Update 12/20/16: I just reread the original post and realize that it requires an epilog. As you can discover by reading all that has gone on below, the optimism experienced at the beginning of the APAC process was a bit naive. The process was, in fact, a platform around which the development interests that compose the "wine" industry, while diluting the protection of the vineyards, has been able to further solidify its interests in the county. My take on the final recommendations is here.
Update 9/1/15APAC has issued it final report to be passed on to the Planning Commission and then to the Board of Supervisors. We'll see what happens.
Original post 3/17/15On Mar 17th 2015, the Napa County Planning Director asked for a BOS resolution to establish an Agritectural Protection Advisory Committee, no doubt from here on to be known as A-PAC. Its purpose is to advise the planning commission on possible changes to be made to the Winery Definition Ordinance and the General Plan. It was a step unimaginable a year and a week ago when the residents of Soda Canyon Road found out a major tourism-oriented winery being proposed on their road. (I would call it an event-center, but I don't think that the expression had yet been coined.) The resolution follows on the joint BOS-PC meeting held on Mar 10th in which Director Morrison at the request of the Supervisors laid out several proposals.
APAC is the ad hoc committee proposed in that meeting to be composed of 17 members from various county constituencies. It is charged with looking at what changes can be made in the General Plan, county ordinances and interpretive guidance to the planning commission, to insure the long term sustainability of a dominant agricultural economy that benefits from but is not consumed by a tourism economy. Specifically they were tasked to look at the following regarding wineries:
min parcel size
no vineyard loss
separate AP and AW standards
temporary event ordinance
The WDO was created in 1990 and modified only once, in 2010. In each case it attempted to define and regulate trends in tourism and wine production and marketing already taking place. The biggest impact was the 1990 creation of a 75% napa-sourced grape requirement for all new wineries, insuring a continued local market for napa grapes and a definition of the Napa brand. Beyond that, provisions of the WDO have codified the incorporation of tourism uses that might generate profits at the winery in addition to the sale of wine.
One corrective WDO change now being discussed, to cut down on the number of new wineries being proposed, is the increase of the minimum acreage necessary to build a winery. It is currently 10 acres (meaning about 4500 parcels in the county) and 40 acres has been frequently been talked about as a new minimum (about 2000 parcels). It is certainly a welcome proposal. The agricultural economy will definitely transfer to a tourism economy at a slower rate under this proposal. But it is not enough to stop the trend and some people, I think are beginning to recognize that.
Some very interesting comments were made by Supervisors at the Mar 10th meeting: The first was interjected by Supervisor Luce between two of the studies being presented. He began his remarks recalling his role on the planning commission at the time the 1990 WDO was formulated and recounting its original intent: to boost the capacity and increase the amount of napa grapes processed in county. He compared the original intent to foster more capacity and compared it to the reverse situation now where there is more capacity than grapes available. And then he said:
"The justification, frankly, for putting yet another new winery into our ag resource area is much thinner than it has ever been in the past. And I think that we are really faced with a question of why should this be allowed to continue."
He indicated that he didn't have an answer to the question but, frankly, in posing the question he let his feelings be known. He had expressed the same question at the May 20th 2014 joint meeting, with the desire for more numbers from Dir Morrison to provide guidance. The numbers are in and, I think, the question has become rhetorical. As if that were not strong enough, he made the identical points at the end of the meeting. A cessation of winery development in the ag preserve was definitely being put on the table. It is a proposal that definitely needs to be discussed by APAC.
Supervisor Dillon also had some remarks at the end seeming to chide the planning commissioners for not exercising more of the discretion granted to them under the WDO and mentioning the Draft EIR done before the 1990 WDO which gave examples of mitigations that might be applied as guidance in current projects. Those documents are here. It is a good sign that they are beginning to discuss original intentions and their relationship to the situation we find today.
Planning Director Morrison has presented the final 4 "APAC" recommendations, sort-of based on a process that played out through the past year, first in the 10 APAC meetings which laboriously watered down planning department efforts to curb the growth of wine tourism venues, then in the meetings of the Planning Commission that attempted to put some meat back into the recommendations, and finally at the previous BOS meeting which seemed to question many of the recommendations - resulting finally in this set of recommendations which seem to be principally about making sure that the wine industry is not impacted by any new regulations, whenever those new regulations arrive. It is a manipulation of the recommendations by the Board and the wine industry that leaves completely unaddressed the discontent with the growth of tourism event centers and the morphing of a wine industry into an entertainment industry that led to last year's Mar. 10th joint BOS/PC meeting and the creation of APAC.
Self certification process. The discussion about compliance which grew out of the recognition that many wineries have long been operating beyond the limits of their use permits, has now become an official process to permit those illegal uses and to make sure that the vested rights that winery owners feel they have under the complex histories of their use permits are "put into writing" to guarantee no one will mess with them in the future. To the extent that this results in one definitive use permit for each winery in the county, hopefully in a consistent format that can be easily downloaded, it will be a step forward. To the extent that the new permit will entitle not the originally permitted conditions, but the expansions of production and visitation beyond the original limits that wineries are now engaging in, it will be a gigantic step backward.
The original recommendation was to limit the development of area on a property to 20% (and no more than 8 acres) for all types of development, wineries and homes included. This was a good proposal.
Now no changes for wineries from the status quo, i.e. 25% of the property, but a new process is recommended to limit the amount of area a house can occupy. Meaning that a house and winery may occupy considerably more than 25% of the property.
The original recommendation was to include outdoor areas and type 3 caves in the calculation of the allowed 40% hospitality area. Now only paved outdoor areas are counted. Permeable surfaces used for tourist events are not counted. Caves used for tourist events are not counted. Expect a lot of permeable paving stone patios in the future.
The original recommendation was to make sure that new regulations would only apply to new wineries. Now this recommendation has in addition become another vehicle to reaffirm the vested rights of pre WDO wineries and "declares that the conforming structures and uses of [all] legally established wineries are rights that cannot be rescinded, revoked, or traded away without due process"
These changes all smack of the wine industry horse trading with the Supervisors removed from the prying eyes of the public. The Supervisors have done their due diligence letting their voters vent about their diminishing quality of life - now it's time to get back to the business of growth.
It has become somewhat obvious that the Supervisors have been handed more reform than they would like to see. While the original APAC recommendations were modest and unlikely to change the development dynamic, the Planning Commission in their review made a couple of additions that had some definiteness about them. At this Jan 5th review of the APAC/PC recommendations the supervisors categorically refused to consider any of he Planning Commission changes, supported some and sent those that might have an impact back to the planning department for further emasculation.
The recommendations under consideration:
- One requires setback variances to be more carefully considered (supported).
- One reduces somewhat the amount of area that can be developed on a property (questioned) .
- One expands what is considered the hospitality area of a winery (questioned).
- One proscribes the method waste disposal at wineries (questioned).
- One requires that only new wineries, not expansions must meet new requirements (supported).
- One requires existing winery owners to certify that they will comply with their uses permits in the future. They will, of course, have the opportunity of having their existing illegal uses recognized and allowed first (supported).
- One asks the county to complete tasks previously in process and to be consistent in its decisions and to address regional issues in conjunction with the cities (supported).
- One asks the county to share winery data with the cities (supported).
- Far from countering proliferation, one establishes a new class of tourism winery exempt from automatic planning commission review (supported - I seem to be the only person that sees this as a major impetus for new winery construction).
As 2016 begins the Supervisors are still resolved to a "growth summit", formed in conjunction with the municipalities, to look at the regional issues of traffic and affordable housing. If only those problems can be mitigated, some may reason, the residents perhaps will not be so concerned about the amount of development beginning to impact their lives. Unfortunately those problems are unlikely to be reduced, even if the county and the cities are able to collaborate, as long as the "growth" that creates the problems continues.
Hope springs eternal, but the retreat from reform in the APAC process (despite what I sensed was a real effort at reform on the part of the chairman, some members of the committee, the planning department, and some of the planning commissioners) signals that development interests have carried the day, perhaps as they always do, and that this year (and for the next 45 years) there is much less to be optimistic about than there was a year ago.
[Statement made to the Board Of Supervisors on December 15, 2015]
I’m here to discuss a few observations on the last week’s APAC agenda item.
I was distressed that Planning Staff & Planning Commission were ‘thrown under the bus’. Thankfully, Chair Dillon said later in the day - we need to give them the tools and direction to do their jobs.
These are your staff and your appointees! And their jobs, just like the wine industry itself, has changed. The location and impact of wineries has changed as well. I relate many of these projects in similar fashion and impact to infill within the city limits.
When the City of Napa chose to expand downtown development they created a masterplan - a plan that took the needs of the hospitality and retail businesses along with neighbors and neighborhoods into consideration. We don’t have anything remotely similar in the unincorporated/ County area. Yet, new and expanding wineries are increasingly located in previously rural residential areas [Mt. Veeder, Atlas Peak, Soda Canyon…]. Last week, you heard many complaints that the rules are changing. And I say, maybe that’s totally appropriate.
Let’s not forget the silent majority (yes also the ones who want concerts & weddings at wineries - despite the fact that these violate the WDO). What about the silent majority who deeply care about the need to preserve the agricultural landscapes and rural character of Napa County. They are losing their quality of rural life one parcel, and one decision at a time.
As an APAC member there was no perspective, direction, or implication that singling any one of the APAC recommendations puts the County at peril. That’s a bit drastic. Proposals came from APAC members and the public - but we are not the experts. The Planning Commission and staff added some relevant context to a few. And their suggestions should not be summarily discarded or ignored. I view these proposals as a starting point, not a final, untouchable result.
Lastly, the wine industry made it clear they will oppose any effort to restrict or limit winery development, activities and events. They feel that legitimate questions and concerns amount to lies and misinformation. Those of us who question the intensity, scale, and concentration of visitor servicing businesses are not the enemy of the wine industry. Land use conflicts and impacts are real. And now is the time to balance the needs of the residents and the wine industry. Now is the time for mutual respect.
The first hearing by the Board of Supervisors in consideration of the APAC recommendations was long (5.5 hours) and had a bit of the theatrical air that we have seen in other major land use deliberations over the last 2 years. There were 73 public speakers. Most were workers in the wine and hospitality industries who expressed a common concern that they loved their jobs and that the new regulations represented in the APAC recommendations might put them out of work. Where did they get that idea? Several worked at either Caymus or Sattui wineries, and the owners of each were there as well to make their concerns known. Chuck Wagner, founder of Caymus, made the point that regulations are strangling winemakers, that the issue of winery regulation was too important to be made by the Supervisors and that an initiative to shut down winery regulation should be taken to the voters. I sensed that the County's $1 million fine for exceeding his use permit has left its mark. Dario Sattui, whose Castello di Amorosa has set the standard for the Napafication of the valley, was equally concerned about squeezing the life blood out of the industry and the need for tourism to allow the wine industry to survive. Oddly he concluded by saying that population growth was the problem to be solved. I assume he wasn't talking about the tourist or worker populations his wineries bring into the valley.
Several talking points seemed evident in many of the 3 minute statements.
Talking point #1: No new regulations
The concern that APAC inspired regulations might lead to job losses and the strangulation of the wine industry is false. The principal "regulation" is an annual self-certification by the principal officer of each winery specifying wine gallonage produced, compliance with the 75% Napa wine requirement, and compliance with all use permit conditions.
As we have found, there are an unknown number of wineries (based on some audits perhaps as high as 40%) that have been out of compliance with their permits. Capacity and visitation when exceeded are also accompanied by employee hiring that might not otherwise take place. Were wineries really required to operate within their use permits, that is obey the law, there might in theory be threats to jobs. Given the county's recognize and allow permissiveness that threat is very low. In reality at the worst it would be it might mean a change in employers.
As Supervisor Calldwell finally pointed out late in the day, even given the stringent regulations now in place, 29 new wineries are currently in for use permits in the planning department. There are 24 winery expansions. They represent 2.9 mil gallons of new capacity. They represent 675,000 new visitor slots. He might also have mentioned that there are perhaps 70 new or expanding wineries that have already been approved but not yet built , representing several million gallons of added capacity and a million new visitor slots. And he might have mentioned the almost 2000 hotel rooms and the millions of sf of commercial space in the planning pipelines throughout the county. All of these projects will need workers with hospitality or winery experience. None, I would expect, will abandon their projects because they are now required to assert that they comply with their use permits.
APAC is not about to affect the wine and tourism industries as they exist now. It will probably have little impact on how those industries will develop in the next decade. It is about how this place will develop beyond that.
Talking point #2: the problem is traffic, affordable housing, water
"The real problems in the county are traffic, affordable housing and water" not the winery proliferation. This refrain was first articulated by the Napa Valley Vintners in their "Our Napa" push, which came on the inglorious heels of their refusal to accept APAC recommendations as long as they applied to existing wineries, i.e themselves. True, the problems do need to and hopefully will be addressed in a wider development context than winery regulation, but the talking point tries to deflect attention from the very real contribution that winery tourism does make toward traffic, lack of affordable housing, and water consumption. The increase in winery tourism venues and the effort that each new venue will make to attract its own clientele are driving the increase in tourism numbers which then require more tourism development beyond the wineries.There are 1.6 million new tourist slots at wineries about to be created in the next few years. It is not just a question of shifting around the existing tourist population to fill them. My own email to the BOS before this meeting concerned this issue.
The droned corollary to this talking point is the 17% figure that is used to describe the wineries' contribution to traffic in the valley, from the Napa County Travel Behavior Study (page 34 here). One could argue that 17% is not inconsequential. Every 6th car stuck in traffic with you has been to a winery (every 3rd car on the weekend when winery traffic is 34% of the total.) But also, considering the wineries in isolation from the other tourism venues, the hotels and restaurants and other tourist attractions, that they spawn is hardly an honest analysis of the traffic impacts wineries create.
Talking point #3: 85% of the population supports the wine industry
The third talking point was based on a telephone survey of 399 people done by the clubby and internet-shy Napa Valley Winegrowers. "85% of the people of Napa County support the wine industry." 89% liked outdoor concerts, 89% liked pickup & tasting weekends (what are those?), 87 percent liked winemaker dinners (again what are those?), 84 percent liked weddings. It seems unlikely that residents living near wineries were interviewed. Those that were interviewed seemed to know the jargon of winery experiences. Forgive me for being skeptical; these percentages are in line with political elections in dictatorships. (As with JD Powers awards, I am always a bit skeptical of survey results that support the self interest of the clients that paid for them.)
This survey might presage the intent of Mr. Wagner and vintner Clark Swanson, who spoke toward the end, to back an initiative to do away with regulation of the wine industry. The mustering of an army of winery workers to support the task has been proven. Several people labeled the community groups, whose concern over the continuing development of the county brought about the creation of APAC, as winery haters a sure line of bogus demonizing in a political campaign.
The last two hours
After 3.5 hours of public testimony, the Supervisors made brief statements. Sup Dillon: purpose today is to give direction to staff. Sup. Luce setting an ominous tone: visitation is oxygen to the organism that is the Napa Valley. Sup. Pedroza: negotiate from an interest base (as in financial interest?) not a position base (as in good for the future of the county?). This is a $13 billion industry - we need to be careful. Sup. Wagenknecht: small wineries need support. Sup. Caldwell: wine prices are high because this is an exceptional place to do business.
As Supervisors then ticked off support or opposition to the individual recommendations, the whole proceeding darkened for those of us who felt that less development is a better way to protect the rural character of the county than continued development. There seemed a consensus that the Supervisors only wished to consider the APAC recommendations and not the more protective Planning Commission additions. The proposal X grid was not supported by Pedroza or Luce. No estate grape requirement for the small winery definition. New regs should only apply to new wineries, not modifications. The definition of ag in AG/LU-2 is to remain (An def. of ag working group?). Prop X, the definition of ag, hold and haul, outdoor areas and caves were all briefly batted around with Chair Dillon, time running out, indicating her hope that staff had enough direction to come up with some suggestions by Jan 5th. She seemed anxious not to draw out the process.
The swell of resistance from the Supervisors toward even the modest reforms proposed by APAC cast a pall at the end of a tiring day. The sheer mass of money behind the changes of 2008 and 2010 that have led to such concern from impacted residents, that $13 billion that Sup. Pedroza wants to be so careful about, for the first time in this process seemed to begin to make itself felt.
Both sides in this campaign claim to want the same thing: a healthy wine industry that supports the rural, agricultural character of the place that we all love. Some feel that the expansion of the tourism industry is the way to do that. Others feel that the tourism will eventually corrupt and consume the agriculture and that protections are needed. The expansionists have the money to be made as a motivation and the money to spend to get what they want. The protectionists have only the interest in the preservation of a place and a quality of life that they love, and a hope that their government supports those interests. That support seemed a little less likely late Tuesday afternoon.
