor prevent it, until it’s too late.

For example, I may not pay much attention to Upvalley traffic---until one day I drive to Napa and find it takes twice as long as it used to.

Likewise: I might not mind if the county approves more visitors to some winery---until I learn the winery is just a hundred busy yards away.

Or: More tourism might seem like an easy fix for a city budget---until we learn we’re hooked on it (positively cannot do without it!), and like an addict crave even more of it.

Small changes accumulate till we realize: cumulatively they are large. Increasingly, Napans have awoken to the gradual transformations permitted by government---through perhaps indifference, ignorance, or, let us not think, avarice.

Historically, the accelerated changes were birthed in 2008 when agriculture was redefined to mean not only growing food but also marketing (food-and-wine pairings, etc.). Then the door was opened to the aggressive tourism that now (1) enrichens the industry and (2) pleases governments; and which also crowds the valley, consumes the water, and drives the housing costs beyond the reach of the very workers who labor to sustain the glamor.

The public has deplored these changes, but neither letters to editors, nor public comments at government meetings, nor sign-holding demonstrations have impressed lawmakers. It takes a keen outsider like James Conaway to document the arc in the valley from superb ag to self-congratulatory sybaritism.

The public pleads for a retreat from indulgence. Yet in January the county gave Cuvaison permission to increase visitors 140 percent, to 65,520 per year. For Vine Cliff Winery in Oakville it approved an increase of annual tasting room visitors from 100 to 18,200. Astoundingly, this scale of change is old news. In 2012, 2.9 million visitors came to Napa; only four years later it increased 20 percent to 3.5 million.

Meanwhile, law-abiding vintners compete with wine-industry violators in a county whose feckless idea of rule-enforcement regarding visitors and events is---seriously---self-reporting. (Do you turn yourself in to the CHP if you speed?) County residents suffer cancer rates among the highest in the state. And it’s left to the public to initiate common-sense measures like restraints on helicopters, or preservation of woodlands, when government officials will not.

When government officials will not respond to the public’s pleas for protection against incursions that slither so seductively they’re unnoticed till they devour the very lifestyle that attracted them, it’s time for a change in government.

Right now, personally, I think the best opportunity for change is Lucio “Cio” Perez, candidate for the board of supervisors. He’s a native of St. Helena, a farmer, active in civic affairs, aware of the changes the county has suffered in recent years, and focused on the health of the valley. Please visit his website; ask to meet him.

If this valley is to be preserved, then paradoxically something has to change. The change to Cio will be a good start.

NVR LTE version 3/28/18: The time for a change

The Trail at Soda Canyon is drying up! Not! on: Soda Canyon Road

Bill Hocker - Mar 16,18  expand...  Share

Update 3/21/18

NVR 3/21/18: Monitoring shows Napa Valley sitting on a full groundwater basin

The final report on the Northeast Management Area of the Napa Valley Subbasin came out in January. It is an addendum to the 2016 Groundwater Sustainability Analysis submitted to the State. It reinforces the findings of the Northeast Napa Areal Groundwater Study of Sept 2017 (included in the report) indicating "groundwater in this localized area is in balance, with inflows and outflows nearly equal, over the 28-year period studied".

The addendum will be presented by staff to the BOS on Mar. 20th, 2018 along with the Groundwater Sustainability annual report for 2017.The issue is item 9E on the BOS agenda .
The County Groundwater page is here

Two years after the email exchange below laying out the concerns the county was beginning to have with a shrinking water table at the Soda Canyon Junction (and the junction of Soda Creek with the Napa River), the county staff will present their findings thus far to the Board of Supervisors on Oct 10th 2017. [Cancelled due to Oct. 8th fire] Mostly a factor of less rainfall they seem to be saying - Soda Creek just isn't transporting as much water as before. More water conservation requested.

