Bill Hocker | Oct 17, 2022Update 10/17/22
Hugh Davies LTE 10/16/22: Protect farmland, vote no on Measure J
The County Measure J page
The LTE above comes from the board of the Jack L. Davies Agricultural Land Preservation Fund
. It makes the point that allowing urban development on ag land just because the land is not suitable for grapes is a dangerous precedent. The loss of any agricultural land is a threat to all agricultural land in the county. It is a sentiment I totally agree with.
I'm not sure if the JLD Ag Fund has weighed in on specific projects before. I wish they would take the same public stance when it comes to the use of ag land for tourist attractions like wineries and resorts. They also should have have been more concerned about the loss of the Hess property just to the east and the loss of the Ghisletta property
to city annexation. Napa farm land is being urbanized almost every week at the county's planning comissions and governing boards, and it is only a matter of time before Napa farmland as a whole is seen as less desirable than the residential, commercial and industrial uses that Napa's burgeoning urban "growth" economy requires.
Update 8/19/22 Green Island Vineyard
SF Chronicle 8/19/22: Why one ordinary vineyard may threaten the future of Napa’s wine industry
NVR 6/9/22: Proposal to turn Napa vineyard into industrial land generates dispute
NV2050 6/2/22: Death Spiral of a Vineyard
A vineyard in the county wetlands just north of American Canyon is generating a lot of angst about the conversion of ag land to urban development. It should. But I'm a bit mystified by the concentration of interest, from the county, wine industry "stakeholders", LAFCO and activists alike, in the loss of what, given rising sea levels, has become marginal land for grapes. At the same time much less concern is voiced about the loss of prime vineyard land in the ag preserve to tourism development (see here
) and the loss of a still larger, more inland and much more visible vineyard to warehouses a mile to the east on the Hess-Laird property. (see below).
Update 5/22/21 Hess-Laird vineyard conversion at the BOS
Prime warehouse land?
NVR 6/21/21: Napa County to consider bigger industrial area, Highway 29 reliever
7/22/21 BOS meeting video
(Hess conversion presentation starts at 1:47:20 into video).
The BOS decided unanimously to have PBES begin the process needed to change the zoning of the property. It will take some time. The 3-person development wing of the board felt that the new road would be a boon to ease traffic congestion on Hwy 29 and wondered how the project could be accelerated. The Supes made no mention about how much traffic the new development will add to the congestion. Sup. Dillon wondered where staff was going to get all the time to work on the project. Sup. Wagenknecht wondered what the real benefits were, and would not guarantee that he would vote to approve the project later. Sup. Pedroza, as usual, lauded the sanctity of agriculture before he approved the conversion of another 281 acres of it into warehouses. This decision is not about agriculture he said, but about how our communities are growing.
Open space activist Barry Christian, in public comment (beginning at 1:57:30 into the video), most clearly defined what was at stake: the traffic was not going to relieved by adding a new mega development; replacing agriculture with more profitable uses is not a good direction in county policy, and the loss of one more vista in the approach to the Napa Valley is not a benefit to visitors or residents whose joy in being here is the beauty of the county's open spaces
Update 5/20/21 Hess-Laird vineyard conversion
A site plan for the conversion of the Hess vineyard just north of American Canyon into industrial parcels has been submitted
to the County. It requires a change in zoning from AWOS to Industrial in order to proceed. The request will be taken up by the Board of Supervisors
at their June 22, 2021 meeting
(Agenda and Documents
). The 281 acre property spans from the northern edge of American Canyon to the Napa Flea Market. It may be the largest single rezoning from agriculture to industrial use in the county's history. (Not counting the creation of American Canyon, of course). By comparison, Napa Pipe is 154 acres. It is also the largest area of producing vines removed for urban development.
Prior to the 2008 General Plan, the property was zoned industrial, but was rezoned AWOS in the General Plan update, with the provision that it "shall be considered for re-designation to an Industrial designation if Flosden/Newell Road is ever extended north of Green Island Road, through the property." The cause of that interesting inversion of the normal rezoning pattern needs a little research.
The rezoning will require a modification to the General Plan. It is unclear why this property, unlike the few square feet of terrace at Don Giovanni's in 1994, doesn't require a vote of the people under Measure J/P. [Update: The Hess property is not subject to Measure J per County-supplied excerpts from Genreal Plan
, the massive housing project that extends Newell Drive along its eastern edge, was approved in late 2018. Some of the Hess vineyards have been left fallow since, with more vines pulled out after the 2020 harvest. There is still an extension from Watson Ranch to the Hess property, crossing a railway line, that needs to happen. Although it is unclear when, or if ever, the Newell Road extension will be finished, developers are chomping at the bit
to buy more industrial land in Napa. And the recent removal of the vineyards would seem to imply that development interests and the property owners know the outcome of the Supervisors meeting on Jun 22nd and the swift passage of the project through the County meat grinder.
The property will provide direct access via S. Kelly Rd to the Jameson Canyon freeway (Lincoln Hwy) without having to use Hwy 29 and its 29/Airport Rd bottleneck. It will, of course, create a new bottleneck at the Lincoln Hwy/S Kelly Rd intersection. The significance of the widening of the Jameson Canyon highway, championed by Sup. Bill Dodd, to the urban development of Napa County can't be overstated. It has made possible the development of an industrial hub that gives the central valley wine industry a link to the Napa name, and it eases the use of commuting workers and contractors from outside the county allowing continued growth of the tourism industry. It also lays the groundwork for a Highway 12 freeway connecting the central valley to Sonoma county, and the opportunity for massive tourism projects along its route. (See the Hudson
The project is one more building block in the urbanization of the space between Napa and the rest of the Bay Area and another addition to the alley of warehouses that will define the entry to the Napa Valley. It is one more indication of the difficulty in maintaining Napa as an agricultural enclave in the expanding megalopolis for the next 50 years. Napa wines have already been priced out of the world marketplace because of the urban-level land and labor prices, and now are desperately trying to survive as a tourist good. The Napa wine industry's survival, embodied by the warehouses that will bury the Hess vineyards, seems to be moving toward the claim of being the cellaring and bottling capital of California's wine industry, a mark of status on the back of the bottle if not the front.
7/9/17 Napa Logistics Park
NVR 7/9/17: Hello IKEA. So long, vineyards?
NVR 6/23/17: Developers lament short supply of industrial land in Napa County
As was the intention, no doubt, the title of Noel Brinkerhoff's article, less the question mark, could be the epitath on the Ag Preserve's tombstone.
The scale of the Napa Logistics Park development is more visible when you realize that IKEA's northern California distribution center would fit iinto just one of its four buildings. Napa Logistics Park is only a part of the un-built industrial development in the AmCan Industrial area and the Napa Airport industrial area just to the north. Who would have thought that Napa would eventually be known more as a light industrial center, a blue-collar Silicone Valley, rather than a bucolic agricultural Eden. Yet that will be the overwhelming reality of the "Napa Experience" as visitors are stuck in the traffic jam at Bottleneck Junction
with an alley of tilt-up warehouses as their only view of Wine Country. And no 600 foot setbacks here.
The fact that real estate interests are bemoaning the scarcity of industrial property and that the county is suggesting that vineyard land with less expensive grapes might fill the bill shows where things are headed. All that is needed now is a definition for "less expensive" to be codified in the next update of the general plan. Under $10,000/ton, perhaps?