St. Helena

Oct 14, 2014

    Obviously, you can't develop the property and protect agriculture at the same time. - Mayor Alan Galbraith on updating the town GP, 4/21/15

Napa County contains 5 municipalities: Napa, American Canyon, St. Helena, Yountville, and Calistoga. St. Helena (pronounced Saint Heleena), has the worst traffic of the bunch. Traffic is bad in American Canyon leading into the valley and at the Jameson Canyon hub a little further north, but the traffic mitigations make the long backups at signals seem suburban-normal (for the present). Hwy 29 bypasses Napa and Yountville making their traffic less onerous. And Calistoga at the end of the valley gets almost no through traffic. St. Helena's single main street gets almost all of the valley traffic and is gridlocked at many times of the day. Not coincidentally St. Helena has also been at the forefront of the resistance to expanding tourism among the municipalities, both in respect to urban event centers like the proposed Davies Winery and to the resident drain caused by lucrative airb&b tourism beginning to hollow out neighborhoods.

Before leaving for Oregon, Sandy Ericson of the St. Helena Window, provided the most active website devoted to citizen awareness of the development threats posed to the town. She waged the battle against the Small Winery Ordinance and against individual projects as wineries continued to expand their tourist activities into the town. The website is no longer maintained but I have archived it here to make use of its valuable insights and links.

In 2020 Elaine de Man has taken up the challenge of citizen advocacy where Sandy left off with her own St. Helena Post

Geoff Ellsworth in St. Helena, energized by the fight against the Small Winery Ordinance and of individual urban wineries, has also become a tenacious voice in opposition to the tourism development threatening the rural character of the county. Geoff speaks to the cause at almost every government meeting and has provided a map of the county showing the potential for development that threatens us all. In 2016 he was elected to the City Council.
In 2018 Geoff Ellsworth is running for Mayor of St. Helena.

Mary Stevenson represents Our Town St. Helena committed to the development of affordable housing in the town.

2019 Grand Jury Report on St Helena

SHStar 7/15/20: St. Helenans will cast advisory vote on Adams Street hotel question
SHStar 5/29/19: Council hits brakes on hotel plans for city-owned Adams Street property
SH Star 10/25/18: St. Helena releases draft General Plan, EIR
NVR 12/28/17: Sharing the spirit: Tony Holzhauer works to preserve the Napa Valley
NVR 11/16/17: Court rules for city of St. Helena in battle over Davies winery
SH Star 8/23/17: Checking in with city council newcomer Ellsworth
NVR 7/18/17: St. Helena housing project faces yet another delay
NVR 6/5/17: St. Helena wants Chamber to support more community programs
NVR 5/24/17: St. Helena City Council narrowly rejects CIA dorm plan
NVR 4/12/17: St. Helena City Council deadlocks on proposed downtown improvement plan
NVR 3/8/17: St. Helena Planning Commission rejects CIA dorm plan
NVR 1/26/17: St. Helena City Council rejects downtown tasting room
St Helena Star 12/14/16: Ellsworth, Koberstein sworn in; council says goodbye to Phillips, Crull, Pitts
St Helena Star 11/8/16: Koberstein, Ellsworth lead St. Helena City Council race
NVR 12/1/16: Davies winery in St. Helena clears two procedural hurdles
NVR 4/5/16: St. Helena considers restrictions on short-term rentals
NVR 2/17/16: Owners of illegal St. Helena rental will pay $20,000 in penalties
NVR 11/23/15: St. Helena commission backs overhaul of short-term rental ordinance
Mary Stevenson: Do enough people care about housing?
Mayor Alan Gilbraith: Guest commentary: Our challenging budget situation
NapaBroadcasting: City Manager Jennifer Phillips talks about St. Helena?s financial crisis
Report highlights economic challenges, resources
Citizens debate small winery ordinance
St. Helena council to reconsider small winery ordinance
St. Helena council repeals small winery ordinance
St. Helena planners OK winery expansion
Time will tell on Davies winery approval
Davies winery expansion appealed to City Council
Rescind approval of Davies winery project
Barbarians at the gate


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St Helena continues to convert vineyards to housing

Bill Hocker - Apr 24, 2024 3:31PM  Share #2324

Update 4/24/24
NVR 4/24/24: St. Helena goes ahead with vineyard rezoning

SH Star 4/3/24: Neighbors object to rezoning of St. Helena vineyard

The Spring St vineyard follows on the designations of the Hunter Subdivision and the Adams Street vineyard as suitable properties to convert to urban use in the city of St. Helena. These housing developments are a subset of the loss of vineyards all over the county to winery event centers up valley and industrial warehouses in the south, all of which will eventually threaten the viability of an agriculture-based economy.

