Open Comments

Aug 18, 2014

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My First ChatGPT

Bill Hocker - Aug 23, 2023 11:28AM  Share #2312

I tried out ChatGPT, and I have to admit that the results sorta lived up to the hype. I can see why authors and consumers of the written word in any form will be impacted by the technology. I tried a couple of simple questions with complex ramifications that I thought might be illuminating.

My first question:
"Tell me about tourism in the Napa Valley" with the followup "What is the best way to reduce tourism to the Napa Valley?"

Link to the ChatGTP response

My next question:
"Should agriculture be limited to protect groundwater and forests?" followed up with "Should vineyards in napa valley hillsides be limited to protect groundwater and forests?" (which should have been my only question)

Link to the ChatGPT response

The responses could have been taken directly from Visit Napa Valley or the Napa County General Plan. The art of writing may now be in knowing what questions to ask. It is pretty obvious with just one try that the technology will drastically change the lives of anyone that writes or does research for a living.

Napa County Website

Bill Hocker - Jun 15, 2020 11:55AM  Share #1817

Update 7/1/20
New discovery: County Winery Explorer Very nicely done.

Subsequent note: page is now password protected. Very badly done.

Update 6/21/20
The county has once again updated an important part of their website: the Current Projects webpage (now defunct) has been replaced by the Current Projects Explorer.

Accessing projects in the Planning Commission pipeline from a map is good, but the info is no longer available through simple links to web pages and can now only be done by individually navigating through the dashboard. Even the County's own hearing notifications can no longer link directly to the project information. The dashbord currently always opens up, confusingly, on the "Red Lake Winery" and you must begin searching for the right project. The low key "here" link, buried in a sentence at the bottom of a scroll then makes it unintuitave for first time users to find a project's documents.

More importantly, just as with their previous website update, all the documents related to these projects are accessed through a new database with new URL's, meaning that hundreds of links on the internet (and my website) no longer work. Staff is probably in the process of updating everything but it will take time. Walt Ranch and Mountain Peak have no documents yet (nor does Red Lake Winery). This is the fourth attempt to organize current project data in the last 6 years. Each has been an improvement is some respects but the loss of document links with each change is a problem.

The fact each project page and its associated documents disappear once the project has been approved is also annoying. The "final" documents for each project, I suppose, reside in the granicus database linked to the BOS and PC agendas. But try finding the final documents of a particular project by scouring the meeting agendas, in some cases with numerous meetings going over years at both the commission and the board - it's an impossible task. On the current projects page all the documents related to a project are available. There is no reason why that page should not be updated when the project is approved and remain a permanent record available to all.

Update 1/24/20
Sorry for this rant, but, alas, it appears that the county's Current Projects Page is now going to be replaced by the Current Projects Dashboard. A note on the Anthem project page now indicates that "this page is no longer maintained. For the latest project-related information and documents, please visit our new Current Projects Explorer application here". I assume that all projects will eventually be migrated to the Dashboard.

On the dashboard a small link at the bottom takes one to the documents for the project. Unfortunately this collection of documents is stored on a different database than the documents linked on the previous current project pages. To my knowledge this is the second time since the county has been fumbling its way into the digital age that it has changed the location of its document server.

Links between separate bits of information on the web are the heart of the web's success. To break those links by changing the web addresses of the individual bits of information does an incredible disservice to all who gain knowledge by "connecting the dots" of a particular subject. You would think that governments, who have a legal obligation to archive, protect and make data available, would be especially attuned to the need to keep links intact. Losing the links in one county document (say a past meeting agenda) that reference other documents is no different than losing a statistic in a table, or a finding in a use permit.

There are, no doubt, ways of permanently insuring that old links are redirected to new ones but, alas, these two addresses of the same Anthem document in the two databases are very different, with the newer link actually downloading the document to the user's device. There is no obvious way to provide an external link to view a document on the county's website as there was in the old system:
Old docuemnt location
New Location

I would hope that the IT professionals that manage that county's data and website would show a little more concern for the historic accessibility of documents than they have in the past and seem to be doing now.

Update 12/26/19
The county has added a new page to their website to provide a more comprehensive look at the amount of development going in the county:

County Current Projects Dashboard

This coordination between development projects and a map of the county has already been available for several years on SCR here and here. I am counting on the county to do a better job than I have done. As they note, it is hard to keep all of the data accurate and up-to-date.

Hopefully they will add a link between the projects on the map and the current project page for each project with associated documents. It would also be nice to have links to the videos and agendas of meetings related to the project. Although I have feebly tried to make these connections on my pages, the county should be able to do a much better job.

Surprise note: The county separates current projects on the map into "current" (blue dots) and "major" (red dots). The red dots are few and include contentious projects like Walt Ranch, Napa Pipe, and Syar that are still, after years, making their way through the county meat grinder. I am very pleased to see that the Mountain Peak winery is considered a "major" project.

Original Post 1/3/18
NVR 1/3/18: Napa County tries to cut bureaucratic clutter with new, intuitive website

The County of Napa has just put up their new website at

As an enthusiast playing around with data-based websites myself, I have been amazed at the transformation of the County site over the last 4 years in bringing its many disparate services, documents and data systems online into a consistent portal. As with anything that grows organically there was a level of eccentricity that made finding some things a challenge, but the fact that the most obscure information was available at all is a miracle.

The new site will probably create a more logical hierarchy and ease the ability to find stuff. It is presumably the first step in beginning to manage all of the documents being digitized in the coming years.

The "branding" has changed. Just like the Register, it now has a bunch of very big (and unnecessary) photos taking up space on its home page. And its livery is now blue and purple instead of green and yellow. Green seems a more appropriate color for a county committed to agriculture. Perhaps the change shows a change in commitment: note that "A Tradition of Stewardship" has been eliminated under the logo. I know it's human nature to want to redecorate periodically. Still, consistency over time should be a hallmark of a substantial institution. As the post about the new Napa City logo Indicated, I'm not a big fan of rebranding.

The downside of the change for me is that I have hundreds of links to county webpages and documents on this site. Many of them are now broken. The county webmaster has made some effort to "redirect" old main page addresses to the new pages, (and is doing so as I write). But many of the documents and sub pages may be harder to relink. For example, all of the documents related to the 2008 General Plan DEIR and FEIR are not yet findable on the new site. Not intentionally, I trust. In time I will do my best to repair the broken links.

Contact me if you find a link that you particularly want reestablished.

Napa County and Coronavirus

Bill Hocker - Apr 3, 2020 3:19AM  Share #2088

Update 4/11/20
George Caloyannidis LTE 4/10/20: County must reassess its public hearings policy
CNPA 3/12/20: Governor suspends some Brown Act provisions to allow teleconferencing

The County sent this notice regarding the 3/17/20 BOS meeting:

Public Participation Notice re: 3/17/20 BOS meeting
The meeting will feature the use of Zoom videoconferencing technology to allow remote public participation as will as a limited number of people to attend the actual meeting.

The meeting will deal with the appeal of the Bremer Winery "recognize and allow" use permit modifications approved by the Planning Commission on 10/16/19. More on the Bremer Winery Saga here.

Bay Area Counties, NOW including Napa County, have announced a complete "Shelter in Place" policy which will prevent all movement, including to public meetings, except for the purchase of necessities, in the affected counties.

George Calyoannidis has just sent a link to the Australian 60 Minutes (very informative) report on the potential of the coronavirus:

NVR 3/18/20: Updated: Napa County orders people to shelter at home because of COVID-19

The remains of authenticity

George Caloyannidis - May 1, 2018 11:40PM  Share #1876

Last Sunday, the Dry Creek Valley north of Healdsburg had its annual open house. The Dry Creek Valley is known for its great Zinfandels but also for many Rhone varietals which they keep blending in all kinds of different configurations including the most common Bordeaux ones. But also some unusual ones like Burger, Counoise, some of which they bottle unblended. Frick is a must tasting room, way up on the mountain with generously bearded Mr. Frick will serving you wines you never had in your life. All, in a shed with a tin roof.

Among the countless newcomers, there are also some which have been there forever. Wineries like Perdroncelli and Teldeschi, with roots going back to the 1940s. These are the most interesting to me because they still produce old style wines at amazing prices because they paid nothing for the land for their extensive vineyards, several owned by brothers, sisters and cousins. How about Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon, Wisdom for less than $ 25. A really beautiful, tame wine you can have with practically anything without getting buzzed. For me a great meal is one where you settle down, keep nibbling slowly in the company of your favorite person or friends until the entire bottle is finished a sip at a time without you falling asleep the minute you relax.

One such winery is Teldeschi, founded in the mid 1940s. No stainless steel there, no flat roofs, slick concrete and endless walls of glass. A real winery there. The tasting room has an 8-ffot worn out counter serviced by one of the Teldeschis. They may leave in the middle of a pour because someone needs something somewhere else. No hired personnel here who are told what to say. These are real people smelling of decades of wine. and they sell an amazing array of wines, the flag ship being Estate Reserve Cinque Terre.

When I asked current winemaker Dan Teldeschi why the latest vintage of Cinque Terre is the 2002, he said, I am tired of making so many wines, so I decided to make only one from now on. We can make a good living this way. Dan is in his fifties and says, there is more life out there beyond wine. And if you engage him, he will open his Ports and fortified Muscats. But it is the Cinque Terre that sings a unique song. 58% Franc, 13% Carignane, 12% Merlot, 12% Syrah and 5% Petite. At 14.2% alcohol and lots of sediment, it is a joy to keep sipping to the last drop.

