This is an archived version of the Napavision 2050 website prior to Sept, 2017. Click here for the current website.
To Promote the Health, Welfare and Safety of our Communities by Advocating for Responsible Planning
to Insure Sustainability of the Finite Resources of Napa County.

Welcome to Napa Vision 2050

Our Napa Valley by Hardy Wilson Looking west across the Capell Valley towards Walt Ranch whose ridgetops are to be stripped of trees to make room for grapes.
Napa Vision 2050 is a coalition of 14 affiliates in Napa County that have joined together to lobby local governments on current development policies and practices.

As an IRC 501(C)(4) public benefit corporation, it is our mission to Promote the Health, Welfare and Safety of our Communities by Advocating for Responsible Planning to Insure Sustainability of the Finite Resources of Napa County.

You are always invited to visit us on facebook for the latest updates as well.

Recent Posts

166 posts 

NV2050 on the erosion of the Ag Preserve

Bill Hocker - Aug 13, 2019   Share

Update 8/13/19
The Aug 12th issue of the Vision 2050 Newsletter discusses the two voter initiatives, Measure J of 1990 and Measure P of 2008, that took the decision of rezoning county lands away from the supervisors and gave it to the electorate - based on the assumption that voters would be better stewards of Napa's agricultural heritage than its elected officials. Given the shift on the County Board of Supervisors in the last 20 years toward an emphasis on tourism, industrial development and now housing growth, the concern was well founded.

Unfortunately, the protections afforded by Measures J and P are not absolute. The supervisors can still agree to annexations of county land by the municipalities, converting ag land to urban use. They have changed the definition of "agriculture" and of "winery" to allow more urban uses on agriculturally zoned lands. And they have expanded non-ag industrial uses, like gravel quarries and solar farms, that consume enormous amounts of ag land.

Also, the voter protections of Measure J and P are not a sure thing. Housing construction in the municipalities, and the county's support of tourism and industrial job creation needing that housing, has increased the urban population in the county and shifted the concerns of the electorate away from the desire to preserve ag land and open space toward a need for more infrastructure, urban amenities, ever more revenue-generating development, and of course more housing in a futile effort to lower housing costs. The electorate is growing ever further from the notion of an agricultural-based economy and the shift only promises future development more in line with the urban expansion of the rest of the bay area. Voters are no less susceptible to the promises of developers than elected officials are, and only modestly more expensive to convince.

For better or worse, the preservation of the rural character of the county will still depend on the vision and guidance of an enlightened majority of supervisors, with their historical understanding of the unique experiment of the ag preserve and its value in an urban world. That majority doesn't currently exist, but there is always hope that enlightened heroes will rise to the challenge once again. Three votes on a given Tuesday created and maintained the ag preserve for 50 years and can do so again - if there is the will.

Update 7/30/19
The July 30th issue of the Napa Vision 2050 newsletter brings a third installment of their look at the history of Napa's agricultural protections, and how the many potential environmental impacts of the 1990 Winery Definition Ordinance and proposed mitigations needed to counter those impacts have been ignored (or buried!) for the last 30 years.

Update 7/24/19
Mike Hackett LTE 7/24/19: Take real action on water and development

Update 7/18/19
The July 18th issue of the Napa Vision 2050 newsletter brings a second installment of their look at the history of Napa's agricultural protections, now currently under threat of a development boom and growth-oriented officials.

In their July 11th newsletter, Napa Vision 2050 is pushing back against the proponents of "Save the Family Farms" wishing to be permitted tourism tastings and events at their rural venues even without a permitted winery.

In doing so, NV2050 is making a much broader case that this is further attempt to introduce commercial non-conforming uses into the agricultural zones of the county, contrary to the county's history and its General Plan commitments to protection of agriculture and open space in the face of urbanizing pressure.

They cite an important document: the 1987-88 Grand Jury concerns about the proliferation of non-conforming and accessory uses at wineries. The report was made just prior to the drafting of the original WDO in 1990. The concept that tourism uses of wineries would lead to general urbanization of the county and threaten its agricultural lands is clearly stated in the report:
    "In recent years there has been a increase in the number of commercial promotional, cultural and entertainment activities occurring in wineries and other facilities located on agriculturally zoned land outside of city limits... The increase in these urban activities underscores the growth of wineries and other facilities as cultural and community centers, and raises questions as to their urbanizing influence...The movement of people from populated urban areas to less populated rural areas opposes the major intent of the [General] Plan creates problems of traffic, sanitation, and other services..."

There is an even more detailed look at the impacts of non-agricultural uses at wineries made in the Environmental Impact Report done for the WDO in 1989. The sections of the WDO EIR are linked here. In particular, comments on the Growth Inducing Impacts and Cumulative Impacts cited in Vol III the EIR (beginning on page A-82) are quite germain to this discussion. The EIR recognizes that "Winery development under the DWDO as proposed, or with mitigation, would cause irreversible and irretrievable environmental effects". (It also states that the profits to be made from winery tourism would be worth it.) The EIR lists some 116 mitigations (beginning on p. A-84) that would ease the negative environmental impacts created by the WDO. It is worth going through the list to see how many (or rather how few) of the mitigations have actually been adhered to.