Of course you wouldn't know that the county is interested in water conservation in the area when you consider the number of water-drawing wineries that they have approved within the study area in the last 2 years. The expansion of the Beau Vigne was approved in Sep 2016. The Sam Jasper Winery was approved in Jan 2017. The Grassi Winery was approved in Feb 2017. And now finally the last of the pending projects, Reynolds, is up for review this month. These are added to the as yet unbuilt Krupp winery approved in 2012 and the Corona Winery approved in 2013. (A map of the winery congestion is here.) The total, at 220,000 more gallons of capacity, will probably not run the wells dry, but the additional 59,600 tourists/yr and several dozen employees/day will add to the water draw as well. As a commitment to conservation in the area, adding more wineries with entertainment activities here to process grapes that are currently being processed in less water-challenged areas doesn't set a good example.

If you're not a geologist, the graphics for the presentation are a bit difficult to fathom, but the one shown above did stand out. It seems like a lot of straws in the ground!

[Gary Margadant's email reply to Public Works Director Steve Lederer in response to information supplied about a potential groundwater deficiency in the area of Soda Canyon Road and the Silverado Trail.]

Hi Steve

Thank you for sharing, since it is of great interest to neighbors in the immediate area and beyond. This is especially interesting to those of us who would like to explore different avenues within the information and data held by the County Administration. Your review of the well activity in the Petra Drive area is very informative. It is one avenue, a basic avenue, of groundwater monitoring and research where well activity is a very telling metric.

I am confused by one aspect of your report: The LSCE 2014 report points to groundwater elevation problems in Subarea 75, yet your note refers to well and groundwater elevations problems along Petra Drive which is in Subarea 76. Is this what you mean by the creep of the cone of depression from the MST in 75 into 76? It would be helpful to find out if the Petra Drive wells are a very local subarea or directly influenced by the MST.

Can you enlighten me on the reason for the loss of 1 or the 2 monitoring wells?

And then a question: Do you think some of the wells on Petra Drive and others near by should be fitted with Patricks' new Sonic water elevation measuring devices (real time measurements) with data transmitted to your office via a WiFi connection in the area? This might improve your understanding of the dynamics in this subarea and help with education, mitigation and conservation efforts. And some of the well owners might want them for their own edification.

Please be aware that Yeoryios Apallas owns and lives on property directly across ST from the Petra Drive corner and directly behind the SC Store. He will be receiving a distribution of this note just as Norma Tofanelli, of Dunaweal Lane.

Thanks again for sharing.


On Mon, Dec 7, 2015 Steve Lederer wrote:

I thought you might find this of interest. Please feel free to share.

Groundwater Concerns in the Northeastern corner of Napa Subarea

Property rights. Again on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - Mar 16,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Hickey Memorial on: Tourism Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 15,18  expand...  Share

Update 3/15/18
Wakoh Shannon Hickey NVR 3/15/18: Remembering James Hickey, the mystic

Memorial Saturday, March 17th, 2018, Tulocay Cemetery Reception Center, 11:00am
Obituary and memorial information

NVR 12/22/17: James H. Hickey 1927-2017

In his 2008 "Oral Histories of Napa County's Agricultural Preserve" interview with Rue Ziegler, James Hickey fretted about the direction the "wine Industry" was headed:

"Tourism is becoming the big driver in the local economy. The wine industry is [now] here to accommodate tourism; tourism doesn't create the winery business. You look at San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf, you've got everything there but fishermen. The fishermen can't afford to dock there any more because the motels, the shopping...

"The more the rest of the Bay Area develops, the more pressure there will be to locate some development in Napa County, because it has that appeal and the open land. It has that attraction. When you have people touring, they like to have all the accommodations they had at home. They want to have all the different food facilities, they want to have all kinds of overnight accommodations available to them and there are always people happy to provide them. And that's urban development in the urban areas. If it stays in the urban areas, that's good but if it starts spreading into the unincorporated area, that could be the end of the Agricultural Preserve. The Preserve exists by three votes and 30 days. That's three supervisors voting yes on any change and 30 days for the ordinance to become effective. And you don't have to take elimination the Ag Preserve head-on. You can just undermine it by changing the definition of what a winery is, or reducing the standards." (page 146 here)

He is extolled in his Register obituary as a "celebrated county and regional planner" as he should be. But he was, in fact, pushed out of the position of Planning Director in 1990 over the winery definition ordinance, a victim in the battle between his own preservation and conservation efforts and a wine industry then, as now, looking to increase profits through the tourist trade and with a Board of Supervisors then, as perhaps now, split 3 to 2 between developers and preservationists. In his words:

"The question that had to be answered was, 'What's a winery?' It had to be defined, and it had to be defined in a fashion that made it clear that what was happening there wasn't an oversight but it was by design. And so, I raised the question in a series of discussions and reports to the Planning Commission, 'What is a winery?'