The need for new housing development in St Helena (or indeed Napa County) is somewhat ironic: the city lost 800 residents between 2010 and 2024. (Napa county has lost 3200 residents in that time.) The ABAG mandates that led to this rezoning are part of the State's (and perhaps the building industry's) efforts to induce home construction in the hope that more homes mean lower prices. There is, of course, a need for more affordable housing in the state, but as many analysts agree, lowering the price of housing is a much more difficult equation and unlikely to lower home prices any time soon. Affordable housing currently costs some $800,000/unit to build (see here). That same amount, given to a family as a $1000/month supplement for an existing market-rate rental, would last 66 years (not counting interest).

Unfortunately, in a grossly disproportionate attempt to lower housing costs for a handful of lucky tenants, the county is continuing to sacrifice the agricultural heritage prized by most everyone who lives here.

The Hunter subdivision

Bill Hocker - Jun 27, 2023 4:39PM  Share #616

17 more acres of prime Napa farmland to be paved over
Update 6/27/23
NVR 6/27/23: St. Helena City Council approves controversial Hunter housing project

Update 11/2/21
SH Star 11/2/21: St. Helenans air objections to Hunter project
SH Star 10/26/21: St. Helena Planning Commission to hear input on Hunter project

St Helena Hunter Project Draft EIR Page
Mariam Hansen LTE 10/30/21: Educate yourself about St. Helena's Hunter project

Since 2015 the population of Napa County has been steadily decreasing. There are currently 5200 fewer people residing here than lived here 6 years ago. There are 400 fewer people living in St Helena. And yet there are some 4-5000 housing units in the county development pipeline. Is it really necessary to continue to use up Napa's agricultural land, some of the most valuable land for agricultural in the world, to force an unnecessary population increase or increase 2nd home ownership solely to support developers wishing to turn a greater profit on their speculative land investments or the myth that more property tax payers improve government balance sheets?

If, as a county, Napa is committed to remaining an agriculture-based economy, not one more acre of arable land should be lost to urbanization. Too many have already been paved over.

City orders more study of Hunter project

87 housing units to be built on a vineyard plot near the Trail. This brings to a total of 2817 the number of housing units currently being proposed in the county that I know of.

The plight of Adams Street

Bill Hocker - Aug 9, 2017 8:37AM  Share #1553

Developer ready!
Update 10/31/20
SH Post 10/31/20: The Case for YES on Measure G

Update 7/15/20
SHStar 7/15/20: St. Helenans will cast advisory vote on Adams Street hotel question

Update 9/02/19
NVR 9/2/19: St. Helena City Council considers new City Hall on Adams Street

Update 5/29/19
NVR 5/29/19: St. Helena Council hits brakes on hotel plans for city-owned Adams Street property

[George Caloyannidis letter sent to the St. Helena Star, 8/7/17]

Dear Editor,

For many years now, the debate over what is a "local serving" business surfaces each time a new store seeks a use permit in downtown St. Helena. Though the term is not clearly defined, most residents instinctively know what it means. It means Steves Hardware, Vasconi's, Sunshine, Lolo's, Main Street Books, Gillwoods.
The difficulty arises when one realizes that "local serving" shifts when community demographics change. When such change is from middle class to affluent, people don't bother to drive to Lolo's to sell a $ 400 dress for $ 40 and they prefer breakfast at Archetype rather than Gillwoods. And when that shift is also towards part time residents, these "new locals" bring along their own ideas as to what constitutes local serving and changes in the social fiber of the community, in civic engagement, schools, clubs, small town fundraisers, neighborhood parties etc.

While the debate whether this or that store is "local serving" garners little attention because of its incremental impact, the debate over the fate of the Adams Street property is of a magnitude that brings the entire set of issues to the forefront. Going over recent letters in the Star, I read Jeff Feeney lamenting that "investors pump hundreds of millions" in Napa, Yountville and Calistoga, while St. Helena is missing out. On the other hand, he is concerned by residents cashing out to second homers who will no longer support "our" stores. And Sara Cakebread criticizes those who oppose a large resort on Adams Street who would rather see "our roads, sidewalks and parks crumble" but at the same time she doesn't want to "lose our small-town character".

A few years ago, long time friends of ours moved to a gated Incline Village community with the kind of infrastructure Jeff and Sara dream of only to find out that most of their neighbors' stone-clad mansions were empty half the time. Socially impoverished, they sold.