The Grand Jury Report takes as its base the County General Plan as it was in 1982, in which agriculture still had a dictionary definition and marketing activities were clearly seen as non-conforming uses of an agricultural production facility. (I hope a copy of the 1982 General Plan shows up at some point.) In 1990, the WDO codified tours and tastings and trade marketing events at wineries. In 2008 the Plan was updated to include visitation and marketing as accessory agricultural uses at a winery, and in 2010 the WDO was updated to allow food service with tours and tastings and public marketing events. In 2017 visitation and marketing were officially added to the definition of agriculture in county code, solidifying the county's commitment to legalize the use of agriculturally zoned land for commercial tourism development.

The point in looking at these historical documents is only to see the concern that a previous generation of officials had about the dangers of urban uses proliferating in agricultural areas. It was a level of concern that protected agricultural lands for 50 years. Napa Vision 2050 is to be lauded for bringing this history forward.

Now, under the pressure of a boom in worldwide tourism transforming every charming location and quaint industry on the globe into an urbanized mass-market commodity (destroying the character of the locales in the process), our current officials should be encouraged to look at these documents one last time to see what efforts were made by their predecessors to prevent the urban growth that they now so readily embrace.

Have our Board of Supervisors Gotten Religion?

NV2050 Admin - Sep 13, 2017   Share

NVR 9/13/17: Napa supervisors agree on new winery rule-breaker policies

Morrison LTE 9/11/17: County takes code compliance seriously

NVR 8/30/17: Napa County considers clampdown on rule-breakers, including wineries

"What I see before us is that next step in terms of taking compliance to the next level," county Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said.

Our Board of Supervisors say they are going to set deadlines for after-the-fact applications and get really tough.

We are not holding our collective breaths.

Just a few days before this statement, Sup. Pedroza voted for Raymond Vineyards after-the-fact approvals for several structures and tasting areas, more employees, and to take out vines to create a Highway 29 entrance and visitor center.

What about code compliance there? We have been fighting this behavior over numerous years and numerous projects and in each case the Supervisors have looked the other way while rubber-stamping after-the-fact approvals of code violations: Reverie, Bremmer, Relic, The Caves at Soda Canyon... Who's next?

Talk is cheap. Can our Supervisors kick their habit of forgiving code violations by granting permits? We can only say, we will have to wait and see. The proof is in the pudding. Let's all keep breathing and advocating for meaningful code compliance in the meantime. It could be a long time before we see our supervisors get around to it.

Napa Vision 2050 email version of this post

Recap: NV2050 Town Hall Sep 7th

NV2050 Admin - Sep 12, 2017   Share

SH Star 9/12/17: Napa Vision 2050 holds packed town hall meeting in St. Helena

Nearly 100 Napa County residents, including a few Calistoga and St. Helena city officials, packed the Native Sons Hall in St. Helena Thursday night to discuss the diminishing quality of local life in these troubling, touristy, traffic-filled times. It was a night of genuine community involvement.

NV2050 President Dan Mufson began with good news. The Palmaz proposal for private helicopter use in Napa has just been denied! The audience received the announcement with tremendous enthusiasm.

Mufson also announced two exciting initiatives expected to qualify for the ballot: one that would ban permanently most helicopter use in the county, and another that would save local threatened oak woodlands.

Dan then led discussion and comment about issues such as traffic, tourism, wineries at inappropriate locations, and water, wildlife, and woodlands. He noted how frustration over elected officials' unresponsiveness about these issues has mobilized citizens up and down the valley. And NV2050 continues to grow, as many of those in attendance asked to join our email list and to volunteer for our outreach activities.

Mike Hackett lead the discussion as locals' smart, sensitive comments filled most of the two hour meeting. Besides traffic, they remarked on the county not enforcing its codes; the pernicious effect of quarry dust in Napa; and the lack of worker housing to accompany high-end hotels. We were reminded of the cumulative regional effect of over-commercialization stretching from Calistoga indeed down to Vallejo. These land-use issues affect us all.

To make a difference, we encourage residents to attend public meetings; connect with others like Napa Vision 2050; and to elect supervisors who listen to their constituents rather than their donors!

What is Napa Vision 2050?

Donald Williams - Aug 30, 2017   Share

[Editor's note: Napa Vision 2050 will contribute an occasional column outlining its activities. This is the first such column in the Weekly Callistogan.]

What is Napa Vision 2050?

At least as far back as 1988 a Napa Grand Jury committee affirmed that the intent of the county General Plan "is to preserve agriculture, and concentrate urban uses in existing urban areas." It noted the growing "number of commercial, promotional, cultural, and entertainment activities occurring in wineries . . . on agriculturally zoned land" including "concerts, cooking classes, art shows, benefits, and non-agricultural meetings and seminars," and declared that they "are urban uses and by definition not needed for the . . . growing of crops.'

The Grand Jury then warned, presciently, that "failure to enforce the General Plan can only lead to the" ultimate demise of the Ag Preserve because the uniqueness and international reputation of the Napa Valley will continue to invite development and activities conducive to further blurring of the agricultural/industrial and urban separations."

Recent years, of course, have seen precisely the kind of development the 1988 Grand Jury warned against. In response, in the last few years, in neighborhoods throughout the valley, grass-roots groups sprang up to resist the commercialization and diminution of Napa's rural quality. Mostly they worked in isolation, and against high odds.

Gradually these disparate neighborhood groups realized: they weren't alone! In early 2015 they formed a coalition of groups - Napa Vision 2050.

