May 29, 2014

Protect Rural Napa is a public benefit organization formed by residents on Soda Canyon Road and elsewhere to provide education and advocacy for the preservation and protection of the rural environment of Napa County.

The Protect Rural Napa Website is here


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Important Fire Protection Information

Bill Hocker - Feb 9, 2024 7:05PM  Share #2319

On Sat, Mar 16, 2024:
Napa Grapegrowers, NVV, Cal Fire and Napa Firewise will sponser a Fire Resources Fair at the Napa County Expo In Napa from 10am to 2pm. The press release with details is here.

Important Fire Information from the Soda Canyon Fire Safe Council

Napa County and Napa Firewise will start a fuel reduction project along Soda Canyon Road and Loma Vista in March and this project is designed to reduce hazardous roadside fuel, facilitating safer evacuation, and in the event of a wildfire, it will provide firefighters with increased access to the Soda Canyon community for improved fire suppression. Licensed professional contractors will be removing vegetation within the county’s right of way. Additional funding is available to extend vegetation removal on private property. Firewise is seeking property owners permission to access their property and remove high fuel loading, dead and dying trees that could be an obstruction during a wildfire event. This is a win/win for the Soda Canyon community and there is no cost to the property owner. It takes approximately five minutes to complete the online Landowners Agreement form. For additional information and to sign the online form to allow work on your property, please visit: and click on “Fuels Reduction Projects

Soda Canyon Road Firesafe work

Bill Hocker - Mar 11, 2022 3:40PM  Share #2254

Soda Canyon Road is moving forward with steps to reduce wildfire and increase evacuation safety. By now those of you that drive Soda Canyon Road on a regular basis have noticed the polite and extremely productive crew from Aeri that is working on roadside vegetation mitigation along Soda Canyon Road in the county right of way. You might not know that this work is being funded by a CAL FIRE prevention grant. Napa FireWise was awarded this $225,000 grant on behalf of Soda Canyon and we appreciate their support as we face the upcoming fire season.

For more information on defensible space, home hardening, and educating yourself about fire safety, check out:

Soda Canyon Fire Safe Council

Deforestation: Sounding the Alarm

Bill Hocker - Mar 8, 2022 10:46AM  Share #2253

At the BOS meeting on Mar 8, 2020 a video was presented by local student members Emily Bit and Sophia Rapacon of Schools For Climate Action to bring attention to the climate crisis and what Napa County can do about it. The video, "Deforestation: Sounding the alarm", made a clearer argument for the preservation of the thousands of trees being cut down in Napa County for vineyard development than has been made in the eight years of letters, meetings, speeches, protests, initiatives and elections generated in opposition to the Walt Ranch project.

The Video and its associated website, by Diversity Watch Napa with the involvement of the Napa environmental community, is here:

Deforestation: Sounding the Alarm

Industry lobbyist Michelle Benvenuto spoke after the video to remind everyone that only 10% of Napa county is in vines, that prohibiting ag is not a climate action plan, and that legislation in Napa County is driven by vintners and growers. Kellie Anderson then suggested to her that such self-serving wine industry dogma is tired and outdated given the existential climate crisis that residents and the wine industry itself now face.

Mountain Peak back in Court January 20

Bill Hocker - Jan 12, 2022 5:02PM  Share #2244

Date: January 20, 2022
Time: 10:00am
Location: Napa Superior Court, 825 Brown St, Napa
Judge: Hon. Cynthia Smith (Department A)

To express your support for the protection of our rural Soda Canyon community, we encourage you to please:
    1: Show up at court on January 20.
    2: Donate to Protect Rural Napa. No matter how small, your financial support is of supreme importance to continue the fight to save our rural community.
Thank you!

On January 20, 2022 residents of Soda Canyon Road will return to the Napa Superior Court for the final hearing to challenge the County's re-approval of the oversized Mountain Peak Winery development located at the remote end of Soda Canyon Road. Prior to approval, the County conducted an in-house, cursory review of the project and its potential impacts on the community and environment, and, ultimately found that the project would have a "less-than-significant" impact. In returning to Court, opponents of the project seek a more thorough assessment of the project, through an Environmental Impact Report, which would be conducted by an independent third-party. Given the size and scope of the project, and what appear to be obvious adverse impacts on the community and environment, such an independent review must be conducted.

The issues raised by the project to be presented in court include the increased traffic that it will bring to an already dangerous road, the environmental danger of moving millions of cubic feet of earth within feet of two blue line creeks, a lack of biologic resource analysis, insufficient and inaccurate analysis of groundwater extraction, a disputed analysis of noise impacts, and insufficient consideration of the fire danger on a long dead-end road in a remote area.

The project is for a 100,000 gal/yr winery, 33,400 sf of caves, 28 parking spaces, 19 full-time employees, and an above ground 8000 sf tasting room. About 3 acres of vines will be permanently removed. Visitation will include 275 visitors/wk, plus 2 - 75 person and 1 - 125 person events/yr. The total amounts to 21,510 tourist/employee users on the site each year (59 people avg per day) and 120 vehicle trips on the road each day, which amounts to ~44,000 trips/yr. The winery is located approximately 6 winding, dead-end miles from the Silverado Trail.

The Use Permit was approved by the Planning Commission on Jan 4, 2017, and an appeal of the Planning Commission decision was denied by the Supervisors on May 23, 2017 (finalized August 17, 2017). A suit against the County to compel an EIR for the project was filed by project opponents Sep 20, 2017.

As part of the lawsuit, residents had already requested that the project be reconsidered by the Board of Supervisors in light of the evidence of the 2017 Atlas Fire which occurred after the project was approved. (On October 8, 2017, the Atlas Fire quickly engulfed lower Soda Canyon Road. A fallen tree blocked traffic coming down the road and fire trucks coming up as the fire burned on all sides. A frantic effort cleared the road just enough to let the line of cars get by. Dozens of residents, unable to make it down through the fire, had to be precariously evacuated by helicopter in 60+ mph crosswinds. 134 of the 163 residences (82%) on Soda Canyon Road were damaged or destroyed, 118 of them a complete loss. Tragically, two lives were lost.) In June 2020 the Judge in the case agreed that fire danger had been unconsidered in light of this evidence and remanded the project back to the BOS for reconsideration.

The Judge on Mountain Peak was not alone in highlighting the ever-increasing fire danger now experienced by wildland development. Courts and the California Attorney General have acted on the increased danger such development brings to existing and new residents in remote and rural areas like upper Soda Canyon, including (1) the luxury Guenoc Valley Development in the wine region of Lake County, (2) a major housing development in a fire prone area of San Diego and (3) another major housing development at the north edge of Los Angeles County.

In the BOS remand hearing on May 18, 2021 (see pg. 19), the Supervisors again found, incredibly given the evidence of a second devastating wildfire season in 2020, that the potential impacts of fire to the safety of a much larger daily population on the road were still less-than-significant, and voted 3-2 to re-approve the Project.

The impacts that may be considered under CEQA are primarily quantifiable environmental and public safety-related impacts. And they will be diligently and forcefully presented. But for those of us who live on the road, the introduction of daily tourists and large number of employees at the winery will also be a quantum change to the remote, quiet, and dark isolation that has made this place so special in an urbanized world. The increased traffic and daily presence of visitors will mean the death of another remote rural place. The loss of something so increasingly rare is impossible to quantify.

Soda Canyon residents are not alone in recognizing the threat that development is bringing to agriculture, the environment, the rural and small-town character of Napa County. In the eight years that this project has been contested, numerous community groups have formed to oppose development projects that threaten their community's character and safety. Municipal and county governments have turned a deaf ear to their pleas, anxious for the increased revenues to be made as the hospitality industry slowly eclipses the wine industry in Napa County.

At one point in Napa history, the interests of residents and the wine industry coincided; the growers and vintners that built the industry were also residents with a commitment to preserve the place they wanted to live. But the industry has moved on to corporate and investment ownership with less interest in a preservation ethos that stands in the way of economic expansion and increased profits. Unfortunately, when it comes to land use policy, the county government seems more interested in protecting the economic interests of tourism and real estate developers than the quality-of-life and public safety interests of residents, and in so doing have abandoned the commitment to "the rural character that we treasure" that a previous generation of leaders embraced. Residents must now turn to the courts in an attempt to preserve that legacy.