No one personifies the ode to the beauty and character of the Napa valley to more people around the globe through his visual poetry on National Geographic and his magnificent albums more so than Charles O' Rear. Only a person with Chuck' sensitivity could have better articulated in a letter to the Star last March what it really means to have "many of our homes dark at night from the influx of absentee home owners". What it means "when $ 1,000 will buy you a nice hotel room, a bottle of wine and probably a dinner while teachers, city and winery employees must commute long distances". Or what "the abundance of jewelry stores - all to satisfy the whims of tourists" and a jammed Highway 29 really mean. "Goodbye St. Helena! We love you and we will miss you!" was Chuck's and Daphne's sad farewell.

Some arrogantly dismiss people like Chuck and Daphne as "among the vocal minority of naysayers". Theirs are legitimate concerns just as are those who want perfect and uncongested roads, beautifully landscaped sidewalks and profitable stores. But what good are stores full time residents never use? What good are dark at night homes? Declining school enrolment? Teachers who cannot come to dinner?

Some prefer less pristine sidewalks if it means keeping the Chuck O' Rears in town, others want a big influx of money to fix everything at once no matter what the consequences.

Perhaps there is a middle ground here. A comprehensive, value oriented ten-year plan, incremental budgeting and above all fiscal responsibility. The citizens are already paying for the water and sewage infrastructure upgrades. Las Alcobas with all its defective planning is at least on line. There are city assets beyond Main Street and Adams Streets which can be sold. Why not an inspiring, carefully framed ballot measure? But the leadership never developed an uplifting long-term vision - not just one for money one should think twice accepting unless it is hinged to the preservation and promotion of our social capital and its venues. Because, in the end, this is where our most precious assets lie.

Last year Napa Vision 2050 organized a forum on the tourist-based economy with three internationally recognized fiscal, social and traffic experts on the subject. Placing all eggs in the tourism basket is a cancer on multiple fronts everywhere it has been tried. One only need look at Venice, Barcelona, Naples, Majorca, Florence, Santorini, Mykonos, all of Greece for that matter, the list is endless, the effects devastating and the evidence undisputable.

Pristine Yountville is just a few miles down the road.

George Caloyannidis

Bill Hocker - Aug 11, 2017 2:06PM

Six more acres of Napa agriculture to be converted to urban sprawl. There are 3 proposals for the Adams Street property, 2 for hotels and one for a hotel/office/city hall/housing combo (on the right). A look at the site plans is interesting. They go from free-form gaiety to disciplined gaiety to no gaiety at all.

No-booze school zone in St. Helena

Geoff Ellsworth - May 3, 2016 10:15AM  Share #1240

Recently in St.Helena, Napa Valley at 555 Main Street a large scale wine drinking facility to be owned by Davies Family Winery/Schramsberg was approved to allow over 60,000 wine drinkers a year to enter and exit the facility directly through a school zone.

For over 200 years in our country we have endeavored to make school zones MORE safe, this decision allows this school zone to become exponentially LESS safe by adding an element of large scale alcohol consumption to enter and exit along the same narrow street as two busy schools, one a primary school and one a high school directly across the street.

Please help us say no. We will have another sign holding day in the near future. Also notes of disapproval could be directed to

Unlike Napa, St Helena sees STR dangers (sorta)

Bill Hocker - Nov 23, 2015 10:44AM  Share #1092

NVR 11/23/15: St. Helena commission backs overhaul of short-term rental ordinance

On rereading the conditions to be imposed, the obvious loophole jumps out: the rental operator must "at least live in St. Helena". Meaning that any investor can begin amassing a portfolio of STR properties and as long as they have a St Helena address they are within the ordinance. This will do little to stem the conversion of homes into STR's. The condition needs to require that the operator live on the premises that has the rental - that is one rental opportunity per resident of the town, otherwise consolidation will occur until a handful of operators manage all of the rentals.

More links on Napa short term rentals here

Davies Winery St. Helena

Bill Hocker - Nov 17, 2015 9:51AM  Share #884

Update 11/8/2017
Casetext: Citizen's Voice St. Helena v. City of St. Helena

Update 11/17/15
NVR 11/17/15: Davies winery opponents to appeal judge's ruling
SH Star 7/1/15: Judge hears arguments on Davies lawsuit
Robin Daniel Lail LTE 6/29/15: Davies project threatens our character and culture

The real question is what kind of place do the residents of St. Helena want to live in. Just as maintaining the vineyards meant restricting the amount of profit farmers could make from their land to retain an agricultural economy, restricting the profitability of urban parcels will be necessary to retain a small-town community. Unfortunately St. Helena, desperate for the easy money of TOT, will probably veer ever further in the direction of Yountville, a Potemkin village that presents the image of a small town for the benefit of its predominantly transient population. There will be healthy revenues to support an almost nonexistent resident population, as people seeking authentic small town life move to Oregon. Those that work in the tourist venues will not, of course, be able to afford to live there.