The neighborhood groups agreed: Napa Vision 2050 advocates for responsible planning and development in Napa County. It works to protect the health, welfare, and safety of our community, because Napa's finite resources cannot support infinite growth.

Napa Vision 2050 Activities

Now, observing the traffic congestion plaguing Napa roads, NV2050 encourages the county to recognize that there are limits to the number of visitors and non-agricultural events that can rationally be permitted in our rural regions. It also encourages the county, when considering applications for additional commercialization in the rural regions of the county, to acknowledge development's cumulative effects on residents.

NV2050 supported the "Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative" that would defend municipal water supplies, and easily gathered twice as many signatures as required. NV2050 also has worked to ban residential heliports. Additionally, NV2050 has insisted the county determine why Napa has among the highest cancer rates in California. Recognizing the skyrocketing impact of tourism on our semi-rural county, NV2050 recently sponsored a well-attended forum, "Understanding the Tourism-based Economy -Benefits and Costs."

Who Can Join?

Napa Vision 2050 welcomes anyone who cares about the quality of life in Napa County. Wherever you live in the county, you can be sure there are supporters of NV2050 nearby.

How is Napa Vision 2050 Funded?

NV2050 is entirely volunteer. There is no paid staff. It's a grass-roots organization. We accept donations to support our efforts to respect the semi-rural character of Napa County. These efforts include: engaging environmental and legal experts regarding land use decisions; supporting advocates respectful of the General Plan; educating the public about dominant local industries and their impact on Napa County.

How Can I Learn More?

This column will answer questions about local environmental work, and describe the grass-roots efforts to understand how the county's land-use decisions affect us all. You can learn more on our website, or write us at P.O. Box 2385, Yountville, CA 94599.

Agriculture in the 21st Century

NV2050 Admin - Aug 17, 2017   Share

[The email version of this post is here]

Another Gross Violator Granted Forgiveness By The BoS?
Is this "Agriculture in the 21st Century"??

“This is not Disneyland. I just think it’s agriculture in the 21st century. I think Napa is fortunate to have experiences that are not one-dimensional.” - Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza


Recently the Napa County Planning Commission approved the permit for expansion of Raymond Vineyards. This decision was appealed to the Board of Supervisors (BoS) by grapegrowers Andy Beckstoffer, Frank Leeds, and Kelleen Sullivan.

Tuesday, August 15, the Board of Supervisors (BoS) voted tentatively, 3-2, to deny this appeal of Raymond Vineyards use permit application.

This is yet another decision by our BoS to grant forgiveness in expanded permits as away of “correcting” code violations. Of the five appeals to the BoS this year, two feature gross code violators who have been granted forgiveness: Raymond Vineyards and The Caves at Soda Canyon.

In an e-mail to the Board before the Raymond Vineyard vote, Norma J. Tofanelli, former president of the Farm Bureau and fourth-generation Calistoga farmer, wrote, “Before denying the appeal of the Raymond Use Permit application, the Board would do well to consider the attached letter from Michael Honig, which appeared in the Napa Register last month...Michael Honig is not only the President of Honig Vineyard & Winery, he is the current chair of the Napa Valley Vintners' Board of Directors.”

“It is not just the "little people" of Napa County who are outraged by the deferential treatment given to winery use permit violators,” Tofanelli said. “The responsible portion of the industry has now spoken out.”

Michael Honig’s letter was short and sharp, entitled, STOP ALLOWING THEM TO ASK FOR FORGIVENESS.
“I hope our county government starts to see the harm these projects are doing to the environment, and indeed our industry, and stops allowing owners the opportunity to ask for forgiveness versus permission,” Honig said.

At the Tuesday hearing, appellant Beckstoffer implored the supervisors to do their duty to protect agriculture.

“Napa County has two choices. One is to have an agricultural economy supported by tourism and the other is to have a tourism economy supported by agriculture,” said Beckstoffer.

“The [Raymond] project makes a mockery of the county’s protections for the agricultural preserve,” the written appeal by the appellants’ law firm, Shute Mihaly & Wineberger said. Raymond Vineyards is known to be particularly glitzy and outrageous.

However, Supervisor Pedrosa sees this differently. “This is not Disneyland. I just think it’s agriculture in the 21st century. I think Napa is fortunate to have experiences that are not one-dimensional.”

Napa Vision 2050 supports the protections afforded by the Ag Preserve. THIS IS NOT AGRICULTURE, but a VIOLATION of the Ag Preserve resulting in the urbanization of our ag lands.



What are They doing to our sense of place?

Daniel Mufson - Aug 8, 2017   Share

There's a deep sadness when we lose a friend. We miss the familiarity and good times we've spent together over many years. Similarly, there's a profound sadness when you no longer recognize what had been your home and your community. You no longer recognize it because it is being taken away from you piece by piece.

Gone are the toy shop, the dance studio, downtown Safeway, Pearl, Cervoni, Zeller, Brewsters -- places where you were welcomed, where you met friends, where your children met friends.

It's all in the name of progress. They (our elected and appointed officials) tell us we need tourist revenue. But We (the people who live here) need our sense of place. We are losing the soul of our Napa.

And now, they have done it again. After almost weekly announcements of the demise of yet another local establishment, They told the model railroad museum at Expo it had to close. This museum was built by our fathers and grandfathers and designed to represent our Napa. But They decided the space is needed for progress. And many residents of Napa are deeply sad; this is a location so many have enjoyed for generations.