Again, we encourage anyone interested in the ongoing efforts throughout the County to preserve rural communities and character against the ongoing threat of urban development in Napa County to attend this hearing and bear witness:

Date: January 20, 2022
Time: 10:00am
Location: Napa Superior Court, 825 Brown St, Napa
Judge: Hon. Cynthia Smith (Department A)

    Show up. There are no 3-minute speeches or opposition letters needed for the court hearing. Simply being there shows that you value the protection of community character that is being eroded by neighborhood commercialization.

    Donate. Show your support with a contribution, no matter how small, by donating to Protect Rural Napa.

Thank you

Protect Rural Napa

Soda Canyon Fire Safe Council News

Barbara Guggia - Nov 26, 2021 8:53AM  Share #2240

Happy Thanksgiving Soda Canyon Neighbors

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and approach the Christmas holiday season, I am thankful Napa County has begun to take a proactive approach to fire issues. Financial resources are being directed to fire prevention projects from public and privates sources. For example the Atlas Peak AVA has donated substantial resources fuel reduction, fire breaks, and for the installation of an IQ Fire Watch camera. I would like to share with you the following updates regarding fire prevention that will impact Napa Valley and our Soda Canyon Fire Safe Council District.
  1. The Board of Supervisors awarded $1 million to the Napa Communities Firewise Foundation for fuel mitigation to be used by June 2021. The Board also awarded $5.4 million for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
  2. The Napa Communities Firewise Foundation was successful in obtaining a $5,855,215 grant from CalFire and will be used to reduce hazardous fuels from the five recent large fires over the last four years: Atlas-Lightning, Angwin Glass, Nuns, and Tubbs-Glass. There will be funding available for local fire safe councils’ projects.
  3. This year the Countywide Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) was completed and developed a wildfire protection plan for the entire county. Regarding Soda Canyon’s CWPP, it was originally written in 2012 and needed to be updated. I have recently received a draft copy from our consultant and anticipate sharing the proposed projects with the Soda Canyon community members in the next few months, receiving feedback, and as a community, setting priorities. We have quite a few hoops to jump through; however, I am hopefully our updated CWPP will be completed by May 2022.
  4. If you would like to sign up for the free Napa County Chipping program, the last day to sign up this Friday, November 26th. Sign-ups will resume in Spring 2022, sometime around April, dependent upon the weather. If you are interested, you can sign up at the Napa County website:
  5. Senator Bill Dodd has named the Napa Communities Firewise Foundation as the beneficiary of his annual holiday fundraiser on December 3rd and although it is sold out, you can still bid on silent and live auction lots. Check out the information below if you are interested.

    If you plan to bid on silent or buy-a-spot auction lots, please register by clicking this link:

    SILENT AUCTION: Once you’re registered to bid, you can bid on silent lots online until the silent auction closes at 7:30pm PST December 3.

    LIVE AUCTION: You don’t have to attend the event to bid on live auction lots. Simply complete the attached proxy bidding form and email it back to Sean Dempsey at You must be registered and your bidding representative must be in attendance at the event and must have a bidder number, there are no exceptions.

    Click this link to preview the lots. The online auction will go live Friday, November 26 at 8AM.
    Alternatively, to access â€"register to bid” or to â€"view auction catalog”, visit and scroll down to the middle of the landing page.

Thank you for your time and interest and enjoy a safe holiday season,

Barbara Guggia
Soda Canyon Fire Safe Council.

Soda Canyon Fire Safe Council News

Barbara Guggia - Sep 27, 2021 3:00PM  Share #2207

Update 9/27/21
We have received this update from County Engineer Graham Wadsworth regarding the FireWatch sensors:

    The County is entering into an agreement for ITC to install a new IQ FireWatch sensor on the County's existing communications tower on the south side of Atlas Peak, which is on private land. ITC owns an existing IQ sensor on private property on Diamond Mountain west of Calistoga and on the Clover Flat Landfill property east of Calistoga. The short term agreement will pay ITC to monitor the two existing and one new IQ sensors through December, 2021.

    ITC proposed the three locations to scan 75 percent of the area of the Napa Valley.

    In terms of the monopole that ITC constructed in the County road right-of-way on the corner of Soda Canyon Road at Silverado Trail, I have not heard any plans to remove the monopole.

More on the SCR monopole here

7/6/21 Good News and Bad News From the Soda Canyon Fire Safe Council:

Starting off with the good news...Starting off with the good news…the county will be working on Soda Canyon Road from Silverado Trail to Loma Vista starting in late July. Hopefully those nasty potholes and the deteriorating asphalt will be fixed and we all can enjoy smooth driving for a few more miles up the road.

I’m sure most of the residents in the canyon have noticed that weeds along the road in the county right of way have not been cut this year. In the past, funding from the county to Napa Communities Firewise Foundation has covered the cost of Joaquin and his crew to work on this very important roadside fuel reduction project. Although the county has earmarked substantial funding for fire mitigation projects, Napa Communities Firewise Foundation is focusing on larger projects and funding for fuel reduction within the county right of way is not available this year. This obviously is bad news for Soda Canyon Road residents. Supervisor Pedroza indicated he is exploring the idea of organizing volunteers from ag and landscaping companies to help out with this issue but as of this date, I have not back from him. I would encourage all property owners on Soda Canyon Road to be mindful of the potential dangerous situation these roadside fuels can present to all of us living and working in the canyon. If possible, take responsibility for the weeds in front of your property. Considering the current traffic situation on Soda Canyon Road, if you can’t hire a professional, please be extremely careful when cutting roadside vegetation.

In previous years, Joaquin’s Landscaping company was responsible for the fuel reduction project on Soda Canyon Road. He recently sold his business to his nephew, Francisco Ledezma, who has renamed the business Napa Roots Landscaping and can be reached at 707.224.5857. I met with Francisco last week and he reports it would cost approximately $11,000 for his crew to cut down the roadside vegetation for the six miles of Soda Canyon Road. Francisco can be reached at the above number if you need help with fuel reduction on your property line. If anyone out there has recently won the lottery and would like to make a donation to cover the entire cost (or a portion of the cost ) of this project-this is your chance to the the guardian angel of Soda Canyon.

Stay safe,

Fire Season 2021

Barbara Guggia - Jun 19, 2021 11:09AM  Share #2206

Fire Season is Here…Are you ready Soda Canyon?

Maintaining adequate defensible space and using fire-resistant landscaping are two steps you can take right now to make your home safer. Defensible space is the buffer you can create by removing dead trees, shrubs, plants, grass, and weeds around your property which will help keep fire away from your home. Surrounding your home with plants that are unlikely to catch fire will contribute to making your defensible space more effective.

The following online resources can provide detailed information about defensible space and fire-resistant landscaping.

If you prefer receiving a hard copy of this information, please send an email and I will drop off a packet of information to your front porch or gate next week.

Soda Canyon Fire Safe Council

Virtual Stakeholders Meeting June 2: Draft Minimum Fire Safe Regulations

Bill Hocker - May 26, 2021 10:56AM  Share #2201

The County of Napa's Planning, Building, and Environmental Services Department in cooperation with Napa County Fire Marshal's office will hold a virtual stakeholder meeting regarding the draft State Minimum Fire Safe Regulations, 2021. (County's webage is here)

Wednesday, June 2, 2021 at 10:00 AM

To participate in the Stakeholders meeting, members of the public are invited to observe and comment via Zoom:
  • Listen on your phone - via Zoom at (1-669-900-6833). Enter Meeting ID (879 9584 4997) once you have joined the meeting
  • Watch via the internet - view the live stream via Zoom at
Documents for review:

Following the devastating fires of the last few years, the California State Board of Forestry(BOF) is revising their minimum standards for roads and defensible space in fire hazardous areas throughout the state. County and municiplal governments will be required to comply with those standards in their approval of projects in those areas. In Napa County that means that most new construction in rural areas will need to comply, and as Planning Director Morrison has indicated, this could have a major impact on allowed development, from major projects to home additions, going forward.