[this email was sent to the Board of Superfvisors prior to their Dec 8th, 2015 meeting to begin considering the APAC recommendations with Planning Commission additions]
Members of the Board of Supervisors,
Two years ago I found out that tourism was coming to the remote, rural paradise-on-earth that had been so important to me for the previous 20 years. I was terrified (I still am). Who was I, a nobody, to stand in the way of a government, an industry, an incredibly wealthy individual wanting to commercialize my backyard. Fortunately, I wasn't the first or only resident in the county beginning to confront an ever expanding tourism presence. Even more fortunately, the county government seemed to realize that the wave of development it had been promoting in previous years was creating impacts of concern to all. Enough concerns that we have spent the last year discussing them, as we will again tomorrow.
I owe my paradise to the wine industry. The success of the zoning laws and initiatives that Napans have enacted to enable the wine industry to survive have made the existence of an area as remote and rural as the Rector watershed possible. The voters, I feel, didn't approve these protections to promote the jobs and income the wine industry might provide. Santa Clara County, in pursuing the urban development typical of the rest of the Bay Area, has been much better at creating jobs and income for its citizens. In Napa it was understood that voting to protect the wine industry meant voting to protect a particular rural, small-town quality of life that the wine industry provided - a desirable livelihood in a desirable place to live. And until recently that compact has survived.
But it is now being stressed. The embrace of tourism as a revenue source by many vintners is beginning to impact us all. The commitment to maintain this as a desirable and beautiful place to live is being tarnished by traffic, the loss of neighborhoods and housing to short term rentals, the deforestation and defacement of the natural landscape with development (and billboards posing as art!), the conversion of vineyards into building projects and parking lots, the corporate consolidation of the many small wineries, the conversion of the iconic beauty of the Silverado Trail into a winery strip mall, and the flouting of use permits to bring in ever more tourists.
In their own self interest, the vintners should be protecting the rural resource they depend on and should be staunch opponents of the urban development that results from ever expanding tourism, just as the Farm Bureau is. But they are not. They have taken on the tourism industry as their savior. Some may truly feel that this is what they must do to survive, yet there are many wineries in the valley that have long survived with minimal or no tourism. The notion that only through wine pairings and events (and $20,000 castle tours!) will Napa wines maintain their respect and their prices in the world's wine markets needs to be proven - because the wine pairings and events are eroding the commitment of many to support the industry.
The vintners are claiming that this is not a winery problem, that traffic and affordable housing and water are problems that winery regulation won't solve. To be sure those problems won't be solved by winery regulation alone. But winery projects that encourage more tourism into the county, and result in more urban development to accommodate the visitors and tourism employees, cannot be shrugged off. The vintners should recognize that their embrace of tourism will only increase the traffic, housing and environmental problems, and that they should take actions where they can to regain the respect of the residents that have supported the industry in the past. The current APAC recommendations are an opportunity to do that.
At this point the APAC and Planning Commission recommendations are modest, and may have little effect on the proliferation of wineries that has raised public concern and led to the creation of the committee. Many projects, unregulated by the recommendations, are already approved or under review, and their tourists and the development they spawn will keep adding to current impacts for years to come. But these recommendations are a first step in recognizing that the current policies are not adequately protecting the character that makes Napa special and that new policies must be crafted if this place is to be recognizable 50 years from now. Please approve these recommendations, or better, strengthen them to be more effective in reducing the trajectory of urban development embodied in the current event center proliferation. Let us know that Napa County has an environment and a quality of life you feel is worth preserving.
Thank you for this opportunity to express my concerns.
My concerns in reading the Final APAC recommendations (beginning at the bottom of page 3 here) to be presented to the BOS remain the same as they were before the committee was convened. The expansion of tourism venues into the vineyards is unlikely to be slowed by any of these recommendations and at least two of them will have the effect of easing or hastening that expansion. Despite the effort of residents to protect agricultural land from commercial exploitation and the effort of staff to craft solutions to slow that commercialization, the pro-development interests within the wine industry, refusing any changes that might threaten their right to future exploitation of the tourist trade, insured that the recommendations would have little real consequence.
8. Small winery ordinance
If the ostensible purpose of this ordinance is to allow for poorer dreamers to be able to break into the Napa wine industry then it is a bit of a ruse. The costs and time involved in obtaining a use permit, while substantial perhaps compared to other permits, are still a small part of the overall cost of a project including land, building and equipment. Making that part of the process a little less expensive will not suddenly make it affordable to people less wealthy than the current developers.
The developers bringing in projects under this proposal will be no different from those proposing current projects, although if the process appears less arduous, there will probably be more of them. Without controls on the future development of properties allowed small wineries (beyond the 5 yr period proposed), developers will be encouraged to bring in their proposals under the small winery definition, with the opportunity of an expedited process, and once the winery is in place begin applying for expansions to capacity, area and hospitality as happens all too consistently now.
Had proponents of this process really wished to provide a mechanism for affordable winery startups on AP/AW land, they should have considered limiting all wineries on parcels less than 40 acres to the small winery definition with no development potential allowed beyond those limits. The current value of sub-40 acre parcels, which now reflect their potential value as multi-million dollar tourism event centers, would then fall to the point that the dreamers might actually be able to buy them. Unfortunately, the dreamer scenario was just a subtrafuge to ease continued winery development.
11. The Jan 1, 2017 Implementation date
Giving a date for new regulations to go into effect without a moratorium on current applications is a recipe for a gold rush. As I have mentioned elsewhere:
Supervisor Luce has already intimated that it is time to consider a permanent moratorium on new wineries in the Ag Preserve based on the large surplus of permitted processing capacity available. And as the planning commission was recently informed, the planning department is receiving applications faster than they can be processed, another a reason for a moratorium. And as the BOS is considering changes to the General Plan regarding wineries, prudence would suggest a moratorium while the changes are made lest there is a surge of applications.
It is time for a moratorium on winery development - at least until the Implementation date - but preferably forever. Unfortunately this prudent action thus far seems to be a nonstarter.
12. Definition of agriculture
The planning commission recommended change in the definition of agriculture, while welcome, is a bit tepid, crafted it seems to make as little change to the existing text as possible. More importantly, the definition still depends on the definition of "incidental-ness" and "subordinate-ness" based on metrics which have done little to prevent the proliferation of event center wineries thus far.
The area definition posits a 40% ratio between hospitality and production areas. The inclusion of caves and outdoor areas in that calculation is a desirable recommendation. But an area does not really define the difference between hospitality revenue and wine revenue that is in fact the reason that event centers are being created. Without the potential profits to be made in food service and event rentals it is quite probable that many of these new projects and expansions would not happen. (The owner of the proposed Anthem winery said as much with her statistical analysis during APAC).
Wineries should be built for the need to process grapes not the desire to process tourists. Most wineries being proposed will not be processing grapes from new vineyards, which are expanding at a rate much less than the new winery capacity necessary to process them. The new wineries are, in fact, dividing the existing production of Napa wine into ever smaller brands that cannot compete economically in the wholesale world market, and are demanding DTC sales to make up for the inefficiencies in production they create. The tourism industry is, of course, only too happy to promote more of these vanity venues for their customers to visit. But tourism comes at a cost to the environment and the quality of life of residents, the things that make Napa a special place. The destructive character of tourism as an advertising strategy needs to be viewed against its value to the Napa wine industry as a whole. Is the urban development necessary to accommodate an ever expanding tourist economy desirable for the sustainability of the Napa wine industry, or is it just necessary for a minor segment of vintners to help justify their extravagant investments?
To be truly incidental and subordinate, in a way that insures that hospitality uses are not the drivers of winery proliferation, the relationship between wine production and hospitality might be better defined economically. Not just to insure that wineries are not being built solely for their hospitality profits, but to gauge how much hospitality revenues are a part of the entire industry. I know nothing of how records of wine sales are kept, but I know that they are well regulated and a comparison between the wines sold at a winery and winery revenue less total wine sales should be able to be made. This could be done with another couple of lines on the yearly winery certification also being recommended. I would urge the Board to explore an economic definition of "incidental and subordinate" to insure that wineries are being built with the desire to produce wine and not just to profit from more tourism.
Norma Tofanelli, president of the Napa County Farm Bureau, forwards a copy of Planning Director Morrisn's Oct 30th presentation to the organization on the APAC recommendations: APAC and what it all means to Napa County
[Received from Séamus Gurein, here on a Georgetown Research Fellowship to study Land Development & the Wine Industry in Napa Valley May-Aug 2015]
I am writing to you at long last with a summary of my research findings from this past summer. I apologize for the delay; there were plenty of hoops to jump through with my university before I could send this out.
From the summary:
The people of Napa have invited me into their homes and their places of work, and hosted me at their public meetings and community organizing events, and I am sincerely grateful for their hospitality. This work is dedicated to the people of Napa County, all of whom share a common vision for a sustainable Napa Valley: one that is environmentally, socially and economically sound for generations to come.
I am not a winery owner, nor a land-use attorney, nor a member of the Sierra Club, or even a Napa resident; but I have had the privilege of interviewing 17 residents of Napa representing a diverse range of perspectives. They all have this in common; they share a vision for the future of Napa that yields a healthy Valley, one that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable and improving. The road to this vision may not be easy nor straightforward, but the willingness of the members of APAC and the officials at the County level all demonstrate a commitment to the hard work that lies ahead.
And to that, we can all raise a glass.
I want to thank you again for your contribution to my project. I sincerely appreciate your time and your help.
The planning commission seemed to have arrived at the most efficient way of dealing with the consternation everyone outside of the tourism industry has had with the APAC approved definition of agriculture crafted by Dir. Morrison as a consolidation of the various definitions of agriculture in the General Plan and county ordinances.
After much discussion of an alternate, unambiguous, definition put forward by the Farm Bureau, the commissioners returned to the infamous General Plan Policy AG/LU-2, every word of which was apparently labored over in 2008, during a period less concerned with the impacts of tourism development on the environment and character of the county. The Commissioners sent on to the Board a recommendation to amend Policy AG/LU-2, reflecting the intent of Action Item AG/LU-2.1, to state that wineries are conditional agricultural uses and that the marketing of wine is clearly incidental and subordinate to the main use of a winery as a processing facility. In doing so they will bring AG/LU-2 into greater harmony with every other ordinance and general plan reference to marketing and the definition of agriculture. My screed on the definition of ag is here.
Small Winery ordinance
The Commissioners also sent on the the Board the recommendation to institute a "streamlined" process for approving small wineries based on the "CEQA" definition already on the books but rarely used. My screed on the "CEQA" small winery is here. They made two tweaks in their recommendation: The 40 vehicles/day allowed in the definition has the potential to translate into a lot of visitors if each vehicle is a 50 person tourist bus. They included a proviso not to exceed 15 visitors/day, which is better. Of course, from the standpoint of a neighbor in a remote rural location, it is still a lot of strangers in the neighborhood. And they applied the 75% rule - 75% of the grapes processed must come from the estate. Like everything else there is a question about the definition of estate, unfortunately. Lets hope, as they implied, the term means the parcel on which the winery is located.
There was a concentration on small wineries for the dreamers during the APAC meetings, with heavy support from larger vintners and the tourism establishment, In this meeting there was support from the winegrowers and our own developer of the Mountain Peak mega winery next door on Soda Canyon Road became a spokesman for the small winery push. I keep suspecting that there is tourism trend that we haven't even realized yet, in which dozens of micro wineries will replace the larger projects bringing the same tourism impacts but even more neighborhood impacts. We'll see.
The Commission sent on to the Board without discussion the APAC recommendations to limit total parcel development, including residences, to 20% of parcel size but no more than 8 acres, and the inclusion of outdoor hospitality areas and type 3 (public) caves as a part of the accessory area defined in the WDO. And they seemed to let stand the APAC disinterest in net vineyard loss as an issue, though they asked that staff, lacking enough to do, begin keeping track of the vineyard loss. They decided to defer until the next meeting a decision on the applicability of changed requirements applying only to new wineries or to winery expansions as well.
One of the most environmentally and socially destructive trends in agriculture in the Napa Valley is the recent expansion of the definition of agriculture to include direct marketing.
Since revision of the Winery Definition Ordinance in 2010 to include the activities of direct marketing as "accessory uses" to agriculture in our protected Ag Preserve and Ag Watershed lands, these "protected" lands are now open to such activities as "event centers" with commercial kitchens, visitation, and the selling of tickets for food and wine pairings - effectively including the cultivation and farming of tourists as an accessory use in these once-protected Ag lands.
The unintended consequences are severe: increased traffic choking our main artery roadways, deforestation and destruction of oak woodlands on our hillsides for more vineyards and wineries, decreased ground water due to watershed degradation and irrigation and winery use - which depletes neighboring wells - not to mention the increase of second homes and proliferation of short-term rentals for tourism.
Our county no longer includes tourism as an revenue source but is becoming increasingly dependent on tourists -- a tourism economy. New wineries and vineyard owners are often not farmers of crops, but entrepreneurs having no idea of the local ecology and little or no experience in farming or grape growing. Many are most interested in the investment and lifestyle.
A study of the recent votes in the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee shows some of the problems. Seventeen committee members were appointed by the Board of Supervisors from various citizen groups: two from environmental groups, two from the community, two from municipalities, two from business, two from the wine industry, two from agriculture, and one from each of the five districts. The effective result weighed in favor of business, hospitality, and the wine industry. Community, environmental, and agriculture members (six of them) often voted for preservation of agricultural lands and watersheds; the other 11 members often voted to support the business of wineries and business economies.
Any vote passing had to have a super majority, or 12 votes. Most of the time, votes did not pass, often dividing on the above lines. Recommendations by supermajority included avoiding the use of variances for achieving compliance with land use regulations (all agreed), establishing guidelines for future winery use permits based on a recommendation of the director of planning (again, all agreed) - and accepting the 2010 WDO working definition of agriculture - which includes the commercial activities of commercial kitchens, visitation, and events (12-4). The four dissenters, of course, were the representative of agriculture, the environment, and the community.
It is critically important that the informed public stay on board and demand that this ill-thought-out provision of including marketing as an accessory use to agriculture be removed from the WDO. The preservation of our agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands is key in making the Napa Valley the beautiful valley it is, but it is also an environment at risk.
Please contact our elected and appointed officials (Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission) who serve the larger public and the commons to ask them to correct this error in the WDO.
Another bit of theater occurred at the Sept 16th, 2015 County Planning Commission. Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee chairman Ted Hall was due to present the recommendations of 3 months of APAC meetings to the commission. But a very unusual procedural matter needed to be attended to first: an anonymous charge of conflict of interest, as defined by the regulations of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, was lodged against Chair Phillips within the previous 24 hours because she is the owner of a winery and vineyards and might have a stake in certain APAC recommendations.
The charge was not completely unusual. She had also recused herself under a threatened conflict of interest action by developer Eric Sklar in the Yountville Hill hearing. In that case it was for potentially (though not in fact) owning property too close to the proposed winery.
In most cases conflict of interest charges are made against officials that might profit financially from the decisions that they make. An argument might be made, for example, that one commissioner, as a director at a limo company that makes the rounds of all the wineries, improves his business potential with each project he approves. Yet he has never been challenged. As Dan Mufson of Napa Vision 2050 asked skeptically at the meeting: Why today? Why on this issue?
The answer: Commissioner Phillips has been challenged both times because of her critical attitude toward tourism-winery development and proliferation, an attitude that runs afoul of every wealthy developer wishing to maximize winery visitation to increase profits. But it is also an attitude that, if translated into policy, would actually diminish the potential profits to be made from her own business.
The intent of the FPPC statutes, if not their exact letter, is to protect the political process from the greed of public officials. In this case, however, they have been used as a weapon to eliminate officials that might stand in the way of private greed.
By the luck of the draw, in a process sanctioned by the FPPC, this attempt to thwart critical governmental oversight of development interests may have backfired. Commissioner Phillips has been retained and will have a larger voice in the commissions deliberations than she might have otherwise had. And I hope that she takes every advantage of that fate. Yet it is still sad to witness the attempt to manipulate government oversight through anonymous letters or open threats, and I would rather see the full commission, now, just as in the Yountville Hill hearing, debating the issues together.
With the formalities over and Commissioners Scott, Phillips and Cottrell on the dais, Mr. Hall made his presentation.
He said something in his opening remarks that struck me as an effort to clarify some of the angst the industry has toward this process. "For most of us [the Napa Valley] is a beautiful scene, one well worth preserving in its current form ... Importantly we are not trying to alter or unwind the pattern of land use that has already evolved, but we are here to address the future pattern of land use in the ag preserve." I was heartened by the expression "worth preserving in its current form". In that consideration "landscape" would have been a better term to use because the current "pattern of land use" that he is not trying to alter or unwind involves the construction of ever more buildings in the landscape. Was the intention to suggest a similar pattern of land use in the future? Probably not. I know this is being a bit precious with semantics. But as we have discovered in the discussion around the definition of agriculture, semantics have consequences.