Last year, Napa Vision 2050 sponsored a forum on the social and economic costs of tourism. The main message was that unless carefully managed, tourism can irrevocably destroy the essence of place. You have only to look at what has happened in Aspen and Santa Fe and now Barcelona and Venice. A noted book on this subject, "Devil's Bargains," (Rothman, 1998) notes that residents gradually realize, as they seek to preserve the authenticity of their community, that decision-making power has shifted from the community to the newly arrived corporate financiers.

The forum was well attended by county supervisors and city council members from the Napa Valley. We encouraged them to act on this message of responsible, countywide planning by collectively managing the growth path they have been fostering. Not one of them has done so. Instead they are in the counting houses drooling over the increasing Transient Occupancy Tax.

And now -- to add insult to injury -- They are taking away our community model railroad museum. Who would have predicted this move and the wrenching impact it is having on the hearts of many Napans?

NV2050 is holding a community town hall meeting this Thursday evening in Napa (and on Sept. 7 in St. Helena) to hear from you. How do you feel about these changes and what do you recommend we do to bring our community back under control?

Longtime Napan Harris Nussbaum will moderate the discussion at the Horseman's Association, 1200 Foster Road at 7 p.m. Please attend. For details, visit

Dan Mufson, President

NVR LTE version 8/8/17: What are They doing to our sense of place?

Concerns About Napa County's Climate Action Plan (CAP)

Christina Benz - Jun 26, 2017   Share

Concerns about Napa County's Climate Action Plan (CAP)
(see the plan and comments at

The CAP doesn't provide a path for meaningful emissions reductions because:

1. It isn't based on current climate science.
  • The CAP accounting method was selected "to maintain consistency with latest statewide inventory (for 2015) prepared by California Air Resources Board (CARB)."
  • CARB has updated accounting for its Short-Lived Climate Pollutant (SLCP) Reduction Strategy, going into effect January 2018 (SB 1383). (See the report here. )
  • The SLCP Strategy is based on the current scientific understanding (IPCC Assessment Report 5, 2013-14) that in order to slow global warming, reducing SLCP emissions will be the most productive strategy.
  • Of particular importance is its focus on black carbon, now recognized as one of the four most powerful climate pollutants driving global warming. Napa is a source of black carbon pollution from diesel engines, agricultural burning, etc.
  • Additionally, tropospheric ozone is another major contributor to climate change. This short-lived climate pollutant should also be addressed.
  • Let's align Napa's CAP with the latest statewide and regional plans, and the state of climate science. (See Bay Area Air Quality Management District's 2017 Bay Area Clean Air Plan: Spare the Air and Cool the Climate at )

2. Its three top measures for reducing emissions are not seen as feasible by community stakeholders.
  • Measure BE-6: Replacement of residential and commercial gas water heaters with electric or alternatively-powered units.
    ➢ North Bay Association of Realtors (NorBAR) comments: "NorBAR is concerned that, given the potential time delays and costs of adding an electric water heater, homeowners will forgo permits and have the standard water heater installed."
  • Measure AG-3: Replacement of diesel and gas powered farm equipment with electric or alternatively-fueled units.
    ➢ Napa Valley Grapegrowers comment: "Many vineyards have no other need for being serviced by PG&E. In most cases, use of this service will be infrequent, while still incurring extremely high standby costs. This measure seems growth inducing and a poor use of resources."
  • Measure OR-2: Replacing diesel or gas with alternative fuels in recreational watercraft.
    ➢ Feasible??? How much time will be spent regulating and enforcing this?!?!

Napa needs and deserves a CAP that focuses on the following:

1. Reduction of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (methane, black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons) with measures such as the following:

  • Reduce methane due to solid waste by installing methane capture systems at food and pomace composting sites.
  • Reduce methane due to wastewater treatment by installing anaerobic digesters at wastewater treatment plants in American Canyon, St. Helena, and Calistoga.
  • Reduce vehicle emissions for hauling winery wastewater by expanding Napa Sanitation plant to handle this wastewater and capturing methane generated (waste-to-energy).
  • Reduce black carbon through incentivizing cleaner diesel engines and alternatives to traditional ag burning methods.
  • Note: The CAP does contain appropriate measures for reducing hydrofluorocarbons (Measures HG-1 and HG-2). We need an accurate inventory of these emissions.

2. Decarbonizing power and transportation
  • The proposed CAP contains several measures toward this goal (BE-9, BE-10, BE-11, TR-13)

3. Reducing and mitigating loss of Carbon Sequestration during land use change in a realistic way
  • Measure LU-1's target of preserving 30% of existing woodlands was "based on feasibility assessments made by county staff." This target is far too low.
  • Instead, let's accurately account for carbon sequestration, then properly mitigate its loss (via replants, carbon farming practices, the use of a carbon "tax", etc.).

The proposed County Climate Action plan will allow the county to check off a General Plan "to do" item -- and that's all. Let's not waste our supervisor's time and tax dollars enacting measures that may be cost-prohibitive, unenforceable, and won't make a difference in reducing global warming. Lets not make residents and businesses pay for measures that won't make a difference.

We are Napa - we don't need to check off a box; we need to do what we're good at "thinking outside the box" and put in place REAL solutions to global warming.