LTE's about the Davis WInery

Zoning procedures, EIRs protect us
Let's protect St. Helena as it is
Nails in cabernet's coffin

NVR Editorial Bd 2/3/15: Working together
SH Star Editorial Bd 1/28/15: Too many questions, not enough answers

The new hotel coming next door

Norm Manzer - Sep 17, 2015 9:30AM  Share #1002

September 16, 2015

City Council
City of St Helena
1480 Main Street
St Helena, CA 94574

Dear Members of the City Council,

Have you ever read the headlines of a newspaper that were so beyond belief that you had to check the date of the paper to be certain it was not an April Fool’s joke? Well, that is what I had to do when I read the St Helena Star of September 10 - CITY COULD ALLOW HOTELS IN RESIDENTIAL AREAS.

Is it possible that each of you could have recommended a vacant lot somewhere near each of your own homes where you would like to see a hotel located, in spite of the fact that it is an area not zoned for a hotel? No doubt you also saw the political cartoon of the Star with the two slot machines, one labeled Calistoga and the other labeled St Helena. The Calistoga slot machine was overflowing with money while the St Helena machine was dry. There is a price to pay for what Calistoga is doing.

We have Las Alcobas under construction on Main Street. You have given encouragement to another hotel by the owner of Farmstead, and now you want to encourage some more. Take a walk in downtown Napa on a Saturday night and come back and tell us if that is what you are proposing for our St Helena.

Yes, we all know that our City of St Helena finds itself in a serious financial situation, but trying to balance the City budget upon the lives of its citizens with more hotels and neighborhood Bed and Breakfasts is an even larger disaster in the making. It is a short sighted promise for a very destructive future for our community.

Even though you say that the City is not getting many complaints about your 25 B&B permits, I believe there is a disconnect between the neighbors’ complaints to the Police Department and those same complaints making their way to the Planning Department, or even to you. Rest assured, the natives are upset about what is going on next door to them when a B&B comes to life.

I ask you to knock in the head this fantasy of more hotels and B&Bs being the answer to our financial woes, and explore other options for income. Remember, those who say “we want to take advantage of the tourists” are at the same time taking advantage of us.


Norm Manzer
103 Camino Vista
St Helena, CA 94574

Sign Holding Aug 22 in Napa 10am -1pm

Geoff Ellsworth - Aug 20, 2015 8:57PM  Share #962

Hello all,

I believe it is important to continue our signholding, both at county/city meetings as well as in places with more public visibility to bring awareness to residents and visitors alike that we have serious concerns regarding traffic, water and development issues.

There will be a sign holding in Napa this Saturday, March 22, 2015 10am-1pm
outside the Napa County building on 3rd street between Coombs and Main.
People can come for the whole time or just a few minutes to show support.

I have extra signs.

Signholding Sat Mar 28th

Geoff Ellsworth - Mar 23, 2015 5:05PM  Share #724

Hello all,

I believe it is important to continue our signholding, both at county/city meetings as well as in places with more public visibility to bring awareness to residents and visitors alike that we have serious concerns regarding traffic, water and development issues.

There will be a sign holding in St. Helena this Saturday, March 28 at Lyman Park ( across Hwy 29 from the Post Office) from 10:30 am-1 pm.
People can come for the whole time or just a few minutes to show support.

If there's enough support there could be a sign holding in Napa as well,
I could get to Napa by 1:30 but perhaps people there may start earlier.

In Napa I liked the Veterans Park/ County Building intersection of 3rd and Main in downtown Napa as both locals and visitors pass that area and traffic is moving relatively slowly. Also there is parking.
Signholding has also happened at the Trancas Post Office.

At this point I think the location is less critical than the people continuing to come together to demonstrate that we are less than happy and have the will and the capacity to stand up. We will be seen.
Just want to be sure it's safe place with space to stand and not block circulation.

I'm also reaching out to groups in other counties if they want to join us or organize "sign holding Saturdays" in their counties.

I don't think they have to be long events, If we just take a few ours each Saturday to show our solidarity with each others' concerns perhaps that will help to build the collective voice.