After the discussion the Commission voted to send the unanimous APAC recommendations, the "low hanging fruit", on to the Board. They included:
1. avoid the use of variances to enable projects
2. use of Framework X for winery guideline development.
3. implement self-certification program for use permit compliance
7. prohibit hold and haul wastewater disposal at wineries
11. share production reporting with and encourage reporting from municipalities
and one supermajority recommendation:
10. a laundry list of good government exhortations plus a commitment to CAP, traffic mitigations, and the "growth" summit.
The other APAC recommendations will be tackled by the "depleted" commission in subsequent meetings outlined on the calendar here.
Sigh! Someone with knowledge of these things told us during the process that at the end of the day the hospitality industry will use APAC to extend their control over the wine industry (and the lives of the county residents), despite the fact that the impetus in creating the committee was to do exactly the opposite. It is interesting that of the 6 items identified at the Mar 10th joint BOS/PC meeting to be considered by APAC none were accepted and some not even considered.
My immediate take on each of the 12 recommendations:
1. Avoid the use of variances as a principal tool for achieving compliance with land use regulations. Variances may be used only when there is specific evidence supporting all necessary findings.
Can they be used as a secondary tool to make projects fit? This really seems like an un-toothed recommendation hinging on the malleable words "avoid" and "principal".
2. Develop guidelines and benchmarks for consideration of future winery use permits based on the format of Proposal X (see Appendix).
The framework but not the contents of Proposal X survived. Let's assume that it is now up to the planning commission to fill in the grid. If they adopt Dir. Morrison's original contents there may be some hope to curb winery proliferation. Filling in the content was purpose of the APAC, and they punted.
3. Use the working definition of agriculture (see Appendix).
This and #8 below are the black heart of the recommendations and the reason the committee not only didn't protect agriculture but solidified the commercial exploitation of ag lands. By restating that marketing and food service are a part of the definition of agricultural processing (i.e. that processing tourists is equivalent to processing grapes) and specifically denying that marketing is an accessory use of a winery (as tours and tastings are) is to guarantee that event centers will continue to proliferate.
4. Implement an annual selfcertification reporting process, requiring a report to be submitted by the principal officer of each winery certifying the amount of wine produced, compliance with the 75% rule, as applicable, and compliance with all conditions of use permit approval. All data collected shall remain confidential to the extent allowed under the law.
This was Proposal Z in the APAC discussions and is good - when wineries are found to be out of compliance owners can be prosecuted - some incentive there. But even if all use permits are followed to the letter there are already too many wineries, too much visitation, too many parties. And more will continue to come asking for the numbers that they would have cheated to achieve in the past. This won't change the upward trend.
5. Limit the total development area, for parcels up to 40 acres in the AP and AW zones, to no more than a cumulative total of 20% of a parcel, including new winery, residential and/or other permitted uses. The total development area for parcels larger than 40 acres would be capped at a fixed eight (8) acres maximum.
This is good. The wine industry has always been a war with home developers (which they often conflate with residents) and this closes one of the loopholes that allowed mega estates to consume ag land. It also reduces the development area from the current 25%.
6. Modify the County code to include outdoor hospitality areas and Type 3 caves in the total area used to determine the maximum square footage for accessory uses for new wineries in the AP and AW zones.
This is good. I am assuming that type 3 caves, which allow public access, will be counted in their entirety as hospitality space.
7. Prohibit hold and haul of wastewater and related liquid byproducts on all AP and AW zoned parcels for new wineries except during winery development, not to exceed one year from certificate of occupancy, or in an emergency situation.
This is good. Although there will be a lot more Lyve wastewater treatment systems churning away next door and a lot more 100,000 gal holding tanks littering the landscape. And of course existing wineries can continue to expand and increase their hold and haul operations.
8. Establish a process for the approval of use permits for small wineries as defined in Napa County’s Local Procedures for Implementing California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA):
● Include less than 5,000 square feet in size excluding caves
● Involve either no cave excavation, or excavation sufficient to create no more than 5,000
additional square feet with all of the excavated cave spoils to be used on site
● Produce 30,000 gallons or less per year
● Generate less than 40 vehicle trips per day and 5 peak hour trips except on those days
when marketing events are taking place
● Hold no more than 10 marketing events per year, each with no more than 30 attendees,
except for one wine auction event with up to 100 persons in attendance
● Hold no temporary events.
The "CEQA" definition has been around for a while and infrequently used in the proposal of new wineries. Promotion by this committee may mean that it is used more often as a development tool to skirt more rigorous review. (Planning commission review would still by required if I understand the proposal correctly). My screed on the "CEQA" winery is here. The visitation allowed under this definition (19,380 visitors/yr) is not insignificant. A 10,000 sf winery (bldg+caves) allowed is also not an insignificant size. There are perhaps 150 properties on Soda Canyon Road that can accommodate such a winery: a potential of 3063 cars up and down the road each day on average. (Well maybe 1000/day if they each visit 3 wineries.) If the trend toward micro wineries continues, this adoption of the "CEQA" definition will probably encourage tourism development of ag lands more than the normal process has done so far.
9. Limit the implementation of the recommended new requirements for winery use permits, including maximum winery development area, small winery use permit approval processes, and hold and haul restrictions to new use permit applications for wineries submitted after January 1, 2016.
This is bad. Right now existing wineries must comply with the requirements of the WDO for the expansions of facilities at existing wineries. This provision essentially exempts existing wineries from ever having to comply with updated ordinances. Like coal companies being able to pollute forever. It creates a whole new layering of grandfathered uses that are difficult to enforce. And then there is the rush of new winery proposals that will be coming in at the end of the year for the planning department to deal with. Any proposed start date requires a retroactive moratorium on new applications until that time.
10: Strongly encourage elected and appointed officials of the County, and their staffs, to take the following actions:
● Implement the land use policies identified in the Napa County General Plan update.
● Enforce all current regulations fairly and consistently.
● Deny any unrealistic use permit applications and modifications that are depending on the excessive use of variances.
● Consistently follow existing procedures.
● Discontinue creative efforts to justify projects on nonconforming parcels.
● Be consistent in the interpretation, application and enforcement of all use permits.
● Complete items the County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission identified at the joint special hearing on March 10, including:
o County Climate Action Plan
o Circulation Element of the General Plan
o Summit of County, City, and Town officials to discuss joint efforts to address regional land use and transportation issues.
Who can disagree? The CAP and transport element of the GP are already being worked on. The growth summit remains to be convened. I had great hopes for such a summit in stemming the development that is turning Napa County into just another Bay Area suburb. After APAC, which caved to tourism interests without an overt tourism industry presence on the committee, the chance of a one-napa committee which will have a large tourism industry presence curbing growth is very unlikely.
11. Share the County’s production reporting methodology with the five other Napa County jurisdictions and encourage annual winery data collection from wineries located in the incorporated areas for the purposes of capturing more complete data.
12. Appoint a five-person subcommittee of APAC to review language prior to the final report being presented to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors and to confirm accuracy of recommendations.
I assume this report the result of the 5 person subcommittee.
In a flurry of activity the APAC wrapped up its deliberations.
Opening public comments
In opening public comments Harvest Duhig led off with the issue that the vintners introduced in the last meeting and that seemed to become the theme of this meeting - this is not a winery problem - APAC is picking on the good guys. Why no hotel or restaurant definition ordinance? Traffic and the housing imbalance are the problems that should be addressed by county and cities together.
Patricia Damery: Nothing about land stewardship in the definition of agriculture.
Les Behrens: wineries are the good guys.
Rob Mondavi: this county is about wine, other problems: St H doesn't allow housing. APAC proposals (by people without dust on their boots) represent a death hold on industry.
Alex Ryan: high end wine requires "experiences". This is not an ag county. This should be winegrowers committee not ag committee.
Christian Meieux: Other world wine regions have protected their vineyards. Napa needs to enforce rules.
Bill Keever: wineries not a problem, address traffic and housing problems, county seal needs a wine bottle.
Committee members responded.
Cio Perez: LEED (or Napa Green) req'ts should be the norm w/o bonus, water use analyzed for production use, visitation unlimited in proposal.
Charles Hossom: LEED bonus good, no need to restrict hours.
Deborah Dohmer: food pairings require commercial kitchen, fast track for small winery per county's "CEQA" definition of small winery.
Eve Kahn: LEED is about building efficiency not environment. What are "special" vs temp events?
Jeri GIll: LEED is just a plaque on the wall. Napa Green about existing winery operations. State building code equivalent to LEED, bonus not necessary.
Ted Hall: allowed sales should include other ag products besides wine.
And public comments.
Gary Margadant: must maintain LEED
Tom Falcon: Temp events should not be allowed, convention ctr at airport, vineyard visitation allowed without winery, no hold and haul
Harvest Duhig brought up another really substantial issue. The Dunbar proposal is only for those applications for new wineries submitted after 1/1/16. As such it will have a minimal impact on the protection of agriculture - half of applications for increased capacity and visitation are winery expansions. There probably will be a deluge of applications prior to the end of the year.
Ginna Beharry: 10% LEED incentive for what? - there are no base standards to increase.
Rob Mondavi: Limiting commercial kitchens scary, get cities involved in traffic and housing problems.
John Dunbar revises proposal: Remove LEED bonus, include ag products other than wine, remove "special events" language, 20% combined coverage (not 25%).
Motion to adopt Dunbar proposal as amended.
Tony LeBlanc: corkscrews and hats are key to winery brand development.
John McDowell: Fast tract options: 1. ministerial approval: no public review 2. administrative approval: noticing and public hearing.
Jeri GIll: "CEQA" definition already exists - why a new one.
Cio Perez: fast track will require noticing and public hearing?
Charles Hossom: can't support small winery definition different than "CEQA" def
Deborah Dohmer: can't support
Tony Leblanc: specificity is the problem
Vote: 11y - 6n, fails supermajority
Pieces of the Dunbar Proposal
The Dunbar proposal is then offered up one piece at a time.
Motion to adopt Dunbar #1, 20% or 8 acre max development for all uses on property.
Debra Dommen: will create many non-conforming parcels
Vote: 13y - 4n, passes supermajority
Motion to adopt "CEQA" definition of small winery under zoning administrator approval with public notice and PC hearing.
Bruce Phillips: "CEQA" definition doesn't include visitation amount or hospitality area.
Vote: 15y-2n, passes supermajority
Motion to adopt Dunbar #6, no hold and haul allowed to apply to AW/AP only.
Tony LeBlanc: Temporary suspension in emergencies?
Sub-motion: Include temporary suspension provision
Vote: 17y, passes
Motion to adopt Dunbar #8, guidelines to apply only to new wineries only not to existing expansions. Applies only to applications after 1//1/16.
Cio Perez: should apply to existing expansions as well
Deborah Dohmer: reiterates does not apply to existing wineries.
Vote: 13y-4n, passes
Eve Kahn hospitality area proposal EE
Motion to adopt Eve Kahn proposal to include outdoor visitation area and type3 (public access) caves in hospitality area calculation of "winery development area" in applications after 1/1/16.
Vote 13y-5n passes supermajority
APAC final recommendations draft
Next a discussion about the draft of the APAC recommendations that are to be submitted to the Planning Commission (beginning at the bottom of page 6 here)
These recommendations are to be reviewed by an executative committee of Eve Kahn, Jeri Gill, Ted Hall, John Dunbar, and Tony LeBlanc and then returned to the full committee for approval.
Eve Kahn: No committee discussion to support conclusions in Items F. and G. in draft
Cio Perez: same re: item G
Deborah Dohmer: no agreement on grid for items A, F, G, H, K
John Dunbar: language of draft not inaccurate but doesn't represent actual votes.
Dir. Morrison: thought grid based on parcel size was accepted
Bruce Phillips, Cio Perez: grid voted down at last meeting
Motion to accept grid (but not contents) on new wineries after 1/1/16.
Vote: 17y passed
Bill Keever: address traffic and housing problem
Jeniffer Putnum of grapegrowers: supports one-community proposal
Michelle Benvenuto: what she said
Unknown Name: penalties for non-compliance
Harvest Duhig: traffic and housing problems are the crux of why we are here.
Kelly Anderson: correct zoning in GP in Angwin, enforce current regs
Les Behrens: Napa has an infrastructure problem
Motion to accept NVV proposal AA
Cio Perez: in Proposal item #1 add "hospitality and marketing subordinate to ag processing"
David Graves: "Right to farm" does not equal GP definition of agriculture,does not include marketing. (see discussion here)
Sub-motion to accept proposal less item #1
Vote: 9y-7n, fails supermajority
Vote on orig motion: 12y-4n, passes supermajority
Thanks all around and adjournment.
The wrap up
What of the recommendations approved today?
Good: combined development area for all uses. hold and haul prohibited. hospitality area to include outdoor and caves. grid idea accepted (modest gain).
Bad: "CEQA" definition has excessive visitation/marketing limits - 4500 parcels can now be more easily developed into mini event centers. guidelines only apply to new wineries, not retroactive. agriculture still = marketing.
The truth is that 4 months of APAC has really done little to stop the proliferation of wineries in ag zones, and has in fact made the development of small parcels easier. The wine industry has promised to obey their use permits - I guess that counts as a significant change. Beyond that they have allowed things to be a tiny bit more difficult for their future competitors after insuring that they would not be touched.
Several people in the winery business seemed to have a coordinated message at this meeting: stop persecuting the wine industry - the real problems in the county are traffic and affordable housing. A "growth summit" involving the cities and the county is needed to address these problems. The big picture is not a wine industry problem.
A growth summit IS something that the anti-growth side has sought from the beginning, in the same way that we sought a committee devoted to tourism proliferation at wineries. Such a summit was proposed at the Mar. 10th joint BOS/PC meeting. After seeing the trajectory of the APAC meetings it is obvious that the concerns around "growth" have vastly different meanings for the two sides. The APAC recommendations have yet to be parsed, but by any standards little was recommended to curtail the proliferation of winery tourism development taking place in the county. Tourism is the county's growth industry, and the tip of the effort to lure tourists into the county is the use of wineries as tourist venues. Yet most references to tourism ('hospitality', 'visitation', and 'marketing' in industry jargon) were stripped from any proposals accepted. Indeed tourism was the elephant in the room throughout the process and was rarely mentioned. Only the acceptance of Eve Kahn's last minute proposal to include outdoor spaces and caves in the calculation of visitation area for new wineries after 1/1/16, might be seen as a small victory.
The lesson from APAC is, not surprisingly, that an industry that profits from increased tourism development is still not about to curtail that development to preserve the rural character of the county that is the major tourist draw. As with global warming the consequences of our actions are still bearable. The strategy now seems to be to "mitigate" the traffic impacts to the point that the bulk of the citizenry, enraged by traffic congestion, will be placated and that the tourists will not be so put off that they stop coming. If the traffic problems can be addressed, the neighbor complaints about event centers being built next door can go on being ignored. The tools of that mitigation? A revision to the transportation element of the general plan that will somehow make traffic more tolerable (more lanes, more traffic lights?) and building more affordable housing for all those low wage workers now commuting to the tourist venues and tourism service industries. It is the development industry's answer to development impacts: more development. As if new development had no impacts of its own.
There probably will be a "growth summit" now that the wine industry is firmly on board, but it now seems much less likely that it will be about curtailing growth and more about making growth palatable.
The final meeting of the APAC will take place on Mon. Aug 24th, 9:00am at the County building. There were high hopes that that this would be a transformative process. Those hopes are fading.
Director Morrison's Proposal Z regarding winery use permit compliance passed untouched through the committee. It is the most concrete proposal that the committee has approved, but the reality is that it would have been presented to the planning commission for review with or without APAC review or approval. It is important, though hardly transformational, that the committee thinks the county should enforce its ordinances.
All other actions thus far by the committee have been to defeat reform proposals or, like the mild admonition on the use of setback variances, marginal tools to control winery proliferation.
The two issues that might have represented significant proposals from the committee, the redefinition of agriculture to remove the equivalency of crop processing and marketing activities in its definition (just dropped by Eve Kahn), and the adoption of Framework X parameters with restricted visitation and capacity for given parcel size and location, were both defeated.
Fortunately, the original Framework X, if I have interpreted correctly comments at the last PC meeting, will still go on to the planning commission for review on Sept 2nd, perhaps with some modifications that come out of the final APAC meeting.
Proposals have still been coming in from committee members:
Harvest Duhig has introduced an almost empty version of the framework for APAC #10 to allow the committee to again to vote on the concept if not the substance of the document. It's not empty however - it includes a by-right "CEQA" small winery definition from the County's local procedures for implementing CEQA (Appendix B page 2). This definition has less restricted capacity and visitation than 10 acre parcels under framework X. (Where did this provision come from? and when? Wineries are not in the categorical exemptions of CEQA §15303)
Mayor Dunbar has also introduced a new set of winery definition parameters. As much as I respect Mr. Dunbar in his efforts for the committee, it would be a great disappointment if this last minute proposal were approved. The provision that defines the total development area on a parcel regardless of use and the prohibition of hold and haul are desirable. The green bonus (for the phony LEED certification) is a giveaway. The small winery definition which doesn't limit t&t or marketing events seems no different than the status quo. A kitchen to be used only for certain things and not for others seems like an invitation for abuse and difficult to enforce. Although the 3:30 close time is a great idea it seems that it does not does not apply for marketing events which have much greater neighborhood impact day or night. And not making the restrictions retroactive means a run on the planning department in the next 4 months - the last thing needed now are more winery applications.