Eve Kahn - Jun 24, 2017   Share

In Memory of Trees
One of the hot topics at VINEXPO 2017 IN BORDEAUX was called FIRE AND RAIN - Climate Change and the Wine Industry.

Climate change and the wine industry: individual efforts to combat emissions are multiplying, but broader industry wide leadership is lacking. Climate change is a critical issue for winemakers and the greater the temperature increase, the higher the cost of adaptation will be. However, while some winemakers have put environmental issues and CO2 reduction at the center of their production strategy, many more have yet to realize how dramatically climate change risks reducing the quality of their wines.

This week Paul Franson included excerpts in his weekly NV Register column. "Kathryn Hall from Hall Wines held up the Napa green environmental certification as a model for community action. Napa Valley Vintners' goal is to have all Napa Valley vineyards certified by 2020."

"Hall admitted that the 'green' decisions didn't always make financial sense in the short term. The Halls decided on a sustainable vineyard as a matter of personal ethics and the desire to find the most authentic expression of their terroir, citing careful stewardship of the land and terroir as the starting point for fine wine,"

How ironic that the Hall's recently approved Walt Ranch Vineyards (approved but awaiting decision on a court challenge) will be removing over 14,000 mature trees combined with a rape and pillage of the landscape to achieve their business goal of 'fine wine'. Is this the authentic expression of the Atlas Peak terroir she refers to?

It's disturbing that while many in Napa profess to love our trees and acknowledge how wonderful our oak savannas are/were, the trees are removed with impunity when they get in the way of bigger plans. At some point we will only be left with a mural of a tree on the freeway wall in Yountville, "In Memory of a Tree." As the song says:

    They took all the trees
    And put them in a tree museum
    And they charged all the people
    A dollar and a half to see 'em

    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you've got
    'Till it's gone
    They paved paradise
    And they put up a parking lot
    (Joni Mitchell, 1970)

"Here's How Big Wine Gets to Avoid Environmental Rules in Napa" KCET

Patricia Damery - Jun 18, 2017   Share

According to the just published "Here's How Big Wine Gets to Avoid Environmental Rules in Napa"., 87% of campaign money for Al Pedroza, Belia Ramos and Ryan Gregory in 2015 and 2016 came from wineries and business interests.

Can we can trust our City Council members, Planning Commissioners, and Board of Supervisors to protect our community's interests? Their track record says, unequivocally, NO! This article by Alastair Bland pretty much says it all! The wine industry has bought our governing officials, and Folks, it is time to act decisively to make sure our government protects our community, our environment, and our citizens' rights to determine law: our democracy is at stake!

    In 2006, Napa County officials issued a permit for The Caves at Soda Canyon, a new winery in the hills east of the city of Napa. As most such project permits do, the document set strict limits on how the developer could build his winery.

    But The Caves' owner Ryan Waugh allegedly ignored some of these limitations. Waugh dug an unpermitted cave into a mountain, and hosted guests at unapproved ridgetop tasting patios. After county officials became aware of the violations, they ordered Waugh in 2014 to block off (but not fill in) the illegal cave, stop the unauthorized wine tastings and muffle a noisy generator.

    Neighbors had complained about the generator's din, claiming that Waugh had promised years earlier to connect his facility to silent power lines. They're primarily concerned, however, about the winery's impacts on local traffic and congestion.

    County documents report that Waugh followed through on all orders to correct the violations (something neighbors, who say they can still hear the generator, dispute). Then, Waugh submitted a request for a modification to his permit, and in April, the Napa County Planning Commission voted to approve it. The new permit brings the unauthorized components of his operation into full legal compliance while also increasing The Cave's annual production limit from 30,000 gallons of wine to 60,000. The decision is a win for Waugh, who has reportedly put his winery on the market for $12.5 million.

    Neighbors say that laws don't apply to people invested in Napa County's influential wine industry.

    "You can just drill an unpermitted cave and have unpermitted tastings, and just get retroactive approval from the county, and get more allowed production than you initially had," says Anthony Arger, who lives nearby. Anger is concerned that The Caves' enhanced use permits will lead to a dangerous increase in vehicle use on Soda Canyon Road.

    The county's decision to clear Waugh's record while allowing him to enlarge his business illuminates what Arger and other community activists say is part of a countywide problem. They argue that Napa County officials, especially those in the Planning, Building and Environmental Services department, collude with the wine industry, ignoring violations of local rules, to increase wine production and tourist visits at the expense of the environment and local residents' health and safety.

    Generous campaign contributions from winery and vineyard owners may influence how county officials govern the wine industry. In 2015 and 2016, of $477,025 donated to the campaigns of three current Napa County supervisors - Alfredo Pedroza, Belia Ramos and Ryan Gregory - 87 percent of the money came from wineries and business interests. Wineries which have proposed projects pending, like The Caves and nearby Mountain Peak Winery, donated about $10,000 of the total.

    Personal financial conflicts of interest may also be problematic. For instance, Napa County Planning Commissioner Michael Basayne, who voted to approve the new permit for The Caves, also works for Platypus Wine Tours, a luxury transport company whose website lists The Caves at Soda Canyon as a favored day trip destination.

    "Every approval he makes [of a winery permit] is benefitting his own business," says Geoff Ellsworth, a city council member in the small Napa Valley town of Saint Helena.

    Basayne says this isn't true.