ALSO This Wednesday, March 25, the Stop Justin group opposing a large mall development on Solano Ave, just off Hwy 29 by Trower will be out holding signs.
I believe Hwy 29 connects us all to this issue and I have been out a few times to stand with this group.
This will happen Wednesday March 25, 3pm-6pm

I may be in Lake County at this time
but the Stop Justin Group would appreciate the support to make sure their concerns are heard.

March 7 Signholding Saturday / March 10 County meeting

Geoff Ellsworth - Mar 6, 2015 7:13AM  Share #675

This Saturday March 7 a group will hold signs in St. Helena from10:30 AM to 1pm at the St. Helena Post office or just across Hwy 29 at Lyman Park.

This activity is to bring awareness of resident/citizen concern for development/water issues in Napa Valley/ County.
Please join us if so compelled or feel free to pass on this message.


ALSO There will be an important meeting in the city of Napa this coming Tuesday for anyone interested in county development issues:

NAPA County Board of Supervisors/Planning Commission Joint Meeting to Discuss the Future of Napa County
Tuesday, March 10
9:45 am
Napa Valley Unified School District Auditorium
2425 Jefferson Street, Napa 94558

St Helena explores expanding into the Ag Preserve

Bill Hocker - Feb 25, 2015 11:52PM  Share #646

From the St Helena Star: Council hears ‘very sobering’ financial forecast

One of the city's "strategies for sustainability": - explore annexation of county land.
Who can argue with that?

St. Helena Signholding Feb 21st, 2015

Geoff Ellsworth - Feb 23, 2015 9:59AM  Share #638

SIGNHOLDING - We've had a good turn out of about a dozen people at the last two sign holdings, one in Napa on Presidents Day and the next in St. Helena last Saturday. My hope is to show that we support the AG Preserve but need the wine/hospitality industry to balance with the needs/rights of our residents/citizens.

Sign Holding Action Feb 21st

Geoff Ellsworth - Feb 20, 2015 11:38AM  Share #634

A signholding regarding development issues in Napa Valley/County will happen tomorrow, Saturday Feb. 21st on the sidewalk in front of St. Helena Post Office on Hwy 29/Main St. and possibly just across the street on the sidewalk in front of Lyman Park from 8 am -11am ( we'll see how it goes from there)

Bring a sign or I've got extra. A few up valley people are coming for sure, anybody who would like to join us most welcome. There is coffee nearby.

Citizen Statement "Action Van"

Geoff Ellsworth - Feb 3, 2015 9:23AM  Share #593

In the St Helena Star: Citizens protest winery expansion

Taking a page from the Sonoma County playbook, Citizen Statement "Action Van" hits the street.

We will have signs out at 5pm to hold before St. Helena Planning Commission special meeting today at Vintage Hall, 465 Main St. in front of St. Helena High School for anyone wanting to join in.

Regarding SIGNS, I am thinking maybe a movement can build that has some resonance by March 10, but also as tourism season builds. Taking a sign campaign from inside the BOS/Planning meetings out to the roads and streets as we see in Sonoma County.

I was thinking of doing something like "Stand Up Saturdays/Sundays" where we wouldn't have to do any great co-ordination, everybody or group that wanted to could just go to a spot of their own choosing on Hwy 29 or the Silverado Trail from like 10-1 every Saturday or Sunday, just to get a little routine going.

We could do it as a bigger group also but wouldn't necessarily need to. Big cardboard signs with just 3 or 4 people can be effective as everybody has to go up and down these same roads and if they pass a bunch of smaller demonstrations it may be as effective, I think it also encourages other residents that it may not be too late to stand up.

The narrowness of the two main roads I think is to our advantage here, everyone has to come up these roads and would see the signs of discontent at the over co-opting of our home and region into a product and marketing platform without understanding the impacts to the residents.

People could also go out on other days too of course ( I plan too), but I think if we start some kind of routine maybe we can get a movement of people to coalesce around the idea of going to particular areas or event centers or tourist hotspots and we can demonstrate the will and the power to effect change.

Hopefully it is raining this Saturday but then there are 4 Saturdays/Sundays before the big March 10 meeting and I think we could be making a statement by then, something big enough to get awareness from the press and wine tourism industry

I will have the big signs outside the BOS meeting this Tuesday, Feb 10,maybe along the Silverdado Trail entrances to the Campus if there is a good spot. We already have a few people committed to hold signs but more is merrier.