After this virtual meeting, there willl be a public meeting of the Board of Supervisors on June 8, 2021 to discuss the issues, and the Board will then draft a letter to be submitted to the BOF with their concerns about the draft regulations. The Board of Forestry on June 22, 2021 will consider letters submitted in response to the Draft Regulations. It may vote to approve the Draft unchanged or request that changes be made in the draft, in response to submitted concerns, to be reviewed again later.

This virtual stakeholder's meeting is a chance to listen to a discussion of this complex issue and become familiar with the regulation's impacts. For those of us opposed to the increased urban development of our rural environment, the proposed changes are welcome. For project developers or even families wishing to add a bedroom or inlaw unit on a sub-standard road or driveway, the changes may be of greater concern.

May 18th: Supervisors to Reconsider Mountain Peak Winery Approval Over 2017 Atlas Fire Evidence

Bill Hocker - May 16, 2021 5:43PM  Share #2196

Date: Tuesday, May 18, 2021 at 2:00pm
Location: County Administration Building, 1195 Third Street, Suite 305, Napa, CA
Format: Public hearing IN-Person or via Zoom (viewing, listening and commenting options are here)

On Aug 22, 2017 the Napa County Board of Supervisors approved the use permit for the 19-employee, 14,575-visitor/year Mountain Peak Winery 6 miles up the dead-end Soda Canyon Road. Soda Canyon residents had presented ample first-hand experience and data-based assessments of fire danger on Soda Canyon Road at Planning Commission and BOS appeal hearings for the project. The Supervisors ignored their testimony in finding that "In the event of a fire that results in mass evacuations from this area, the road has sufficient capacity and roadway width to accommodate all outgoing traffic while allowing incoming fire response units."

Mountain Peak site after the fire
Six weeks later, on Oct 8th, the Atlas fire erupted and quickly engulfed lower Soda Canyon Road. A fallen tree blocked traffic coming down the road and fire trucks coming up as the fire burned on all sides. A frantic effort cleared the road just enough to let the line of cars get by. Fire trucks were unable to continue up the road. Dozens of residents, unable to make it down through the fire, had to be evacuated by helicopter from the top of the road. 134 of the 163 residences on Soda Canyon Road were damaged or destroyed, 118 of them a complete loss. Tragically two lives were lost. Resident declarations vividly present the chaos of the night.

In September 2017, Soda Canyon residents filed a lawsuit against the County and Mountain Peak. In the aftermath of the Fire, residents asked the Court to include evidence from the event. Over the objections of the County and the project developer, the Court agreed, noting that "the complete inaccessibility of Soda Canyon Road during a fire and resulting helicopter evacuations of stranded individuals" had not been considered in approving the project. The Court ordered the County to re-consider its approval in light of this new evidence. The County and developer filed THREE separate appeals to try and get the Court's decision overturned, all of which were DENIED by the Appellate Court.

This Tuesday, May 18th, the Board of Supervisors will re-consider the Mountain Peak project in light of the 2017 Atlas Fire evidence. Incredibly, the County's "Staff Report" on the hearing COMPLETELY IGNORES both the evidence from the fire and the Court's desire to address the possibility of a closed road and helicopter evacuation in the future. Staff "recommends that the Board affirm its decision" and re-approve the Mountain Peak Project IN ITS ENTIRETY with no changes!

This is outrageous. Napa County has suffered major wildfires in 2017 and 2020, with millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage and destruction to property, not to mention the tragic loss of life. The County needs to end this development madness in unsafe wildfire zones. The Board of Supervisors has an opportunity on May 18 to change course and start looking out for the best interests of ALL of Napa's residents and stop the divisive effort to turn rural communities throughout the county into tourist destinations to the benefit of a few. They can do this by DENYING the Mountain Peak project in its entirety, or substantially scaling back the size and scope of the project with an evacuation plan and red-flag protocols as part of the conditions of approval to reduce the danger such commercial development presents in high fire hazard zones.

You are encouraged to attend the hearing in-person or via Zoom and let your voice be heard. For more information and pertinent documents, click here [], and please consider donating to Protect Rural Napa [] to help fund the ongoing and critical legal battle to protect Napa's rural communities from development.

Protect Rural Napa

Comments on Board of Forestry Fire Safe Regulations

Bill Hocker - Feb 15, 2021 2:24PM  Share #2178

Protect Rural Napa has submitted the following comments to The State Board of Forestry as they seek to modify state regulations related to road standards for "Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones" in state and local fire protection responsibility areas following the 2017-2020 fires. More information on the ongoing modification process is here.

February 17, 2021

Edith Hannigan
Land Use Planning Policy Manager
CAL FIRE/Board of Forestry

Ms. Hannigan,

We would like to respond to your 2/8/21 draft of the BOF Fire Safe Regulations.

Protect Rural Napa was only recently made aware of the Board of Forestry's efforts to modify the regulations, thus our apologies for this late reply. Our response may be somewhat general compared to the specific comments of others that have been involved in nitty-gritty of the workshops up to this point.

Soda Canyon Road

Protect Rural Napa advocates for the protection of the rural environment of Napa County and in particular for the protection of the canyon and upland valley served by Soda Canyon Road, a 7 mile long dead-end road in the county. The road is entirely within the State Responsibility Area. The first 4 miles of the road lie in the designated "moderate" fire hazard severity zone. The upper 3 miles, which include a steep grade, a pass, and a high valley, lie in the "very high" fire severity zone.

The road was heavily impacted in the 2017 Atlas Fire, particularly the lower end in the moderate zone. Nearly every house burned and two people died. During the fire a tree-fall across the road blocked egress from the canyon and fire trucks coming up the road. By the time it was cleared firefighters had decided that the canyon was too dangerous to advance. At the upper end of the road people were removed by helicopter, but only one house burned. (The destructiveness of wildfires is obviously not limited by severity zone designation.)

We also experienced a major fire that burned the entire upper valley in 1981. In 2020 the Hennessey Fire burned the entire northern ridge of the upper valley. Our concerns about fire safety, unfortunately, come from experience.

Our concerns

While we have an interest in how the new regulations relate to road design, and especially to dead-end length, our particular concern in the draft is whether the changes will reduce or will encourage future development that will add to wildfire destructiveness and further urbanize rural lands that we feel should be retained as a necessary component of a healthy and sustainable environment.

In this regard we support CA SB-55, which would prevent further building development in very high fire hazard severity areas and other SRA's. (We would, however, support an exemption for the replacement of fire damaged structures.) CA SB-55 is easy to understand and addresses the basic fact that continued development in the state's mountainous and forested lands will only increase the economic and human costs of wildfires and diminish the environmental benefit of forest and watershed protection and of concentrating urban development to reduce transport imacts. Unfortunately it is probably too optimistic to expect the enactment of such an effective and simple solution to the long term problems we face. It is concerning that BOF regulations seem to place no limit on the amount of development that might occur in the SRA's as long as minimum road standards are met. [Update; The bill was completely modified in a subsequent revision, eliminating reference to commercial/industrial construction - which thus have no prohibitions in high fire risk zones - and providing developers density bonuses for not building in high fire risk zones. As we see over and over, all laws relating to land use are crafted by developers.]

The proposed BOF standards related to dead-end road length (in the existing standards as well) are good, but for us they highlight a question about what degree of compliance local governments must give to the standards. In the case of Soda Canyon Road, prior to the 2017 fire, Napa County granted an approval to a winery project that will accomodate 40 visitors per day, 19 daily employees and individual events up to 125 people, located 6 miles up the road. (The one-mile BOF standard was a surprise to us!) Other proposed winery projects in the county are further than 1 mile up dead end roads or are on sub-standard roads, yet, despite the glaring discrepecies with the BOF standards, the projects were nonetheless approved. Is there a method of appeal to the BOF when it seems that local governments have been overly solicitious to developers regarding fire access regulations?