The Napa Valley Vintners, perhaps to deflect criticism after rejecting Framework X, have submitted a proposal to promote a One-Napa summit of the cities and the county to begin looking at long term development issues beyond just wineries. This was a goal of the Mar. 10th joint PC/BOS which hasn't happened because, as one supervisor confided, Napa City was uninterested until Napa Pipe was resolved. Napa Pipe, of course, doesn't set a hopeful model for city-county cooperation on other issues.
On Aug 10th, the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee decided to sanction the status quo of ever more building development on agricultural land in Napa County. So far the committee has not agreed on a single proposal to protect agriculture, the purpose of its convening (although compliance with existing use permits has been supported). As Mike Hackett chastised the committee at the last meeting, so far it's been "no" to most every proposal thus far, and this meeting scuttled the one effort that was supposed to make up for all of the other individual proposals that have not been discussed over the last few months.
The discussion this week revolved around Framework X. On July 22nd the committee voted unanimously to accept the concept, if not the specifics, of Planning Director Morrison's Framework X for use by the planning commission in evaluating the application requests for winery use permits. The framework contained a grid of variables involved in use permit applications: production capacity, tourism and food service requests, land consumption, variances allowed, etc, based on parcel size and location (valley floor vs watershed).
Peter McCrea of the Napa Valley Vintners began this meeting by announcing that the NVV could no longer support the framework. The numbers in the boxes of the grid might be interpreted as ceilings; the NVV doesn't want development ceilings. And the Framework might imply that existing wineries would have to abide by the requirements if they went in for a modification to their use permit. Alex Ryan of Duckhorn Vineyards, in public comments summed up this attitude: The matrix is OK - as long as we don't have to abide by it.
Bruce Phillips was disappointed by the NVV decision, as were all in the room concerned about the future urban development of the county, indicating that the framework was an attempt to eliminate some of the subjectivity of the Planning Commission process that has left the County rudderless in controlling development. This body is not here to craft specific policy. It is time to step out of the box and think of long term problem solving rather than protecting short term interests.
Comments went back and forth on the specifics of the grid: should AP and AW zones be treated differently; should there be a by-right "CEQA" small winery definition from the County's local procedures for implementing CEQA (Appendix B page 2). The small-winery-dream lobby, galvanized by early talk of increasing minimum parcel size, has been the most aggressive voice in these discussions (now with 2 attorneys to represent their interests).
Alex Ryan: see above
Bernadette Brooks: impact on neighbors and nature not being considered; development of +10 acre parcels in AW will be overwhelming.
Mike Reynolds: one size fits all-bad, loss of approved entitlements, denial of property rights
Jim Sabovitch: ditto.
Dario Sattui: right to farm = tourism. more tourism necessary, more tourism. more tourism.
Julie Arbuckle: wine industry = tourism. approve non-compliance. X means no new wineries. Treat AP-AW same.
Ginna Beharry: lots of fear-mongering. APAC exists because of tourism impacts. what is the end game - self interested grasping or intelligent group solution. we need leaders.
Yeoryios Apallas: APAC exists because of imbalance. Traffic and water concerns need solutions. AP and AW different
Geoff Ellsworth: wineries should't be punished - neither should residents. even a monkey knows when another monkey gets a bigger banana. rescind the 2010 WDO
Jim Felton: I paid a lot for my 10 acre parcel. Framework makes it less valuable - County needs to pay me the difference.
Harvest Duhig: adopt framework. AP-AW different, Adopt "CEQA" small winery.
David Pena: does X regulate farm management buildings?
Michelle Benvenuto: X retroactive? X not based on env. impacts. X numbers arbitrary.
With the tide shifted against approval of the framework content, Bruce Phillips moved to adopt framework without content as 1. a guideline not a policy proposal 2. Not retroactive for existing use permit provisions 3. would apply to use-permit modification changes only. Seconded by Cio Perez
Dunbar: need to discuss line items.
Graves: Carneros should not be considered AW.
Morrison: vote to approve framework can have conditions.
Dunbar: calls for substitute motion to eliminate #3 from Philips motion.
Perez: huge mistake to exempt major-mods from X. Anything that affects future vineyard development in county needs to come under X.
Tony LeBlank: can't support X
Jeri Gill: can't support X
Dunbar substitute motion vote: 8-8 defeated.
Phillips motion vote: 6-10 defeated
The NVV, of course, essentially holds veto power on any planning decisions made in the county. It is unlikely that any of the soul-searching going on in the last year would have happened had not some of its more responsible members, like Mr. McCrea and Mr. Hall, not felt the development trajectory happening in the valley to be unhealthy. That why this decision is so disappointing.
Is this the end of Framework X - and of industry-supported change? Stay tuned.
Consolidated parcel development area
Cio Perez brings up motion for vote: recommend to BOS that combined development area of parcel be defined for all uses, winery, residential, accessory.
vote: 8-8 motion fails.
Dunbar asks that staff review issue and discussion be agendized for next meeting.
Bruce Phillips asks McCrea and Dohman, who were involved in 2008 GP discussions, what was the intent in the decision that marketing was equated to agriculture.
Peter McCrea's non-answer: separating wine making and wine marketing was not possible.
Debra Dommen: what he said.
The definition of agriculture is to be discussed at next meeting though after these putdowns a recommendation for change seems unlikely. This was an enlightening discussion because it pushes the origins of the event-center winery boom back from the 2010 WDO discussions to the 2008 GP discussions.
The big picture
Here is APAC in a nutshell and why its efforts were preordained to be inconsequential: resident discontent over the impacts of tourism led to the creation of the committee but the county, both government and industry, is at heart a growth engine committed to ever expanding development. Despite a generation of visionaries that have tried to craft an agriculture based economy in an urban world, and the honest effort of Dir. Morrison to find a way to slow things down, the county government, like all local governments, is an extension of those who stand to profit through growth. Wine is a marketable and sustainable resource, but it is limited and can only support a stable economy. Wine tourism is a growth industry. The equation of agriculture and tourism is the development industry's solution to harness its growth agenda to the visionaries' agrarian ideals - and the residents (and farmers and vintners) concerned about what that growth may mean for their lives, their environment, and those ideals may be dismissed, in the words of the General Plan, as "neighbor complaints" about the right to farm. We appreciate that the county has taken some effort to listen to neighbor complaints, but the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee, in rejecting the tourism limits of framework X and in continuing to insist that tourism is agriculture, appears increasingly to be a sop.
Until the wine industry and its government adopt the notion that continuing a "growth" economy means death for the agricultural economy, and until they begin to seek a "stable" economy based on the agricultural resource available, the desire of residents to protect the agricultural character and substance of the county will be futile.
At the BOS meeting today, Gary Margadant got up in public comments to voice his discouragement with the APAC meeting, "the wine industry just said no.", and encouraged the Supervisors to convene more informal discussions to pursue solutions to the development problems that are so evident in the county. Rex Stults of the vintners then got up with the same message, and a reminder that at the Mar. 10th joint PC/BOS meeting there was a commitment to create a committee including the county and the municipalities, to address long term development impacts.
My one addition to these and Dir. Morrison's version would be to end all visitation before sunset in the AW areas. The potential for noise and light at night is perhaps the most intrusive impact that event centers have on neighbors in the dark sky environments of the watersheds.
Framework X, previously called Proposal X, will be taken up in detail at the Aug. 10th meeting of APAC.
At the APAC meeting of June 22nd, among the various proposals presented to the committee Director Morrison had his own proposal to present. He has given letter titles to all of the proposals submitted by members and the public over the last few weeks. He had arrived, whether by coincidence or not, at Proposal X which he assigned to his own proposal. It is a proposal worth its title.
The framework that he presented for the evaluation of winery projects tries with a great deal of clarity to weave together the many strands that the committee has been fumbling with. Each of the cells of the grid will be debated, but it is a place to start the debate.
I frankly think that Dir. Morrison has come very close to the mark in defining the baseline for the evaluation of projects by the Planning Commission. The numbers that he has produced in the grid are a clear attempt to put the brakes on the runaway visitation requests that are aimed at turning grape processing facilities into tourist processing facilities, and on the capacity increase requests that have more to do with source shifting in older wineries or as a justification for large visitation numbers than in the need to process more Napa grapes.
The low visitation numbers presented in Framework X, and the severe restriction on food service get at the heart of the winery proliferation problem. Wineries are being built as entertainment centers, not as agricultural processing facilities. It is difficult to know if the entertainment components are there to make bad economic investments in unnecessary and inefficient processing facilities more palatable, or to provide an audience for life-style exhibitionism promoted by the tourism industry. (see my response to the Arbuckle letter). Either reason is unjustifiable when considering the impacts that tourism, and the ever expanding urbanism that it brings, has on neighborhoods and on the infrastructure of the county, as well as the land and water resources that agriculture needs to survive.
Each aspect of Framework X will probably be fought over. I would like less visitation. I would like a ban on all food service. I would like to restrict all tourism to daylight hours. Unfortunately, what I would like doesn't carry much weight with the APAC. We'll see what happens to Framework X at the Aug 10th meeting as the pro-development APAC members bring out the knives. The line item of variances has already taken a unanimous hit at the July 27th meeting.
From: Eve Kahn
Sent; Wed Aug 5, 2015
To: David Morrison
CC: Melissa Frost
Subject: Proposal to clarify the consolidated definition of agriculture
I request that APAC consider and approve a modified definition of agriculture originally discussed on June 22, 2015.
I missed the 6/22 meeting and upon reading the minutes and than the corrected minutes, I became concerned that some of the existing GP definitions, policies and county codes were not accurately translated to the consolidated version.
I submit the attached version that uses almost all the exact wording as the 6/22 version. The sentences have been moved to combine like parts together (rather than in separate paragraphs) which makes for an easier read and easier comprehension
While is has bee stated that the consolidated definitions is 'only for APAC use' my experience is quite different. It is likely the consolidated definition will carry forward and be used by the Planning Commission, BOS, staff, and public use. So I want to make sure it is as accurate and constant with existing wording and intent found in the GP and County Codes
Thanks of your consideration. Eve
Proposed Revision to Consolidated Definition of Agriculture for APAC:
Agriculture is the raising of crops, trees, and livestock. The processing of agricultural products, farm management activities, farm worker housing and conditional accessory uses may be permitted and must remain related, subordinate, and incidental to the main use. Accessory uses must also be reasonably compatible with and cannot change the character of the primary agricultural uses.
Agricultural processing includes crushing; wastewater disposal; aging, bottling, storage, and shipping of bulk wine; office and laboratories.
Accessory uses related to a winery include tours and tastings; retail sales of wine and wine-related items; marketing activities for the education and development of consumers and members of the wine trade regarding wine produced by the winery; limited non-commercial food service; display of art or items of historical, ecological, or viticultural significance; child care centers; and temporary events.
Other permitted uses in the agricultural zones may include dwellings and guest cottages; small care homes; minor communications facilities; kennels and veterinary offices; non-commercial energy systems; limited recreational uses; campgrounds and related lodging; sanitary landfills; levee repair and maintenance; and agricultural processing facilities (other than wineries).
I transcribed this one exchange from from the July 27th APAC meeting during the definition-of-agriculture discussion. I found it again only in November. It is a perfect example of Bruce Phillips' precise extemporaneous eloquence and is his major plea regarding the "crux" that caused the creation of APAC: the role of tourism in winery proliferation.
Bruce Phillips: "Staff's recount of the definition of agriculture, in deference to Mr. Dwyer's comments, raises in my mind some dissonance in terms of agriculture as defined in AG/LU-2 inclusive of related marketing, sales and accessory uses and tying that to the right to farm. I think, to Mr. McCrea's point, we are gathered here because of a level of concern by the general public specific to hospitality and marketing activities within approved wineries. And I offer that perhaps this [relationship of marketing to agriculture] could have been achieved in a different construct: a more refined definition of agriculture, but in sub sections that allowed permitted accessory or ancillary uses which included sales and marketing activity. The unintended consequences that were adopted, inventing again the definition of agriculture, could well have been, subsequent to its embrace in 2008, that staff and the commission broadened their view to a point where you run the risk of allowing marketing activities to press the bounds of ancillary or subordinate activity. That is the crux of what were here to talk about . As it's played out, it allows for that misinterpretation and a broadening of sales and marketing activities which are clearly stated to be ancillary and subordinate within the definition of agriculture. Personally I see that as you allow that to continue under the right to farm ordinance it allows facilities that focus perhaps inappropriately in terms of the amount of hospitality on a given site to run at odds with their neighbors who are bearing the brunt of such activity in terms of noise and traffic and otherwise, and yet they are held harmless under the right to farm. I don't know that that was the intent of the right to farm ordinance within Napa County but it certainly could be used in this case. It raises some concern."
Ted Hall: "What would you propose?"
Phillips: "Perhaps we consider recommending a more constrained definition of agriculture and within perhaps an LU-2.1 we speak to permitted ancillary and subordinate uses that are clearly subordinate and ancillary, namely marketing and sales. I would like to see a delink in the interest of neighborly relations of the right to farm with sales and marketing activities and hospitality interests at a winery."
Although shelved in the APAC recommendations, the incidental and subordinate language in the main definition of agriculture was recommended as an addition to the APAC recommendations and sent on the the BOS by the Planning Commission.
Months of discussion with the 17 members of the County’s Ag Protection Advisory Committee (APAC) led to a unanimous decision at their July 27th meeting to support a staff recommendation for all wineries in the county to submit an annual report verifying compliance with the Winery Definition Ordinance’s 75% grape sourcing rule and certifying the amount of wine produced and compliance with all conditions of approval, including marketing, as stated in the winery’s use permit. Finding consensus on this issue represents major progress as APAC struggles through a lengthy list of concerns related to growth pressures and policy changes to balance tourism impacts, quality of life and ag preservation issues. APAC members also unanimously voted to support stricter limits on the use of variances in approving new or amended winery use permits.
APAC will meet two more times and will finalize their recommendations to the Planning Commission by Sept. 2nd. The remaining meetings will focus on “Framework X”, a matrix of multiple policy recommendations for wineries in the county’s Ag Preserve and Ag Watershed zoning districts. The matrix covers a wide range of winery permit issues including, production capacity limits, estate grape requirements, winery development area coverage limits, visitation and marketing levels, hours of operations, hold and haul winery waste restrictions and more. All of the staff reports, information and minutes of the APAC meetings can be accessed at: http://napa.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=27
At their June 22nd meeting APAC voted to accept Director Morrison's "Consolidated Definition" of Agriculture and accessory uses. It was unclear at the time whether the committee was accepting it as the existing interpretation open to change or was approving it as the recommended definition to be sent on to the Planning Commission. Since Chair Hall called for alternate definitions to be tendered for the Aug 10th meeting, I will assume the former. Director Morrison's definition reads (my boldings):
Consolidated Definition (approved by a supermajority of the committee)
Based on the above adopted policies, ordinances, and guidance, staff suggests the following working definition for agricultural, and accessory uses:
??Agriculture is the raising of crops, trees, and livestock; the production and processing of agricultural products; farm management activities; farm worker housing and related accessory uses.
Agricultural processing includes crushing; wastewater disposal; aging, processing, bottling, storage, and shipping of bulk wine; office and laboratories; retail sales of wine; marketing activities for the education and development of consumers and members of the wine trade regarding wine produced by the winery, and limited non-commercial food service.
Accessory uses must be related, subordinate and incidental to the main use. They must also be reasonably compatible with and cannot change the character of the primary agricultural uses.
Uses accessory to agriculture include dwellings and guest cottages; small care homes; minor communications facilities; kennels and veterinary offices; non-commercial energy systems; limited recreational uses; campgrounds and related lodging; sanitary landfills; levee repair and maintenance; and agricultural processing facilities (other than wineries).
Uses accessory to a winery include tours and tastings; retail sale of wine-related items; display of art or items of historical, ecological, or viticultural significance; child care centers; and temporary events.
An amended version of the definition was proposed by Christina Benz which moved the pharse in bold above from being "agriculture" to being an "accessory use".
That move was rejected by the committee.
Policy AG/LU-2 in the Napa County General Plan provides the only instance in which agricultural processing, marketing and sales are considered as equivalent aspects of agriculture (the semicolon is important). It goes:
“Agriculture” is defined as the raising of crops, trees, and livestock; the production and processing of agricultural products; and related marketing, sales and other accessory uses. Agriculture also includes farm management businesses and farm worker housing.