The Saturday before, I was out at the Calistoga Framer's Market informing the public about my private heliport ban Christine and I have placed on the ballot. It will be the first in the nation. The people who try to fly their fancy helicopters have nothing to do with the people who can sit down with real friends and keep sipping a Cinque Terre over a perfect roasted chicken with potatoes roasted in the same pan. Or how about with Kim David's incredible beef cheek enchiladas! These people are from a different culture. The say, it is my property and no one is going to tell me what to do with it. When you ask them what about your neighbors? They say, I don't give a s... You couldn't have people like that at your table and then go to bed happy. Let them go to the French Laundry.

While at this Saturday market, Dawnine Dyer from down the street dropped by and while talking about the nice things in life to ease standing out in the cold morning, she said: Have you ever had the chicken this farmer grows? Said farmer is known for his amazing Arugula but I never had his free range chickens. "They are as good as the ones from Bresse". Coming from Dawnine who knows how to cook, this was something not to be taken lightly.

So, Christine put this chicken in the oven with some small potatoes halved in the pan, some onions, carrots and peas and then a bottle of the 2002 Cinque Terre. Only 4 or 5 cases left at $ 50, an unheard price at Teldeschi but worth every penny of it for a wine that tastes delicious, though unique but not fundamentally unusual but in need of a different vocabulary to do it justice.

While Dan is simplifying his life producing a single wine from now on, how can one thank Dawnine with other than with a dinner with a Cinque Terre.

The Ross Workman archive

Bill Hocker - Jan 5, 2018 8:34PM  Share #1490

Ross Workman LTE 1/3/18: What are the planners trying to protect?

Ross Workman has been writing Register letters-to-the-editor since at least 2002. After his stint as foreman of the 2014-15 Napa County Grand Jury, which focused on the compliance issues wineries have had with their use permits, his letters have often been some of the most articulate and succinct arguments for the preservation of a rural Napa County in the face of ongoing wine industry development pressure. The links to other letters are here:

NVR LTE 10/06/17: What do we want to protect?
NVR LTE 9/6/17: Grand Jury report pointed the way
NVR LTE 5/2/17: Sell the wine or sell the winery
NVR LTE 6/6/16: Enough to focus minds?
NVR LTE 10/25/15: Question: What's in it for Napa County?
NVR LTE 9/28/15: Why the bombast and ad hominem attacks?
NVR LTE 8/28/15: Wine industry should work for transparency

The stress of being a county official

Bill Hocker - Sep 20, 2017 5:38PM  Share #1574

NVR 9/20/17: Highest Paid Napa County Employees

Normally this would be an uninteresting news story except that the second highest paid employee in Napa County - after County Council/acting CEO Minh Tran - turns out to be the Staff Psychiatrist. We always suspected that dealing with a demanding clientele and an irate public was horribly stressful on the courageous and hard-working administrators that keep the county government functioning. Now we know how stressful.

Grand Jury: Please investigate this!

Bill Hocker - Aug 25, 2017 2:31PM  Share #1564

Too much traffic? Too many hotels or wineries? Too much forgiveness-rather-than-permission? Not enough affordable housing? Is the County government failing to serve the interests of Napa citizens?

This is the time of the year when it is appropriate to submit a ‘complaint’ to the Napa Grand Jury for review and consideration. This is a confidential complaint and the Grand Jury could decide to fully and thoroughly investigate your complaint and issue a report on your topic. The report will help inform the public about the quality of our governmental body in Napa.

If you have an issue with a specific county/city/town board, council, commission, committee, department, or special district… this is the time to have your voice heard.

Click here for a complaint form. (An MS-Word version can be downloaded here) It can be printed for snail mailing or saved as a pdf in your printer dialog to be attached to an email.

You can snail mail your complaint to the address on the form, or email it as an attachment to

The Town Halls of August

Bill Hocker - Aug 17, 2017 12:01PM  Share #1557

Sup. Pedroza's Town Hall: a difference of opinion

NVR 8/11/17: Napa Supervisor Pedroza on the firing line at town hall meeting

As town halls have been going in this country of late, that of Sup. Pedroza on Aug 7th was a civilized affair. Our Supervisor started out his presentation expecting some disagreement - we may disagree, he said, but disagreements lead to better decisions - and gave a smooth presentation of the background statistics and his program for a healthy future Napa, with more affordable housing and more jobs and a flyover at the Soscol junction. The powerpoint is here.

There was a bit of pushback. The issues that have been of greatest concern to residents in the Soda Canyon, Atlas Peak, Montecello Rd regions were given their most fulsome airing in Cindy Grupp's comments: Citizens are not listened to. Dissenting expert opinions are dismissed out of hand. There is no balance of interests between residents and developers - the developers win every time. The supervisors are ignoring the hundreds of people that showed up for the Mar 10th 2015 joint BOS-PC meeting to protest against the level of development occurring. She quoted from the petitioner in the recent court decision in Sonoma, in its failure to consider the true impacts of development in their CAP: "It is time to admit that perpetual growth is not sustainable."

Other speakers also voiced concern. Yeoryios Appalls asked why, with $80 million in tourism taxes in 2014, the roads aren't fixed. Where is the cost benefit analysis for all the tourism development that is going on. Harris Nussbaum asked how, with 5000 people on the waiting lists for housing and more low paying jobs being added to the county with every project approval, the housing crisis will not be solved with the handful of difficult-to-realize low cost housing units in the pipeline. We aren't going to build our way out of the housing crisis. Barbara Guggia asked how fast-tracking wineries, a proposal Yeoryios Apallas called a solution looking for a problem, would benefit residents. Anne Polotas asked about the 1000 opposition signatures ignored in the Mountain Peak decision. Residents don't have a government that listens.

I listen, Sup. Pedroza responded, but I respectfully have a difference of opinion.

As I found out in a previous meeting with Sup Pedroza, at each occasion that the negative trajectory of tourism development is brought up, rather than discussing it, Sup Pedroza cuts off the discussion with, well, we have a difference of opinion. Next question. He knows that the development projects that he is supporting and promoting are generating the traffic and housing problems, and that any discussion that questions that relationship is one discussion that he does not wish to have. Just concentrate on mitigating the impacts.

Sup. Pedroza began his presentation with some raw statistics that seemed in a nutshell to encapsulate our problems: Less than 1%/yr population growth in the county (actually .07% and projected to decline) probably due to the high cost of housing, and 14% growth in jobs since 2014, (actually 3.1%/yr) , due mostly to the expansion of the tourism and construction industries. The difference between jobs and housing creation leads to both housing shortages and traffic congestion, the principal impacts that everyone focuses on. The reality is that as long as the new-housing-to-new-jobs ratio remains at 1 to 4, no amount tweaking will alleviate the increasing impacts - they will only get worse.

He also knows that the imbalance will not be solved by building affordable housing - yet he proposes it as a solution. 4 projects were presented that may generate 200 affordable housing units when they are realized years from now. As Mr. Nussbaum pointed out there are 25 times that number of families on waiting lists for affordable housing now. How many more will be waiting by the time the projects are completed. Affordable housing is a feel-good talking point, but no solution to the jobs-housing imbalance.

The one solution he will not discuss is on the other side of the housing-jobs equation: limiting job creation by limiting the urban development. It is, of course, against the DNA of any politician to disparage job creation. But job creation is the essence of urbanization, and if the county is interested in remaining an agricultural economy, as it often claims, then job creation in the non agricultural sector must be looked at differently than in a traditional economy based on ever increasing job growth.

The real difference of opinion between this supervisor and many of his constituents, is in whose interests are to be served. Sup Pedroza promotes urban development, through housing projects and infrastructure projects and more tourism while presenting the opinion that such development is necessary to preserve the agricultural lands and rural character treasured by his constituents. It is an opinion that aligns neatly with the banking, real estate, tourism and construction interests that stand to profit from Napa's 50 year legacy of open space preservation. These are, not coincidentally, the same interests that contribute generously to political campaigns.

The citizens that are speaking up, however, are of the opinion that the promotion of such urban development is the death of agriculture and the death of the rural character that they treasure. Indeed they see the rural character disappearing with every building project approved, in traffic congestion, loss of affordable housing and local businesses, a landscape defaced with building projects. Those impacts are not opinions. They are the reality created by an opinion that continuing development projects will have a less-than-significant impact on, or are more important than, our rural, small-town way of life. It is an opinion with which many in the county respectfully, or not so respectfully, disagree.

Napa Vision 2050 Town Hall: a multitude of opinions

NVR 8/11/17: Residents have say at Napa Vision 2050 forum

I wasn't at the Napa Vision town hall three days later. On reading Barry Eberling's account and on reviewing notes taken by a participant at the meeting the proposals seemed to encompass a wide gamut of opinions, some of which might be geared to slowing the urban development of Napa County, and some, like a commuter rail system or affordable housing projects, aimed at reducing impacts to and fears of current residents, will in execution only further urbanize the county and induce future urban growth.