Concerning future delopment in the SRA's, the section on "Aggregate Risk" in the proposed draft might most closely reflect out concerns, particularly using the tool of vehicle trips created by new development as a control on substandard roads and the need for major public infrastructure upgrades which might slow development in the SRA's. As we read the proposal, development on substandard roads, roads that you already see as problematic from a fire fighting standpoint and may already be well beyond needed egress capacity, would be allowed to double. This doesn't make sense. It would seem to be more appropriate for the BOF to adopt an absolute number of egressing vehicles (10?, 25?, 50?) that can be reasonably accommodated on a substandard road with ingressing fire vehices, beyond which a two-lane road, whether on private or public land, would be required. Existing substandard roads serving fewer than that number of one-way trips could develop up to that point. Those already at that level would not be allowed future development until the entire road conforms to standard.

There are probably other concerns over the specific issues in the draft which will take more time to understand, and we anticipate more carefuly monitoring the process in the future.


We would like to re-emphasize that even access roads that are compliant with BOF standards in the SRA's (as the lower part of Soda Canyon Road is) will not prevent the massive loss of structures seen in recent fires. Only a cessation of construction in those areas will reduce the risk to property and lives. To the extent that these changes in the regulations will inhibit the urbanization of the state's wildlands, they serve the public good. If they end up reducing protections and allow incresed intensity of use it is not clear why they are being changed.

Our sincere thanks for the enormous effort you have made to bring the views of a wide variety of stakeholders to the table.

Bill Hocker for
Protect Rural Napa
Soda Canyon Road
Napa, California

Medical equipment needed: donate on Mar 28th

Bill Hocker - Apr 1, 2020 7:19PM  Share #2089

Update 4/1/20
NVR 4/1/20: Personal Protective Equipment drive was huge success

Protect Rural Napa is pleased to support this county-wide effort to provide needed medical equipment.

For Immediate Release


March 23, 2020, Napa, CA - Inspired by and with the assistance of Operation: With LOVE from HOME, city council members from American Canyon to Calistoga are holding a one day community drive for gathering much needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items and goodie-boxes for local hospitals, clinics and public healthcare providers who are on the front lines battling the coronavirus in Napa County. Spearheaded and organized by a core group of community members from the healthcare field, non-profit organizations including Napa Valley CanDo and Teens Connect Napa, along with community activist and faith groups, this community PPE drive will occur on Saturday, March 28, from 9am to 6pm at several locations throughout Napa County.

Items needed are (ranked in order of importance):

Facemask N95, any size
Eye protection goggles
Eye protection safety glasses
Disposable latex gloves all sizes: x-small, small, medium, large, x-large
Non-latex disposable gloves all size: x-small, small, medium, large, x-large
Disinfectant wipes
Thermometers with covers
Hand sanitizer
Facemask, Shield & mask combo
Paper Gowns
Eye protection shield
Surgical Masks, Adults
Surgical Masks, Child

In addition to individual community members, this call to action is directed at other businesses and organizations including paint stores, hardware stores, dentist/orthodontic offices, and all non-healthcare industries that may have some of the needed items.

To boost the morale of our dedicated Caregivers, individuals, groups and families can help with caregiver package items that can include granola and protein energy bars, beef jerky, peanut butter cups, cans of caffeine-free beverages, such as fresh juices, flavored waters, and hand written thank you cards addressed to "Dear Caregiver".

"Above all, we want to continue to stress that the more everyone follows the guidelines of stay at home, social distancing, and proper hygiene of washing hands is the pound of prevention we need to keep everyone safe and healthy," said drive organizer and Napa City Councilmember Liz Alessio. "As the number of positive cases in Napa County grows, we all need to come together to help protect our healthcare providers who are making incredible sacrifices to care for each of us."

Donations will be accepted between 9am and 6pm through a drive in and drop off process, with an established 8' distancing parameter. Masked and gloved volunteers from the Operation: With LOVE from HOME organization will be coordinating the operational logistics of the drop off event, so community members can be assured their experience will be as efficient and organized as possible.

Locations for drop off are:

American Canyon: American Canyon Food Pantry, located at 4225 Broadway Avenue
Napa: CrossWalk Community Church, located at 2590 1st Street
Yountville: Yountville Community Center, located at 6516 Washington Street
St. Helena: Grace Church, located at 1314 Spring Street
Calistoga: Calistoga Elementary School, located at 1327 Berry Street

"Just like our responders were here for us during the fires and other emergencies, all our healthcare workers are putting themselves and families at risk to keep the rest of us safe and healthy as possible," stated St. Helena Councilmember Anna Chouteau, "I am filled with love and appreciation for them and want to do everything I can to support them as they face the front line of dealing with the coronavirus."

Calistoga Councilmember Irais Lopez-Ortega added, "Ahora es cuando nuestra comunidad necesita cuidarse unos a otros y estar unidos para apoyar a el personal medica que esta a cargo. (Translation) Now is the time to be together to support the medical workers who are doing the most difficult work."

For more information, inquiries, and how to help, please visit (FB link), or contact the following in your city or town:

American Canyon: Eva Garcia 707-704-1581,
Napa: Liz Alessio, 707-363-0043,
Yountville: Kerri Dorman 832-544-6846,
St. Helena: Anna Chouteau, 707-968-1865,
Calistoga: Irais Lopez-Ortega, 707-294- 8379,

Soda Canyon Road Picnic BBQ: Oct. 19, 2019

Bill Hocker - Oct 17, 2019 12:03PM  Share #2042

Many thanks to all who attended! See you again next year.

[Update 5/17/22: Well not quite. A pandemic has interceeded, and the next picnic will take place on June 4, 2022.]

Soda Canyon Road Fire Safe Council

Lauren Griffiths - Sep 16, 2019 8:28AM  Share #2032


Please join your Soda Canyon friends and neighbors for a meeting to discuss how we can keep our community safe. Presented by the Napa Communities Firewire Foundations and the Soda Canyon Fire Safe Council

Monday, September 30, 2019
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Vichy Elementary School Multi Purpose Room
3261 Vichy Ave, Napa CA

We are hoping you can join us for this informative meeting that will cover home hardening, evacuation, alerts, and emergency preparedness. Reps from Cal Fire, FireWise Foundation, and other county agencies will be making presentations. There will also be available information and resources from emergency focused organizations. Please visit for additional information and local resources. If you are unable to attend the meeting, we encourage you to visit the web site and complete the online crisis contact information to better assist the first responders in case of an emergency.

Any questions?
Contact the Soda Canyon Fire Safe Council

PRN at the Watersheds Symposium

Bill Hocker - May 15, 2019 5:16PM  Share #2026

PRN will make a very brief presentation at the WICC Watershed Symposium Whirlwind tour of Napa conservation non-profits.

Protect Rural Napa is a local nonprofit dedicated to conserving Napa's rural character. While we support other community groups, our interest is concentrated in the Rector watershed and the Soda Canyon Road access to it.

Rector supplies water to the Vets home and Yountville. The water is clean with thriving native species populations and the potential to be a resilient buffer to climate change. It's an amazing place - but it's threatened.

In the past 30 years, over fifteen hundred acres of wildland have been converted to vineyard with more planned. At least twice since, filters at the Rector reservoir clogged with sediment, fouling the water, made worse, if not caused, by vineyard development and replanting.

After vineyards, wineries. Approved in 2017, the Mountain Peak winery will move large amounts of cave spoils and re-graded topsoil, all within feet of blue-line forks. Twenty one thousand visitors and employees will use the site each year. A proposed leach field is within 200' of one fork. With this venue as precedent, more will be proposed, further endangering the water source. We continue to challenge the approval.

Protect Rural Napa sees the threat to natural resources inherent in the quest for "growth" and will continue to monitor environmental development appropriately.

County shuns evidence-based decision on Mountain Peak

Bill Hocker - Apr 3, 2019 10:27AM  Share #2008

In August 2017, Napa County and its Board of Supervisors approved the Mountain Peak winery project - a 100,000 gallon and 14,500 visitor-per-year event center at the very end of the 6 mile, dead-end Soda Canyon Road. Their decision was based in part on several "Findings of Fact" pertaining to fire danger on Soda Canyon Road such as the following:

From the "Findings of Fact" issued by the Supervisors in approving the project:
"Neighbors' opinion that winery visitors will cause traffic congestion during a fire is not supported by fact. Generalized fears and concerns about a project does not constitute substantial evidence."