All other references to agriculture, agricultural processing and accessory uses (marketing and sales) in other policies and codes are somewhat out of alignment with AG/LU-2.
Action item AG/LU-2.1: "Amend County Code to reflect the definition of “agriculture” as set forth within this plan, ensuring that wineries and other production facilities remain as conditional uses...and that marketing activities and other accessory uses remain incidental and subordinate to the main use."
Policy AG/LU-13: "All tours and tastings, retail sales, marketing activities, and noncommercial food service must be accessory to the principal use of the facility as an agricultural processing facility."
Code section 18.08.020 - Definition of Accessory Use: "An accessory use must be clearly incidental, related and subordinate to the main use.'
Section 18.08.040 - Definition of Agriculture: This section which gives a very detailed definition of agriculture does not mention agricultural processing, tours and tastings, or the marketing of wines at all. I does include "Sale of agricultural products grown, raised or produced on the premises;" which implies agricultural processing. Its one mention of wineries is oblique: "Farm management activities established or expanded after June 30, 2006, alone or in combination with any wineries shall not...."
Code section 19.08.370 - Definition of Marketing of wine. "Marketing plans in their totality must remain "clearly incidental, related and subordinate to the primary operation of the winery as a production facility"
Code section 18.08.640 - Definition of Winery; ""Winery" means an agricultural processing facility used for:
A. The fermenting and processing of grape juice into wine; or
B. The refermenting of still wine into sparkling wine."
No mention of marketing or tours and tastings or sale of products
Interpretive guidence for 2010 WDO ammendment: refers to "an approved marketing plan that in its totality is 'clearly incidental, related and subordinate to the primary operation of the winery as a production facility.'”
While the primary definition of agriculture in AG/LU-2 equates agricultural production, marketing and sales, elsewhere other definitions either don't mention marketing and sales or place them as incidental and subordinate accessory uses to agricultural processing, which is a part of the definition of agriculture.
My own suggestions to revise the definition of agriculture:
At present incidental-ness and subordinate-ness are defined by building area: 40% of the area of the processing facility. I would first question 40% of anything as being a clearly incidental and subordinate proportion. But second I would question using building area as the unit of measure. A more appropriate measure that gets at the heart of the reason to create accessory uses is the economic incidental-ness and subordination. What proportion of company revenues are generated by wine sales and what proportion are generated by non-wine sales. It would take a through analysis of the wine-sales versus non-wine sales at Napa wineries to produce a target percentage that might be used. If we are to determine the true cost benefit analysis of winery tourism in Napa county that relationship needs to be known in any case. That ratio may be 40% if the comparison is strictly wine to non-wine revenues taken in on premises. But it would be much lower if all wine revenue generated by a winery vs non-wine revenue taken in at the winery is the comparison.
As discussed elsewhere on the site, food service is the tipping point between wineries as processing facilities and wineries as entertainment centers and food service needs to be removed as an incentive to build unnecessary wine production facilities.
My suggested policy changes:
AG/LU-2, placing processing and accessory use on an equal footing, seems to be inconsistent with the collection of references in the general plan and the county code. I would thus (humbly) propose that AG/LU-2 and AG/LU-13 be rewritten to read thus:
Policy AG/LU-2 (revised):
“Agriculture” is defined as the raising of crops, trees, and livestock; the production and processing of agricultural products; and related marketing, sales and other accessory uses. Agriculture also includes farm management businesses and farm worker housing.
Policy AG/LU-13 (revised) The 1990 Winery Definition Ordinance recognized certain pre-existing wineries and winery uses as well as new wineries. For wineries approved after the effective date of that ordinancethis policy, uses accessory to agricultural processing includes tours and tastings by appointment only, retail sales of wine produced by or for the winery partially or totally from Napa County grapes, retail sale of wine-related items, activities for the education and development of consumers and members of the wine trade with respect to wine produced by or at the winery, and limited non-commercial food service. The later activity may include wine/food pairings. All tours and tastings, retail sales and marketing activities, and noncommercial food service must be clearly incidental, related and subordinateaccessory to the principal use of the facility as an agricultural processing facility. Nothing in this policy shall alter the definition of “agriculture” set forth in Policy AG/LU-2.
Action Item AG/LU-13
"Incidental" and "subordinate" shall be numerical percentages of area and revenue defined by county ordinance.
The discussion of the consolidated definition of agriculture at the Jun 22nd meeting is on the audio recording here beginning at 00:26:30 into the recording. It is well worth listening to in preparation for the discussions coming up.
In the second unanimous vote made by this Committee, Director Morrison's Proposal Z was approved. The authors of 2 other compliance proposals, John Dunbar and Peter McCrea, backed off their proposals in favor of Proposal Z setting the stage for the unanimous vote. The one significant difference between John Dunbar's Proposl W (page 7 here) was his itemization of the numbers to be reported which covered production, sourcing visitation, marketing numbers and description of products, rental activity and food preparation. Proposal Z lumps all these specifics into a generic bullet point: "The principal officer of each winery shall sign a document certifying the amount of wine produced, compliance with the 75% rule, as applicable, and compliance with all conditions of approval" (my bolding). And then in a further bullet point notes that: "A more in-depth compliance review will be held if the winery is exceeding their annual production limit, or is in violation of the 75% rule. In-depth compliance reviews will also be held to investigate complaints received from the public".
Cio Perez and Bruce Phillips lobbied for adding something like ", visitation and marketing conditions" after "...75% rule" in the second bullet point. But is was rejected on the grounds that "compliance with all conditions of approval" covers it. It doesn't really cover it. The second bullet point instead creates two separate monitoring processes for compliance: The county will monitor wine production. Visitation and marketing must be monitored by neighbors. (Time to set up a vigilante committee.)
Dan Mufson tried to introduce a motion concerning compliance with the "food at cost" provision of the WDO, which again gets at the heart of increased winery profits and a cause of winery proliferation. Again it was defeated with the "all conditions of approval" defense.
In fact, proposal Z specifically writes off visitation and marketing as an area of enforcement by stating that "Visitation is particularly problematic. Wineries generally maintain log books or other means of counting visitors, but the log books cannot be verified for their accuracy. To be credible and to allow for successful prosecution of violations, standards must be defined and quantifiable."
This reinforces the notion that this committee is continuing to deal with issues, like parcel size, variances, and production compliance that are incidental to the real reasons that have led to community discontent and to the creation of this committee: to protect the county's agricultural character and substance from the impacts that continued tourism development in the vineyards is having and will continue to have in the future. [Mike Hackett's rant on this point earlier in the meeting is here.]
The variance discussion started out based on David Morrison's Proposal Z which has specific percentage deviations from the 600' and 300' foot road setbacks allowed in the WDO in varying amounts depending on location and property size. The committee came to a consensus that the approach was too number oriented and instead unanimously approved a statement to the effect that "Variances are not a principal tool to achieve compliance in land use development applications. If variances are considered, evidence must be present to meet all findings present." I can't see how this differs from the status quo. A third unanimous vote.
Two meetings left
The Proposal X matrix will be the topic of discussion at the next meeting, Aug. 10th. with preparation of final report to be handled at the last meeting after that. Eve Kahn, just before Chair Hall could adjourn, brought up the "defintion of agriculture" issue. Oh that, Mr. Hall seemed to say. Well perhaps in the 2nd half of next week's meeting or else in the last meeting when the report must be finalized. If there's time. Committee may submit definitions.
Good morning chair and committee members of TPAC. I'm Mike Hackett from Angwin.
I've been to all the TPAC meetings except for last week and that's not my impression of what's going on at all, honestly [promoting wine sales proposed by the previous speaker]. Just to take a step back it seems like we're all here really, not to beat around the bush, but to just take the distant view that we do have an imbalance here, and the problem is that tourism is taking the balance away from the residents who live there. That's why we're here. That's why everybody's here complaining, because the large corporations and winery owners and the tourism industry is dominating the philosophy and the politics in this county. There's no doubt about it. I was really enthused about this group, and I am a little disappointed at this point because now I realize the even before it was set up, it was set up to fail.
I actually had a supervisor, who will remain nameless, say to me "you didn't really expect that group to accomplish anything did you?" That's a supervisor and that's a direct quote. That's no anecdotal, that's from him to me to you. And it appears that that's what's going on. The tourism block has voted against any kind of restriction. raising the parcel size-no; small winery use permit-no; minimum amount of estate grapes-no; no net loss to vineyards-no; changing food service to accessory use-no; there's been nothing but no votes out of the industry. That's the facts, again non anecdotal. That's the facts.
Last week I was unable to attend so yesterday I spent two and half house [listening to] the audio which is OK, I'm glad you're getting the video this time. It was going pretty good until Mr. McCrae, speaking on behalf of the vintners said that the vintners are interested in the compliance issues and having some auditing and some self enforcing, and that's OK with production numbers, but if you start talking about events, they don't want anything to do with it, no copying [?] of events. Well that's the problem here. As it came out last week we have 23,000 events each year. It doesn't sound like much unless you bring it down to 64 in Napa County every day. 64 every day. Seems like a lot to me. Doesn't sound like the wine industry is just part of the problem, [but maybe] the whole problem.
Thank you Mr. Dunbar for bringing up a motion that was shot down immediately, and it was shot down because some people needed to talk to their constituents I was sickened by that. If you can't represent your constituents here you shouldn't be on the committee. You have to back to hem? it's ridiculous. How much more do we need? No more events. We've got 5.6 million dollars spent for tourism. I think you get the jist of what I'm saying. Thank you very much.
Many writings have managed to make their way on to this site, beyond the books on the resource page, that are thoughtful reading for anyone trying to come to grips with the impact of tourism in the vineyards. I have begun to collect them here:
While pursuing the July 14th video BOS meeting on the Melka appeal I came across the public comment made by Harvest Duhig at the beginning of the meeting. At the May 20th joint BOS-Planning Commission meeting I first heard Harvest Duhig speak on the desirability of allowing the small family "dream" winery in a push not to increase the 10 acre minimum parcel size for a winery. My take is here. From my standpoint her argument was compelling as long as the wineries were built to process wine and not to process tourists. As we know there are many small wineries in the county that somehow survive on very modest visitation to the winery. Some (like Screaming Eagle) allow no visitation at all. These wineries are preserving Napa agriculture and enhancing Napa's status as a world class wine region without creating the damage to the community that surrounds them or to the nature of the county that ever-increasing tourism is bringing.
Harvest Duhig is an alternate APAC member representing the Napa business community. At each subsequent APAC Planning Commission and at Planning Commission meetings she and others have spoken to represent the winery dreamers. But the concept of the small winery as a platform for increased tourism is now more apparent in their presentations and increasingly the purity of their intentions is suspect. Ms. Duhig speaks at the July 14th BOS meeting here, beginning at 00:38:38 into the video.
APAC meeting #7 spent the morning working its way through the issue of compliance and enforcement of winery use-permits. But not before the opening public comments:
Julie Arbuckle: read her statement on the capitalist imperative of winery development
Harvest Duhig: continued her dream campaign for 10 acre event centers.
Dario Sattui (of the mega tourism venues V.Sattui Winery and the Castello di Amorosa) could hardly contain his anger over government meddling in his business model
(no wonder the planning department has instituted security badges)
Ginna Beharry responding to Ms. Arbuckle: "do we predicate land use on individual return on investment?" Responding to Mr. Sattui: "what are the limits of growth?"
The imposing Mr. Sattui bullying his way up for a second 3 minutes: claiming that he is a "no growth" guy (beyond the development necessary to handle the hundreds of thousands of tourists he brings to the valley each year.)
The committee may have reached the high point of consensus in their approval of Proposal X at the last meeting, although what they approved was still a bit unclear. (I have found that in all of the votes taken thus far what is being voted on is a bit unclear.) They decided not to approve the last meetings minutes until more clarity from the as yet unavailable sound recordings are transcribed.
The compliance issue
This meeting was predominantly devoted to winery use-permit compliance. Previous meetings have dealt with the related issue of variances (related in that it is seen by many as sanctioned non-compliance of ordinances). It has never seemed to me that use-permit compliance should be an issue to get hung up on; yet it has become a big driver in community activism as seen in The Caves and Reverie. I have taken it as given that the county should and would ensure compliance with these use-permit conditions that are so bitterly fought over and finely bartered in the planning commission. Compliance should not be an issue for discussion - it just needs to be done if the cost and the time of the planning commission process is to have any meaning. But as Ted Hall pointed out, and as has been documented in the winery audits and as I try to bring out in my own screed on Compliance, there is a meaningful amount of (not necessarily willful) non-compliance in the county, documented in this recent Grand Jury report.
The proposals from committee members is are in the agenda letter. They are remnants of proposal F and proposals P, W and Y and all incorporate a signed annual certificate of compliance, with some statistics included. That brought up a discussion about what information is proprietary or not which then resulted in more research for the beleaguered staff to find out for the committee what info is proprietary or not.
An issue only brought up in public comments by Ginna Beharry, but which I feel is one area of compliance that really needs to be pursued is the WDO provision related to food service: i.e. that "food service is provided without charge except to the extent of cost recovery". It is clear what the intent of that provision is. Is a $125-$350 food and wine paring served at cost? How do restaurants that only get $50 for a meal survive. Is the $10 million invested in the event center part of the cost?
I was most intrigued by the proposal made by Dario Sattui in public comments: "Cheating on visitation is the only way to survive". Forget about compliance.
Given the grand jury report and now a second workshop on compliance proposed at the BOS and DIr. Morrison's new Proposal Z which melds the proposals regarding compliance already on the table, my hope is that in the next APAC meeting the committee immediately give a unanimous vote to proposal Z and move on to other issues like visitation and the definition of agriculture.
While I promised myself not to bother the APAC with further rants about tourism, the letter from Julie Arbuckle included in the meeting #7 documents needs a response. It illustrates as clearly as possible why there has been so much community concern about the development of event center wineries and why the Supervisors felt it was necessary to create the APAC.
The proliferation of wineries, built as dream projects by wealthy individuals with no economic justification for wine production but containing a heavy dose of tourists to justify their costs (and no doubt to admire the life-style of their owners), has occurred without consideration for the damage that tourism development does to the residential nature of affected neighborhoods or to the infrastructure, land and water resources of the county, or, in fact, to the viability of an economy based on agriculture.
There is no end of individuals in this world with the income to realize a dream winery of their own in one of the best known wine capitals on earth. Strong measures are necessary if all 4500 parcels currently allowed to have wineries are not to become event centers surrounded by tour buses and a dwindling garnish of vineyards, all in the name of selling wine that is currently being processed elsewhere in the county and currently sold through more efficient channels.
In specific response to the letter:
First: The small number of visitors in Proposal X insures that accessory uses such as tours, tastings, marketing and sales, are clearly incidental and subordinate to the main purpose of a winery as a processing facility as required by county ordinances and the general plan. If a winery is unprofitable as a grape processing facility, then perhaps the winery should not be built. In Napa county there are still profits to be made from growing grapes, which, of course, is the intention of the ag zoning. Owners should be encouraged to envision that as the highest and best use of their land rather than pursuing unnecessary and expensive building developments. The unused building costs might then be profitably invested in risk-free Treasury bonds to supplement grape profits.
As Ms. Arbuckle implies, tourism revenues are necessary to pay off the cost of these expensive and risky investments. But it is not the county's obligation to insure that all development projects become profitable. It is within the county's discretion to decide that unnecessary building projects not be built on ag lands, which I would urge them to do more often than they have.
Second: The agricultural preserve and the zoning regulations approved by the voters of Napa county were created exactly because growing things cannot compete profitably with other commercial or residential land uses. It is those commitments to a less profitable land use, made previously by far-sighted politicians and residents, that have allowed the wine industry to survive in a rapidly urbanizing world. To allow agricultural profits be supplemented by building construction and commercial uses in the vineyards makes a mockery of the purpose of the zoning.
Third: Direct-to-consumer sales at dream wineries represent a minuscule portion of the Napa brand wine being produced and sold. All DTC sales constitute about 14% of Napa brand wine sales. The bulk of that number is probably mail-order wine club sales which can be generated by many marketing ploys. Much of the rest is probably wine sold at major wineries in the valley. Are the negative tourism nightmares that one dream winery brings to its community, and the development impacts ever more visitors contribute to the county, worth a nonexistent increase to the economic viability of the Napa wine industry? Aren't direct winery sales and the explosion of dream wineries really just a convenient collaboration between a tourism industry's need for venues and entrepreneurs more interested in a glamorous "business" that doesn't require the legwork and effort that previous generations of vintners had to do to build their brands and the reputation of the Napa Valley?
In the near term all available Napa grapes will probably be processed into Napa wine and sold profitably on the world market whether more wineries are built or not. However, dream vintners, willing to pay any price, pump up the price of Napa grapes. Growers may profit in the short term, but an inflated grape price puts the real wine industry, the one that actually makes the quantity of Napa brand wines needed to compete in the world market, at an economic disadvantage. While dream wineries my bolster the local tourism economy, they may actually be making the Napa wine industry, and the survival of its vines, less viable in the future.