Beyond the absolute moratorium on development, I was looking for suggestions to slow the pace of development, in the way that minimum parcel sizes and 1% housing growth cap and voter approved rezoning did to curb the growth of housing development in past decades. Yet the urban development of Napa county through tourism and industrial uses is every bit as great a threat to the agricultural lands and rural character that housing presented 40 years ago. And the strategies required to stop the urbanization should be just as radical.

As suggested, and as was suggested at the May 10th 2015 joint BOS-PC meeting, a first step would be to consider a big picture general plan that integrates county and city issues and begins to look at a desired limit to ultimate growth of the county. The vision needs to be restated and should answer the question, put to developers as well as preservationists: what do you want the county to look like 50 years hence? (I would like fewer buildings, less traffic and less population than it does now, of course.) And then ask, how does one make it so?

But perhaps even before that, an initiative should be put before the voters to gage support for a radical slowing of urban growth in the county. Or else an initiative proposing to limit the amount of future tourism and industrial development in the way that Proposition A in 1980 limited housing development. Is such a limitation either legal or feasible? Proposition A was challenged and found legal. I don't know if a limitation on tourism or growth in general would be so, and it would probably depend on the metrics used to measure both, but that is the kind of solution, rather than adding more transport infrastructure or housing, that can begin to control the urban trajectory the county is on. Once future development controls are in place then there is the possibility that housing and transport fixes might help.

Proposition A 1980
Napa County Policy AG/LU-119 Growth Management System
The official Policy AG/LU-119 begins on page AG/LU-74 of the Napa County General Plan Land Use Element

Napa Vision 2050 will be having another Town Hall, this time in St. Helena, on Thurs Sep 7th 2017, 7:00pm at the Native Sons Hall, 1141 Oak St.

Background: Our representatives on city councils and the board of supervisors hire helpers, collectively called

Facing public discontent, the County lawyers up

George Caloyannidis - Jun 14, 2017 3:00PM  Share #1523

NVR 6/14/17: Napa County's half-billion dollar budget ranges from jails to water safety
Napa County: 2017-18 Budget Recommendation (see page 20)

How telling of the sad state of affairs it is that Napa County has budgeted one quarter of a million dollars for the annual salary of a new deputy counsel to handle the increased load of land-use issues ending in citizens' appeal hearings and the courts. By the time the employment of this person ends, the County tax payers will have spent untold millions in salaries, continuing benefits and pensions until death.

These appeals filed by affected homeowners revolve around the basic policies solidly embraced by the Board of Supervisors (BOS); all involving accommodation of wineries: Their uncontrolled proliferation, their ever increasing use as entertainment and commercial activity centers and the scandalous reward policy for their most egregious use-permit violations. This in turn, brings hordes of tourists and low wage workers for dozens upon dozens of new resorts and hotels.

But most important is the deaf ear the BOS lends to the negatively affected neighborhoods from Mt. Veeder to the west, to Howell Mountain in the east and everything in between.

When a winery such as Reverie, having spread thousands of tons of cave tailings on a hillside next to a creek without an erosion control permit, when it also exceeded its permitted visitations and production many times over is given a clean slate just for the asking to be absolved and legalized and ends up walking away with several millions in ill-gotten profits, what is a community to do?

When the Mountain Peak winery is allowed to deposit cave tailings equaling one football field, 30 feet high next to the Rector Creek Gorge which supplies water to the City of Yountville, up six miles at the end of the winding Soda Canyon Road with over 600 recorded accidents and no secondary outlet for residents to get out in case of fire, what is a community to do?

When fake California Environmental Quality Act analyses by County Staff only consider winery traffic impacts around a convenient limited circle, ignoring those throughout the valley resulting in the unbearable congestion from American Canyon to Calistoga, what are residents to do?

The residents of this valley are increasingly aware that the BOS accommodation of the wine industry has lifted its veil, no longer embarrassed to show its ugly face of egregious partiality no matter what the costs to the environment and to the degradation of their common quality of life.

The Supervisors refuse to recognize the obvious, that appeals and lawsuits are a sign that something is fundamentally wrong in the way they conduct business.

If they acted on residents' concerns rather than bow to the wishes of the next violator or the next absentee multimillionaire coming out of the woodworks - eager to embrace the good life by destroying it with their help - those with no real stake in the community or in conduct that does not trample on neighbors' lives, appeals and lawsuits would disappear as if by magic.

But reason from our elected leaders is too much to ask for.

Instead, oblivious to their righteousness, beholden to their sell-out, they opt for the most offensive solution; that of beefing up their arsenal with additional legal help to fight those ignorant, audacious, adversarial ordinary citizens and saddle them with that cost as well. This is the way to teach them a lesson for fighting for their livable neighborhoods and to shut them up; make them spend more time at hearings, more money on consultants, more money in the courts.

Lowering their ears from their imperial thrones to listen to them is not an option.

BOS strategic planning retreat

Bill Hocker - Apr 26, 2017 10:34PM  Share #1441

Update 5/1/17
NVR 5/2/17: Housing needs dominate Napa supervisors' 'coffee shop' talk

NVR 4/26/17: Napa County supervisors want to get a handle on winery code compliance

I wasn't there. It sounds a bit like the "big picture" strategic planning, i.e. asking what can be done to stop Napa County's continuing urban development in the next 35 years, (and allow an agriculture-based industry to survive), is getting lost in the weeds trying to accommodate the urban problems from previous planning approaches: traffic congestion, affordable housing and, it seems, legitimizing the scofflaws who have been flaunting the rules in expanding their commercial and industrial development into the vineyards.

Dan Mufson suggested one sustainable approach to the problems facing the county going forward: stop building wineries. When you're in a hole stop digging. Affordable housing shortages are the result of the County pushing tourism as the economic engine, an economy dependent on low wage workers.The need for more wineries to process Napa grapes ended long ago. In the first 4 months of this year the planning commission has approved winery projects that will add 150-160 new workers in the county all needing affordable housing, not to mention all of the other services a county provides to its citizens. An upcoming commission hearing will feature 4 more wineries adding 25-36 more employees. [3 approved, 1 continued]

Not only does the county encourage low wage workers by building more tourism venues, but they allocate millions of dollars each year to promote tourism, and events and the good life to be found here. As Supervisor Dillon pointed out existing housing becomes converted into vacation homes and rentals, and a sense of community disappears. And land speculation for vineyard estates puts increasing development pressure on the watersheds.

Sup. Gregory noted that the wine industry provides the tax base of the County, yet as we have seen, a wine industry devoted to tourism creates more problems than it solves. All that tax revenue from Napa's principal "growth" industry doesn't seem to be enough to provide affordable housing, or build a jail or upgrade the sanitary systems or keep the roads paved, and it is left to the residents to vote taxes and fees on themselves to support the growth of the tourism industry. That need for residents to pay for the long term costs of the wine industry's embrace of tourism doesn't seem to be a part of the thinking when talking about a balance between the interests of the industry and the residents. It should be.

Update 4/20/17
The Board of Supervisors and leaders of County departments will have another strategic planning retreat on Monday, Apr 24th, 2017 to discuss the future of Napa County in light of citizen comments gleaned from 5 community roundtables held in the last month. While there were few outside attendees at the first retreat, the meeting will be open to the public and you are encouraged to attend. The notice with time and location is here.

Gary Margadant sends along these shots of the work of the community roundtable in Yountville on Apr 3rd. Not a great outcry for more tourism development.

A report on the Mar 23rd community roundtable in Napa is here


NVR 3/15/17: Napa County looks at strengths, weaknesses during retreat

A few community members attended this County workshop on Mar. 14th designed to allow Supervisors and County department heads to sit down together and discuss county strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the coming years. It was a good exercise in team building and displayed a congenial county staff interested in the county's future.

The brief agenda described it as "the first of three strategic planning retreat sessions to identify the Board's priorities over the next three years and develop metrics to evaluate progress in implementing these priorities". There will be two more such staff workshops, on April 24th and May 22.

But before April 24th there WILL be 5 community (public) workshops on Mar 23rd, 28th, 30th, Apr 3rd and Apr 10th to to gather input and ideas for a community vision that can help shape the Board of Supervisors priorities. Meetings will be conducted in English and Spanish.

The notice and locations are here, and meeting dates and locations are also shown on the Calendar.

Glenn & Judy Schreuder - Mar 15, 2017 9:55PM

I think we are witnessing the hollowing out of the Napa community:

- Spiraling housing costs.
- Projected declines in public school enrollments.
- Absentee home ownership - vacation/2nd home ownership all over cities from Napa northward.
- Monocultural agriculture (lack of agricultural diversity)
- A single dominant, primary industry (lack of economic diversity)
- Distant corporate ownership replacing family ownership of the means of production.
- A generation of kids who will find they need to leave the community they grew up in or risk becoming part of a significant economic under-class (with some limited exceptions i.e. kids from wealthy families)
- Conspicuous, ostentatious, tasteless displays of material wealth.

Definitely not the Napa I grew up in and not the one I fell in love with.

The spell is broken.

Amber Manfree - Mar 15, 2017 9:54PM

Is it just me, or are county employees concerned about all the same things we are?

Traffic, locals/working professionals being priced out, class conflict, decisions not being based on data, residents concerns not being incorporated in planning decisions, road conditions... the county being sued.

It's a familiar sounding list!

I think it's missing biodiversity/conservation/limits to growth issues, though.