I think home made signs are effective but we could also design some to be ordered. I have paint and cardboard.
I am happy to crank out more at my house if anybody has ideas to put on them,

My fear/worry is if we don't start getting leverage soon, long time residents will give up, start packing it in and moving away, I hear the rumblings and so want to work on getting the people who are willing to go out there if possible.

Signs of the times

Geoff Ellsworth - Jan 28, 2015 9:32AM  Share #576

As I look at the photo in the Press Democrat of the Guy Fieri denial what I see are upset citizens willing to stand in the streets with signs. These are not "hippies" or "communist activists" but regular homeowners who see a threat to their equity and quality of live. Many will choose to leave the area if more of these event centers go in. This will break down communities. Sonoma County has been fighting this a bit longer than Napa and it was a Healdsburg Citizens group that gave us in St. Helena a heads up to what we're dealing with.

Zoning board turns down Guy Fieri

We support ourselves by supporting others.

Lisa Hirayama - Jan 18, 2015 12:28PM  Share #549

Hi All,

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a great holiday.

Now that 2015 is underway, it’s time to start back up in our fight against Walt Ranch. DENW is starting to meet again to strategize on what needs to be done to protect Circle Oaks, our neighbors and Napa Valley.

One thing I have discovered in attending the Board of Supervisors’ meetings is that there are several small groups throughout the Valley who are very concerned about the overdevelopment from vineyards and wineries that will impact the watersheds and negatively affect residents. They want to join forces with DENW because they’re impressed at how quickly we organized and how much we accomplished in such a short time. In total, we submitted 894 form letters (529 were Circle Oaks residents) and 1256 petition signatures. Thank you to everyone who each signed the two letters and petition. DENW will be talking with the different groups and hopes to form a valley-wide coalition to show the Supervisors that there is a growing movement against all the projects that don’t take into account the cumulative effects of all the development (i.e. water, environment, residents, erosion, traffic, etc). We are a greater force to be reckoned with if we join together and support each other in our different battles.

In that vein, a development in the Upper Valley might not seem to be of concern to us, but all developments will have a ripple affect throughout the Valley. Geoff Ellsworth has been fighting for the common sense sustainability of winery projects, of which Davies Winery is not one of them. The St. Helena city council rejected his group’s appeal regarding the Davies approval right before the Nov 4 election. The mayor and one council member were then voted off in the election. There was one more opportunity to accept the appeal before the NEW council was seated because the item came back through the City Council’s consent calendar. However, Geoffs’s group pulled the item, but the council rejected the appeal once again even though two members were now leaving.

The new mayor and city council member think more in the line of Geoff’s group and with protecting the county’s General Plan. He’s hoping that community input helps them see the value of not having the city defend the lawsuit.

I am forwarding his email and attached the ad copy for your reading. If you feel comfortable, please forward your name to him by Monday so he can include it in the ad. His email is If you prefer not to add your name, please consider sending a letter to all the city officials listed below asking them to not defend the lawsuit and to send the Davies project back for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which was never even done.

Thanks for your support.

Geoff's email is here

The invisible event-centers

Bill Hocker - Jan 11, 2015 10:05AM  Share #538

Sandy Ericson of the St. Helena Window always comes up with interesting stuff in each of her newsletters. The Gallo wine trends is an entertaining education. Also this map of the new and expanding wineries , approved but not yet built, in south St. Helena caught my eye. I have tried to the same thing here for county projects.

The St. Helena Window covers tourism in general and many other things of interest beyond the town of St Helena and I would strongly urge you to get on the email list here.

Davies Family Winery appeal update

Geoff Ellsworth - Jan 11, 2015 9:44AM  Share #537

Dear Friends,

We’re writing to bring you up-to-date on the proposed Davies Family Winery/Event Center in St. Helena.

As you may know, we are in the process of serving the City of St. Helena with a lawsuit to reverse the Planning Commission’s approval of the permit and the City Council’s upholding their decision. We maintain that this project is not a proposal for a winery, but rather it’s a proposal for a hospitality winery event center that negates our General Plan, zoning ordinances, and Winery Definition Ordinance. In addition, it has not properly addressed safety, traffic, and water impacts. We are now pushing to get this reviewed by a judge and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Our intent is not to deny the Davies a project but rather to ensure that their project adheres to the rules and scale of our town.

You can read this week’s cover story in the St. Helena Star for more details.