    "I am a salaried employee with no ownership interest in Platypus Tours," he explains in an email. He adds that the wineries visited by Platypus Wine Tours do not in any way compensate Basayne or influence his decisions.

    "I am mindful of conflicts of interest, and I believe I am able to cast my votes objectively and without bias," Basayne says.

    Ellsworth says retroactive permit upgrades of the sort granted to Waugh at The Caves happen all the time in Napa County and, collectively, are undermining the entire system of regulating development projects and mitigating their environmental impacts.

    "They just give [the project applicant] a new permit that encompasses any violations and brings the project into compliance," Ellsworth says.

    A few miles north of Soda Canyon, Bremer Family Winery has generated strife between grassroots activists, county staff and the winery's owners, who have allegedly violated their 2013 project permit on multiple counts. Kellie Anderson, who lives in the nearby town of Angwin, and Herman Froeb, who lives next door to the winery, have claimed in reports to the planning department that John and Laura Bremer destroyed a small creek, illegally removed trees and ignored setback rules that specify how close grapevines may be planted to a stream. Last summer, when trucks carried in loads of dirt to be laid as soil on the Bremers' new vineyard, video footage Anderson shot with her phone showed that the heaps of dusty earth weren't covered with tarps. (Tarping is required to limit air pollution from blown dust.) A retaining wall that was supposed to be five feet high ended up being 12 feet high. Anderson, who has closely watched almost every detail of the work, says the higher wall creates a landslide risk.

    After the county pointed out some of these violations to the Bremers last June, the pair submitted a new and updated permit. Brian Bordona, the supervising planner with the Planning, Building and Environmental Services department, said in April that his office was considering approving the Bremers' modified plan.

    Scott Greenwood-Meinert, an attorney representing the Bremers and who spoke on their behalf, objects to claims that his clients have been inconsiderate neighbors or that their permit violations are even violations, per se. He says the Bremers' have made what would more accurately be called "in-field changes" to the original plans.

    "It's common practice [to make in-field changes]," says Greenwood-Meinert, who is also representing Ryan Waugh as he fights a legal challenge to The Caves. "Many projects do this. You have the original plan, and then there is the plan you end up with."

    Anderson, who once worked for a local vineyard development company, has hounded county officials about permit violations on numerous projects that she has personally inspected. According to Anderson, vineyard managers frequently install drainage systems incorrectly, fail to plant required cover crops to control erosion, incorrectly place deer fences in a way that prevents free passage of smaller wildlife, and use pesticides illegally. She says erosion control measures often fail to work, causing loose sediment to wash into creeks. There it can smother gravel beds used by spawning salmon and steelhead, which have almost vanished from North Bay watersheds. Many biologists have pointed to vineyards as a leading cause of the fish declines. Multiple phone calls and an email to the supervising code enforcement officer, David Giudice, were not returned.
    Anderson feels county planners and the Board of Supervisors are failing to protect public interests for the benefit of those who grow grapes and make wine. 

    "There has been a complete erosion of the office as a responsible caretaker of the people and the resources into something that caters to the next billionaire who wants to come here and build a party venue," Anderson says.

    Bordona says the planning department abides by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires projects to mitigate significant environmental impacts. In theory, CEQA ensures that no development project - like a new vineyard - does unnecessary harm to natural resources. However, critics say CEQA mitigations are often too flimsy. For example, a developer may be allowed to cut down a grove of adult trees if he or she scatters some sprouted seeds or acorns over another part of the property, ostensibly cancelling out the loss of the adult trees that will take decades to replace even if the seeds survive their first few years. Forests serve as critical carbon sponges and are increasingly being figured into global climate change mitigation plans; cutting them down doesn't help the state meet its ambitious climate mitigation goals.

    Even if CEQA mitigations always worked as intended, says Ellsworth, the process of rewriting permits to clear violations retroactively seriously compromises the effectiveness of the law.

    "If you suddenly have twice the visitors to a winery, now you have two times the drunk drivers and two times the air pollution," Ellsworth says.

    Rarely, he adds, are required mitigation efforts implemented with an original permit scaled up to match the upgraded permit.

    "So that means the mitigations initially agreed on won't be enough anymore," Ellsworth says.

    The Caves is just one of two projects that have Soda Canyon Road residents lashing out. The other, the proposed Mountain Peak Winery, was approved by the Board of Supervisors in May. The developers, who plan to open a tasting venue, estimate that their facility would attract some 14,000 visitors and generate approximately 40,000 additional car trips on Soda Canyon Road per year.

    Soda Canyon is already a dangerous mountain road, and has not been repaved since the 1980s. Records from county and state agencies show that reported traffic incidents on Soda Canyon Road surge during times of year when vineyard seasonal employment peaks.

    "It correlates perfectly," says Arger, who feels officials are now turning a blind eye to obvious safety hazards.

    "Officials, including Senator Bill Dodd, of Napa, county supervisor Alfredo Pedroza and planning commissioner Terry Scott, have acknowledged in written statements the deteriorating condition of Soda Canyon Road. So has the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which called this narrow, dead-end ribbon of asphalt a 'problematic roadway' in a 1999 decision to reject a proposal to expand a winery."

    Arger himself comes from the wine industry, and his family has owned vineyards in the county for decades. He says he is not opposed to the industry. "We are part of it and just want to see reasonable, sustainable growth," says Arger, who is acting as the attorney on a legal appeal of the decision. He is serving in the same capacity on the appeal of The Caves' approved permit modification.