Finally the county should not base its decisions on the precedent of bad decisions previously made. The APAC has been convened exactly because permitted visitation numbers, like a stock market bubble, have been approved at unsustainable levels, encouraging further urban development that will eventually swamp the needs of agriculture for land and water. That development will kill the rural, small-town life that county residents have voted to preserve thereby allowing agriculture to survive.
The growth of an agricultural economy is limited by the land and water resources available. The county is reaching those limits and it is time to envision a stable economy and to question the self-serving notion that profits must forever increase or an economy dies. An ethic of ever increasing economic growth will only encourage, as evidenced in the dream wineries, the urban development of the vineyards - and at best the survival of agriculture as an incidental and subordinate accessory to tourist venues. Severe caps on visitation at wineries, perhaps even greater than those envisioned in Proposal X, are necessary to halt that trend.
[Letter sent to APAC committee member Peter McCrea and forwarded from the county as part of the APAC materials. Ms. Arbuckle has a proposed winery event center submitted to the planning department. My response to this letter is here.]
Dear Mr. Stults, Mr. McCrea, and Ms. Benvenuto,
I own and run a new, small winery in the Agricultural Watershed (“AW”) zone here in Napa, and recently received a copy of Proposal X, which I understand Napa County PBES put together as a framework for APAC discussions. Prior to pursuing our family dream of opening a Napa winery, I was a federal prosecutor in San Francisco for almost a decade, and am familiar with government functions and authority limitations. We are members of the Napa Valley Vintners, and have several major concerns regarding the contents of Proposal X.
First, Proposal X or anything similar to it would effectively amount to a ban on new wineries from opening in Napa Valley. It would further place a ceiling upon the growth prospects of existing wineries. Given that new wineries (and many established wineries) heavily depend on a high percentage of direct to consumer sales to be successful, Proposal X’s suggested limit of 50-75 visitors per week for wineries located in the AW, would constitute an unfair cap on direct to consumer sales and therefore winery revenues. The current cost of purchasing 20+ acres in Napa Valley, obtaining all requisite permits, winery construction, labor and product costs easily exceeds $10,000,000. At a maximum of 75 visitors per week, even with 100% of visitors spending $80 on wine at a given winery (which a recent study found is much less), a winery might expect revenues of $390,000 (75 visitors/wk x 52 wks/yr x $80 average purchase/visit). This would offer a new winery owner a yield on their $10M investment of only 3.9% or a return similar to one obtained by purchasing US Treasury bonds. Of course the Treasury bond yield is risk-free whereas the potential yield offered to the winery owner is fraught with all manners of risk. What new enterprising wine owner would launch their winery under these prospects? Very, very few would. What industry can survive in the long term given these conditions? The number of wineries in the Valley would effectively be capped, stagnating the industry and the local economy. This would also pressure grape growers by capping demand for fruit. It would further pressure other industries so dependent upon the wine business (vineyard and winery service and supply companies; the hotel and restaurant industry etc). In its current form, Proposal X literally has the ability to kill new winery development and retard existing winery growth, eventually causing the demise of Napa’s wine industry.
Second, Proposal X would give Napa wineries and grape growers little incentive to preserve the agricultural use of their land given that it would limit wineries’ direct to consumer sales to an unconscionably low level. Napa County has already driven up the cost of entry into the wine business to an extremely high level. All of the studies, analyses, plans, and reports Napa County now requires for winery Use Permits and Modifications can alone cost between $500,000 and $1,000,000, which does not even include the costs of land, planting vineyards, and building a winery. Instead of growing grapes, making wine, and selling wine direct to consumers in order to be successful, existing and potential wineries and grape growers will be incentivized to engage in other more profitable commercial activities, to sell their land for commercial development, or to move their winery operations to counties with far less onerous and expensive regulations.
Third, the rationale for the visitation, event, and production numbers in Proposal X is nonsensical and fails to recognize that the wine industry has adapted in the past 25 years to an increased dependence on direct to consumer sales. Industries unable to grow and adapt inevitably fail, which Proposal X ignores. Indeed, the contents of Proposal X do not match up with the visitation, event, and production numbers Napa County has supported and approved in recent years. In fact, Napa County has approved several wineries in the past few years with visitation, event, and production levels that are 300% to over 800% of the levels proposed in Proposal X. Notably, in calculating the average and mean numbers on which Proposal X is based, high outliers were excluded, but low outliers were not. Older wineries have set distribution channels, whereas newer wineries do not, and therefore, heavily depend on direct to consumer sales. The fact that Proposal X is based on average and mean visitation, event, and production levels of wineries that obtained their Use Permits 10-25 years ago when the wine industry was far less dependent on direct to consumer sales in tasting rooms further debunks the rational behind Proposal X.
In sum, I request your assistance in objecting to the contents of Proposal X as it proposes caps and limits on wineries, grape growers, and the local economy that will effectively ban new wineries and wineries needing increased visitation. It would also irreparably harm many grape growers who depend on a strong grape market for their livelihoods, and local businesses that depend on visitors to Napa Valley. Indeed, if Proposal X were to be adopted, not only wineries, but Napa’s local economy would be all capped out as it leaves no room for future growth.
Thank you for your time and consideration of these issues. Please let me you’re your thoughts regarding Proposal X, and how I can best express my concerns to the APAC and others considering it.
I always feel like I'm coming into the meeting halfway through despite having been there from the beginning, like in a dream where you are the only person that doesn't know what's going on. As the fixed agenda of discussing specific solutions collides with the numerous related or unrelated requests to the planning director for more analysis and his subsequent reports, there is agenda disorientation.
In open comments this time, vintner Bob Dwyer spoke about tourism and the original intent of the ag preserve, which relieved my nervousness at having to speak later. And Geoff Ellsworth warmed up the crowd with a performance piece, "a few words about greed in 3 minutes".
Several unrelated proposals from committee members and the public (pages 6-12 of the agenda letter) were made since the last meeting, my own included. Director Morrison assigned them to 5 buckets for discussion here:
1. A definition of agriculture and of accessory uses (U)
2. A framework for policies defining winery uses (X)
3. Enforcement and compliance issues at wineries (W,R,P)
4. A policy for Variances (O,T,R)
5. Agricultural Development Incentives. (V)
not categorized or part of 1?:
Toward the beginning of his presentation he reiterated Bill Dodd's contention that the 2010 changes to the WDO were "clarifications" rather than modifications of the ordinance. I was dismayed.
A discussion on the definition occupied almost an hour and a half. Dan Mufson with a magazine full of winery ads touting concerts, art exhibits, lunches and dinners, asked how that could be considered agriculture. The business members responded that most of those were "temporary" events and I suddenly realized why temporary event permits, which had been so low on my radar, were a big issue. They have become an enormous tourist revenue source completely unregulated by the use-permit process.
Dan used the word "tourism" in his remarks and I realized that the word is never, never used in these discussions, just as it is never used in the General Plan. The perhaps more accurate and unloaded terms "hospitality" or "visitation" are spoken, but the "T" word is the elephant in the room, the reason these meetings exist, and no one wants to say it's name.
At the end of the "consolidated definition" discussion Christina Benz raised an objection to the inclusion of marketing and non-commercial service of food as being agricultural activities equalivalent to grape processing wishing to move it down to the accessory use category. With the objection outvoted, a vote was taken on accepting the consolidated definition. (12-4 "for") The committee with almost no debate seemed to be accepting the idea that tourism is agriculture. Does this supermajority vote mean attempts to change that definition in the committee's final recommendations are dead?
(Personal note: my proposal, proposal U, suggesting a change in the WDO to reduce tourism uses at wineries, and essentially rejecting the notion of the equality of tourism and agriculture, was lumped into this bucket and, I thought, summarily ignored as off-the-wall, which perhaps it was. In fact the bulk of my proposal, 6 "recognitions" of the negative impacts of tourism in the vineyards, was cut entirely from Proposal U in the agenda letter. The polite and stony silence that greeted my verbal defense, laden with the "T" word, was a bad sign.)
The remainder of the meeting was devoted to Director Morrison's Winery Use-Permit Framework Proposal X (page 12 of the agenda letter), a grid of criteria that attempts to encapsulate a wide range of winery parameters grouped according to parcel size and location. It was another bravura feat of multilateral resolution that Director Morrison has brought to the many fractured ideas coming his way. It is too bad such a grid did not form the basis for previous discussions, but obviously the open ended discussion had to get this far to make the formulation of such a grid possible.
Proposal X was seen as a lifesaver by the committee in trying to come to grips with the complexity of the interrelated problems, David Graves' "wicked" problem, that they have been discussing through 6 meetings. The committee eagerly embraced it as an organizing framework for future discussions with the first unanimous vote in this process.
The issues of enforcement, variances and ag development incentives were put off until the next meeting on July 13th.
Chairman Hall, members of the committee, Director Morrison
My name is Bill Hocker. I submitted one of the proposals for this June 22nd APAC meeting. I figured that my proposal was so off topic, or off the wall, that I'd better say something - even though I've got a morbid fear of public speaking.
I'm here because a winery has been proposed next to our place at the top of Soda Canyon Road. I've spent the last year laying awake at night thinking about the project and its impact on the remoteness and quiet we have enjoyed these last 20 years. As a weekender, without an economic stake in the county beyond the property, I know I have little standing to be making proposals to this committee. But as we've found out over the last year, we're not alone in having to face the impacts posed by similar projects.
I talked to the developer about mitigations. His attitude was we can work something out. I then asked about deleting the tourism component. No, that was not negotiable.
It's been clear in almost all of the projects coming up before the planning commission in the last year that it was the tourism component driving the projects, not the need to make wine.
I made my proposal because I've been frustrated that the APAC discussions thus far, while acknowledging a desire to curb winery proliferation, have posed solutions that seem to me marginal to the real cause of that proliferation, their use as tourist venues.
These APEC meetings should be the place to begin to talk about the transfer from an agricultural to a tourist economy that the projects represent, - what that means for the wine industry and the residents.
What do you want this place to be known for 35 years from now? Still a first-tier wine producing region of the world, or a second-tier, perhaps over-the-hill, tourist destination?
The Napa wine industry is finite. New vineyard development is approaching its limits. But the tourism industry can expand indefinitely if allowed. Tourism needs to be a part of the county's economy. But real agriculture will survive only if the tourism industry remains, in the words of the WDO, incidental and subordinate to the wine industry.
Others have pointed out that protecting agriculture is part of a bigger picture than just winery development. Urban development throughout the county, whether for tourism or not, will only increase - not relieve - pressure for the Ag zones to be urbanized. We need a committee to address that probability.
But here you are trying to address a specific piece of that bigger picture - the "interspersing of non-agricultural activities throughout agricultural areas " warned about in the preamble of the 1990 WDO. Short of a moratorium the best way to do that, I think, is to insure that the decision to build a winery is based on the need to process grapes and not on the desire to process tourists.
Good morning Chair Hall and members of the committee, thank you for your service. I would certainly like to point out that the Grand Jury final report dated May 12, 2015 is out and if you have not seen this document you should get a copy of it. The Napa County Grand Jury recommended ( and I hope you take this into consideration with your recommendation during your deliberations) that “the County Board Of Supervisors and The Planning Commissioners determine whether the Winery Definition Ordinance as written provides the regulatory framework necessary to maintain a winery industry that is consistent with the Agricultural Preserve Ordinance.” That is key; that is important. Let us reflect back to that. I would recommend that the purpose of the Winery Definition Ordinance be considered as one of the primary goals of these deliberations. And also I suggest, that the definition of agriculture be returned to its original intent when we put the Agricultural Preserve Ordinance together in 1968. We should eliminate marketing and accessory uses from the definition of agriculture. They are no longer necessary. The wine industry pleaded that it was needed at the time the recession was wreaking havoc within the industry, but at this point I think we're beyond that. The investments now being seen, in terms of new wineries and expansions would indicate that obviously there is no problem anymore with marketing wine. Obviously we’re going to have more and more wineries, we’re going to have larger and larger wineries, and that is a pretty good indication that all is well in the wine industry today.
[my own modest suggestions for APAC consideration.]
Chairman Hall and Members of the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee
At the June 8th meeting Chairman Hall asked for members of the committee to prepare proposals describing what accessory uses should be allowed on agricultural land in Napa County.
I hope that you will allow non-committee members to offer their thoughts as well. As someone facing the prospect of a winery event center in my back yard I have some interest in the recommendations put forward by this committee.
I frankly think that the task before you is quite straightforward, and I would suggest the following outline for your ultimate recommendations:
1: Recognize that protecting agriculture is not a winery problem but a tourism problem. There are now development impacts being felt by communities throughout the county as more event center wineries are proposed and approved. Those impacts are not just to the quiet enjoyment of the communities in which they are located, but are part of a county-wide cascade of urban development necessary for the accommodation and maintenance of an ever increasing tourist population. That development puts urbanization pressure up against the maintenance of an agricultural economy. Residents, growers and concerned vintners have begun to realize that, as former Supervisor Mel Varrelman said, "tourism is a very destructive thing" when it comes to protecting agriculture in the county. Rising concern in the last couple of years about development impacts is why this committee has been formed.
2: Recognize that without tourism as a component of winery projects that the decision to build or not devolves to the economic need and feasibility for that winery as a processing facility. Given the declining need for processing, winery proposals should be encouraged to diminish rather than increase over time.
3: Recognize that this tourism trend has been exacerbated by modifications to the WDO in 2010. The 1990 WDO managed to survive 20 years because it embodied a balance between those interested in protecting the vineyards and those wishing to commercialize them. The 2010 modifications have changed and codified the balance heavily toward visitation and created ambiguity in what uses are appropriate. The changes were made against the backdrop of a wine industry slump during the recession, a slump that abated even before the changes to the WDO had an impact. They were changes heavily promoted by the tourism industry.
4: Recognize that food service is an inappropriate use for an agricultural processing facility. While there may be a justification for tours of factories and for the sampling of their products as a means of education and marketing, the serving of food crosses a boundry between education and entertainment. Food service for tours and tastings was a significant of aspect of the 2010 WDO modifications and is at the heart of the transition of wineries from processing facilities to event centers.
5: Recognize that the at-winery direct-to-consumer model of wine marketing, cited also as a justification for 2010 changes to the WDO, is a tourism industry solution to a problem of its own devising. Of course dozens of small, inefficient wineries, costing more in construction and operations costs than they can reasonably recoup from wine sales, will need some other form of help to remain in business. The tourism industry solution? - tourists. The problem is not that wine is now harder to market, the problem is that there are too many small wineries to market wine efficiently.
6: Recognize that the 1990 WDO was not completely up to the task of preventing the intrusion of tourism events into the vineyards. Even before the recession, un-permitted tourism uses proliferated because of ambiguity in the wording of marketing events and because the county has had few resources to enforce permit compliance at wineries, especially given that ambiguity. Only now, as wineries are being sold or expanded or their event activities rise to a public nuisance level, are requests for "recognize and allow" permits coming forward, necessitated by a lack of appropriate enforcement early on.
1: Recommend that the 2010 WDO modifications be rescinded in their entirety.
2: Recommend that the language of the "Marketing of Wine" definition in the 1990 WDO be changed to eliminate the ambiguous and all-encompassing phrase, "or members of a particular group for which the activity is being conducted on a pre-arranged basis."
3: Recommend that county staff be empowered with the means too adequately detect and enforce non-compliance of use-permits at wineries.
Editorial Board editorials are on a different page than the regular ones and since those about development issues are rare I missed this one - and it is important.
The development issues impacting the protection of agricultural land at present are indeed larger than just the impacts created by the tourism industry. And in controlling future development that threatens that land, the municipalities and the county need to work at the problems together (although the negotiations over Napa Pipe don't augur well). Yet of the various economic sectors, it is the tourism sector that has the most explosive growth trajectory. The Napa wine industry is constrained by its grape resource. The service industries, government, health care, education, public safety, retail-commercial will grow only at the rate set by other job creation. The growth of tourism and to a much lesser extent the light industrial in south Napa (including non-Napa wine processing) will become the drivers of population expansion in the county and should be the targets of control.
New job creation is a sign of profitable economic growth and too many jobs for too few houses, and roadways jammed with busy workers, is a problem that most governments would probably hope to have ("good" problems in Supervisor Luce's words on Mar. 10th). That is unless the goal of that government is to maintain undeveloped land for agriculture. Both the cities and the county should be working on their own solutions to curb the rise in visitors and tourism workers if the needs of those tourists and workers are not to continue rapid urban development and push the wine industry in to an ever more subordinate and incidental role in the county's economy.