Community Vision Roundtable #1

Gary Margadant - Mar 24, 2017 10:43AM  Share #1456

one resident's wistful response
NVR 3/25/17: Citizens pepper Napa County leaders with ideas for the future

The BOS strategic meeting at McPherson Elementary 3/23, was attended by 27 residents, 14 staff (including 2 moderators) BUT no Supervisors.

Staff included Leanne Link (CEO), Helen Franchi, Molly Rattigan, Greg Morgan, etc.

Kathy Felch and David Hallett walked out - Yerios, Barry Eberling, Myself, David & Cindy Heitzman, Tony Norris & Chris Malan, Jana Waldinger and Lowell Downey.
Kathy and David had a long contentious discussion with Leanne Link and Molly Rattigan outside the door after leaving.

The meeting started off badly when the crowd realized the Supervisors, not even one for welcome, would show. They are living in a bubble and only want public interaction on a 3 min or private office basis. Both Diane and AP attended the WICC meeting from 3-5:30, so they were both mobile and nearby, but no show.

Excuse from Leanne: Brown act problems if all the supes were in the same room with the crowd.... Also, the public talks too much and too long (my words - but her emphasis)

The staff & moderator questions were geared to public with little experience with Supervisors - I will be sending around a copy of their guidance flyer used. Essentially it was humiliating to experience their perception (paradigm) of the public's government experience.

More to follow.

Eve Kahn - Mar 24, 2017 10:48AM

The county leadership had a similar ice breaker about sharing values and to provide examples in their workplace. Then they all wrote strength, weaknness, opportunities and threats.

Will be curious how the next meetings go and if they change the format at all. Thanks for sharing.

Kathy Felch - Mar 24, 2017 10:46AM

Here is the Ice Breaker the public is expected to fill out. In addition we were asked to put our answer on a 3x5 card that was read out loud to the group. I would not call our discussion with Leanne/Molly contentious but rather very frank yet polite. Essentially that the process is insulting and not effective to convey to our elected officials what their constituents want them to work on. More detail to share with you at a meeting.

The Iconic Napa Valley

Bill Hocker - Mar 2, 2017 3:57AM  Share #1432

I have used a recurring icon on this site to illustrate various issues and have collected them all here.








Solar Farming

Beckstoffer steps up again

Bill Hocker - Jan 7, 2016 1:12PM  Share #1164

NVR 1/6/16: Beckstoffers preserve 25 acres of St. Helena farmland

In this 2015 article from the Virginia Quarterly Review, James Conaway quotes Andy Beckstoffer:

    "At this point I have to decide what my career's worth. Never in the history of mankind has agriculture withstood urban growth long-term, but here we have the best chance. Agriculture's clearly the highest and best use of the land, but whether that will save it I can't say."
I have used the middle sentence as a touchstone in describing what all of the activism is about these last 2 years. But the first sentence is important here: his career and legacy as a steward of agricultural land (profitable to be sure) is worth more than the increased profits to be made by converting his fields into tourist attractions. Is it up to Andy Beckstoffer to individually save the agricultural base of the county, when the government is unwilling itself to stand up to good-life entrepreneurs for whom growing things is just not profitable enough; and to stand up for its own general plan vision of a "sustainable rural community"? It may be. He is, of course, in a better position than anyone to withstand the urban growth encroaching into the vineyards in the form of event centers. But more will have to stand up to ensure the long-term viability of a rural Napa county.

The canard gets repeated often these days that it's either tourism or houses. It's not. It just takes a recognition and acceptance on the part of individuals and our government that maintaining the agriculture is more important than maximizing profits. It was the same decision that was made in 1968. Decide to forego some profit (not all because Napa grapes are a profitable investment, as Andy Beckstoffer well knows) and agriculture survives, without the urbanization that development interests seek.

One of the things that has maintained the energy needed for this quixotic quest to save the county from itself has been the recognition that at least some growers, and some vintners, see that the development trends in the county will not allow their way of life, their careers, to survive into the future. Few have been willing to stand up publicly, either from fear of losing potential future profits, or from a sense of omertà among the fellowship of the wine industry. Lets hope this is an indication that the attitude is changing.

More on Andy Beckstoffer on SCR here:
More James Conaway
Beckstoffer on development in St Helena
Beckstoffer Vineyards letter on code enforcement

The nature of the process

Bill Hocker - Dec 3, 2015 1:03PM  Share #1105

After the agenda review at the end of the Dec 2nd planning commission meeting, (and apparently to an empty chamber) Commissioner Cottrell voiced her appreciation for the work that staff had done on the Tench winery in moving the project to the point that it was able to receive nothing but kudos leading to its approval.

Her comment triggered a long (12 minute) exchange between staff and the commission about the changing nature of the staff-applicant interaction and the nature in the conditions everyone was now working under that was well worth listening to. It begins at approximately 3:38:00 into the video.

The industrial Eden

Bill Hocker - Nov 13, 2015 9:47AM  Share #1082

Keeping up with the news

Bill Hocker - Aug 27, 2015 10:21PM  Share #972

A news link feed that keeps up with the totality of the world's wine industry with a lot on the North Bay:

Current Projects in the County Planning Department

Bill Hocker - Aug 20, 2015 6:09PM  Share #959

The county now has a current projects page on their website which lists projects under review with links to their documents. They are still in the process of getting the projects up. The page is here.

63 winery events every day

Norma Tofanelli - Aug 10, 2015 7:21PM  Share #936

Almost a month ago, APAC staff report for 7/13 revealed that 23,000 events have already been approved at wineries.
These are vested - cannot be reduced or taken away.

23,000 annual events:
= 63 per day
= 442 per week
= 1916 per month

And APAC is poised to offer a formula to approve yet more.

March 10 forum focus = issues with winery event centers and traffic.

I thought this was the most explosive data revealed yet by the county.
Yet I have not heard any concern, other than from Mike Hackett, from 2050 or the public in general.
No comment at APAC, no letters to editor, no comment at BoS meetings (other than Geoff)

Is there no concern? What is the strategy?
? ? ?


Mike Hackett adds:

It's the most disturbing fact to come out of the TPAC hearings ( tourism protection advisory committee) and I'm writing an LTE at this moment regarding this issue. I'm unable due to other mandatory appointments to attend this morning, so I'm hopeful that Geoff and others will bring this, once again, to the forefront.

It seems obvious that the impact of tourism is screwing life up for our residents, but the politicians want to maintain the same future growth. Sad but true.


Bill Hocker - Aug 10, 2015 6:24PM  Share #935

[link sent to George Caloyannidis from Asst. Planning Director John McDowell]

Principles of Napa County League of Governments

NCLOG was (is) an organization set up between the municipalities and the county because of the lawsuit over affordable housing filed against the county in 2002 (and that led to the pursuit of the Napa Pipe project. The lawsuit helps to explain the county's paranoia that the project may not happen.)

At the Mar 10th joint meeting of the Planning Commission and BOS one of the commitments made was to form an ad hoc committee involving the municipalities and the County to begin to address the growth issues confronting the county. That committee has yet to be formed. This League would, of course be an ideal structure to begin to confront those issues.


Mike Hacket adds (to George Caloyannidis):

So now we have two official County docs (see here) that mandate reducing traffic and actually caring about the quality of our residents. You found them both, so we all owe you a world of thanks. Whether referencing these 2 documents can alter the course of action from the BOS or Planning Commish is doubtful. Follow the money.

Auction Napa Valley

Bill Hocker - Jun 9, 2015 8:51AM  Share #849

Successful Auction adds millions to help valley

Few will take issue with an infusion of $15 million to organizations providing needed and often underfunded services to the Napa community. Harnessing of the desire of some for conspicuous displays of wealth and attainment of the good life to provide help to others for an improvement of their lives is the true magic of Auction Napa Valley.

Unfortunately, no doubt, several bidders will now be looking to build a winery of their own to more substantially participate in the good life they have found here, and the dynamic that turns an agricultural environment into a wine-themed playground for the wealthy will continue.

Grassroots Guide to CEQA's Purpose, Power and Process

David Heitzman - May 30, 2015 9:16AM  Share #795

This workshop will be an introduction to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) with a focus on its purpose and implementation especially intended to empower residents and groups with the ability to affect decisions at the local level.

We are fortunate to have speakers who are expert in the application of CEQA. California State Parks, Office of Historic Preservation has offered their CEQA expert to speak and adjusted his work schedule to ensure that he could speak at this event. This is big. Their logo and name is on the flyer. Amy Minteer, Esq. is travelling from Southern CA to speak. David Morrison is coming on Saturday and understands the value of this information. My wife has also offered to distribute the flyer to her organization

Earth Day Napa photos

Bill Hocker - Apr 27, 2015 5:56PM  Share #777

The Atlas Peak activists and others were well represented at the Earth Day Napa festivities promoting the cause of good stewardship of rural Napa. Protect Rural Napa (PRN), Defenders of the East Napa Watersheds (DENW) , the Watershed Alliance of Atlas Peak (WAAP) , Mt.Veeder Stewardship Council (MVSC) all participated. All are members of NapaVision2050.