To that end, we have engaged an attorney, Ellison Folk, from the respected San Francisco environmental firm of Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger. We have also gained the financial and personal support of many local citizens, including prominent members of the wine community who share our concerns about the impact this project will have on our community and infrastructure. These include John Shafer, Andy Beckstoffer, Robin Lail, Leslie Rudd, Stacy Bressler, Peter and Christy Palmisano, Gary Wagner, and many others.

You can show your immediate support in several ways:

1. We have reserved a full-page ad in next week’s St. Helena Star asking the St. Helena City Council not to defend against the suit - thereby allowing the judge to realize the current administration has shifted position and agrees with our appeal - which could save the city considerable revenue in administrative hours. We would like you to stand with us by allowing the use of your name in this ad. Please email me to let me know that your name can added.

2. You may also write to the Mayor and St. Helena City Council, asking them not to defend against the suit. (Email addresses are provided below.)

3. You can communicate directly with the Davies family, urging them to do an Environmental Impact Report and have the project re-submitted to the Planning Commission. We believe that hearing this from their peers in the community might help them decide to do the right thing.

4. You can forward this post to your friends ('email' link above) asking for their support. We have organized a group, Citizens’ Voice St. Helena, whose first objective is to have the Davies Winery/Event Center project reviewed and resubmitted. We want to unite all the citizens of St. Helena who agree that we must continue to be in compliance with the General Plan, zoning, and safety ordinances.

This is an issue that critically impacts our future quality of life in St. Helena. We believe we can reverse this decision - but we can only do it with the broad support of our community. Please join us in standing up to this project. We need your involvement as volunteers!

Sincerely yours,

Geoff Ellsworth 323-691-9621
Susan Kenward 707-246-6389

Email addresses for city government:

City Manager -
City Clerk -
Mayor -
City Council -

Sharon Crull -
Peter White -
Greg Pitts -
Paul Dohring -

St. Helena sued to stop development.

Geoff Ellsworth - Jan 8, 2015 10:17AM  Share #529

Davies winery opponents sue city


Carl Bunch writes:

Right on, Geoff! Congratulations to you and your fellow activists. I'm hopeful that your approach regarding reconsideration by the City Council for a a full EIR works. New Council members and a less politically difficult decision by the Council (not asking for a complete rejection of the project but simply more comprehensive environmental consideration) should be possible for the Council without upsetting the Council's moneyed supporters.

I'm writing a letter to the St. Helena Council (as a Napa Vallley citizen although not a resident of St. Helena) asking its members to order a new EIR. I hope other activists with winery use permit issues do the same whether or not they live in St Helena. Hwy. 29 and Silverado Trail traffic heading upvalley is already outrageous; Increases prompted by yet more winery activities in St. Helena's downtown are beyond the pale for those of us who live in the Valley.

Thanks for your terrific work on these issues, Geoff.

Schramsberg/Davies Family Winery - Please submit to EIR

Geoff Ellsworth - Jan 5, 2015 12:21AM  Share #525

Dear Napa County friends and coalition,

As you may know, recently Schramsberg/Davies Family Winery has received approval for a large scale Event Center Winery in St. Helena on Hwy 29. The project was passed with no EIR and very little review by the St. Helena Planning Commission and City Council. While it is a tenet of the Ag Preserve to have new development happen in the municipalities rather than the county, the proposed development still has to conform to the rules of the municipality. We believe this one does not. We'll be sending out a newsletter this week with more info on this.

We have made a court filing in hopes to have the case reviewed by the Napa Superior Court.

This is a project of a comparable scale to the proposed Yountville Hill project, hoping to serve over 55,000 visitors a year, with 8 tasting rooms and a 3400 sq/ft 3rd floor outdoor entertainment deck that enters and exits directly into a school zone with the High School right across the street and the primary school in close proximity.

As the applicants of Yountville Hill made the decision to do an EIR, we are trying to urge the Davies Family Winery applicants to do the same.

If you have time in the next few days to send a quick email I believe the voices of the public can help persuade these people to do the right thing by their community and volunteer for the EIR.

You could just send the following that I have written or something of your own with the above subject line. I have provided email addresses below.

ps I plan to be at BOS on Tues morn and Napa CC Tues eve., I hope we can get more and more involvement from the citizens of Napa City as they see how these Event Centers might impact them.


We, your neighbors in Napa County request that Schramsberg/ Davies Family Winery make the leadership decision to volunteer your project in St. Helena to an EIR.
This will ensure the residents and citizens of the community to which you belong are protected.