It was not popular with the wine industry, because they felt that they had the opportunity to decide what was going to be done at their wineries, particularly some of the bigger ones. And so it became very, very contentious and the board who had authorized the release of the reports that I had prepared, found themselves cought in a crossfire. And, to resolve the problem, they said to the industry, 'Why don't you write a definition and give it to us, and we'll take a look at it and we'll see if we like it?' and I said, 'Well that's one way to answer the question.' So the industry did a very good job. They wrote a definition and Board of Supervisors adopted it and it was fine. And shortly thereafter, it was suggested that I retire. I was removed as the Planning Director and appointed the Executive Director of Special Projects, and I was moved to an office up on the third floor of the County building.... It was kind of lonely up there because I was the only one in the office."

It is well worth reading James Conway's telling of the firing here, as is his entire book. (pages load slowly)

The Caldwell deliberation on: Tourism Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 13,18  expand...  Share

NVR 3/11/18: Neighbors challenge increased visitors at Caldwell Vineyard in east Napa

The continuance to a date uncertain of the hearing to modify the use permit of the Caldwell Winery from 25 to 35,000 gal/yr and from 2000 to 21000 visitors/yr proved a very bittersweet one for those of us who have lived through the heartbreak of a neighborhood, completely opposed to a project that will bring a daily intrusion of tourists to a rural, dead end road, being denied any say in the decision.

A few of the comments from commissioners in their discussion at the end of the presentation were remarkable.

First from Comm. Jeri Hansen, in the developer wing of the commission:
"I am fond of saying that this is an ag use in an ag zone. And that we have a right to farm - and that is true. But I also do not want to discount the legitimate concerns of legitimate neighbors who live in proximity to a site... The fact that it [the road to the winery] is a small lane in an area where there are not that many neighbors, but the fact that all of them are here with same concerns tells me something."

I heard this with some vexation. At the Mountain Peak hearing, the concerns of the many residents that packed the chamber for the hearing and the 150 residents on our dead-end road that signed a petition opposing the project, she seemed quite willing to discount at the time. Perhaps she sees some residents as being more legitimate than others.

But the real comments of interest were voiced by Comms. Gallagher and Cottrel, the preservationist wing of the commission.

From Comm Gallagher: While she commented on and was opposed to the excessive visitation in such a remote location, a sentiment that she may have voiced on Mountain Peak had she been empaneled at the time, she also had this to say:
"The question was asked by one of the speakers why are wineries limited to the number of visitors and I think its really important that we address that. Wineries are limited on the number of visitors because marketing and visitation are incidental uses to the ag uses on the property. And the ag uses are growing the grapes and processing them."

And then this:
"I just want to make a comment on something that we have heard today and that we have heard in the past: Issues of making businesses viable or making them successful. I'm a little bit concerned that we would be implementing land use policy that is driven by any particular business model. And while we of course want businesses in our county to be viable and to be successful we can't be adjusting our land use regulations to insure the success of any particular operation. We really need to be focused on Land use."

Comm Cottrell in her comments reinforced the sentiment:
"I'm very concerned about any kind of an argument in favor of a marketing or visitation plan where the county is being asked to support a particular business model or where a number is needed to obtain economic viability . Our job is to approve use permit terms that are consistent with the general plan and the goal to preserve agriculture. Not to insure profitability."

Both made very clear statements to the effect that wine production and wine marketing are two very different activities and that the role of the county may be to foster the viability of the former but not to insure the viability of the latter.

