SodaCanyonRoad | The Urbanization of the Ag Preserve

The Urbanization of the Ag Preserve
Bill Hocker | Nov 6, 2021 on: Growth Issues

Up valley building projects in the Ag Preserve since 1993

    "Once our open space is gone, it's gone." -- Sup. Alfredo Pedroza

Geographer Amber Manfree has given us a birds-eye look• at land in the "Ag Preserve" lost to building development since 1993, some 793 acres. It represents a 60% increase in urbanized land in the AP from that date. This map shows the entire urbanized area of the Ag Preserve.

Since 2010 alone about 80 new wineries have been approved, the majority within the AR (valley floor) zone. A sampling of the projects and the loss of existing or potential vineyard land that each represents:

ProjectAcres lost
Girard 3.5
Benjamin Ranch 6-7
B Cellars 2.5±
Castellucci 3+
LMR Rutherford 2-3
Corona WInery 2.5±
Beautiful Day
Darms Lane 4.4
Washington St2

Despite a stated desire at almost every opportunity by county officials to laud their committment to the sanctity of agriculture as the highest and best use of land, protected under the Agricultural Preserve Ordinance since 1968, the reality is that those officials approve, month after month, building projects that pave over that land forever. While many, including this website, have pointed to the acreage of vines removed to accommodate the buildings and parking lots needed for ever more tourist attractions over the last few years (like the 3.5 acres on Girard or the 10 acres on Benjamin Ranch, as examples), it is only when the pattern of vineyard loss becomes visible on a map that we can see the impact of urbanization in action.

The map that Amber has assembled shows development since 1993, a point when the wine industry was already successful and capable of maintaining its position as a world leader in wine as long as the forces of urbanization that threaten its agricultural resource could be held at bay. The mass-market tourism industry, however, was just was beginning its development, and most of these projects were the response.

The yellow areas show actual building sites, the land permanently removed from potential agricultural use, not the total properties they are on. The map doesn't show the dozens of projects that have been approved but not yet constructed. Nor does it show the dozens that are currently in the planning department awaiting review.

The photos shown here are screen shots taken of the Google Earth Pro app. The app allows you to take flight and traverse the globe as a bird (or satelite) would see it. If you don't already have it, Download the Google Earth Pro App here

The map consists of two files*, one for building sites and another for the ag preserve boundaries, which must be downloaded to your computer and then both must be opened (File -> Open...) with the Google Earth app.

Click to download building sites file (yellow)

Click to download Ag Preserve file (red)

Down valley building projects in the Ag Preserve since 1993

* Note that Napa County is the source for raw data:
Zoning data for the ag preserve are found here:
Land cover data are available by request from Napa County; they were created by UC Davis Information Center for the Environment (James Thorne and associates)