SodaCanyonRoad | Pop-up Tourism on Soda Canyon Road


Pop-up Tourism on Soda Canyon Road
Bill Hocker | Feb 25, 2022 on: Soda Canyon Road

Two faits accomplis have occurred on Soda Canyon Road in the last month moving us ever closer to that kiss of death for any community wishing to just be a normal place to live: becoming a tourist destination.

First there is this announcement from Antica Napa Valley Winery, the 600-acre gorilla at the end of the road that has, over the last 35 years, been a good neighbor in eschewing the tourism lust that has consumed other vintners in the county. But now, construction of a new tasting room is almost complete.

Obviously the change in the use-permit (the approval letter is here) needed to allow a tasting room to be built (in lieu of a permitted office building) would seem to require more than just an un-notified administrative decision, especially given the grief that road residents have shown the County over the last 8 years. Charlene Gallina explained the County's decision to grant the change thus:

    Mr. Hocker,

    I found in our records for the property the attached Very Minor Modification that was submitted in December 2018 and authorized in August 2019 which did not require a public notice to be sent out. It was authorized administratively under the PBES Director authorization (under our previous modification process).

The note "(under our previous modificaton process)" required some investigation to discover that, under the previous process, a use permit change could be granted without notification for "very minor, non-controversial" modifications. Of course without notification how would one know if a request was controversial. In this case, I can reliably say that there would have been some controversy, as the County well knew. In the current process un-notified "very minor" modifications are only allowed for non-winery permits. The full text of my email exchange with Ms. Gallina is here.

Belaboring a water-under-the-bridge issue didn't make much sense, of course, but I also asked for a verification that Antica's use-permit was still for a maximum of 5200 visitors per year, and that Antica would have to go through a notified major-mod process to increase it. I have yet to hear back.

Unfortunately, the un-notified use-permit change is just one more example of County indifference to the concerns of residents when it comes to the expansion of the tourism industry.

Second, fhe newly paved lower portion of the road, now a silky smooth ride, has become, with symbols every 100 ft and white stripes to tell us where the edge of the road is, a designated bicycle route, now a familiar site in suburbs everywhere. SInce it is fairly unlikely that road residents will now decide to cycle to work (although always a possibility) and even less likely that the vineyard workers will cycle up the grade to work every day, one can only assume that the county has decided to make rural Soda Canyon Road an official tourist attraction to lure ever more people into the remote byways of the county for recreation. One more thumb in the eye of pesky NIMBYS.