Unfortunately, the trajectory of both the "wine industry" and the government that serves it, as we have witnessed these last 4 years, has been moving decidedly in the opposite direction, promoting wine tourism to be the principal product of Napa County, not wine. And I'm sure that the industry and some government officials would be quite willing to cite chapter and verse of the code they have crafted in the last 10 years (in the General plan in 2008 and the WDO in 2010 and the official definition of agriculture in 2017) to encourage that transition of the county's principal economic activity.

I can only applaud the stance that Comms. Gallagher and Cottrell have taken in this project to separate true agriculture from tourism. As I have every time county government gives a modest nod to the concerns of residents about the loss of rural Napa, I hope this represents some kind of backbone beginning to grow to confront the direct-to-consumer dogma and the tourism urbanization it induces with such adverse impact on the character of this place. There seems always just a glimmer of hope.

"Venice has become a victim of its own success" - Sound familiar? on: Tourism Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 7,18  expand...  Share

Update 8/2/17
The Gardian 3/7/18: Europe's beauty spots plot escape from the too-many-tourists trap

The solution proposed by a tourism conference in Berlin? Spread it out. Rather than being overwhelmed by tourists at peak periods, have constant tourists at every location at all times. This is a tourism industry solution to the very real impacts that tourism is having on residential communities all over the world. And, in fact, it is the solution that Napa County takes with Visit Napa Valley. When I asked Mark Luce why the county spends millions of dollars on Visit Napa Valley each year to attract more tourists, he said that it's not about attracting more, but in spreading out the tourism by promoting visitation in off-months and off-hours. What it really does is to promote filling up the level of tourism at all times to match the overwhelming tourism at peak periods. And, of course, to increase the tourism urbanization that threatens the rural small town quality of life in the county, impacts not so different to those being felt, and fought, around the world.

Update 8/2/17
The Local (Italy) 7/4/17: Venice residents protest against tourist influx
NYT 8/2/17: Venice, Invaded by Tourists, Risks Becoming ‘Disneyland on the Sea'

George Caloyannidis sends over this link to the latest in Venice:

The Telegraph (UK) 6/12/17: Venice bans new hotels as crackdown on tourism continues

Which also references their article on Amsterdam: Amsterdam has become ‘unlivable’ as residents fight back to stop ‘Disneyfication’ of city (When it comes to wine tourism, the term of art is 'Napafication', and the negative impacts are just as onerous). And more recently the resistance is becoming aggressive: DailyMail (UK) 8/2/17: Majorca is hit by anti-tourism protesters

The international uprising of locals against the unwanted impacts of tourism has been building for some time, as chronicled in this 2015 article in the NY Times.

It is interesting to look at the ratio of yearly tourists to residents to ask if there is some breaking point at which rebellion occurs. Venice is the extreme example: 20 mil tourists/yr and 265,000 residents (including suburbs) or 75 tourists/resident/yr. (Just
look at this graph to see what the "success" of post-war tourism has done - and can still do - to a resident population, a goal that the tourism industry might prefer.)

Compare this to the other cities mentioned in the articles that have been experiencing tourism backlash:
    Charleston: 38.4 tourists/resident
    New Orleans: 27 tourists/resident
    Ankor Wat 9.1 tourists/resident
    Amsterdam: 6.5 tourists/resident
    Barcelona: 4.4 tourists/resident
    Berlin: 2.6 tourists/resident
    Copenhagen: 1.5 tourists/resident
    Buthan: 0.3 tourists/resident (a ratio that any place wishing to maintain its quality-of-life should strive for)

And now look at the growing discontent with tourism in Napa County which is currently at 24.6 tourists/resident. (Sonoma County is at 14 tourists/resident)

While it seems there is no universal magic trigger point at which resident anger over the threat to the character of their communities becomes actionable, clearly Napa residents, having moved firmly into the double-digit tourist-to-resident category, have begun to realize that a crisis is at hand.

Vallejo Cement Factory on: Growth Issues

Bill Hocker - Mar 7,18  expand...  Share

Update 3/7/18
HuffPost 3/7/18: 'Our Bodies Can’t Take That Kind Of Damage’: The California Community Battling A Cement Factory
It has become a national story!

