SodaCanyonRoad | Another look at The Big Picture

Another look at The Big Picture
Bill Hocker | Apr 14, 2023 on: Napa Strategic Plan

Update 4/14/23 Napa County Strategic Plan Revision Process
The meeting below was a precursor to a new look at the Napa County Stratigic Plan, a 2018 revision process that was orphaned in the wake of major fires and the covid epidemic. This new Board is intent on bringing the process to the fore again. Thank goodness. Staff will make a presentation to the BOS meeting on April 18, 2023 to implement a process to revise the Strategic Plan. The staff letter letter outlining the process is here.

Update 3/23/23
NVR 3/22/23: New-look Napa County Board of Supervisors looks at big picture

I'm glad that Barry Eberling was there to document the proceeding - but still. The Board of Supervisors talks about a vision for Napa's future for 5 hours in a discussion that wasn't recorded, in a location away from the Board Chambers, that was not noticed beyond a rather cryptic and ambiguous item on an otherwise bland agenda. The low profile may have been what the Board wanted in order to be more open in their deliberations. But such open ended discussions are the most interesting parts of regular BOS meetings, and to have 5 hours of it would have been a treat and very enlightening. It would seem to be a subject of interest to wide swath of Napa Valley Citizenry and yet all we seem to know of it are some sound bytes in the article.

A good read for those considering what the big picture should look like ahead is this report funded by the JLDAgFund: Agricultural Land Protection, Annexation, and Housing Development: An Analysis of Programs and Techniques with Potential Use in Napa County It makes the same argument that the Ag Preserve was founded on: contain urban development tightly in the municipalities so that the rest of the county can remain in vines and open space. And that is good. And yet, sadly, the word "tourism" occurs only once in the entire report, as if the expanision of wineries, restaurants, hotels resorts and their parking lots into agricultural zones [see here] were not equivalent to the threat posed by housing. The big picture must consider that urbanization threat as well.

Original Post 11/16/22
Each year the county puts out a legislative platform describing the issues that they plan to take up with the State where county governance overlaps with State law. The markup of last year's document in preparation for this 2023 platform is here:

Napa County 2023 Legislative Regulatory Platform

The document begins with a statement of Legislative Principals that define what its goals are in its effort to influence State-wide legislation that will have an impact on the county, and it is worth repeating here.

Legislative Principles

The primary goal of the County's elected representatives and employees is to serve and support the County’s social and economic well-being and the health and safety of its citizens. Therefore, the Napa County Board of Supervisors has adopted the following principles:
  • The County of Napa will encourage, seek and support legislation and policies that protect the County's quality of life, its diverse natural resources and preserve the County’s essence, history, and agricultural heritage.
  • The County of Napa will encourage, seek and support legislation and policies that facilitate orderly economic expansion and growth, oppose unfunded and/or unnecessary State mandates, and increase the opportunity for discretionary revenues and programmatic and financial flexibility.

Legislative Goals

Sustainable Growth

The Board of Supervisors seeks to preserve Napa County’s agricultural heritage and economy by locating appropriate housing and development in the urban areas of the County. The Board supports State housing needs assessment reforms that provide flexibility and acknowledge the differences between rural and urban counties. The Board also supports legislation that would allow for the transfer of mandated County housing allocations to the incorporated areas within the County at any time during the housing cycle in exchange for the expenditure of County housing funds or the provision of County land. Rural counties lack adequate infrastructure and services necessary to support housing in less developed unincorporated areas.

Preserving the Agricultural Economy

In 1968, the Napa County Board of Supervisors had the forethought to preserve open space and prevent future overdevelopment by creating the nation’s first Agricultural Preserve. This designation has ensured that Napa Valley’s limited resources are preserved for agriculture first and foremost. Napa County opposes efforts that would exempt real property, such as tribal land, from local land use regulations, including provisions regulating the Agricultural Preserve, which ultimately could upset Napa County’s vital agricultural economy.

The two bullet-pointed principals are interesting because they illustrate the schizophrenic nature of the county's self image. On the one hand they want to "protect the County's quality of life, its diverse natural resources and preserve the County’s essence, history, and agricultural heritage." and on the other they want to "facilitate orderly economic expansion and growth". By "Expansion and growth" the County may mean more vineyards, but I don't think so. Every week new building projects are submitted to the county planners, and every week building projects are approved and construction projects begin. Expansion and growth in Napa County means just what it does elsewhere: more buildings and parking lots and road improvements, more workers and visitors to fill them and further projects to service the additional people in a never-ending cycle of growth and expansion. Growth and Expansion consume natural resources like water and land that specifically threaten the agricultrual heritage and quality of life that the county claims as its essence. If ever their was a zero sum game, it is the preservation of open space vs. economic growth.