Residents are welcome to add to the public comments below. If you are not on our email list of residents, but have something that you would like to share, please email me and I will post your comments or links.
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.
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 "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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 Gubbia 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
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.
Background: Our representatives on city councils and the board of supervisors hire helpers, collectively called "staff," to research topics they need to decide on. Our elected representatives routinely rely on staff's recommendations regarding the issues that affect us.
Noteworthy: At a recent St. Helena City Council meeting, when dozens of citizens objected to a staff proposal, something remarkable happened. The council heard the citizens and actually voted as the people wished, counter to its staff's recommendation.
It was remarkable because too often in this county, elected officials hide behind staff. Mr. Pedroza did the other night trying to justify his vote to allow more winery visitors up Soda Canyon Road.
But staff takes its cues from its boss, the board of supervisors. In this county---where planning commissioners and supervisors profess respect for our semi-rural character but incongruously allow ever more visitors and non-agricultural winery events; and where wineries which ignore their permits are forgiven then actually rewarded for their transgression---staff is not blind. It sees how friendly its bosses are to rampant development.
It's not likely to recommend denial of a project if it can be in any way permitted. And staff, being "expert," as Pedroza avers, is educated enough to articulate objectivity and defend those recommendations that it understands its bosses like.
Yet---what do the residents of Soda Canyon Road care about staffs' recommendations? They didn't elect staff. They elected a representative they thought would respond to their legitimate concerns. They know from daily experience the hazards of that road and the danger of tippling tourists. But as for their supposed representative---he heard staff, not them.
No wonder Napans appealing to their representatives about development feel cynically like Sisyphus. Over and over, same old thing: "less than significant impact."
Maybe there's a glimmer of hope. For years, Upvalley residents have been remarking the loss of the semi-rural character of the valley as tourism vies with agriculture for the county's soul. The Soda Canyon Road travesty is just one example. But it's been difficult for Down-valley residents, mostly in urban Napa or suburban American Canyon, to appreciate the extent of the county's transformation from a semi-rural arcadia to a tourist mecca.
Now, at last---judging from robust attendance at the Napa Vision 2050 town forum, and from recent letters to the Register---the tourism plague is infecting Down-valley too. Big hotels are planned. Crowds jam the streets with music festivals. The model trains will vanish. Good-bye small-town Napa.
As for quiet, rural Upvalley Napa County: just a memory.
Unless -- unless we voters realize the decision is ours. We don't have to elect people who'll use staff to justify the degradation of Napa County. We can choose representatives who actually hear and respond to what residents want.
St. Helena City Council voted out incumbents. So can we.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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 omertĂ among the fellowship of the wine industry. Lets hope this is an indication that the attitude is changing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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's (California Preservation Foundation) members in the North Bay and will help moderate the program.
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.
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."
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."):
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.
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...
Following on the Jeff Hill story of wine-industry ambition run amok, this terrible tragedy concerning Robert Dahl and his investor is starting to shine a light on a dark undercurrent that until now has just been the subject of less sinister parody and scorn about the valley. The Napa Valley has become too glamourous, too obsessed with the good-life, too much about the expression of wealth and elevation of ego - and no longer about the creation of wine. A winemaker sums up the attitude so clearly in the NYT article: "It's not about the wine or the work that goes into it, It's about the lifestyle - drinking wine every night and having great dinners."
Most of the individuals behind the vast increase of boutique wineries in the last decade are not as insane in their ambitions or unrealistic in their prospects as these two cases suggest; but for many the ambitions no longer represent the simple desire to make the best wine in the world, and that is a cause for concern.
It needs to be asked again if the the resources of land and water that support this agricultural economy and the rural way of life that residents cherish are to be jeopardized by the vanity of the wealthy and the ambitious seeking trophy investments. There may be a limit to the demands of conspicuous consumption that can be placed on a community before it disintegrates under the load, just as there surely is for individuals.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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?
[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.
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?
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, Ă 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.
"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:
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.
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.
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 (http://berryessasnowmountain.org), 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?
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.
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...)
---------- 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.
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).
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.
A good bit of WDO history can be found in the book "Oral Histories of Napa County Agricultural Preserve", A project sponsored by the Jack L. Davies Napa Valley Agricultural Land Preservation Fund, by Rue Ziegler, Ph.D. Look to the chapters on Mel Varrelman, Tom May, Ginny Simms and John Tuteur, most is about the Ag preserve, but Mel's is a good primer on the WDO.
The book is available at the Farm Bureau, 811 Jefferson St, Napa, 707 224 5403, $30.00
Chapters of the book are available at the website: http://www.jldagfund.org/home.html, see "The Book" in the upper R corner.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.aulcorp.com 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.
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.
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 • PAUL FRANSON
Araujos buy vineyard and winery
Last year, Bert and Daphne Araujo sold their highly regarded Eisele Vineyard in Calistoga to the owners of famed Château Latour in Bordeaux.
Now they've found a site for their next ultra-premium winery in the Kohala Vineyard at 588 Zinfandel Lane across from the entrance to Raymond Vineyards.
The 11.6 acre property has a permit for 50,000 gallons of wine annually plus generous marketing entitlements.
Pacific Union International was on both sides of the deal. Jeffrey Warren represented the Araujos and Robyn Bentley of Wine Country Consultants and Will Densberger represented the seller, Kohala Investment Works.
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.
NAPA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
NAPA COUNTY PLANNING DEPT.
John Mcdowell - email@example.com
Bob Fiddaman -firstname.lastname@example.org
Heather Phillips - email@example.com
Matt Pope firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Basayne email@example.com
Terry Scott - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sean Trippi - email@example.com
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.