Volker Eisele's second memorial

Bill Hocker - Apr 20, 2015 12:15PM  Share #763

A second memorial for Volker Eisele, co-hosted by the Napa Farm Bureau, the JLDAgFund, and the Napa Valley Vintners took place at the Charles Krug winery on April 19th. (The NVR article is here) While his tenacious protection of the agricultural ideal over the last 40 years was duly lauded, many felt that the the best memorial to the man would be to continue his work. Norma Tofanelli, president of the NFB, in her closing remarks at the event embodied this attitude:

    "We are once again in the trenches. In response to growing public concern over the burdens of Napa Valley’s increasing commercial success, the Napa County Supervisors have just formed the Napa County Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee to once again ask the perennial Napa Valley question: “how much is too much?” As our wineries increasingly become event centers on ag land and traffic delays impact every resident, commuting worker, tourist and farming operation - how much is too much? Most afternoons, it takes over an hour to travel the 25 miles from Calistoga to Napa. A week ago, traffic into Calistoga on the highway was backed up for over 2 miles where it used to back up “only” about a mile or so. And the 2 major luxury Calistoga resorts haven’t even been built yet. How much is enough? More and more, our roads are closed for tourist events and are being taken over by “recreational users”. How many more tourist sardines can we pack in this can before we are all squeezed out? Before we lose any semblance of quality of life for those who live, farm and work here? When do we realize we live in a very tiny valley with very limited resources that are being exploited beyond sustainability? How many more projects will be approved that must rely on trucking their water in and trucking their waste out? When is enough, enough?

    "In 1968 a courageous Board of Supervisors passed the revolutionary Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve zoning regulations in an attempt to save the land from being paved over like the rich farming lands of Santa Clara and San Jose, gone forever. In 1990 we argued and passed the Winery Definition Ordinance which sought to preserve the land, but it has proven to be insufficient in preventing increasing commercialism. Now we are facing the same problems, the same foes. For decades, Volker led the battle to save this land while maintaining economic sustainability. He devoted his intellect, his energy and his own funds to fighting to save the farms and wilds. Tom May once told me “Volker is the last man standing”. But he’s not here to lead us this time. Volker once said “...I’m not going to be here forever. And if this county is supposed to be preserved, I mean, there have to be other people, obviously.” WE are those other people. The most meaningful tribute we can pay to Volker, the most honor we can give is to keep up the fight. We must have the courage to say “Basta. Enough IS now enough.” For Volker, for the land, for the wilds, for future generations."

    Norma J. Tofanelli 5/19/15

More James Conaway

Bill Hocker - Mar 31, 2015 10:40AM  Share #733

Dan Mufson and Geoff Ellsworth sent a link to this James Conaway article:

Napa Valley and the Jeffersonian Ideal

Great photographs by Peter Menzel including his one of Andy Beckstoffer (who says, eloquent as always, "At this point I have to decide what my career's worth. Never in the history of mankind has agriculture withstood urban growth long-term, but here we have the best chance. Agriculture's clearly the highest and best use of the land, but whether that will save it I can't say."):

Ah, the ironies of environmental preservation

Bill Hocker - Mar 23, 2015 2:30PM  Share #723

This received via Next Door Soda Canyon:

The Casino-Winery

Bill Hocker - Mar 20, 2015 2:39PM  Share #716

NVR: Possible Indian casino plan alarms vintners, county
NVR: Local groups meet to analyze casino threat (Including Vision 2050 quote!)
NVR: Judge rules against Wappo tribal recognition lawsuit

Read the comments to the articles: a lot of satire surrounding the idea that the vintners have ruined the valley already with their lust for the tourist dollar, so who are they to protest one more tourist attraction. Whether the potshots are sincere or warranted or not, the idea is out there that the valley is becoming something that none of us, residents, growers or vintners, want to see and the wine industry shares most of the blame for not controlling tourism growth when it was powerful enough to do so.

Now, as the development and tourist industries have begun to dominate the future economics of the county, with interests that align naturally with the money, jobs and development that might accompany a casino, the wine industry is beginning to get nervous. How fortuitous that a NIMBY army has already become mobilized in its pushback against the wine industry, a force that can now be enlisted by the vintners and the county against the casinos.

Volker Eisele Memorial Tribute

Daniel Mufson - Mar 20, 2015 10:12AM  Share #721

Colaitioneers, we've been invited to join in this tribute to Volker Eisele. Let's all plan to attend to honor him--who gave us the Ag Preserve we are striving to defend.

Event to be held at the following time, date, and location:

Sunday, April 19, 2015 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM (PDT)

Charles Krug Winery
2800 Main Street
Saint Helena, CA94574


Share this event:
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Please join us for a memorial tribute to the life and work of Volker Eisele and a celebration of the 47th anniversary of Napa Valley's Agricultural Preserve. Come and be inspired as you listen to the highlights of Volker's work in protecting Napa Valley's farmlands and watersheds. The reception following the memorial will give us a chance to share memories of Volker and will include wine and...

Share this event on Facebook and Twitter

We hope you can make it!

Napa County Farm Bureau, Napa Valley Vintners, Jack L. Davies Napa Ag Land Preservation Fund

Road Closures at the BOS, Mar 17th

Gary Margadant - Mar 15, 2015 11:04PM  Share #703

Mar 17th planning commission agenda

10B - road closures

Some interesting facts about Road Events.
We can comment on the procedure at the BOS meeting on tuesday OR you can send in your suggestions via email to your supervisor of choice.

David's staff report talks about a public benefit, but only mentions money to a Non Profit in Napa County.
But what is the benefit to the Residents? Visitors? Napa County'

Also, after reading the pertinent code, I noticed 10.24.080 B, where the permit will have automatic approval if the director has not acted on the application within the time period set forth in subsection (A)......
The permit application window is 1 year in advance up to 60 days before the event, BUT the director only has 20 working days to review and approve the event. (gosh, this sounds familiar to our normal treatment). THIS sounds like it favors the applicant.

See 10.24.120 for Appealing the granted permit: THE public has only 4 working days after the approval decision to appeal the approval. WHAT, ONLY 4 DAYS. This favors the applicant and Director over the residents along the roads. And then there is noticing? How can the . residents of NC and residents along the route receive notice in 4 days? For that matter, what is the noticing requirement?

And then there is 1.20.150 violation penalties. What is the penalty?. In 6/15/04 punishment was $100 fine.

Napa Historical Context

Chris Malan - Mar 9, 2015 9:10AM  Share #684

Napa Valley Through Time - A chronology


Jim Wilson adds:

I'm attaching a brief history (L. Pierce Carson) of the ag preserve. What strikes me is the leadership brought by the assessor's and administrator's offices:
How Napa's ag preserve beat the odds and saved the valley


Bill Hocker adds:

Roe Ziegler's JLD Ag Fund interviews with the participants

Geoff Ellsworth has a casting call!

Bill Hocker - Mar 5, 2015 5:11PM  Share #673

Nose: The fight Napa's facing could be the big one...

James Conaway has focused his attention once again on the squabbles in our little Eden. As mentioned before, reading the 2 Conaway books is a necessary primer for the battles we are engaged in today. They are:

Napa: The Story of an American Eden
The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley

I am sincerely hoping for a trilogy.


Chris Malan adds:

Well done! This is wonderful. James Conway is eloquent and knows how to tell a complicated human story about the land and ecology.

Diane Shepp and Dan Mufson honored by County

Bill Hocker - Mar 3, 2015 9:23AM  Share #661

Diane Shepp (president of Protect Rural Napa) and Dan Mufson (Chairman of Vision 2050) have been honored by the Supervsors of Napa County for their work on the Napa County Grand Jury. The presentation and proclamation of Grand Jury Awareness Month by Diane Dillon will be viewable on the county viewable on the county video archive when available with the presentation starting at 00:10:30 into the video.

Imagine Napa a national treasure!

Jim Wilson - Feb 27, 2015 4:50AM  Share #653

I'm a tourist in the village of Mendocino. I love this place because it never changes. Plus I can breathe.

A group of residents got together and petitioned to have it put on the National Registry of Historical Places effectively freezing it as it was in 1971. Not long after neighbors petitioned the State to make the surrounding property on the headlands a State Park. They got that too.

Resident activists argued that the coastal aquifer was at risk and no further extraction should be permitted. You can't build. There's no municipal water district. Just wells on individual lots. They only have a sewer district and what they call the Historical Review Board. That board has immense power and it's said they don't cave to developers. There's nothing to develop but occasionally a merchant wants to hang a sign or change the color. They won't won't get a variance.

The photo here is of a California Legislature proclamation. The last "Whereas" reads, "The community of Mendocino has preserved the 19th Century village and guarded its rich history." Then it resolves to commemorate its founding.

If Napa's a National treasure let's really preserve it. Let's put Bill Dodd to work on a resolution saluting the ag preserve on its 50th anniversary with an annual celebration to follow. What would the founders think? Farm or Funville?


Dan Mufson adds:

Ah, the sun setting beyond the coast. The waves lapping. But no mega winery in town. The
Halls could rejuvenate the place in a matter of moments. Chrome sea lions. The sun cries.

The meaning of viewshed

Bill Hocker - Feb 16, 2015 11:32AM  Share #625

I was out taking pictures up near Dear Park and the Trail yesterday and I took some of the Titus Winery under construction. I came back and looked at the site in Google Street view and realized what is at stake in the construction of these vanity wineries. It is an issue that came up in the Yountville hearing, perhaps because it is such a prominent location, but doesn't seem to play a big part in other projects - yet the impact is just as great.