Update 3/7/17
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.

Streamlining Public Input on: Growth Issues

George Caloyannidis - Mar 7,18  expand...  Share

NVR 3/15/18: Napa County Planning Commission rejects limiting public speakers to 2 minutes

[Letter to Supervisors regarding Dec 20th 2017 Planning Commission referral of 2018 PC Bylaws governing applicant and protestant speaking times at public hearings (Agenda item 8B here and Register articles here and here)]

Dear Supervisors,

I am dismayed at the proposed "streamlining" process the Planning Commission has put in front of you for your approval.

The basic question which needs to be answered before any changes to the process are made is what is the purpose of the process in the first place. it seems to me that the primary purpose of the process is to seek ways to make the outcome of decisions better. No one has yet to make the case that a faster process is one which delivers a better outcome.

Limiting the time applicants and their consultants have to present a complex application to 15 minutes is not serious when one considers that entire EIRs involving traffic, safety, impacts on resources etc. need to be presented. One can make the argument that all that information - often consisting of over 1,000 pages - are on file for any citizen to inform themselves but you must concede this to be unrealistic. At least it is available to the Commissioners whose jobs it is to do just that. But the public doesn't stand a realistic chance under the current system.

I am a fairly well educated person. Whenever I designed a plan after hours of considering every angle I can think of, I used to think that there was nothing to be added. Until that is, I presented it to public scrutiny. I learned that there is nothing more valuable than the wisdom of the crowd.

The entire premise of the "streamlining" proposal before you is that citizen input is of no value and needs to be curtailed. As a matter of fact one cannot avoid feeling the Commissioners' utter disdain for it and that were it not for the law, they would prefer to eliminate it altogether. Having sat through appeals before you, I must say that you yourselves are not immune from this charge.

I venture to say that except for applicants whose projects are approved, the public who cares to participate with a lot of sacrifice in the process is not satisfied with the results most of the time feeling that it was not "heard". This means that there are fundamental improvement which need to be instituted beginning with ways to encourage wider public participation! However, when the public perceives that its input is ineffective as it has been, you are disinviting it rather than inviting it.

Complex staff reports ought to be available to the public for at least 10 working days prior to a hearing if the P.C. were really interested in valuable public input. Applicants make a presentation, the Commission asks questions, the applicant replies. The public speaks, the applicant addresses its points but the public has no way of rebutting the applicant's explanations. Nor does the public have the opportunity to address points the Commissioners make among themselves. The process itself is wanting in basic structure not just in terms of expediency.

If you really aspire to a system which delivers a better product, you need to assemble a study group which involves business interests as well as the public. Expediting, "streamlining" the process should be way down the line of considerations.


Bill Hocker - Jan 24, 2018 7:08PM

The pushback against projects coming before county boards is the natural result of an industry beginning to degrade the quality of county life that residents treasure in its search for more profits to be made by more development. But the proposal to formalize the parameters of public feedback at hearings seems little more than a codification of the existing pattern. The Chairs of the planning commission and the board this past year have been quite ready to hammer opponents on the 3 minute rule, not allowing one speaker additional time to speak on behalf another, and not allowing community rebuttal to applicant's statements. Applicants are kindly limited to 15 minute presentations (after some jovial bonding between industry reps and commissioners).

The interesting part is that a codification to the bylaws is deemed necessary now. Perhaps it is an attempt to cut a cause for litigation of the current bylaws. It definitely reflects the hardened anti-resident attitude that has taken place in county government (and the wine industry) since APAC and the election of a developer-majority board.

Allowing community input has always been an act of due diligence on the part of government, a legal necessity, with little intent to change minds. Rarely is there a clear instance of a commissioner making up his/her mind based on community input at the hearing. (Although Comm. Pope did seem to do so at the first Yountville Hill hearing only to be corrected durning a comfort break and eventually booted out of his position for his lapse in judgment.) Continuances do result from community input and it is clear that the industry and some commissioners see this as gumming up the development pipeline.