"In the event of a fire that results in mass evacuations from this area, the road has sufficient capacity and roadway width to accommodate all outgoing traffic while allowing incoming fire response units."

"Appellant's claim that fire rescue/response efforts will be impeded along Soda Canyon Road if the Project is constructed are unfounded and not supported by factual evidence."

Soca Canyon Road - one way out
On the night of Sunday, October 8, 2017, 6 weeks after the Supervisors approval, factual evidence arrived as the Atlas Fire erupted moving at rate of almost 70 mph. Residents on lower Soda Canyon Road had only minutes to evacuate and many barely escaped, as a fallen tree blocked the entirety of the road for several precious minutes while the fire closed in on all sides. Tragically, two residents died in the fire. On upper Soda Canyon near the Mountain Peak project site, 60-70 people became completely trapped, their only escape route down Soda Canyon blocked by the fire. 40-50 of them were evacuated by a CHP helicopter in 60+ mph crosswinds. The fire burned 22,110 acres, including the entirety of lower SCR in less than one day, and within two days burned a total of 42,181 acres. In all, the Atlas Fire damaged or destroyed 134 of the 163 residences on Soda Canyon Road, 118 of them completely.

On Feb. 22, 2019, as part of the CEQA suit brought by residents against the County, a Napa Superior Court Judge ordered the County's approval of the Mountain Peak winery project to be remanded to the Board of Supervisors to consider the new evidence provided by the October 2017 Atlas Fire. The Court's order rightfully observes that the new evidence calls into question several of the Board's "Findings of Fact" supporting its approval of the winery project, noting "the complete inaccessibility of Soda Canyon Road during a fire and resulting helicopter evacuations of stranded individuals."

The 2017 Atlas Fire was a tragic and devastating event, the impacts and consequences of which are still being felt across the entire Soda Canyon, Atlas Peak, and greater Napa-Sonoma communities. The Court reached the right decision in remanding this issue to the Supervisors in light of the clear and present fire dangers that have existed in the Soda Canyon, Monticello, and Atlas Peak communities and will continue to exist going forward.

Unfortunately, on March 28, 2019, the County and Mountain Peak jointly filed a writ of mandate with the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District challenging the Napa Superior Court's order that the County must consider evidence pertaining to the devastating Fire.

What's discouraging in the County's decision is that as recently as September and October of 2018, the Supervisors questioned their own evaluation and approval process used for the Mountain Peak project and for other winery projects in the remote areas of the county, considering the devastation caused by the fire. In response to a residents's description of the fire, Supervisor Dillon stated at the September 25, 2018 meeting on remote wineries that "We would have had a disaster if there would have been a major event happening of any kind. . . ." at Mountain Peak on the night the fire began.

On October 15, 2018, Supervisor Dillon went even further and effectively questioned the County's wisdom in approving Mountain Peak at all, stating:
    "Uh-oh, I think we're in a little bit of trouble because I looked at the Mountain Peak winery comparison chart - - this is compatibility but compatibility of comparison, that had been prepared by the planning staff and it was for Mountain Peak at the top of the canyon, and it was compared to [A]shes and [D]iamonds, [R]ound [P]ond, [B]lack [S]tallion, Trincaro, Alpha Omega. Why on earth was [Mountain Peak] compared to those things? I remember thinking this is not a good thing because we're not comparing apples to apples.

    The essence of what we're talking about today, the reason this started with remote is we're supposed to be talking not comparing a winery at the top of Soda Canyon to a winery on the Silverado Trail. You just can't make that comparison. And yet that's where we are right here. We're talking about these details.

    What I'm really concerned about is going through each of these things, seven, and deciding on each of these factors and then you're going to have some proposal come before the planning commission that might technically fit into each of these. It's not a good fit at this location where it is. I realize that this is land use planning, so it's a little difficult to use. . . I remember in the discussion of pornography, there was the judge at one point who said "I'll know it when I see it." Well, I mean, the sort of flip of that is I'll know when this is not a good fit at this location based on what neighbors say, based on many factors and that's the way the winery definition ordinance was designed, it didn't have all these details in it. If you look at the transcript from when it was decided, the legislative history which I wish staff would bring to us. We have it, it says we're going to look at these on a case by case basis."

Supervisor Ramos added in the same meeting:
    "Topography, I agree its very site specific. I think topography, at least in my comments that I made and I was certainly making them in terms of roadway standards and access. So I don't see topography as its own category. . . I think we were looking at it more from a slope issue, from a setback issue and from a roadway access issue. When it comes to fire safety, certainly those same issues apply for me.
    . . .
    I second [Supervisor Dillon's demand] and I'll say that we're looking at projects in isolation as opposed to the totality of the circumstances. I don't mean that from a cumulative impact standpoint. I mean that from a community impact standpoint."

Finally, at the end of the October 16, 2018 meeting regarding remote wineries, Supervisor Wagenknecht made the following comments
    In the work product we have today, there's no mention of the remoteness of the - - what a remote site would be, it would be a lot of - - I think it could be a lot of things, the remoteness of the road, the narrowness of the road, the accessibility of the parcel, how far the parcel was from arterial [roads].

    I guess I'm kind of the in the mindset in my mind, that I'm not seeing a real need for more wineries in the far [h]inter lands of Napa County. I'm seeing that we have plenty of them out there. . . You know, there would need to be a traffic benefit from the winery coming in, the traffic for the overall neighborhood coming in. There would need to be a safe - - fire safety and safety benefit for that winery coming in, emergency benefit.
    . . .
    I've appreciated the discussion that we've had more broadly, but I don't want to lose that I'm very concerned with wineries that are going out in the middle of nowhere that are - - and I don't - - yeah. I'm not seeing a huge reason for them."

During the 2016 and 2017 Planning Commission meetings on the Mountain Peak project, Soda Canyon residents repeatedly emphasized that the County was ignoring the access constraints, fire safety concerns, and adverse impacts from additional traffic on Soda Canyon Road that construction of the project and 15,000 yearly visitors and 19 daily employees will undoubtedly introduce. They brought up the same concerns in their appeal to the Board of Supervisors in May 2017. In Sept of 2017 residents filed a lawsuit against the County for failing to properly evaluate the environmental concerns posed by the project. The Atlas Fire occurred 2 weeks later providing a very significant example of the dangers that residents had presented and that the Supervisors had decided were less than significant.

Now, in the spring of 2019, the Napa Superior Court has ordered the County to re-consider the project in light of evidence pertaining to the 2017 Atlas Fire. The County is appealing the Superior Court's decision to avoid doing so. In light of their comments last fall one might hope that the Supervisors would welcome the opportunity to revisit their approval of Mountain Peak in light of the factual evidence the fire provided. Yet the County seems determined to avoid having to confront the wisdom of their decision. It is better that they do so now rather than after a disaster that everyone can now easily visualize.

Please consider writing a letter to your Supervisor about this critical issue, as well as donating to PRN to support our ongoing and critical legal battle that the County seems intent upon winning at all costs.

November 2018 Update

Bill Hocker - Nov 16, 2018 5:16PM  Share #1965

2018 Soda Canyon Road Picnic in May

After the October 2017 Atlas Fire, the 5th annual Soda Canyon Road Picnic in May 2018 took on a more somber tone following the fire's damage and/or complete destruction to 134 of the 163 homes on Soda Canyon Road. It was still very gratifying and healing to have such a strong turnout considering how many residents of our community have been displaced. While we know it will be a long time before our community rebuilds and is able to enjoy its once wooded splendor, we are honored and humbled to be part of such an incredible and resolute community.

In the photo, neighbor Anthony Arger expresses our community's thanks to a few of the many heroic first responders to the fire, including CHP helicopter pilots and firefighters who joined us at the picnic. (click to enlarge)

Dec 4, 2018: District 4 Town Hall Meeting

District 4 Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza will hold his 3rd Town Hall Meeting to present his concerns of the year past and going forward and to respond to questions from his constituents. The flier for the event is here.

When: Tuesday, December 4, 2018, 5:30pm

Vichy Elementary School
3261 Vichy Ave, Napa

A recap of last year's Town Hall with Supervisor Pedroza is here.