The view below is just as you emerge from a wooded area of the Trail heading south and the grand expanse of the Napa Valley opens up before you. It is a majestic evocation about what the Napa Valley is. Or was. We now have a tourism event center in the way: Roll over to view:

pre-building viewshed

with finished building

Winery loading and traffic jams.

Daniel Mufson - Feb 16, 2015 8:49AM  Share #620

So much for private property


Gary Margadant adds:

Ah, the Yountville Hill Saga.

Please note that you just passed Consentino Winery, a pre WDO, that never planned for deliveries from large articulated Lorries. So the trucks never enter the winery and park along 29 and in the center lane to off load supplies and equipment . The neighbors are not happy. Call 911 if you ever experience this. (or 253 0911 direct to local 911 dispatch if using a cell phone) (if you call 911 on a cell phone, it goes directly to Golden Gate CHP in Benecia).

Do you think these people need a permit from the CHP to stage this vineyard tour/protest since it affects traffic safety. Geoff ? What is the difference between this and signs?

A phenomena commonly experienced in Maui when the whales are jumping. Everyone stops abruptly and runs to the edge.


Geoff Ellsworth adds:

I guess I figured it out, this is a bad precedent, once we get in some practice in with our signs we can maybe figure how to strategically place them and perhaps work with CHP to get them to respond directly to incidents like this. Are you in contact with the upset neighbors?

County CEQA EIR and notification hearing, Feb 10th

Bill Hocker - Feb 4, 2015 4:01PM  Share #598

[Email from Deputy Director John McDowell at the County Planning Dept]

Dear Regular Customers of Napa County,

As you may recall, late in the 2014 Staff solicited your feedback on draft changes to the County’s Local Procedures for Implementing the California Environmental Quality Act. This item went before the Planning Commission on December 17, 2014. Thank you to those who submitted comments at that time. Updates include:

1) amend the County's local procedures for implementing CEQA to eliminate the option of allowing applicants to contract directly with environmental consultants for preparation of CEQA documents including Environmental Impact Reports;
2) expand the radius of public notice provided regarding CEQA documents from 300 feet to 1,000 feet from the project parcel; and
3) other non-substantive clerical corrections.

Next Tuesday morning, the 10th day of February, 2015, at 9:15 a.m., the Board of Supervisors will be conducting a public hearing to consider adoption the proposed changes as recommended by the Planning Commission. The public hearing will be held at the South County Campus, 2741 Napa Valley Corporate Drive, Building 2, South County Campus Large Conference Room, Napa, California.

The Department Staff Report, as well as the latest version of the proposed CEQA Procedures will be available through the Board of Supervisors February 10, 2015 agenda web page either this afternoon or tomorrow.

Please contact Brian Bordona (email address above) or at 259-5935 if you have questions or comments.

Interesting data from BOS on Trail closings

Norma Tofanelli - Feb 2, 2015 11:56AM  Share #585

Trail closing data

Item 6D - NV Marathon is an old one but closing the roads increasingly a problem for locals also.


Gary Margadant adds;

Interesting piece of information. 5 of the 13 events on Silverado Trail close the road, pushing all the traffic over to 29. The other 8 will disturb the traffic. Mark you calendars for dates to avoid the Trail.

And then there is the question of other road closures. I note that the script across the document top indicates that this doc is only for Silverado Trail. To discover the full impact of Road Events we need to ask Steve Lederer or his deputy Director (Roads), Rick Marshall, for information/copies pertaining to other road events in NC.

I tried searching the County Web Site for this information, but it was not available via a google search.


Norma Tofanelli adds:

Yes - very interesting.

Now the roads are tourist commercial....

Another good piece of data and good visual, I think, would be another column to the Yountville Hill winery application spreadsheet - what they asked for vs what PC gave - bet they are the same.
Don't think they've denied or knocked down any numbers?

The next 50 years!

Bill Hocker - Jan 23, 2015 5:41PM  Share #570

At the Planning Commission hearing for Girard (continued) and Larkmead (approved) on Jan 21st, 2015, I got to see the shape of the new planning commission in action and I must say that I was a bit giddy by the end. Heather Phillips, in the chairperson's position, has been the lead force in giving voice to the damaging impacts that ever increasing tourism will have on a sustainable agriculture economy in the valley, and she was not letting up in her questioning on these two projects.

The new commissioner, Anne Cottrell, appointed by Supervisor Dillon to replace Bob Fiddaman, was savvy enough to bring up the issue of grape sourcing in the Girard situation, a topic that the opponent didn't bring up. It was a major question since the Clos Pegase across the street is owned by the applicant and is a pre WDO winery not required process Napa grapes, but one that probably uses Napa grapes now - exactly the issue at the heart of the capacity question.

And Commissioner Pope was back! 'What is this valley going to look like in 30 to 50 years', he asked. Just as he framed the question about a tourism versus agricultural economy in May, this question is at the heart of the debate that is going to happen this year beginning in March. The debate has shifted from the specifics of the WDO to the real question the county needs to deal with: how does the agricultural economy survive another 50 years of development pressure. We normally hear about the development that has been prevented in the last 45years, but the reality is that the amount of development that has occurred and is about to occur is enormous. If the rate of change continues another 50 years the Napa-Vallejo metropolitan area will probably include St. Helena and the rest will be Town 'n' Country malls, à la the Nut Tree, extolling the virtues of rural life.

And as if all this weren't enough, Deputy Planning Director John McDowell suggested one approach among several 'on the table' this year was to stop all development! Heady stuff.

Hard at work for you

Daniel Mufson - Jan 23, 2015 3:05PM  Share #569

Napa supervisors tour Argentine wine region

"You want your decision-makers to be broad thinkers and this broadens your experience and knowledge in those three areas that are extremely important to Napa -- the relationship between tourism, government and agriculture," Supervisor Luce said last week.

Today these photos (click photo to download) of them hard at work were posted in the agenda for the next Supervisor's meeting:

Oregon anyone?

Norma Tofanelli - Jan 9, 2015 2:26PM  Share #536

Some of us still remember...
Where Has Napa Valley Gone?

Volker Eisele Eulogy

Bill Hocker - Jan 8, 2015 9:48AM  Share #528

Jon-Mark Chapellet was one of those giving a eulogy at Volker Eisele's memorial and his portrait of the man and of his cause are well worth reading. He graciously sent me a copy:

    It’s a great honor to have known Volker and consider him a close friend. No matter what I say at this point though I couldn’t do his legacy justice, nor could I begin to express my sadness in his passing. My heart goes out especially to Liesel, Christiana, Alex, Catherine, Simone and Triston.

    The man had a big life and a legendary personality that you felt from the moment you met him. Unless you spoke German though you were likely to be corrected in the pronunciation of his name. For the linguistically impaired he would often accept, as passable, changing the “V” to an “F” and just saying “Folker.” Those with a true sense of adventure could take a step further, swallow the “r” and try to get it right. He might let you know how you did with a “ya” if you got close or a raised eye brow if you didn’t.

    I’ve put together some words that help me describe the person I knew.

    He was Fearless, Gracious, Thoughtful, Generous, Tireless, Funny, Shrewd, Insightful, Inspirational.

    He was an Activist, Organizer, Fundraiser, Political strategist, Historian, Visionary, Public intellectual, Mentor, Organic farmer, Opera lover, Nature lover, Hiker, Mushroom forager, Grape grower, Fruit tree cultivator, Pate lover, Cheese hater, Business owner, Tour guide, CCD teacher, Choir singer, and this list could go on and on but most of all he was a Friend.

    Getting together with Volker was delightful and fun but often made me feel like I should be doing more for my family, my community and more to preserve this land. It wasn’t that he was trying to make me feel guilty, but he was just leading by example. I’m not sure that he ever actually told anyone what was truly on his plate but he was always thinking big and taking action.

    Though his politics were decidedly partisan and his approach was often confrontational, he spent his life working with everyone and anyone that could understand the need to protect agricultural land and open space as an always threatened and irreplaceable resource. On his watch, and largely due to his efforts, we have retained nearly all of the County land designated for agriculture and open space since the founding of the Ag Preserve.

    A true believer in democracy, Volker felt that the best way to ensure the continuation of the Ag Preserve was to entrust it to the citizens of the County. Thus, with the help of many who shared his vision, Measure J was born and later extended by Measure P which takes it out to 2051. We talked about it being our descendants who would once again be called upon to consider this legacy.

    Thanks largely to the work that he did, the sacredness of the Ag Preserve is a fact that almost everyone in this county now takes for granted. As a marker of this, note that no one running for political office from the left, right or center could be elected if they didn’t unequivocally support this heritage. So, mission accomplished and we can all go about our business until 2051, right? Volker was never that naive. Our own successes in making beautiful wines in this seemingly preserved idyllic setting have created new challenges that he knew must be addressed. Traffic impacts, regional growth imperatives, local development schemes, winery definition issues, and environmental concerns of all types were all on his radar and agenda.

    At 77 years of age, he was happy to have Alex and the rest of his family by his side to take over the reins of the business but he showed no signs of, nor interest in, slowing down when it came to political engagement. In fact I could never keep up with all of the things that he was involved with at any given moment. His light shown all over this valley and beyond and it’s now up to us to keep it burning bright.