It is optimistic to think that community opposition in last-minute 3 minute, or 2 minute, speeches at a public hearing will change the outcome of decisions months and many thousands of dollars in the making. The real problem is that the County restricts community participation in the process until the last few days before the approval is to be made. Residents do need to approach the planning department and individual commissioners at private meetings earlier in the process to make their concerns known and their mitigations accepted. And they need knowledgeable advocates for their positions to help with an unfamiliar process. That means that the real changes that need to be made in planning Commission Bylaws involve creating a process that involves impacted citizens throughout the design process and gives them real tools to counter the self-interested conclusions of paid consultants who are always able to massage the numbers to prove that a project will have less-than-significant impacts on residents, their community and the county at large. Unfortunately no one is talking about that kind of bylaw reform.

Daniel Mufson - Jan 23, 2018 6:08PM

I have confirmed with the COB’s office that one or more supervisors has already requested that this item be pulled from consent for discussion so you do not need to submit a request. Also, the rules have not been approved or adopted by the Commission yet. They recommended adoption of the revisions but the Board must approve the bylaws and the Board may wish to make changes or provide further direction.

Rector Reservoir is Drying Up (update) on: The Rector Watershed

Bill Hocker - Feb 26,18  expand...  Share

Update 3/30/18
March rains mean that Rector Reservoir will make it through the next year. Maybe.

Update 2/26/18
The subsequent article in the Yountville Sun notes that siltation has decreased the volume of Rector Reservoir from 4500 to 3100 acre feet in the last 70 years. Which means that in addition to the potential loss of spring water into the reservoir from groundwater pumping for vineyards, that siltation from the creation of those vineyards since the 1980's (1500 acres) is reducing the capacity of the reservoir and the water available for use. Which also means that it takes an ever diminishing amount of water to fill the reservoir each year, giving a false sense that agricultural development and a warming climate have not had an impact on water levels. The siltation shown in the photo in this post from last year is from a vineyard re-planting a bit up from the road crossing.

Again Rector Reservoir, given the high ratio of vineyard acerage to watershed area is proving to be an interesting indicator of the potential effects of ongoing vineyard development in the other watersheds of the county. This story just keeps getting more interesting.

NVR 2/21/18: As Yountville reservoir falls, state studies supply – and possible water purchases from Napa

An article in this week's Yountville Sun was pretty arresting: "Rector Dam water could Run out in Aug". I was both surprised, and, given concerns over climate change and the enormous amount of ground water being sucked out of the Rector watershed for vineyard development in the last 25 years, not surprised.

The prospect of Rector going dry, if indeed that is the case, will raise a couple of questions: What impact is vineyard development in the watersheds going to have on water availability, both surface and groundwater, as climate change happens. When it comes to apportioning water for residents, agriculture or tourism who gets preference?

Rector water level and watershed development

The Rector watershed is the most heavily cultivated of Napa's 5 watersheds with approximately 21% of its surface area in vines. The amount of ground water being pumped must be enormous. Does that pumping result in lower levels in the Rector Reservoir? Ground water and surface water are an integrated system, each impacting the other. The Rector Reservoir is over 1000' below the vineyards on the watershed and is undoubtedly augmented with the water of numerous springs from the sides of its steep canyon. While vineyard developer's consultants may try to make a case otherwise, the decreasing water table created by groundwater pumping undoubtedly contributes to a reduction in water reaching the reservoir. The water table is falling on the Rector plateau - I know that from changes in the water level of our spring-fed pond which no longer overflows into the canyon each winter and now dries up completely in the summer. Whether from less rainfall or from increased ground water pumping is impossible to say. Both have been happening since we moved there 25 years ago.

I have always felt that the Rector watershed, given the acerage of vines that cover it, should be a test case for all of Napa's watersheds, illustrating how continued development of the watershed for vineyard use will ultimately impact the water all Napans rely on. The fact that it is the first water supply experiencing the possibility of drying up, should be of concern to all.

