City of Napa
|Jan 22, 2015|
The revolt of the people who lived in the City of Napa was as important to the preservation of agriculture as the Ag Preserve itself. In the long run, it was really more important, in my view.
- Ginny Simms, 2009 (Napa city planning commissioner & County Supervisor 1968-78) (JLDAgFund Oral Histories p. 215)
The Napa County General Plan protects agriculture in the vast majority of the county under AP and AW zoned areas. It establishes that urban development be concentrated in the 5 municipalities and a couple of urban "bubbles". The basic attitude is "don't touch ag land and you can do whatever you want within the urban boundaries". The boundaries of the municipalities, established under a slow growth attitude championed by Ginny Simms, John Tuteur and others, are compact and well defined by Rural Urban Limit (RUL) lines.
Volker Eisele, Ginny Simms and others made a further effort to protect ag with the passage of Measure J in 1990 and its extension with Measure P in 2007. It required the change of zoning of ag lands to be voted by the citizens of the county. No longer could it be done by agreement of the supervisors and the city councils. Like the ag preserve of 1968, Measure J was a landmark piece of legislation, quickly adopted elsewhere to promote slow growth policies. Until I was exposed to Napa Pipe, however it was hard to see that the protections of the Napa General Plan to contain urban growth have become paper thin.
Measure J's strength in 1990 is becoming its Achilles heel in 2014, despite its renewal through 2058. A vote of the people can change ag use to urban use at any time - a simple majority of the vote. And the voters of Napa County are rapidly changing. Sean Scully of the NVR has done editorials on the changing demographics of the county here and here. The outlook is not encouraging for agricultural protection.
The populations of American Canyon and Napa City have expanded to now constitute 70% of the county population. As the passage of Measure P in 2007 showed there were still enough urban residents in those cities committed to the idea of an agricultural economy to support passage. But the numbers continue to shift. Projects like Napa Pipe, Watson Ranch and the 500 units of the Tulocay Village, a part of the huge Gasser Master Plan area on the east bank of the river just north of Imola, will bring a dramatic increase in the voters more concerned with shopping centers than vines.
The county, in an effort to relieve pressure on the up valley rural areas created the city of American Canyon in 1992 and both cities have had a free rein to suck up much of the development lust directed toward such an undeveloped county. But it was a Faustian bargain and we are now at the point where the developers can get their due. It is a little more difficult for development interests to throw money at voters than it is to throw it at supervisors, but not much. As Keith Rogal showed in the "Keep Napa Napa" campaign and happened again with the "costco-of-your-own" Measure A campaign, convincing voters to approve urban development is a proven strategy.
In a meeting with Sup. Diane Dillon, she mentioned that the municipalities were always pushing for annexation of county land and the supervisors were always resisting. I replied by saying that a county vote under measure P would be required. No, she said: annexations, as opposed to changes in county zoning designations covered by Prop P, are just agreements between city councils and the BOS. I was stunned at my ignorance, and even more stunned at how little protection Prop P really affords.]
Those concerned about the survival of agriculture in the county need to move into the city planning debates post haste, just as Ginny Simms has continued to do, seemingly forever.
Napa General Plan 2040 planning process page (with maps and documents)
2000-2010 Census Statistics
2010 Historical survey for the Soscal/Gateway East redevelopment project
NVR 3/16/21: Napa general plan envisions more walk-able, bike-friendly main avenues in city
NVR 2/18/20: Wine becomes a growing force in Napa County's downtowns
NVR 1/19/19: Wine Country comes to downtown Napa
NVR 1/19/19: Housing, civic center, watersheds among Napa council's priorities for 2019
NVR 3/12/18: Napa: Housing costs, supply are city residents' top concern
NVR 12/6/17: LAFCO opens door to piping Napa water to Carneros resort
NVR 11/28/17: Downtown Napa's newest luxury hotel opens its doors
NVR 9/29/17: Meritage Resort's massive expansion takes shape in south Napa
NVR 9/06/17: Napa, developer start talks on new City Hall, housing and hotel
NVR 8/22/17: Napa wrestles with affordable housing for service workers
Bertolucci LTE 8/2/17: Keep Napa for Napans
NVR 6/14/17: Napa planners to review Bounty Hunter's new downtown building
NVR 6/5/17: Napa Valley Wine Train owners plan $100 million resort development
NVR 5/17/17: Altamira family reviving plans for a winery/hotel project on Silverado Trail
NVR 2/20/17: Planned Napa apartment development sold for $34 million
NVR 2/20/17: Napa asks, How many hotel rooms are enough?
NVR 2/14/17: Major changes in the works for downtown Napa
NYTimes 2/1/17: A Waking Giant or a Monster? Developers Eye Once-Sleepy Napa
NVR 1/7/17: Napa marks off retail areas to join major apartment complex
NVR 12/29/16: No. 3 story of 2016: Oxbow District becomes ground zero for developers
NVR 12/7/16: San Diego developer making a big play in downtown Napa
NVR 10/7/16: Napa County selects ambitious developer to buy Oxbow property
NVR 9/4/16: Planners endorse 37 east Napa homes despite privacy, tree concerns
NVR 9/6/16: "Foxbow" mixed-use development proposed for Oxbow area
NVR: 8/4/16: Napa builder pans parking fee hike planned for downtown
NVR 7/22/16: Napa planners endorse 282 apartments near Napa River, with more to come
NVR 3/6/16: Napa planners put neighborhood tasting room on hold
NVR 2/19/16: Napa proceeding cautiously on hotel-apartment plan
NVR 2/7/16: Developer cleared to build condo project
NVR 1/20/16: Hotel apartments proposed to replace historic rail car barn
NVR 12/23/15: Beth Painter chosen for city Planning Commission
Who pays the costs of growth?
Fordor cost of growth report
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