It is probably too late to solve the problem that over-population (of residents , visitors and workers) poses in maintaining an agricultural economy. Housing creation in the county has been successfully curbed by Measure A, passed in 1980, to a maximum of 1%, but unfortunately similar restraints have not been placed on job creation or visitation, hence ever increasing traffic problems. The only solution now suggested is an increase in housing - more development to ease the problems created by development, a cycle that will never end as the vines continue to disappear.
I am Patricia Damery, and I live at 3185 Dry Creek Road, in Napa County, where my husband and I are growers. I am also a Jungian psychoanalyst in private practice here in Napa. I want to read a quote from the psychiatrist and philosopher C. G. Jung, who wrote a great deal about balance with nature, whether that nature be our inner nature, the lion's share of my work with patients, or the natural world - the lion's share of our work in farming.
The facts of nature cannot in the long run be violated. Penetrating and seeping through everything like water, they will undermine any system that fails to take them into account.
If we fail to put first the facts of nature - the needs of a healthy environment - everything is undermined, including the economics of our Valley. Yet who will advocate for Nature? Director Morrison, as you so eloquently pointed out at the CEQA workshop on Saturday, CEQA, while an important and groundbreaking process, is not that advocate. As that ad on NPR says, Nature needs an attorney.
But, potentially, Nature has you, APAC. That's how this all got started. You are in an unprecedented position of advising the Board of Supervisors, which does have the power to act on behalf of Nature. If we continue with the status quo, letting money drive the machine, as it appears to be doing now, the result will be the further commercialization of our watersheds and result in further environmental degradation.
We have a tool already that is part of our General Plan, the Oak Woodland Management Plan, but it is voluntary. Advise making it mandatory. If we allow economic and business interests and fine wines to trump our fine forests and oak woodlands, Nature still holds the final card. We need your bold leadership that goes against business as usual. I ask you to make those bold recommendations to the people who can implement them.
At the last meeting Chairman Ted Hall suggested that the committee spend some time at the beginning of this meeting to discuss what are the appropriate accessory uses on agricultural land. Staff responded with a table of the uses that are allowed in the general plan in both AP and AW zones.
The meeting began with open public comments:
Norma Tofanelli: Need to deal with big picture. cities must be involved
Ginna Beharry: sustainable growth consultant required.
Kelly Anderson: auction attracts usustainable developers
Rex Stults: auction nets $15 mil - for charity!
Clay Gregory: 12% more tourism in 2014 than 2012, goal; fill in slow periods
Rudy Von Strausser; Look at the money spent by each winery visitor!
Rob Mondavi: Ag Preserve is successful. WDO works. No more restraint of trade or property rights needed.
Chair Hall then began the agenda of this meeting by asking (roughly) "What is the problem we are trying to solve? How does each of the policies we propose enhance preservation and protection of agriculture?" It was to be a shift of the discussion away from the predefined topics that had been laid out by the BOS and Dir. Morrison, issues which had so far seemed like they were on the margins of the real problems of protecting agricultural lands.
Members responded in a wide ranging fashion
Christina Benz: sustainable water use
Eve Kahn: event centered visitation, enforcement needed
Charles Hasson: ag must be sustainable
Jim Dunbar: cities have role, wine tasting in cities works
Cio Perez?: enforcement, events not to be profit centers
Dan Mufson: public costs of over-visitation
Ted Hall: enforcement or compliance, certificate of compliance !!
Director Morrison then gave his report:
Some revisions to the capacity numbers.
Unfortunate Labyrinthine winery definitions
Relatively few variances over 20 years.
Code enforcement has limitations
And then he laid out the division of tasks now going on in the county:
Enforcement issues to be taken up by BOS
Climate Action Plan to be taken up by Planning Comm.
Visitation has been taken up by staff.
The chairman then posed these questions, I thought rhetorically, to Dir. Morrison:
Is a movie night an appropriate winery use? A Wedding? Corporate Meeting? Paid Concert? Sale of Apparel? A meal equivalent?
The director dutifully answered each question: if the movie is relaed to wine eduction. no weddings. if the corporate meeting has a wine education component. concert treated as temporary event with permit. No apparel. Food service if supplied at cost.
Again a wide ranging statement of positions and questions came from the committee and public.
Cio Perez: sustainable use is not the most profitable use, less focus on economics
Jim Kridet: is primary use as event center? enforcement and self regulation
Charles Hasson: clarify accessory uses.
Eve Kahn: can temp events be WDO non-compliant?
John Dunbar: self regulation ineffective, neighbor regulation a burden
Deborah Dhomer: economic viability most important
Ted Hall: 2010 WDO change created regulatory ambiguity
Bruce Phillips: 1990 WDO about wine and trade events. 2010 WDO about visitation and public events, other accessory metrics needed than area
Cio Perez: 40% area too large, move it in town
Peter McCrea: self regulation can work through NVV
Dan Mufson: sign compliance document
Sharon Gardner: 2010 unintended consequencs, weigh impacts, how many wineries can the county bear?
Geoff Ellsworth: 2010 changed zoning from ag to commercial use.
Norma Tofanelli: staff should define marketing event, tours & tasting, food and wine paring.
Yeoryios Apallas: require statement of compliance, reduced visitation as penalty, cities + county needed to solve problems
Mike Hackett: revoke use permits for non compliance
Rob Mondavi: accessory use to focus on wine but marketing is required
Ginna Beharry: winery success cannot be at neighbor's expense
Chair Hall brought the meeting back to the committee to discuss the Setback Variance question, citing 102 issued since 1990 mostly for road setbacks. He indicated that some people had a misunderstanding about variances - that they were not the same as u-p modifications. I don't think that anyone in the room thought they were. He said that the setbacks were created to maintain the vision of wineries in a landscape. But setbacks have unintended consequences- as with Longmeadow Ranch the setback moves the project into the floodplain. Setback variances have become a hot button issue in planning commission hearings. Discussion here revolved around the use of setback variances to deny use-permits. Several preservationists dismissed that notion. (I think he was right). Dan Mufson's "If it doesn't fit you must (a)quit" got a laugh.
Dir. Morrison responded that variances reflect the priority of importance in building loacement. He also made one of the most interesting admissions of the day: 2010 changes to WDO created ambiguity and ambiguity is difficult to enforce.
Committee members and the public had their say
Cio Perez: if wineries can't comply with setbacks then they shouldn't be there.
Eve Kahn: setbacks prevent winery strip malls
Bruce Phillips: use permit is not a property right.
Cio Perez: 7 points must be met to grant variance.
Kelly anderson: viewshed oridinance needs clarifiaction
Ginna Beharry: winery not a property right, denying a winery is not a taking
Yeoryios Apallas: Topanga decision?
Norma Tofanelli: Topanga decision? (requires written findings for variances)
Chair Hall gave a 'homework assignment" to members of the committee to come up with their own definitions for accessory use in a format similar to the preamble of the WDO. (Which I took to mean the "findings of fact" in the 1990 WDO, or the "whereas statements" of the 2010 WDO.) Proposals were to be received by Jun 15th when Dir. Morison would attempt to categorize them for the next meeting on the 22nd.
The revised meeting schedule is here
I don't know if I am mis-remembering but somehow the visitation topic that I thought was in previous schedules seems to be missing here. Drastically limiting or eliminating visitation is, of course, the only significant way curb the desire to convert vines to buildings and hence to protect agriculture, the nominal reason this committee exists.
The capacity question
Staff and members of the committee have spent mountains of time trying to analyize the amount of pre and post-WDO capacity to see if there currently exists enough capacity to process the whole of the Napa grape crop. It is a question the county has struggled with for years complicated by the unknown quantity of Napa grapes used by pre-WDO wineries and the difference between permitted capacity and actual production. The concept is: If enough capacity mandated under the 75% rule exists then no more wineries are needed to process Napa grapes, a moratorium on wineries can be enacted. And the APAC can pack up and go home.
Director Morrison's parsing of 25 years of numbers indicates that only 18 mil gals of the 28 mil gal grape crop are required to be processed in Napa county. The conclusion is that 13 (10 x 1.3) mil gals of new capacity must be created to require the entire crop to be processed in county.
The numbers do not acknowledge that exempt wineries are users of Napa grapes. Exempt wineries want it both ways. They will never give up using Napa grapes to put in their Napa labeled high-end wines but they want the right to expand their businesses by shifting that capacity to new 75% facilities, and bringing cheaper imported grapes to fill their old tanks in the AP/AW zones. We need to know what portion of the Napa grape crop is processed by exempt wineries and that capacity should be accounted for under the 75% rule. Building new wineries to process grapes the owners will not be able to obtain, or will have to poach from other wineries, makes no sense (other than to the hospitality industry).
Accrording to staff numbers, the permitted capacity of all wineries in the AP/AW zones + cities is 78 mil gallons. The current Napa grape crop (+33% imported grapes) is 37 mil gallons. The capacity of those wineries is at least 2 times the amount needed to process the entire current Napa crop and at least 1.7 times that required to process the projected 2030 crop. There is no need for more capacity. Rather than building new wineries, the excess capacity in existing wineries should be utilized. Winery expansions done solely to be able to import cheaper grapes into the AP zone should end. Wineries with excess capacity can offer custom crush arrangements. Good for them, cheaper than new buildings for the startups, good for the protection of agricultural lands. A permanent moratorium on new wineries in the AP/AW zones should be declared.
In the absence of a complete moratorium on wineries in the AP/AW zones Proposal C should be implemented.
It eliminates tourism from the vineyards which is by far the largest impetus for the proposal of unnecessary wineries, and by far the most corrosive impact on communities and the character and resources of the county. It makes the decision between one's own winery or a more efficient custom crush facility a realistic choice. It encourages people committed to the craft of winemaking rather than the business of wine entertainment.
A 75% estate grape requirement would give some flexibility to winemaking decisions.
One failing in this proposal is the 40% development area. The current standard is 25% for the winery development area. Tourist parking now becomes a non issue. Does a house and a 15000 gal winery really need more than 2.5 acres? Keep the size at 2.5 acres for a 10 acre parcel plus 1 acre for every 10 acres above that.
The other failing is that it applies only to parcels between 10 and 40 acres. It should apply to all parcels above 10 acres. Short of a complete moratorium, this needs to be the standard for the development of any winery or winery expansion in the AW/AP zones going forward.
Visitation must remain at 20 per week regardless the size of the winery. New buildings on ag lands must be entirely about processing grapes, not processing tourists. The creation of new tourist venues done solely for the expansion of the tourism industry needs to end.
In the absence of a moratorium or of the conditions proposed in Proposal C, we must choose from the laundry list of Proposal F
1. Yes, an immediate one year moratorium so that these discussions are not taking place against the contentious hearings and appeals on specific winery proposals, and so that staff isn't being driven crazy with the demands of 3 different masters and the necessity prepping for continuous continuances. Staff needs to be able to focus right now on planning for the next 35 years with as few distractions as possible.
2-12. Yes to everything with one modification. Substitute "tours and tastings" for the words "visitation" and "marketing". As I have gone into elsewhere on this site, food service is the hard core of the conversion of a winery into an event center and the transfer of an agricultural to a tourism economy. It is food service that makes a winery a profitable endeavor independent of the wine sold, essentially creating wine-themed restaurants, banqueting halls and party venues. The 2010 changes to the WDO were only about the expansion of food service in wineries. If nothing else changes in the WDO, the simple prohibition of food service at all wineries will do more than anything else to protect agriculture against the corrosive influx of tourism development.
[email sent via Admin Clerk Mellisa Frost and Planning Director David Morrison]
To: Chairman Ted Hall of APAC
From: Michael Hackett
282 S. White Cottage Rd.
Angwin, Ca 94508
I would like to point out a procedural change that I believe would assist the committee by allowing constructive criticism from the "public" during the meetings forthcoming.
Currently the procedure has been to allow public testimony at the outset of each meeting with views NOT related to the subject of the specific meeting. All well and good, of course.
Later we get the words from County staff, followed by dialogue within the individual members who are assigned to the APAC. Typically then, motions are made, straw votes are taken, without any comments or suggestions from the citizens.
Only AFTER the APAC has deliberated and formed its decisions, does the public get an opportunity to give voice to the issues at hand. This is NOT the way either the BOS or PC run their meetings.
Last week, the "noon, witching hour" was upon us, and public comments were almost shut out. Only after County Counsel advised otherwise, were citizens allowed to "weigh in" with their comments.
My suggestion is to allow the public to speak to the issues at hand, BEFORE votes are taken and certainly before the day's agenda is completed.
After four meetings the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee is possibly beginning to see that just tweaking metrics in the WDO may not be so easy. The three items to be discussed, no-vineyard-loss requirement, estate grape requirement, minimum property size for a winery, were resolved by the staff into 5 options (with a sixth catch-all option to contain future discussion items - which were the most important items) The Board Agenda Letter with those options is here.
The no-vineyard-loss requirement was discussed first and taken out of contention for further discussion (4 for, 13 against). Some pointed out that a loss, though small, is permanent. Ted Hall pointed out the inverted results that might cause acreage to be taken out of production and be held for future development. (I, of course, would not have used the term "loss of vineyards" but "loss of arable land".)
Next was the estate grape requirement which was defeated (6 for, 11 against) but not by the 2/3 supermajoritey necessary to make it a 'committee recommendation'. Again Mr. Hall pointed the inverse results from a requirement that would de-emphasize growers in favor of on-site wine production increasing the construction of wineries.
Three options delt with parcel size: 10 acre minimum to remain (11 for, 6 against) ; 40 acre minimum possibly including some restrictions on parcels between 10 and 40 acres (8 for, 9 against) ; 10 acre minimum with substantial restrictions between 10 and 40 acres. (11 for, 6 against). Some felt this to be a non-decision because no supermajority was reached. But I sensed that some distinction might ultimately be recommended between the treatment of 40+ parcels and 10-40 parcels.
By the end of the parcel-size discussion several people had posed the idea that what happened on the parcel might be more important than the parcel size. At the end of this meeting when Director Morrison reminded everyone that the next meeting should deal with variances, there was a sense that this discussion had raised issues that needed to be discussed first: what non-agricultural uses (meaning the wineries and accessory uses that are currently defined as agriculture in the General Plan) are appropriate for the AP/AW zones - the same discussion that led to the 1990 WDO. It is that general discussion that needs to happen again in light of the evident success but also of the recognized but unmitigated impacts of the approach taken 25 years ago, impacts that are now changing the quality of life in Napa County.
It is inevitable that the committee will eventually stumble into the real issues driving the desire to build more wineries despite the fact that there is little need for more winery capacity in the county to process Napa grapes. Those issues are the increased profitability of tourism at wineries, the expression of wealth that a tourism winery allows and the increased profitability of grape source shifting at pre-WDO wineries. Are these appropriate reasons to build unnecessary production facilities on irreplaceable AP and AW lands?
As was also noted by Director Morison, the development impacts that have given rise to these meetings will not be solved by winery limitations - they will require a broader conversation with the municipalities, and we are still waiting for those meetings to begin. The winery proliferation is just one facet of that development but one has to start somewhere. Stay tuned.
I’m here today speaking with you today as a result of work over nearly ten years protecting one of our most valuable watersheds, that is the headwaters for both Moore Creek and Conn Creek which feed Napa’s water supply from Lake Hennessey.
Over the last year I could sense the growing wider concern throughout the County, and with Volker’s passing, it became mandatory that we all step up and take action. In a perfect world, I’d take the opportunity to talk with each of you personally, but we don’t have the time….thus I take this chance to speak to all of you at once.
Therefore just a bit about my history: I grew up in small dairy farm/lumber community in Washington. Only reason I mention it is because literally in my back yard was the open forest to play in as a kid. After college I flew for the Navy during VietNam and I was turned into an idealist. I got an airline job in mid seventies and chose to live in Napa because it was rural, beautiful and green! I had a Christmas tree farm in Browns Valley 20 years and raised my kids there. I retired 10 years ago and moved up to Angwin to get away from the crowded city of Napa.
I bring this up to point out that I do NOT have a dog in this fight. I don’t own a winery, don’t run a restaraunt, don’t work in the wine industry, etc. I have the purest of reasons, that is the preservation of what I cherish here. I have altruistic reasons only.
We sense traffic problems, crowds, intrusions into our watersheds, winery/event centers exposing rural homes to noise and traffic pollution, wineries turned into event centers and most troubling: compliance problems. In last few weeks: Melka, across from Titus, Caves at Soda Canyon, Markham, Bell, etc. with Reverie coming, Yountville Hill, Wools Ranch, etc.
Many of these problems are a result of errors in judgement. Including language in the GP that includes the marketing and production of wine as ag, loosening of the WDO to include food events, the attitude of the previous Planning Director, the ever-improving economy which puts increasing pressure on this County for expansion of new wineries. It’s a natural aspiration to own Napa Valley vineyard and build a winery, especially now with the new marketing schemes.