    Others within the local wine industry contest the complaints of people like Anderson, Arger and Ellsworth. Chuck Wagner, owner of Caymus Vineyards, says his industry provides a variety of public benefits that critics tend to overlook, such as fire protection. He says that by partially fragmenting forested zones with vines, grape growers make devastating wildfires less of a threat.

    It's not just Napa. According to David Keller of Friends of the Eel River, wineries in Sonoma are taking an even greater toll on streams and fisheries. "Vineyards planted in the hills are fantastic fire breaks," he says.He also says vineyards checker boarding much of the North Bay have helped keep development at bay, ultimately protecting the region's bucolic qualities. (But Anderson says it was specific ballot measures approved by voters many years ago that have kept hillsides free of homes. "There isn't a fucking thing the wine industry had to do with stopping development," she says.)

    Wagner says he is sometimes perplexed by the arguments from industry critics. The two opposing sides, he says, actually want the "the same endpoint."

    "Preserving agriculture, reducing traffic and air pollution, conserving water, maintaining our bucolic ambiance, and reducing danger of fire are all shared concerns," Wagner says. "Where do we become separated? What is the problem in a nutshell?"

    One particular focal point of the environmentalist camp has been the preservation of native habitat, especially the region's iconic oak woodlands. It was, for instance, public outcry - plus several lawsuits - that recently stopped a county-approved proposal by Walt Wines to cut down 14,000 trees and plant roughly 200 acres more vineyards east of Napa. Last summer, local environmentalists collected some 6,000 signatures from county residents as part of an effort to place a woodland-watershed protection initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

    There appeared to be a real chance the measure, which would have roughly tripled the distance that farmers must leave between their vines and stream banks, would become law. However, the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative never made it to the ballot. Napa County registrar of voters John Tuteur killed the initiative on an unusual technicality. The problem, county officers had determined, is that the language presented to voters during the signature collection process included footnotes to source documents but not their full text.

    Mike Hackett, an author of the initiative, believes his bill was singled out. He says other bills that reached the November ballot had been petitioned in the preliminary stages in the same way his bill had - without appendix documents on hand for viewing by signatories.

    "But [the county] didn't have a problem with those bills," he said. The wine industry had formally opposed the watershed protection initiative.

    Anderson insists political influence from those who produce wine has steered the outcome of lawmaking.

    "The county is scared shitless of this wine industry," she says.

    The issues alleged to be so problematic in Napa County seem to occur elsewhere. At least one supervisor in neighboring Sonoma County, another nucleus of wine production, "has been bought by the wine industry," according to David Keller, Bay Area director of the group Friends of the Eel River. Keller says impacts of grape growing on streams and fish have been worse in Sonoma County than in Napa, and he says the county government cannot be relied upon to effectively force state and federal laws protecting resources.

    Napa County's wine industry began to boom between 30 and 40 years ago. Grapevine acreage has grown from about 12,000 in 1970 to more than 45,000 acres today, and county officials have estimated that 10,000 acres more could be planted by 2030. According to David Morrison, the director of Napa County's Planning, Building and Environmental Services department, about 500 acres of Napa County's undeveloped land is converted into vineyards each year. He says 80,000 of the roughly 400,000 undeveloped acres in the county have soil types suitable for vineyards.

    Since little undeveloped space remains on the Napa Valley floor, most of this projected vineyard growth will probably occur in the forested hills to the east and west of the valley floor. This, environmentalists have warned, means thousands of acres of trees will almost certainly be cut down to make way for vines.

    Adina Merenlender, a conservation biologist with U.C. Berkeley, has been studying northern California vineyards' environmental impacts for more than 20 years. She says the conversion of shrub, oak and conifer habitat into new vineyards is fragmenting wildlife habitat, thinning out forests, and, through erosion caused by agriculture, destroying the stream habitat where imperiled salmon and steelhead trout spawn. She says slender migration corridors of native habitat connecting the forests of Napa County to broader wilderness areas to the north, in Lake and Mendocino counties, will become ecologically dysfunctional if they continue to be compressed by vineyard expansion.
    "We're down to the final pinch points," Merenlender says. She notes that even bats and birds, though they can fly, may avoid passing over areas where tree cover has been replaced by grapevines and other forms of agriculture and development.

    "We absolutely have to stop native habitat removal in California," she says. "It has to end."

    Merenlender echoes the concerns of community activists in Napa County, who don't trust county agencies to effectively manage the wine industry.

    "The county is naturally interested in the economic well-being of their residents," Merenlender says. State officials, she believes, must take over management and protection of resources. "The state needs to step in," she says. "You cannot count on the government to protect natural resources with a 3-2 county vote on a Tuesday morning."

What's the hurry to kill the golden goose?

NV2050 Admin - Jun 9, 2017   Share

As more and more hotels and large housing projects are on the horizon in the City of Napa, Napa-resident Rusty Cohn asks the questions we've all been thinking: Do we really understand the burden they place on our streets/roads and our water? And where are all the employees to fill the thousands of new low paying jobs? How many hotels is enough? Do we need to pace their development until we come up with better transportation options and funds to expand the infrastructure?

