|Jul 28, 2015|
"I feel that enactment of this ordinance reflects the wishes of the people of Napa County. I believe that these people wish to create for themselves the environment in which they wish to live and for future generations."
- Jack L. Ferguson, Napa Supervisor in approving the Ag Preserve, 1968
Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell"
- Edward Abbey, The Journey Home 1977
I would like to see the Ag Preserve last....[but] the future of the Napa Valley can be as good as the people of Napa County want it to be - and no better. If Napa can't be saved, no place can.
- Former Planning Director James Hickey, 1980's(?)
(e) Napa County is one of the smallest counties in California and within the County areas suitable for quality vineyards are limited and irreplaceable. Any project that directly or indirectly results in the removal of existing or potential vineyard land from use depletes the inventory of such land forever.
(f) The cumulative effect of such projects if far greater than the sum of individual projects. The interspersing of non-agricultural structures and activities throughout agricultural areas in excess of what already exists will result in a significant increase in the problems and costs of maintaining vineyards and discourage the continued use of the land for agricultural purposes.
- From the findings of the Winery Definition Ordinance, 1990
Uncontrolled urban encroachment into agricultural and watershed areas will impair agriculture and threaten the public health, safety and welfare by causing increased traffic congestion, associated air pollution and potentially serious water problems, such as pollution, depletion and sedimentation of available water resources. Such urban encroachment, or 'leap-frog development,' would eventually result in both the unnecessary, expensive extension of public services and facilities and inevitable conflicts between urban and agricultural uses.
- From the findings of Measure J, Agricultural Lands Preservation Initiative, 1990
While other Bay Area counties have experienced unprecedented development and urban infrastructure expansion over the last four decades, Napa County's citizens have conscientiously preserved the agricultural lands and rural character that we treasure.
- From the vision statement of the Napa General Plan 2013
"Never in the history of mankind has agriculture withstood urban growth long-term, but here we have the best chance."
- Grapegrower Andy Beckstoffer, 2015
"Once our open space is gone, it's gone."
- Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, 2016
... "a key element of more sustainable future policies is the evolution of global financial and economic systems to build a global sustainable economy, steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth."
-IPBES (UN) Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 2019
"We are at the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and the fairy tale of eternal economic growth."
- Greta Thunberg at the United Nations conference on Climate Change, 2019
As this last year and a half [now almost 9 years] has progressed, I originally thought that the winery being proposed next door to us on Soda Canyon Road had to do with wineries. I soon began to feel that the problem that brought it to my doorstep was tourism. As other communities have joined the rebellion against projects going on in their neighborhoods it is more and more apparent that while tourism is the growth industry and hence the most obvious source of many problems, the real problem is the continued urbanization of the bay area and city and county governments that are controlled, as they always have been, by real estate, construction and financial interests. "Growth" in Napa county really means just turning open space into buildings and pavement. And, because of the land use policies of the past 45 years, there is a lot of open space in Napa County to grow into.
As I write, there is a lot of development going on in the county. 70 new or expanded wineries have been approved but not yet built and 50 are in the planning department awaiting review (updated winery numbers here), 730 hotel or resort accommodations have been approved in Calistoga, St. Helena and Napa. 1576 new housing units have been approved in Napa and St. Helena with 1250 additional units being considered for American Canyon, (see here) and perhaps 3,000,000 sf of commercial/industrial space plus a Costco have been approved. (updated development numbers here.)
Do the citizens and governmental officials of Napa County wish this place to continue to be urbanized into the rest of the Bay Area in the next 50 years? If not, is there a way to stop it?
Two very small books might give insight. The first is Better not Bigger by Eben Fodor, the Oregon based community development consultant. The second is the No-Growth Imperative by Gabor Zavanyi, professor of Urban and Regional planning.
The Fodor book, written in 1999 pushes a step beyond the "smart growth" or "sustainable growth" paradigm of the 1970's and 80's that promoted urban containment and led to the Urban-Rural-Limits that surround the Napa municipalities and have successfully prevented them from expanding into the vineyards. The book is a recognition through statistical analysis that development, even smart development , doesn't pay for itself. It doesn't pay for itself immediately in residential development that requires the additional road improvements, schools, police and fire services, water supply infrastructure, waste-water treatment facilities and government bureaucracy necessary for an increased population. And it doesn't pay for itself in commercial development, even with hefty sales taxes and fees (and in the case of a tourist economy, transient taxes), when the new employees create a demand for new budget consuming housing or highway improvements to commute to work. New commercial development may result in short term gains for a town, selling points at the planning commission stage, but in the long run will always end up costing existing residents money to deal with the impacts. Ask yourself, are utility costs and service fees higher in small towns or cities? Will your government spend more money maintaining the infrastructure necessary for a 5 acre vineyard or a 5 acre Costco?
The No-Growth Imperative was written in 2013, and makes the same arguments but with the added knowledge, courtesy of the effects of global warming increasingly more evident around us, that continued population growth is not sustainable. And that it is time to end the growth-is-progress mentality that continues to consume resources and exude wastes as if there is no downside.
Both advocate community efforts to limit local urban development. Both recognize that continued growth is unsustainable and that it is time to find a way to create a stable economy that creates stable environments. Maintaining such a community won't solve the problems of world population growth, and the pressure of the increasing world population to migrate to those places that have been more successful in curbing their population or with more space to populate. That is a problem of world wide family planning which would be possible, just as preventing smallpox or polio has been, were it not for the intransigence of religious dogma. (The catastrophic effects of religious dogma are much in the news these days.)