WE ARE IMPORTING APPROX 25,000.000 GALLONS OF JUICE EACH YEAR WHICH MEANS WE PRODUCE TWICE THE AMOUNT OF WINE THAN GRAPES WE GROW.
As Mark Luce said at the Mar 10th meeting:
"The justification ... for putting yet another new winery into our ag resource area is much thinner than it has ever been in the past. And I think that we are really faced with a question of why should this be allowed to continue. And what does this mean for the next 25 years?"
1. Yes on 40 acre minimum with 90% grown on parcel
2. Weekend traffic is tourism - no new industrial processing
3. Weekday-stagger workers schedules and mandate marketing/sales into the cities
4. Protect our watersheds at all costs with restrictive regulations
5. Put some teeth in compliance and increase oversight including fines
JFK said “Ask not what your Country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” We should all be asking this same about our County, “ask not what this County can do for you, but what you can do for this County.”
I watched the May 20th 2015 Napa County Planning Commission meeting on video from the county Website. I think it was a really important meeting. I appreciated Ted Hall’s comments about looking at the Big Picture. I think everyone should watch this meeting if you can. The meeting does an excellent job of delineating many of the issues we are talking about here.
We are hearing a lot here about “The Dream”. the Dream people say they have about things like having their own winery someday. I understand that, I really do.
I have a dream too. My dream is to protect Napa County Agriculture and to protect the communities here that allow Napa County Agriculture to exist. I am here to stand up for the citizens who allow Napa County to be a Right-to-Farm County.
The major threat we are seeing, in conjunction with water availability, is over-visitation leading towards urbanization. Our infrastructure and our communities are staining to accommodate this over-visitation and if we keep on this present course, will break. This is urbanization by over-visitation and it will compromise our Ag Preserve growing region and the communities who live here.
This must be a part of every conversation in trying to solve this problem.
(In searching for an analogy I spent this morning looking at pictures of capsized ferry boats. You can only put so many people on these boats before they tip over or sink).
Our two lane roads are the limiting factor in the system. if we overload their capacity, whether the visitation happens in a municipality or in the county, we risk a breakdown of the entire system. We risk breaking the nest Egg that is the Ag Preserve.
When I first got involved in this over a year ago I realized that in order to be effective I had to make the commitment that my actions in this could in no way benefit myself.
That is an ideal. It doesn’t mean it has to be forever but this is such a complex problem that I believe if we all can ALL start looking past how any of this is going to benefit ourselves personally, then we can start looking at the Big Picture of what it’s going to take to protect Napa County Agriculture AND our communities who live here.
The County planning staff has done the yeoman's job of trying to organize the many proposal suggestions made at the May 11th meeting into a group of coherent options for further discussion by the committee.
At APAC meeting #3 numerous proposals (here and here and here) were submitted nominally relating to minimum parcel size for wineries, estate grape requirement and vineyard loss requirements. The range of proposals was quite varied, not always sticking to the topic. Which is just as well since the topics were in fact pre-defined solutions to problems that had yet to be discussed or defined. In my opinion, as laid out here, the problems and solutions involved in the protection of agriculture will not be solved by minor tweaks to the metrics of the WDO.
But that being said, a couple of the proposals did really wrestle with the minimum parcel size issue and put it into a larger context that hints at the problems. Several proposals (D, I, L) would allow wineries on 10 acre parcels subject to severe restrictions on visitation. My own feeling is that if visitation to the vineyards is severely restricted the other issues of winery proliferation will sort themselves out. I, of course, favor the one proposal not even considered for discussion - an end to winery construction in the vineyards.
The most well thought out proposal, IMHO, was by grapegrowers Walt and Bernadette Brooks. It is here. It attempts to cover many bases and as such would be a good basis for discussions. Their proposed matrix doesn't need a rocket scientist to understand, accommodates all sized parcels, defines a relationship between parcel size, production capacity and visitation, differentiates between AP (tourism ag) zone and AW (residential ag) zone. Most importantly, the visitation numbers are low, in keeping with the (grossly abused) directive in the WDO that marketing is to be "clearly incidental, related and subordinate" to the making of wine. In fact, the argument really needs to be made that if a winery can't survive without the income that visitation brings, then visitation isn't at all incidental or subordinate to the making of wine. It is the main activity of the winery and without it the winery probably would not, and definitely should not be built.
(I also like the Brooks proposal because it includes two really important ideas: Visitation is based on actual production not permitted capacity. Visitation can only take place during daylight hours.)
Standardizing the visitation numbers for all wineries (including retroactively for existing ones) , which will level the competitive playing field, reduce the arbitrary nature of visitation requests, and reduce the difficulty of enforcement, is the most important issue that this committee can undertake. Is that part of its mandate?
Director Morrison has also made a visitation proposal and matrix to be presented to the Planning Commission on May 20th 2015 (1 yr anniversary of the start of this review process), with modestly higher numbers but a wide range of modifiers for the Commission to evaluate. (Brooks proposes .1 visitor/gal/yr, Morrison proposes .126 (or .106) visitor/gal/yr).
Both of these matrices eliminate the distinction between tours-and-tasting visitors and marketing event visitors, a distinction that has all but disappeared in the 2010 WDO but becomes an enormous numerical distraction in the use-permit proposals. Both matrices deal with visitation numbers on a yearly basis - which is the only practical basis for dealing with them. (This coincides with the Dan McFadden suggestion that yearly numbers be established for visitation in the use permits giving the wineries the descretion to divide up the number as they wish.)
Visitation is at the heart of the winery proliferation problem and I hope that this becomes the principal focus of APAC in the coming weeks. As David Graves has pointed out in one of the letters here, the committee is dealing with a "wicked" problem that may need a lot more discussion before any more straw polls are taken on specific solutions. Proposal L would be one place to start.
The various members of the APAC made their first position statements at meeting #3 of the committee. Some of those proposals are here and here and here. Ted Hall, chairman of the committee, had asked that participants weight in on 3 topics in their position paper: 1. requirement for changed minimum parcel size. 2. requirement to stop vineyard loss by development. and 3. requirements on the use of estate grapes.
The responses made by the committee (not all of which are in the proposal pdf's above) were reviewed and tabulated by Mr. Hall and presented in a table that tried to sort the responses into 5 different categories ranging roughly from no changes to 40 acre minimum with additional conditions. It was a valiant effort to stay within the fixed parameter discussions that Dir. Morrison has laid out for these discussions. Near the end a straw poll of the committee was taken to see which side members would come down on: keep 10 acres (8 in favor) or go to 40 acres (6 in favor), 1 (or 3) abstain. But given the range of conditionals in each proposal few seemed sure how committed their vote was. Not on the table, of course, was the 'no new winery' approach advocated by Sup. Luce ( and anybody else really concerned about "agricultural protection"). IMHO, the most thoroughly thought out of the proposals was from non-committee members Walt and Bernadette Brooks, of Brooks Family Vineyrds, proposal L here and deserves specific discussion.
Also not discussed was how changing the the minimum parcel size would protect agriculture. The implicit understanding was that 4500 wineries could be built on properties of 10 acres or more versus 2000 wineries on parcels of 40 acres or more. Do you want more or fewer wineries? But since at most 10 new wineries per year are being proposed it seems unlikely that one minimum or the other will make a difference. Especially since most of the new wineries are proposed by the mega wealthy somewhat unconcerned about the cost of that additional 30 acres.
Little discussion was given to estate grape requirement. The important question of what constitutes the estate was asked and the opinion was voiced that it was understood to include long term (again undefined) grape contracts as well as all properties owned by the winery owner. A very loose definition indeed. (The official definition is here.) Almost no discussion went to vineyard loss, which was dismissed under the weight of Morrison's conclusion that 1 acre had been lost in the valley for every 10 acres gained in the hillsides. No problem paving over the valley floor with a ratio like that.
One dynamic taking place is the coalition of young vintners that is defending the 10 acre minimum, represented by Harvest Duhig, Graham McDonald and others in one of the letters here. The word dream and the concept of the small, family winery were invoked often. Their dream unfortunately aligns with the status-quo-is-good-for-tourism attitude represented by Visit Napa Valley rep Stanley Boyd. The what-about-the-little-guy rhetoric brings up images of politicians sanitizing the interests of their corporate sponsers. One reaction from a skeptic: give a property a use permit, no matter how restricted, and future requests will turn it into a tourism event center. Time will tell, but I hope this group is a throwback to the founding ethos of the ag preserve - people committed to their craft as wine makers and willing to forgo maximizing profits and the tourism centric direction that threatens the resources upon which agriculture depends.
The "Napa Brand" was brought up several times in the conversation. Everyone seems to know what that means, and the term seems to bolster everyone's argument. But a discussion about defining and then maintaining the "Napa Brand" was also not part of the agenda. The comparison of the Napa Brand to that of Bordeaux or Burgandy was brought up by one of the growers, and recalled to my mind the Dan McFadden letter presented at the Mar 10th joint BOS/PC meeting. His analysis of the "big picture" confronting the Napa Brand and the future that we would all like to see is the most convincing advanced so far.
In a public comment Ginny Simms asked the committee to conduct their discussions by identifying the problems and working down to the solutions instead of proposing solutions in a vacuum. Seems pretty sensible. But the protection of agriculture in Napa county is dependent on solving problems that go beyond the narrow focus on metrics by this committee, indeed on decisions about a trajectory of urban development that is only partially related to the wine industry. One aspect of that urban development is the growth of the tourism industry that feeds on and will eventually consume the wine industry. Limiting that exploitation may help, and preventing the encroachment of that industry into the vineyards should be, at least, the top goal of this committee.
If tourism were eliminated from the definition of a winery, most of the winery proposals in the pipeline, who's reason to be is the potential for tourism profits or the allure of an ostentatious display of wealth, would simply disappear. The questions of parcel size, estate grapes, and vineyard loss would depend on the economic decisions based on the need to process grapes, and given the surplus capacity already existing (even if Dir. Morison wishes to deny it) , the number of use permits requested would crash. Without tourism as a cover it would also be more difficult for the pre-WDO wineries to shift Napa grapes to new tanks so they can process more central valley grapes in the old.
The long term survival of an agricultural economy requires the recognition that urban growth, which may be seen as a sign of prosperity and jobs in non-agricultural economies, and is definitely promoted as such by governments and entrepreneurs alike, means the ultimate demise of an agricultural economy. That is the real discussion that we need to have.
At the May 6th BOS meeting winemaker Harvest Duhig spoke up in defense of the 10 acre minimum parcel size for winery development. The ongoing APAC meetings are considering raising the minimum to 40 acres. Her argument is that the larger parcel sizes will merely make wineries affordable only to ever more wealthy individuals, a trend that is already corrupting the authenticity of the Napa Brand, and freezing out younger winemakers. The higher cost of winery property will only encourage a greater reliance on tourism income to offset larger development costs.
Her proposed solution attempts to bring a sense of authenticity back to the term "family winery", itself having been corrupted as a marketing catch phrase. It is an approach that makes sense and is not unlike the "true" family winery that I have proposed elsewhere on this site as a substitute for the current WDO. The conditions she outlines, that production capacity be tied to the parcel's grape production potential and that the owner be a full time resident are a start in re-establishing winemaking as a committed craft in Napa rather than an a tourist experience. We may, or may not, differ over the amount of visitation necessary for such a winery to survive. But winery tourism has impacts, and if this "true" family winery approach is not to just recreate the current corrosive trend, it must succeed on the basis of the quality of its wine and not on the basis of visitor numbers. There are many respected examples in the county, like White Rock Vineyards on Soda Canyon Road or the cult wine Screaming Eagle that do just that.
Harkening back to the origins of the modern Napa wine industry, this approach emphasizes wine making as the enabler of a rural way of life in an urban world, not as a return on investment or exposition of wealth. Is it too late to begin to reverse the marketing-event land use policies that continue to foster ever greater urban development and the eventual decline of this rural environment? Is there just too much money involved in tourism at this point, as Dir. Morrison conceded at one meeting? It is well worth discussing an approach that replaces the current WDO with a policy that encourages those committed to the craft of wine making by discouraging the business of wine marketing in the vineyards.
It is frankly a very even-handed analysis of the situation, calling politely on those who may profit from more development to stand up and be heard against the "small but vocal anti-growth group" that has brought these issues to the fore (meaning the residents, vintners and growers who see the current trajectory of urban development as a long-term threat to agriculture and the rural nature of the county).
One thing was clear after the 2nd meeting of the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee. A 17 member body, each with very different agendas and experience levels will need some time to sort things out and come up with consensus recommendations to the Planning Commission by the Sept 2nd deadline.
After a morning of trying to keep things focused on an exploration of the interrelated issues of minimum property size for a winery, estate grape requirement and loss of vineyard acres to winery development, Chairman Ted Hall requested that a proposal on those issues from each participant and the groups they represent be made at the new meeting on May 11th.
Dir. Morrison has made every effort to craft these meetings in a structured way, as a judge might with jury deliberations, but individual members, and the public who were allowed to participate, each had their own positions to stake out and this was the first opportunity to do so. Despite the wealth of statistics that Dir. Morrison has been able to marshall in the last couple of months, what they all mean and whether they are enough is not very clear at this point and Mr. Hall warned the committee cannot expect all questions to be answered with data.
The preset agenda for this and the next two meetings seemed to preclude one question that should be resolved before all of the others: Sup. Luce's question: Is there enough capacity already to process all of the napa grape crop and is there a reason to keep building wineries in Napa County. Morrison gave his answer at the Mar 10th meeting. Some 18 mil gallons of wine are required by use permit since 1990 to be made from napa grapes. The current crop of napa grapes will produce about 28 mil gallons of wine. His answer: no, he can still approve 192 50,000 gal wineries (or 500 more 20,000 gal wineries) before capacity is reached. But that assumption means that eventually no Napa grapes will be processed by pre-WDO wineries, or by city wineries or by the airport wineries, which together currently produce 81% of the wine in the county. It is a questionable assumption and one that needs debate. Vintner Bruce Phillips and NFB rep Lucio Perez challenged that assumption in their discussion without getting much support, I felt.
Dir. Morrison also gave the Tesla defense for continuing to approve wineries. If the big three are able to supply all of the cars necessary for the American market why allow a startup like Tesla to happen: disruption is healthy. The question now is only how disruptive those new wineries should be - to us all.
One (5th generation) property owner described how she would be unable to develop their dream winery if the minimum property size went to 40 acres. Another couple saw their dream business as exposing tourists to the authentic experience of small farm life. Stanley Boyd of Visit Napa Valley supported them saying that the small winery owners provided the "authentic" winery experience that his visitors wanted. Tourism and "authenticity" are, of course, mutually exclusive, but there does need to be a place for the winery startup - perhaps a family winery that means what it says. Just one of many solutions that the committee will probably not explore.
Overall this meeting was quite a disappointment. It appears that APAC may only be concerned with tweaks to the numbers in the current WDO, and not about more radical solutions or the larger implications of continued event center development. At best there may be a very modest change in the number of event centers being proposed in the future. I could be wrong, of course.
APAC will hold meeting #2 to deal with the following agenda: Minimum Parcel size for new wineries
Net loss of vineyards
Estate grape requirementMost interesting is the Board Agenda Letter laying out the numbers, another amazing feat of number crunching by Dir. Morrison and his crew.
Napa County Board of Supervisors
1195 Third Street, Suite 310
Napa, CA 94559
Re: Agenda Item 10C: Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee, for March 17th meeting.
We are so pleased that the Planning Department and the BOS are acting expeditiously to establish a broad-based stakeholders' committee to examine problems related to winery proliferation and increasingly commercialized non-agricultural offerings at the wineries.
We are concerned that the purview of the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee seems to be limited to a list of pre-defined topics, which do not reflect fully the scope of problems which speakers brought up during the lengthy public comment period at the development forum.
What we all heard from the Planning Commissioners is that the current WDO regs lack the degree of detail which allows them to determine whether projects brought before them fall within the letter-of-the-law, and that they need more detailed direction in order to make fair decisions.
We have also heard about "creep", for example that simple wine-food pairings are now turning into full-scale meals. Then again there are issues of granting variances with a freedom which seems to violated the legal definition of variance. In a final example, there seems to be little effort to monitor for compliance with winery use permits, and the sanctions, when violations are discovered, seem minimal.
We do not think the community will feel well-served if only new permits are considered, but those who are currently flouting the regulations are allowed to continue business as usual.
We gather that the "visitation matrix" will be developed totally apart from this committee. This seems awkward, as the considerations are so interwoven. How can these processes be drawn into alignment.
We would second Eve Kahn's suggestion that the phrase "to include but not limited to" be added before the list of topics.
We do appreciated the speed with which all of this is being organized. However, if by September 1 the community feels that its concerns have not been adequately addressed, we will be faced with further uproar, and perhaps a redo.
I would add that while Agricultural Protection is indeed central to this committee's work, most of the public seems concerned not just with ag, but with what we might call "rural quality of life", and the committee's work needs to reflect that public issue as well.