The email address I have for Schramsberg is

These are our City Council and Planning Commission members who could be CC'd

SH City Council-

SH Planning Commission

Project advocate - St. Helena Chamber of Commerce
also could be CC'd

Davies Winery Appeal Hearing Oct 28th

Bill Hocker - Oct 16, 2014 10:23PM  Share #390

Geoff Ellsworth has been spearheading the appeal of the Davies Family Winery in downtown St. Helena. Articles and letters are here:

Council will hear winery appeal
Commission approves winery expansion
Davies winery expansion appealed to City Council
Davies Family Winery appeal filed
City Council should deny Davies proposal

Davies Family event center/winery project in St. Helena

Geoff Ellsworth - Oct 13, 2014 3:24PM  Share #378

On Sept. 29th I and three other St. Helena citizens assumed the unpleasant task of filing an appeal on the recent St. Helena Planning Commission decision to grant major use permit modifications to the Davies Family Winery.

The St. Helena City Council will hear the appeal on Oct. 28. If they deny the appeal we are prepared to appeal to a higher body.

I believe this project is a Trojan Horse; it came into our town in 2012 as a 20,000 gallon crush facility with no visitation and is now asking for huge modifications.

Among other arguments against this project, like major added winery, truck and visitor traffic at an already over-impacted intersection, as well as water impacts, I think a strong contention against this proposal is it's proximity to two of our schools.

They want to put a 75,000 gallon winery/event center with over 50,000 visitors a year, open for wine tasting during the day, and hosting wine serving events, with an entrance just across the street from St. Helena High School on Grayson Avenue and just down the street from our primary school where kids walk and bike from town to school and back many times a day as well as gather for activities.

50,000 a year is a lot of visitors at a wine tasting facility just across the street from our high school and cannot help but increase chances for alcohol impaired incidents along this already over-impacted street.

I hope that citizens will get engaged in the dialogue of whether this is something we want in our community or whether it poses a danger to our health, welfare and safety.
I and many others feel this to be a very unsound idea.

Davis Family Winery in St. Helena

Geoff Ellsworth - Sep 16, 2014 11:12AM  Share #355

[Sent to the St. Helena City Planning Commission]

I am out of town for the Planning Commission meeting this week but wanted to send this letter regarding the Davies Family Winery application.

This is difficult for me to write because I care very deeply about the applicants but I also care very deeply about the people who live in St. Helena who will have to live with the cumulative impacts of large scale projects like this.

This is not a small winery/tasting room with a few random visitors. This is a large scale winery/event center of over 26,000 square ft. that is asking for over 58,000 visitors a year in an already congested and over-impacted area.

How many events will there be a week/month? How will these large events affect circulation in our small town? How many employees from out of the area will be commuting in? Will the commercial kitchen compete with our local established restaurants?

The St. Helena Star must have printed a typo when it said 640 to 1,000 gallons a year will be used for wine production. A winery producing 75,000 gallons of wine will use a tremendous volume of water. Not to mention that 58,000 people means a lot of flushing toilets. We are in a severe drought if anybody needs to be reminded.

I wish nothing but success for the Davies family as they are friends and long established citizens of the valley but I must ask - are these large event center/wineries fair to the residents/citizen stakeholders of our town as these commercial endeavors cannot help but encroach upon our shared common resources such as roadways and water to serve their business model?

The citizen stakeholders/residents also have capital investments in our town. Part of that investment is based on Quality of Life.

As more and more large scale projects are approved up and down the valley, many citizens and industry voices, Andy Beckstoffer included, have stated that “the cumulative impacts will be devastating”.

We now have daily gridlock traffic due to increased volume of hospitality worker traffic driving up from Solano County. Has there been a discussion of new projects paying a wage that would allow for local people to take the jobs? Or does that challenge the margin?

Our present traffic situation is degrading the quality of life for many of our friends and neighbors. How does this gridlock traffic affect our emergency vehicle response times and evacuation plans?
And yet we add more.

The character of St. Helena and Napa Valley, as well as the health, welfare and safety of our residents is at stake in our current discussions of large winery/event center projects.

I urge those involved to re-consider the placement of projects of such large scale and scope. Perhaps there is a south valley/county location that would be better suited.

Leadership now in the wine community must acknowledge the valley/county is at a tipping point.

We are all familiar with the leadership in the 1960’s that led to the Napa County Ag Preserve. Now both on a county AND city level our roadways, water capabilities and general infrastructure cannot sustain this development surge.

The true leaders in the Napa Valley wine industry must step up and lead in a direction that doesn’t over-impact our precious, unique resource and encroach upon the quality of life of the citizen stakeholders.

Thank you

Geoff Ellsworth
St. Helena citizen.

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