Rector water level and tourism development

On the same page of the Yountville Sun, there is an article about a proposed rate hike for water and sewer services in the town. (The city of Yountville gets its water from Rector Reservoir, under contract from the State Dept of Veterans Affairs which owns it and the Veterans Home.) In the article and in LTE's in the same issue, there is a great deal of consternation among city residents that they should be asked to pay for the infrastructure costs of water and sewer systems when, as they rightly surmise, it is the continual increase in the tourism population that necessitates the upgrades. The resident population of Yountville has decreased slightly in the last 30 years from 3200 to 3000. By contrast, the hotel population, 460 rooms or so, has increased the daily population by 900 people, almost all since 1990. In addition, the day-tripper population has grown considerably as the valley has exploded into a good-life mass-tourism destination. The amount of water used and sewage generated has increased proportionately. In fact, high-end hotels and restaurants are high water users compared to residences. Residents are right to ask why they should pay. One frustrated resident recommended raising the TOT instead, stoking a huffy response from Visit Napa Valley's Clay Gregory, Napa's official tourism promoter, saying that the costs are fairly prorated based on water use. Which, of course, still means that residents are paying a portion of the costs necessary to accommodate the tourist population.

The problems of a drying Rector Reservoir highlight the tradeoffs that all Napans may eventually have to make between residents, growers, wine makers and tourists (as well as fish). In reading an article on the drying up of Cape Town's water one comment struck me: "Letting a well-heeled German tourist use some [water] to rinse beach sand off his bottom probably does more good for the economy than spraying it on a wheat field." At what point will the TOT be prioritized over the vines on the basis of the most profit for the available water? Perhaps not soon. But tourism is definitely a more profitable use of land than agriculture, and a water shortage will only accelerate the transfer from an agriculture to tourism economy. At some point, as I tried to bring out in my bit on Bali's water shortage, tourism and agriculture will be on a collision course over water as they are now over the county’s economic soul.


Bill Hocker - Feb 20, 2018 1:59PM

There may be other issues to this story. Amber Manfree reminded me that there have been a series of lawsuits against Napa water districts forcing compliance with state environmental law regarding fish habitat protection which may play a part here. The suit against the State Dept of Veterans Affairs over the Rector dam is reported on here. She also warns there may also be issues with the accuracy of the data used to calculate the rates of inflow and outflow of the reservoir. More info is obviously needed from the State engineer that issued the advisory, and a report on the meeting of concerned parties mentioned in the NVR article. [see updated NVR article at top of post]

Cindy Grupp - Feb 20, 2018 10:31AM

Let see . . . we told the county that Soda Canyon has a long history of devastating wild land fires and that the canyon was over due to burn. And it did. We told the county (and the town of Yountville) that the Rector Watershed was over developed and the continued development threatened the water supply for the town of Yountville and the Vet's Home. And it has. We've also told the county that Soda Canyon Road is dangerous, over burdened, in deplorable condition and that increased tourist/wine visitor traffic on the road makes deadly traffic accidents (i.e. tourist bus plunges into the ravine) much more likely.

There is no satisfaction in "I told you so" when the consequences are deadly.

Rethinking self interest on initiatives on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Christine Tittle - Feb 26,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preserving our water resources on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Norm Manzer - Feb 23,18  expand...  Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Save Rural Angwin Quarterly Update on: Other Groups

Kellie Anderson - Feb 21,18  expand...  Share

photo: Duane Cronk
Save Rural Angwin publishes a quarterly update on the progress of development issues there, and now as a member of Napa Vision 2050, focusing on development issues throughout the county. The Dec 2017-Jan 2018 update is here

It includes the sad news of the passing of Duane Cronk, profiled in this 2006 Star article. Duane's website, chronicling events and history in Angwin since 2006, is here: The Angwin Reporter.

Duane Cronk LTE 12/28/17: For the right reasons
A fitting last post for a life spent on conservation.

Protecting our Oak Woodlands: the movie on: Watershed Initiative 2018

Bill Hocker - Feb 20,18  expand...  Share

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

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

Historic Fellowship Hall
1924 Cedar St

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