Much of this site is dedicated to the proposition that urban development in Napa County is not compatible with the desire of the county general plan to retain agriculture as the engine of the county's economy or with the county residents' desire to retain a rural, small-town quality of life. The growth includes new urban development, mostly tourism related, in the municipalities as well as the unincorporated areas as well as the infrastructure and accommodation development necessary to deal with the increasing tourist, resident and workforce population that results.
Not everyone in Napa county would look to Andy Beckstoffer as a touchstone, but his quote above, more succinctly than anything I have read, states why Napa should be a place where a no-growth movement can bud and set a precedent for other communities, just as it did for the agricultural preserve movement. Napa produces a unique world-respected product based on a low impact, renewable resource. It has the potential to continue producing that product for centuries, as french vintners have done, if a decision is made to protect the resource and to stop the urban development that threatens it. An economy that depends on ever increasing profits or a never ending number of participants will build itself beyond what the resource can support, the resource will become incidental to the economy and more profitable development will take its place.
It may be difficult to see amid the green vine rows at present but it is already happening in the Napa Valley. Each new tourism oriented winery and parking lot plopped down in a vineyard moves the county toward a suburban future that will survive on tourist events and accommodations. The desire to profit off wine tourism and "Napa" located wineries, beyond what the Napa grape crop can supply, will mean an ever greater reliance on other grape sources, further reducing the importance of retaining Napa ag land and hastening its conversion to more profitable use.
The never ending cycle of urban development requiring ever more development to pay for its impacts will not be stopped unless the will and means are found to allow and defend a stable, and livable no-growth economy limited by the water and land resources available.
Better not Bigger Eben Fodor
No-Growth Imperative Gabor Zavanyi
2008 General Plan EIR Archive
2008 General Plan
Land Use Element of Napa General Plan
JLDAgFund 2021: Agricultural Land Protection, Annexation, and Housing Development
Greenbelt Alliance: At Risk: The Bay Area Greenbelt
Map and table of all development currently underway in the valley
Napa County's list of projects under development
American Canyon's list of projects under development
Napa City's list of projects under development (now hidden)
Calistoga's entitlement application status link
The Fordor analysis summary of unfunded development costs is here.
Fordor: Myth of Smart Growth
NVR 8/12/21: Census shows slow Napa County growth rate
Gary Woodruff LTE 8/2/21: It is time to stop and think
Gary Woodruff LTE 5/17/21: Where are we going?
NVR 1/6/21: Napa County's population continues shrinking slowly
NVR 12/5/20: Measure J: Protecting Napa agriculture for the past 30 years
NVR 5/20/20: Napa County looks at wine country growth
New Yorker 2/3/20: Can We Have Prosperity without Growth?
NVR 1/3/20: Fearing a housing mandate, Napa County turns down airport industrial area designation
Wine-Searcher 4/8/19: Napa's Problem is Cars, Not Drought
Next10 LTE 12/27/18: Commentary: Smart land use policy can help combat climate change
NVR 6/15/18: Photos: Progress of Napa's Gasser Foundation project
Beverly Wendel LTE 5/1/18: What happened to slow growth?
NVR 12/12/17: Napa residents reflect on how good we have it
NVR 12/6/17: LAFCO opens door to piping Napa water to Carneros resort
Wine and Water Watch 7/28/17:Judge Rules Climate Action 2020 Plan Violates CEQA
Harris Nussbaum LTE 6/23/17: Let's all work together
Rusty Cohn LTE 6/8/17: Slow the stampede of development and his petition
James Conaway blog, Nose 5/26/17: What our lifestyle vintner-in-chief does to us all
NVR 3/24/17: Napa County population grows by less than 1 percent
NVR 3/8/17: Napa County LAFCO pondering its role in shaping county's future
NVR 2/27/17: Wine country growth within general plan numbers
NVR 2/4/17: Greenbelt Alliance has praise and warnings for Napa County
NVR Setty LTE 3/1/17: Napa is a city after all
NVR 2/10/17: County juggling housing, history at Old Sonoma Road site
NVR 2/8/17: Napa County leaders try to sort out Carneros Resort water issues
NVR 2/4/17: Greenbelt Alliance has praise and warnings for Napa County
NVR 1/31/17: High housing prices trigger greater enrollment declines in Napa schools
NVR 7/9/16: Napa sees farmland total shrink slightly over two years
NVR 3/17/16: Despite protest, sewer board approves rate hikes
NVR 2/26/16: Sewer district presents rate hike information
NVR 2/10/16: New growth ahead for American Canyon
NVR 2/7/16: Napa economy shines in 2015
NVR 2/7/16: Wine industry rules in south couty industrial area
George Caloyannidis LTE 12/13/15: Hodja's Donkey in Napa Traffic
George Caloyannidis LTE: Alice's Traffic solutions
Steven Rodriguez LTE: We need a cap on developed areas
NVR 10/14/15: Construction begins at new Commerce Center in south Napa
NVR 10/1/15: American Canyon planners praise mega business park
NVR 9/9/15: Growing demand sparks construction of single-family homes
Who pays the costs of growth?
Patterson LTE 8/5/15: Development is destroying Napa Valley
SR Press Democrat 3/12/15: Investors spending millions to develop Calistoga resorts
NVR 3/4/12: Measure J made Napa County voters protectors of agricultural lands
Eben Fodor 2012: Myth of Smart Growth
Eben Fodor 2010: Relation between growth and prosperity in 100 largest US Metro Areas
NVR 12/24/2000: New supervisor to impact Napa's future growth
Eben Fodor 1998: The Fordor analysis summary of unfunded development costs
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