Jan 11, 2019: Mountain Peak Winery goes to Court
Save the date! Friday, January 11, 2019

The lawsuit filed by Soda Canyon residents against the County for its abuse of discretion in approving the Mountain Peak project is set for a hearing on Jan 11, 2019 starting at 8:30am in Dept. I of the Napa County Courthouse. A schedule has been established for the submission of documents and the Soda Canyon Group, Petitioner in the lawsuit, has already submitted their opening briefs.

The lawsuit asks that the County conduct a full Environmental Impact Report on the project, as required under California law, rather than relying on the staff's negative declaration of less-than-significant environmental impacts when the Board of Supervisors approved the 100,000 gal/yr, 15,000 visitors/yr winery 6 miles up a dead-end mountain road.

The documents are here:
Soda Canyon residents are funding the legal fight against Mountain Peak and the Napa County Board of Supervisors. It is an expensive endeavor, but one that is worth the fight to protect not only the rural character and public safety and welfare of our community, but also all similar rural communities across the Napa Valley. Mountain Peak is the county's poster child for potential future development throughout Napa's most remote and rural regions, making this legal battle especially important to the future of Napa Valley.

Please consider assisting these Soda Canyon residents by donating to PRN and clicking here

Why is the Mountain Peak case important to the entire county?

The lawsuit comes at an interesting and important time for the County's future. After the contentious Measure C vote, the fires that reemphasized the dangers of remote locations, the conflict that is not abating between residents and the wine industry over the intrusion of "event centers" into their rural neighborhoods, and the new emphasis in reducing vehicle miles traveled in development projects, the Board of Supervisors have begun to look at the potential impacts of "remote" winery projects with a more critical eye. (The issue of Remote Wineries was an important aspect of opposition to Mountain Peak.)

The NVR articles on the two recent BOS meetings held earlier this fall are here:
The remote winery discussion, now expanding into a discussion over the "compatibility" of a winery with its location, is outlined in this recent report by Planning Director Morrison to the Board. Supervisors Dillon and Wagenknecht both had significant comments on the issue. In one meeting, Supervisor Dillon used Mountain Peak as an example of problems with the winery approval process. The effort to define winery compatibility may go on for several months with numerous hearings and will be archived on here.

The contentiousness of winery proposals before the planning commission and the Board of Supervisors has shown no signs of letting up. In a sign that attitudes are changing at the county, two winery projects have recently been denied by the planning commission - more than have been denied in the previous decade at least. Both were opposed by the communities in which they are located:
And there are projects still in the pipeline already receiving pushback from residents:
In addition to the consideration of a winery compatibility ordinance, and following the divided concerns in the county over Measure C, the County Board of Supervisors, has called for a new process to seek consensus on the future of the county. It will continue an effort already begun but interrupted last year, to chart long term development goals and strategies through the development of a Napa Strategic Plan (The process will be archived here.)

Since 2010 in the County as a whole, over 140 new wineries and winery expansions have been approved adding over 5 million gallons of winemaking capacity, more than 1.8 million visitor slots, more than 1 million sf of building area, hundreds of new employees, and perhaps 100's of thousands of vehicle trips on Napa's roads each year, all approved under negative declarations, as Mountain Peak was, indicating that such increases will cause less-than-significant environmental impacts to life in Napa County. Many residents, stuck in traffic or losing a favorite wooded hillside or favorite local shop, or unable to find an affordable place to live, know that the impacts of tourism expansion are NOT less-than-significant. Winery development is the leading edge of that expansion and the case for a more thorough assessment of the environmental impacts of this type of project is more than warranted.

The Mountain Peak project is at the forefront of this type of commercial development in an incompatible location, and the legal proceedings will serve as a bellwether (for better or worse) for future winery development in Napa's remote and rural areas. We must continue the fight and sincerely hope you will join us in this effort.

Donate to PRN to Help Fund the Fight!

Soda Canyon residents are funding this fight to show that the Supervisors clearly abused their discretion when they approved the Mountain Peak project. As noted above, even the Supervisors are beginning to question their logic.

It is unfortunate that residents have to spend vast amounts of money to encourage the County to protect the rural character of our own community. But, as elsewhere, money is speech in Napa County, and developers have a lot of money. Every project approved by the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors was shown by its developer's consultants to have a "less than significant" impact on the future of the county. And yet the traffic comes. And the affordable housing goes. The vineyards and hillsides are littered with ever more building projects. And residents are asked to pay for bond measures for the upgrading of infrastructure necessitated, and the additional development must eventually be subsidized by us all.

Please consider donating to Protect Rural Napa to help fund this critical and precedent-setting lawsuit by clicking here.

You can also send a check to:
Protect Rural Napa
P.O. Box 2385
Yountville, CA 94599

Thank You for your support and let us know if you have any questions.

PRN at Earth Day 2018

Bill Hocker - Apr 25, 2018 3:30PM  Share #1873

And the winner is?

Cindy Grupp, with Draselle Muscatine, notifies the winner of the 2018 jelly-bean-guess competition. The number of beans this year?

The number was 1,156. The winning guess was an amazingly close 1,152 by Sydney Dommen. Congratulations!

PRN Endorses Measure C

Bill Hocker - Mar 26, 2018 3:15PM  Share #1846

Protect Rural Napa Endorses Measure C,
the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative
of 2018

Protect Rural Napa supports actions that promote preservation of our natural resources, soil conservation, the promotion of water availability and quality, the improvement in the health of our river and stream ecosystems, and the protection of open spaces.

The purpose of Measure C is to protect the water quality, biological productivity, and economic and environmental value of Napa County’s streams, watersheds, wetlands and forests, and in so doing, to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare of the County’s residents.

Because Measure C aligns with the vital conservation positions that Protect Rural Napa supports, Protect Rural Napa is proud to endorse this important and timely initiative.

February 2018 Update

Bill Hocker - Mar 26, 2018 2:51PM  Share #1842

Thank You Firefighters

First, our hearts go out to all of those on Soda Canyon, as well as in other areas of Napa and Sonoma, who lost their homes and lives during the October 2017 fires. While no words can express the pain many of you have and continue to endure, we do want to say thank you to those who came to our rescue, and did in fact save several homes on Soda Canyon Road.

Firefighters take a break

Specifically, several Soda Canyon residents, including Doug Christian, Glenn Schreuder, Chris Frassett, and brothers Anthony and Nicholas Arger, among others, stayed on upper Soda Canyon to assist local and distant fire crews battle the blaze. They worked with several different departments from around the State of California who literally fought the fire around the clock for more than a week straight. We have already sent thank yous to several of these firefighters who helped save upper Soda Canyon, and have included their contact information below if you would like to do the same:

John Lovie
Tony Martinez
Napa County Fire Department/Monticello
1820 Monticello Road
Napa, CA 94558

Chris "Bert" Gerking (Battalion Chief)
Ernie Amato (Fire Captain)
Kings County Fire Department
280 Campus Drive - Headquarters
Hanford, CA 93230

Dave Bakas (Division Chief)
City of Riverside Fire Department
3085 St. Lawrence Street
Riverside, CA 92504

Jeff DeLaurie (Battalion Chief)
City of Riverside Fire Department
3401 University Avenue
Riverside, CA 92501

Fresno Strike Team 9430 Charlie
Jeremiah Whitemore (Strike Team Leader)
701 R Street
Fresno, CA 93721

May 20th: 5th Annual Soda Canyon Road Picnic

Potluck Picnic 2017

While many residents of Soda Canyon Road have been displaced by the fire, this is an opportunity to reunite the community, to share experiences of the fire and show that wherever we may be at the moment, our home remains on Soda Canyon Road. We are also inviting several of the above-named firemen, who we hope will be able to attend.

Save the date for the 5th annual Soda Canyon Road Potluck Picnic, Fundraising, and BBQ - SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2018 1-4PM Ho/Hocker Residence, 3460 Soda Canyon Road. BYOB, a dish to share [A-M Salads, N-Z Dessert], a chair to sit on!

In addition to the Atlas Fire, 2017 was not a good year for the rural future of Soda Canyon Road:
  • The Mountain Peak Project, bringing 40,000 some more vehicle trips up and down the road each year, was approved in January and the appeal denied in August. A legal challenge to the project is going ahead. More on that below.