    Our friend is and will be missed for a long, long time to come by all who knew him. Volker, we love and admire you and will always be inspired by your work and your heart.

Hundreds pay tribute to Volker Eisele

Also these Letters to the Editor:
Eisele helped define what napa is
Volker Eisele: leader, hero, friend
Angwin loses a stalwart friend
Eisele family thanks well-wishers
Eisele's widow: pay tribute by continuing Volker's work

Volker Eisele 1937-2015

Bill Hocker - Jan 2, 2015 8:58AM  Share #523

Agricultural land advocate Volker Eisele dies

Many people are responsible for the fact that Napa County doesn't look like Santa Clara County and that it retains a robust agricultural economy and rural character. But the embodyment of that effort, the strategist behind its realization and an articulate voice of conscience for the cause was Volker Eisele. The county still faces the same pressures from development interests that he spent his life containing, and his loss makes those dangers all the greater. I only met him once, briefly, yet I have the feeling that lamentations and eulogies would not be his style. There are challenges now to the legacy he helped create, and hopefully the best memorial to his life will be to find the necessary resolve to protect that legacy another 45 years.

Rue Ziegler's interview of Volker Eisele for the JLD Ag Fund begins here.

Supervisor Pedroza

Glenn & Judy Schreuder - Dec 29, 2014 9:26PM  Share #517

This was just announced a few minutes ago.

Gov Brown appoints Pedroza to Board of Supervisors

Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument

Carol Kunze - Dec 16, 2014 4:47PM  Share #501

To All Napa Land Conservation Advocates -

We have all fought long and hard to protect the land in Napa.

You have an opportunity this Friday to help permanently protect all the federal lands in the Berryessa Snow Mountain area (, including over 40,000 acres of public land in eastern Napa County.

A number of national and regional conservation organizations, including the Sierra Club, have been working with local activists on a campaign to permanently protect the federal lands in the Berryessa Snow Mountain area by having it designated as a National Monument - which would ensure the land remains public open space forever.

Two months ago, President Obama designated the San Gabriel Mountains in southern California as a National Monument. Nine months ago, the President designated the Point-Arena-Stornetta Pubic Lands in Mendocino County as a National Monument.

This Friday, officials from the Obama Administration are coming to Napa for a public meeting on whether the Berryessa Snow Mountain area - that includes over 300,000 acres of federal land in Napa, Solano, Yolo, Lake and Mendocino counties - should be designated as a National Monument.

The meeting will be hosted by Congressman Mike Thompson, with guests including Congressman John Garamendi, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Bonnie, and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

Proponents of National Monument designation for this area believe the land should remain public open space for the benefit of current and future generations, providing both wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

This meeting is the one opportunity to show the Executive branch of the national government that we want our federal open space lands to be permanently protected.

We need people to come to show their support. Can you join us?

Berryessa Snow Mountain Public Meeting
Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center
Friday, Dec. 19th 2014
2277 Napa Vallejo Hwy, Building 100
Napa, CA 94559

For more information about the Berryessa Snow Mountain or the Meeting this Friday, contact Carol Kunze (

Napa Sierra Club

Our new supervisor

Bill Hocker - Dec 10, 2014 2:39PM  Share #497

Barry Eberling has an article out on Bill Dodd's replacement (with lots of comments):
Pedroza applies to fill Dodd's Board of Supervisors seat

I don't know Alfredo Pedroza, but the article raises some questions for those of us interested in the preservation of a rural environment. First, he is being recommended by Bill Dodd whom I closely associate with the development direction that has been dominant in the country since he was elected in 2000. Second, he is a banker, a profession traditionally much more closely aligned to development than to preservation interests. Third, he seems to be moving on from his city council job before he has had a track record, implying more a commitment to a career path than to the issues and people that got him elected. Fourth, his issues of interest mentioned in the article are not encouraging: jobs and housing may be a rallying cry in most places, but not exactly what you want to hear if your goal is to preserve a rural quality of life.

Mr. Pedroza is fulsomely praised as a person who can work with both sides, much as Bill Dodd has been. In Mr. Dodd's case that skill has been used, IMHO, to find the right mitigation or common interest that will allow development to proceeded. It is a skill that needs to be treated with some skepticism.

The most important aspect of the article to me were the instructions on how to apply for the position. Although Mr. Eberling is quite neutral in his presentation, the implication here is that there are still options, and that we should not be afraid to pursue them.

The application for the position is here

Bill Dodd's parting words of wisdom

Jim Wilson - Nov 25, 2014 4:47PM  Share #480

In case you missed this morning's BOS meeting, some last words from Bill Dodd.
First, to me and Dan, informally, just before the meeting started (paraphrasing):
    -Don't be down on Napa Government . Keep pushing your issue. People are listening. They're hearing what you're saying especially on WALT.

Then from his farewell speech:
    -Our Napa County staff are second to none.
    -Thanks to Keith Caldwell MST is done. He doesn't ask for credit, he just knew it was needed. [We need to meet with Keith]
    -Our management staff blows me away how competent and smart these people are. They are RAISING THE BAR and I am very very impressed with them.
    -I have never stopped valuing our County employees - all their hard work, the General Plan, emergencies. The best.
    -I do this job for a reason. It blows my mind, with all the naysayers, we live in the greatest place ever.

I wonder if the other supervisors feel that way. They also recognized Bill as a guy who always put his family first, and was always available for his constituents. [I'll admit I'll miss him since he was okay by our family. We knew him from church and school as kids. See Leonore's ode to him and his recently deceased mother. She read it to him from the podium during a BOS meeting last year.]

Soooo. Perhaps we can add to Bill's earlier admonition to stick to the facts, like: Yes, we're not naysayers, and yes we love this place! We love our families, we're the best, and yes we're here to help raise the bar! (and draw the line...)


[Jim- you make me feel bad that I brought up the campaign contributions in my Woolls summary. -BH.]

The End of Wine

Bill Hocker - Nov 24, 2014 1:45PM  Share #475

As usual, Sandy Ericson at the St. Helena Window sends the most interesting of things: in this case the end of wine as we know it.

How Climate Change Will End Wine As We Know It

Director Morrison's important debriefing to the PC

Gary Margadant - Nov 12, 2014 10:53AM  Share #429


The noticing changes and the CEQA procedural changes for DEIR were announced by David Morrison at the 11/5 Planning Commission Meeting. I refer to the Video @ The exchange begins at 00:42:00 into the video.

The video is very important since David touched on several points, many of which I too need to recount via the video, since I arrived late.

The earthquake messed up the video process and TV station 27/28 is currently doing the work in the temporary BOS diggs.

Noticing and CEQA contracting changes

Gary Margadant - Nov 12, 2014 7:49AM  Share #445


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: McDowell, John
Date: Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 10:21 AM
Subject: Napa County CEQA Guidelines Update
To: "Bordona, Brian"

Dear Regular Customers of Napa County Planning, Building and Environmental Services,

On November 19, the Planning Director will be requesting the Planning Commission recommend the Board of Supervisor’s amend the Local CEQA Guidelines to eliminate the option of allowing applicants to contract directly with environmental consultants for preparation of CEQA documents including Environmental Impact Reports; expand the radius of public notice provided regarding CEQA documents from 300 feet to 1,000 feet from the project parcel; and, several non-substantive clerical corrections.

Napa wine decline?

Carl Bunch - Nov 6, 2014 9:50AM  Share #427

There's a long and interesting article in the Underground Wine Letter on the present and likely future of the wine industry in the Napa Valley caused, at least in part in my opinion, by the proliferation of many new (ie. "wealthy") out of towners who want to be in on the game of commercial wines and wineries (ie. wine-tasting and event-centers, etc.) thus having the effect of corrupting the initial reasons for the County's Ag Preserve.

It's worth a read as an argument for the potentially gloomy future of the Napa Valley as a wine-producing part of the world (not to mention the ongoing diminishment of the Valley as a wonderful place to live).

Where has Napa Valley gone?

Napa Valley's future

Carl Bunch - Oct 13, 2014 12:12PM  Share #377


Marge and I are becoming involved in some very important issues that are developing in the Napa Valley pertaining to the efforts by a number of people, many of whom are from out-of-state, who are purchasing land for wineries or expanding existing wineries throughout the Valley. The County of Napa, through its Planning Department, Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, is receiving and reviewing applications from wineries to engage in direct-sales marketing and wine tasting visitor events which are having devastating impacts on the County's water and watersheds, roadways (just try to drive on Hwy. 29 or Silverado Trail and our local streets and roads!), hillsides (through deforestation), views, wildlife habitat and general quality of life. Our governmental agencies are often simply rubber-stamping these winery applications from proposed and existing wineries, benefitting the very few and harming the rest of us who cherish this Valley.

Napa Valley is one of the most beautiful places on earth and why most of us have chosen to live here. It is, however, a fragile ecosystem and requires vigilant maintenance and protection from those of us lucky enough to call the Valley home.

A number of community groups around the Valley are attempting to appeal to local government agencies to stop theserubber-stamp approvals of winery projects. Examples are the Atlas Peak Watershed Coalition, the Soda Canyon organization, the Save Yountville Hill group and the Mt. Veeder Stewardship Council. Winery problems in all of these areas are prompting these citizen groups to raise one very loud voice to help make local government understand that it is us they must represent and that they need to make municipal decisions and find county-wide solutions in an effort to slow down uncontrolled development and protect our precious valley and county.