  • In April The Caves On Soda Canyon Road was granted permission to expand production from 30 to 60,000 gal/yr. bringing more industrial traffic to the road. And they were granted the use of the ridge, and bootlegged portal for tourism events.

  • Also in April, residents protesting the granting of a license to the Relic Winery on the basis of its added tourism traffic were rebuffed by the ABC. More on that below.

  • And at the junction of Soda Canyon Road and the Silverado Trail, four(4) new or expanded winery projects were approved (not to mention the very non-residential looking Ellman Family Estate currently under construction) adding to traffic on that stretch of the trail.

The County government continues to support entrepreneur's interests over those of residents, and the loss of the rural character that makes this place special is being lost.

Join your neighbors and friends once again for the opportunity to carouse and take stock of the issues that bind us together, and add your fundraising contribution to the effort to protect this special place and places like it throughout Napa County.

A separate invitation will be sent out as the date approaches.

Mountain Peak Winery - the next step

Mountain Peak site, Spring 2015 and October 2017

Last year, during the County Planning Commission hearings and the Appeal to the Board of Supervisors on the Mountain Peak Winery project, numerous Soda Canyon and Napa citizens implored the County to significantly reduce the project size on several grounds, including a substantial reduction in the 14,575 annual visitors and 40,000 additional vehicle trips it will create specifically due to the public safety concerns related to accidents and the dangers of fire (unsuspecting tourists causing a fire, impeding escape routes during a a large and devastating wildfire, getting trapped at the end of the road, etc.)

Incredibly, less than two months after the Supervisors approved the project, all of those concerns and many more played out with tragic poignancy during the Atlas Fire, where most residents on lower Soda Canyon barely escaped with their lives, and more than 100 individuals (residents, property owners, and vineyard workers) were trapped on upper Soda Canyon Road by the fire on Sunday night, October 8, 2017 at the very entrance to Mountain Peak Winery and had no escape route because lower Soda Canyon was ablaze and entirely blocked by flames. Surrounded by the firestorm, the trapped individuals were either forced to shelter in vineyards or be evacuated by CHP helicopters in 60+ mph crosswinds. Tragically, two individuals on lower Soda Canyon were heartbreakingly lost in the fire, and 72% of the homes (118 of 163) on Soda Canyon were completely destroyed by the fire, with another 16 severely damaged for a total of 82% (134 of 163) of all homes on Soda Canyon damaged or destroyed by the fire.

As part of the lawsuit filed last September under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by several Soda Canyon residents and property owners, the parties were required to attend a mandatory settlement conference on January 26, 2018. In the wake of the Atlas Fire tragedy, the residents specifically requested that all five Supervisors, as well as the Owners of Mountain Peak, Hua and Eric Yuan, attend the settlement conference to address what are obvious safety concerns stemming from the project as it relates to fire, which will happen again someday in the future. Indeed, there have been devastating wildfires on Atlas Peak/Soda Canyon every 20-40 years since the late 1800s including the 1981 Peak Fire.

The Supervisors and the Owners of Mountain Peak all refused to attend, instead sending "representatives" with no decision-making authority. Nothing was resolved. This behavior on the part of both the County and the developer again demonstrated the disdain and disrespect for residents and property owners that has now become the norm in government-citizen relations. Continued disregard of citizen concerns must stop. The catastrophic fires we endured this past October warned us that when development in rural areas is driven by the greed of a few rather than the health and safety of all, the results can be catastrophic.

If you would like to help, we encourage you to:

Appeal to ABC over Relic Winery license

Relic Winery on Soda Canyon Road April 2017 and October 2017

On January 11, 2018, attorneys for Opponents (composed of Soda Canyon residents and neighbors) of Relic Winery, a winery located just above the fire-station on Soda Canyon that is seeking 4,500 wine-tasting visitors per year, appeared before the Appeals Board of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and requested that the visitation and on-site retail sales components of Relic's license be eliminated due to public safety concerns (Relic Opponents do not oppose the operation of wine-making activities).

Under Article XX, section 22 of the California Constitution, the ABC is charged with protecting the "public safety and welfare." Relic and the ABC contend that traffic, the condition of the road, and fire are all "outside the jurisdiction of the ABC." Protestants vehemently disagree, and hope that the Appeals Board will determine that issuing a license for thousands of wine-tasting tourists to a winery 4 miles up a dead-end road in the very belly of Soda Canyon that was decimated by the Atlas Fire is not in the best interests of public safety and welfare.

Unfortunately, even after the Atlas Fire, the Appeals Board did not appear to be very sympathetic to Opponents' concerns during the oral arguments, and it is anticipated that the Appeals Board will rubber stamp the ABC's poor decision to grant the license without restrictions. If this occurs, Opponents of Relic Winery will have the option of appealing the decision to the Courts, warranted in light of the decision's potential for precedent regarding public safety on Soda Canyon Road.

Walt Ranch goes to Court

This coming Tuesday, Feb 13th 2018 at 8:30am , Circle Oaks County Water District and CO Homeowner's Assoc, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, and the Living Rivers Council will present their CEQA lawsuit against the County for approving the Walt Ranch development. The hearing will take place in Department G of the Napa County Superior Court, 1111 Third Street, Napa. Please consider attending.

There are many environmental impacts to this project dismissed by the developer and the County as "less-than-significant". The urban development that is taking place throughout the county, including Soda Canyon Road, in the form of vineyard estates, tourism wineries, major hotel, industrial and housing projects along with the traffic that they all generate and the increase in taxes they require, are not less-than-significant. The rural, small-town character of the county and its quality of life are being lost. We can change this trajectory, but it takes your commitment. Please, be involved.

PRN at Earth Day Napa 2017

Bill Hocker - Apr 27, 2017 12:18PM  Share #1484

We had a successful day at Earth Day. We had two winners of the jelly bean jar guess! One, as you can see was very pleased! We handed out 50+ picnic fliers and PRNEF brochures.

There were several folks who were very much interested in attending the picnic on May 21st and learning more about the Mountain Peak Winery and the issues of tourism development in the watersheds. More Information on the picnic is here.

Our presence at Earth Day!

Protect Rural Napa

Bill Hocker - May 14, 2015 2:16PM  Share #805

Protect Rural Napa

Protect Rural Napa website
Protect Rural Napa on Facebook
PRN Education Fund website

Protect Rural Napa has been created in an effort to reinforce the original intentions of the Ag Preserve through local community support and action. As residents , we have the opportunity to challenge the adverse impacts of commercial opportunism that the county has seemed to encourage in the last few years. We need to act on that opportunity.

Protect Rural Napa, established in 2014, is a public benefit corporation, dedicated to:
Promoting awareness of land conservation in environmentally sensitive areas in Napa County.
  • Preserving the agricultural nature of the County of Napa.
  • Providing educational outreach materials to affected areas, including neighborhoods and residents of Napa County.
  • Making grants to organizations that share a similar specific purpose.

Mailing Address:
    Protect Rural Napa
    P.O. Box 5184
    Napa, CA 94581

Glenn & Judy Schreuder - Oct 28, 2014 10:27AM  Share #420

Thank you Diane,

I forgot to include the matrix you requested at the last board meeting in my original email on this topic.

The reason this process took longer than expected: I got some inaccurate advice regarding lobbying early on in the research process which temporarily threw me off the scent.

Ultimately my own research was confirmed by the folks down at the Alliance for Justice. They were instrumental in helping determine the nature of contact with our county officials, i.e. Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors (in their capacity to approve/deny a use permit).

While a 501(c)(3) can lobby to a limited extent, being a 501(c)(4) allows us to be 100% confident that even if we end up doing something in a public setting that actually is lobbying we are clearly permitted to do so and without limitation. So hypothetically, if someone wanted to try to “yank our chain” on this particular issue, there’s not much they could really say about it.

See you Saturday, thanks again for your patience, Glenn

Diane Shepp - Oct 28, 2014 10:26AM  Share #419

A BIG THANK YOU GLENN! My goodness, I know you put many hours into this research. I concur with your findings that a 501(c)4 is the way to go. We will discuss and vote on this Saturday, November 1 at our meeting (9am).

Glenn & Judy Schreuder - Oct 28, 2014 10:22AM  Share #418

Hi Everyone,

As you may know I have spent significant time thinking over the various options for what form of legal entity our organization can/should take. This process was brought about by consulting with tax attorneys who reviewed of our original application for exempt status under IRS Section 501(c)(3) (Public Charity / Private Foundation). Simple, useful answers were not easy to come by. Every scenario included pros and cons that had to be teased out, thought over and weighed to find something that seemed to best fit our specific fact pattern.

For our simple neighborhood group, I believe the most potentially beneficial course of action with relatively low risk would be for the corporation that has already been formed to request tax exempt status under IRS Section 501(c)(4), as an organization not organized for profit but operated for the promotion of social welfare. Other descriptors for such an organization would be a “community organization” or “civic league”.

In summary, below are a handful of the key “Pros and Cons” between a 501(c)(3) and a 501(c)(4) organization:
    · Both are types of “Tax-Exempt” organizations meaning no tax is due on any income generated.
    · Contributions to 501(c)(3) organization are tax deductible by the donor (either in the case of a Public Charity or a Private Foundation).
    · Contributions to 501(c)(4) organization are not tax deductible by the donor. In the absence of “tax-deductible” status comes some additional flexibility (below):
    · 501(c)(4) organizations tend to have the following characteristics:
      · A lesser degree of overall compliance than a 501(c)(3) (fewer tests and potential risks to distract from our mission),
      · Provides the ability to lobby for changes in county ordinances without some of the constraints imposed on 501(c)(3) organizations, and
      · Provides a degree of flexibility to endorse or oppose candidates for local office (strictly prohibited for 501(c)(3) type organizations).

    · Comparison of permitted activities:
Steps to Exemption under 501(c)(4):
    · Amend and restate the existing Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of the corporation (including dropping the word “Foundation”). (I’m told this is a relatively quick and easy process since not a lot needs to be done to our organizing documents)
    · File the amended and restated Articles of Incorporation with the California Sec’y of State (pay ~$30 for one-day expedite)
    · File IRS Application for Exemption Form 1024 (approximately one week to complete and mail)
    · Change the language in any content we have to reflect that “contributions to the organization are non-tax deductible”

Personally, I think the most attractive feature of a 501(c)(4) is the greater degree of freedom to lobby for change local ordinances. As recent supervisors meetings have demonstrated, the county ordinances in place today need to change and perhaps some new faces with fresh ideas could also help in protecting the natural majesty of the Napa Valley as well.

In any event, please let me know your thoughts on the above and how you would like to proceed.

Thanks for your patience while I ran the traps on this structural question. Best regards, Glenn

PS: Regarding CGL and D&O Insurance, the insurance carrier has requested a completed application for exemption with proof of payment to continue processing the request made for insurance coverage. (In other words, we need to finalize the organizational structure first). As noted above, the application for exemption can be made relatively quickly and therefore this item as well.

Andrew Kluter - Oct 22, 2014 5:21PM  Share #402

Bill and all

appreciate the road tour last week, and it was a pleasure meeting all of you. As I initiate my review of the winery traffic study, will take into account the resources mentioned below. Based on my field review, there are valid concerns on roadway width and safety that may not have been covered in the winery study. In the meantime, if there are other questions the group has concerning traffic pertaining to the proposed winery, let me know and we can discuss.


Diane Shepp - Oct 8, 2014 5:10PM  Share #372

The SCLV Board meeting yesterday [Sunday 28 September] was enlightening and informative.

We learned that our organization is a nonprofit corporation, however not tax-exempt, hence the pending application to the IRS for tax-exempt status. We discussed this at length and voted to postpone the application for awhile [we have 27 months from the date of our incorporation].

We learned that our Articles and Bylaws tend to define our organization as a "foundation", not a nonprofit corporation.

We discussed the possibilities of establishing a formal coalition with other groups in Napa County with similar raison d'etre. Out of this we also discussed possible name changes to more closely reflect our mission, such as the Napa Valley Land Stewards. Ultimately we voted and approved a name change to: Soda Canyon/Loma Vista Land Stewards of which we already have the dba.

We learned that although the board discussed, voted and approved the expenditure of funds for D & O Insurance several months ago, and we were informed that we had applied for it at a cost of $1600 +/-, that in fact the insurance has not been purchased, and we as directors are not covered.

And finally, we learned that our Secretary, Dana Estensen will be moving out of the area by November.

Attached please find the proposed agenda for the board meeting this Saturday, October 11, 9am at the Arger's. Also attached are minutes for approval [August 31 and September 28] at the October 11th meeting.

Please confirm your attendance,



Greg Kamman - Oct 6, 2014 5:23PM  Share #403

I'm also working for a group challenging the Walt Ranch Vineyard project. In looking at the bigger regional picture and number of winery creation/expansion projects in Napa, I see the need/value in doing a cursory accounting of the cumulative project water demands for all the new winery/development projects. In my reviews of almost all hydrology studies in support of Napa/Sonoma vineyard expansion, I see a chronic pattern of incomplete cumulative hydrologic impact assessments. The status quo is to only look at potential impacts to wells on adjoining properties, without acknowledging, less analyzing, that many of these projects are located in the upland recharge areas that feed into the valley bottom alluvial aquifer. For example, I'm just becoming aware of the Suscol Mtn. Winery project. In addition to Walt and maybe Mtn. Peak, at least the two larger ones are located within the upper watershed supplying groundwater recharge to the depleted MST aquifer. The MST is a County designated groundwater deficient aquifer area, that is subject to specific (reduced) groundwater withdrawal rates and "fair use" practices/oversight. Do you know of any more projects being proposed in a 10- to 20-mile range of these (esp. Mtn. Peak) projects?

From my technical perspective, having a regional accounting and mapping of all existing vineyards/homes along with new or proposed projects would allow for a better assessment of sustainable water supply. I think an important note from this perspective is that there is potential cumulative impact of new projects on the groundwater supply of existing vineyards, even those on the valley floor. The timing for pressing this point is ideal - California just passed several bills (last month) that impose groundwater management and reporting requirements on local agencies (likely Napa County in this case). This new law mandates that local agencies develop groundwater sustainability plans, backed with real numbers and annual reporting of basin-wide extraction volumes and groundwater storage volumes.

Again, your postings and website has been very informative and enlightening to me. You also seem to be abreast of all the local area advocacy work/groups in the neighborhood. So, any insight into the location and information of other vineyard expansion (or other) projects in the vicinity of Mtn. Peak would be helpful information.

Greg Kamman - Aug 6, 2014 5:25PM  Share #404

I'm back from a heavy month of travel and vacation. I've checked the Soda Canyon Road group and County websites for updated material postings, but don't see anything new. I've also checked in with Paul on project status and learned the same. I don't have any further summer/fall travel plans and will continue to periodically check your site for project updates. Let me know if you would like to have me send our standard contract to formalize a work agreement per proposal I sent over last month. Also, please let me know if Miller Pacific Engineering Group was interested in helping out on geotechnical review. If not, I can provide additional referrals.
Hope all is well.

Glenn & Judy Schreuder - Jul 2, 2014 6:16PM  Share #254

Dear Colleagues,

Attached is a Board of Directors Contact List for SCLV LSF for our internal use to reach out to each other.

Please review your info and send me any updates, thanks much! Glenn

On other fronts:

I have requested a quote from MIV Insurance for D&O just after our last meeting.

I opened the checking account and deposited all contributions in hand totaling $8,650 on Monday 06/30/14.

I'll be adding a donation from the Schreuder Family shortly.

So round one of fundraising (warm markets) will be just under $10K, which is a great start!
Now it's time to start hitting up the neighborhood at large.
Kelly Czap is helping Diane put together a donation flyer, someone needs to follow up.

I'm working on the IRS Request for Exempt Status this week for Yeoryois to review.

We have engaged attorney Paul Carroll.

We need to engage the Traffic Engineering firm next, I believe we settled on Andrew Klutter of TJKM Traffic Engineers.

Dana, can you please refresh my memory, did we vote to engage the Traffic Engineer last meeting?

I thought yes. If yes, we need to contact them immediately to get a proposal/quote and get them going.

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