Petitions are being distributed for your signature to help persuade our county officials that we care and that we have sufficient numbers to cause them to use their consciences and exercise common sense. Please sign a petition when it is given or forwarded to you or you find it in your mailboxes. Please feel free to let me know that you have signed such a petition and I'd be pleased to come to you and pick it up.

Winery Ghost Tours

Daniel Mufson - Oct 2, 2014 10:33PM  Share #369

They took all the trees
Put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

(Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell (did she write this for us??))

First build yourself a castle. Then add ghost tours. What will be next? Waterslides, theme parks… What ever happened to the WDO?

Ghost tours offered at UpValley castle

Open Comment Period Before PC and BOS meetings

Bill Hocker - Oct 2, 2014 10:44AM  Share #367

I just had a look at the video of the Sept 23rd BOS meeting. During the open comment period at the beginning of each meeting for the last couple of months Geoff Ellsworth gets up to promote our preservationist cause. He is being joined by others. Norn Manzer, the first speaker, was quite effective and should be seen. He has also written a letter-to-the-editor about the "Carmel-ization" of St. Helena that is quite good. And now the people of Circle Oaks and other opponents of the Walt Ranch project on Atlas Peak have become regulars, prompting a Walt Ranch representative to also make comments. To our great benefit the Walt Ranch opponents are an extremely articulate and organized group.

The Supervisors have become concerned about this unscripted exercise of community activism and considered briefly how the process might be altered - perhaps by moving it to the end of the meeting or by discouraging presentation of material that may be covered in a regular public hearing in the future.

The open comments section of meetings is, of course, the purest example of our right to exercise free speech and to petition our government concerning our grievances. You are encouraged to let your grievances be known.

The open comments for this meeting begin at the 25:00 minute mark and are all well worth watching.

Soda Canyon Road Needs This Sign!

Dana Estensen - Sep 30, 2014 8:54AM  Share #364


Just wanted to share with you this sign that is now up on Trinity Rd (Sonoma County) when you turn off Hwy 12 heading towards Napa (turns into Oakville Grade on the Napa County side). I like it! Short and to the point. This is the road that I sent an article about a month or so ago where GPS send all sorts of vehicles over it as a short cut and big trucks tend to get stuck and create a hazard.

Peter Jensen on the earthquake aftermath

Bill Hocker - Sep 3, 2014 8:22AM  Share #345

City, county take stock of quake damage

Note also that the 3rd Floor of the County Building may be closed for 2 months - What does this mean for Planning Commission and Board of Supervisor's meetings? As someone pointed out in the comments to the Jensen article, Copia is available - as a temporary solution. Long term it needs to be a part of the Napa Valley Wine Market complex.


Glenn & Judy Schreuder - Aug 28, 2014 11:58AM  Share #335

Like most of us on the east side of the county, we got lucky and had also zero damage from Sunday morning’s quake.

I work at AUL Corp in the three storey office building on the corner of Main and Clinton Streets in downtown Napa. My office window overlooks what remains of the Vinters’ Collective building.

We lease the entire 3rd floor and 2/3s of the second floor and ~110 employees. The earthquake sheered an overhead fire sprinkler off on the west side of the building and flooded the west half of our office and to a lesser extent the 2nd floor. Remarkably, we have insurance coverage for this.

(The restaurants beneath on the first floor are okay and safe and ready to serve lunch and dinner so feel free to come out and support our wonderful downstairs neighbors, the food in both places is great, particularly Napa Valley Bistro)

We have reconstruction crews drying out the office, carpet and flooring has been removed, people temporarily relocated and we are up and running. It’s been an ugly few days but we are clearly gaining on the issues we have identified and have only one yellow tag (Restricted Access) for one of our conference rooms to show for all our troubles. Everyone in the valley is very fortunate that the quake didn’t occur during business/daylight hours, the injuries and loss of life would have been significant.

Hope everyone is safe and sound. My thoughts and prays go out to those who were injured and the folks looking at some very stark consequences as a result of the quake.

I hear we have a newly identified fault line in Browns Valley as well.

Notes presented to Napa County Board of Supervisors 8/19/14

Daniel Mufson - Aug 21, 2014 9:45AM  Share #321

From Berryessa Estates in the east to Mt. Veeder in the west, serious signs of water depletion have descended upon us. We are in an exceptional drought. It is past time for all citizens of this county to sit together to plan for our collective water security.

Certainly we have had county leaders who were exceptional stewards of the our land"they fought to give us the Ag Preserve, the WDO and other initiatives that have made our county the envy of many. But, I’m afraid we’re loosing control as we have transitioned from family farms to mega corporate businesses with headquarters in TX, NY, Europe and Asia.

I support the idea of performing a comprehensive cumulative analysis of the state of our environment. Given the extreme drought in our state and county, and the recent analysis of the Napa Register Editorial Board, regarding “how little we really know of how the wine industry is working and affecting life in Napa County”:

I request you declare a state of emergency and a moratorium on ANY more winery permits, even those in the hopper, until this analysis is ready.

Yet Another Zinfandel Lane "Crush-N-Party Pad"

Gary Margadant - Jul 12, 2014 2:35PM  Share #262


Paul Franson of the NVR just reported in todays paper that their will now be an additional winery across the street from Raymond. See the copy below.

I also included the property report for the parcel across the street. We need to look @ Permits P12-00305, P13-0021, E14-00364 and P14-0017 to see what is going on and the size of the winery & visitation in the existing permits.

Cumulative Impact, here we come.


Napa Valley Register
JULY 10, 2014 12:00 PM

Upcomming Hearings

Geoff Ellsworth - Jul 11, 2014 2:16PM  Share #260

[from Geoff Ellsworth of]

Two important Napa County dates coming up. I’m reaching out to all citizen stakeholders and those in the wine/grapegrowing industry and hospitality industries who believe we’re at a tipping point of development and need to immediately pause to discuss the way forward.

I believe this argument is not with wineries per se but rather a business plan/marketing trend implemented by certain wineries and hospitality endeavors that is overly dependent on an aggressive schedule of direct-to-consumer sales and/or marketing events.

The consequence of these sales or brand building techniques are an encroachment on our shared public resources such as water, roadways, public utilities, emergency services etc.

As this trend escalates, the CUMULATIVE IMPACTS are reaching a point of great concern regarding our sustainability, safety and quality of life and we must stand together now to protect our resources and this delicate valley.

Tuesday July 15 9 AM
Napa County Board of Supervisors meeting.
We can use the public comment period to demand the supervisors assess the CUMULATIVE IMPACTS of new development and re-assess the WDO (Winery Definition Ordinance).

Wednesday July 16 9AM
Napa County Planning Commission -
Winery Hearings including:
On Zinfandel Lane near Hwy 29
The latest numbers I have that they are asking:
Daily visitors - 500
Employees - increase to 90 from current 24
Events - 50 events annually
Parking spaces - increase from 81-130
This is just off an area of Hwy 29 where traffic is already impacted, numerous other large wineries on the same two lane corridor have just been approved or are on the slate, upvalley traffic and services will be greatly affected by the CUMULATIVE IMPACTS of these projects

Both meetings are at 9 AM at:
County Administration Building
1195 Third Street. Suite 310 Napa, CA 94559

It is critical to have a strong turnout at both meetings.
Even if you don’t speak your presence will be important. If you do speak, a short, crisp voicing of your concerns can be very powerful when added to the voices standing up with you.

A strong email campaign is also important to having our voices heard.
Below are the email addresses of the supervisors and planners. A few short lines under a subject like CUMULATIVE IMPACTS, WATER, TRAFFIC, or whatever your concern is can make a difference.

I am also sending emails urging the Board of supervisors to RE-ASSESS WDO IMMEDIATELY (Winery Definition Ordinance). This can be used as a subject as well.
Best, Geoff

John Mcdowell -
Bob Fiddaman
Heather Phillips -
Matt Pope
Mike Basayne
Terry Scott -
Sean Trippi -

Joint BOS / Planning Commission Meeting to discuss Winery Tourism !!!

Bill Hocker - May 16, 2014 8:29AM  Share #184

agenda item 9E
The agenda summary is here
This site's own digression on Winery-tourism is here.

Date: Tues May 20th, 2014
Time: 9:00 am
Napa County Board of Supervisors Chambers
1195 3rd St, Napa 94559 (map)

Combined Board of Supervisors Planning Commission meeting to discuss:
1. Noticing procedures (enlarge the 300' neighborhood noticing requirement for new proposed projects)
2. Winery visitation, marketing and cumulative growth impact analysis (Cumulative effects of approved and future winery-tourism projects)
3. Environmental Impact Report process (reliance on applicants paid consultants for project analysis)
4. Climate Action Plan status (current status of County' greenhouse gas reduction policy)

It is very important for the residents of Soda Canyon Road to be at this meeting, to be seen as well as be heard. The winery tourism issue is at the heart of the projects that have been approved on our road and that will continued to be approved in the future unless some change is made in the County's attitude. For those of us concerned about what Soda Canyon Road will look like 20 years from now, this is the first meeting to have our views received.

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