  • A 90 room Cambria Hotel is proposed at southern end of Soscol.
  • The new owners of the Wine Train announced their interest in building a 5-story hotel on the site of the train depot.
  • The Meritage Resort has started a 133 room expansion to their existing 325 room hotel complex.
  • And Marriott is proposing 250 rooms plus a winery just around the corner.
  • A high-end resort has been approved in Stanley Ranch.
  • Multiple hotels are planned for the Oxbow area.
  • The Embassy Suites plans 54-room addition at California and First St.
  • Napa Pipe off Napa Valley Highway may built 800+ housing units plus Costco and other big box stores.
  • Gasser Foundation has 400+ housing units being built off Soscol with another 400 or so possible.

What is being done to keep Napa from gridlock when all these developments come online?

What's the hurry to kill the Golden Goose?

Here's something that you can do: Sign this petition advocating for longer term, thoughtful planning that includes a liveable community for all of us.

Balancing the needs of citizens with the growing stresses of tourism economies.

NV2050 Admin - Jun 7, 2017   Share

NVR 6/5/17: St. Helena wants Chamber to support more community programs

St. Helena City Council has joined a handful of cities nationwide which are acting to balance the needs of citizens with the growing stresses of tourism economies. Why spend more money on marketing tourism when your roadways are clogged with traffic and there is no affordable housing for our children and workers? Does St. Helena-- or Napa County-- really need to spend more on destination marketing when the local community takes the financial hit?

Since the change in the St. Helena City Council in November 2016 election, council members are questioning the sanity of renewing the Chamber of Commerce's current $210,000 for marketing. Given the impact tourism and the wine industry has had on the local residents, isn't it time to invest more or all of this money in community programs?

We applaud this forward thinking. It is time our TOT (transient occupancy tax charged to hotels) revenue is used to support community borne expenses versus marketing to get even more tourists. And it is time our county governing officials take a few lessons from the St. Helena Council Members and go to bat for residents.

Donate to help us continue our fight for resident-friendly advocacy.

Join us and find out what you can do.

Napa City Council gets it right

NV2050 Admin - Jun 3, 2017   Share

Kudos to the Napa City Council who decided this week to keep City Hall downtown. A new, multi-story building will ultimately house all city departments resulting in improved efficiency and access. A competing proposal would have created a new "campus" on Soscol close to auto dealerships and big-box stores.

Read the following articles to see how small and large US cities are struggling to balance tourism with the needs of the local community.

The Urban Phoenix

The Press Democrat

Napa has turned into a strong tourist destination in recent years, but this decision is one bright light focused on what's right for the residents & the community.

Napa at Last Light

NV2050 Admin - May 29, 2017   Share

    "In the West, as in Napa, natural beauty is being "harvested," in the argot of the developer."
    -- James Conaway

James Conway's Opinion Editorial in the Napa Valley Register on Friday says it all in one short article: Napa County is being exploited by outside money. Developers ignore or belittle the concerns of neighbors as they push vineyards into our fragile hillsides, as witnessed once again this last week with the Board of Supervisor's denial of the appeal of remote Mountain Peak Winery. Conaway states this is but a microcosm of what is happening in the country "and not even global warming can scotch this bonanza."

His is a rallying cry for citizens. We still have the vote, and it is critically important that we use it in electing officials who do listen to the electorate and are not bought off by developers, the wine and hospitality industries. We must pass initiatives which legislate to protect our precious environment and community when our elected officials fail us.

For a quarter of a century Conaway's books have chronicled the history of the Napa Valley. His most recent book, Napa at Last Light, is to be published in February 2018.

We ask three things of you:
Send a link to this article to 5 friends (OK how about two friends?) and suggest that they sign up to get our newsletters, join us with your contribution and e-mail us to find out how you too can help.

Oh, and while you are at it, like us on Facebook!

From a concerned citizen in response to the Conaway article:
"The massive development that is taking place in Napa County is not sustainable for the natural ecology of the region, from deforestation to groundwater depletion. These levels of development are also not economically supportable due to the requirements of new infrastructure and ongoing needed maintenance. Witness the burdens on roadways caused by thousands of workers and tourists, and service vehicles driving in and out of Napa County. With these problems, we are naive to think that that money is not changing hands behind the scenes which gives development a boost and results in nearly every proposed project getting government approval."

Link to the article on James Conway's blog, Nose

The Caymus Letter

Bill Hocker - May 24, 2017   View on SCR  |    Share

3 days prior to the Mountain Peak appeal hearing before the Board of Supervisors, Chuck Wagner, of Caymus Vineyards, sent this letter to the Board offering his encouragement to deny the appeals. Considering the very slim chance that the appeals would be upheld it was probably an unnecessary gesture, but it represented a chance to perpetuate yet again (see here) a canard that has become widespread among development interests: that a small vocal group of residents was out to kill the wine industry.

As was stated in this response to Rex Stults' similar statement, nothing could be further from the truth. And the truth needs to be reiterated here: residents that oppose these projects are not against the "wine" industry; they are against the non-agricultural urban development that the wine industry is adopting to increase profits from the much more lucrative tourism and real estate industries. The development of wineries as tourism venues and of vineyards as part of housing estates have major impacts on residents and on the county infrastructure way beyond the practice of crop raising and processing.

If tourism and estate development is claimed necessary to the survival of the wine industry we need to see the facts to back up that claim. Many vintners, some of the best in fact, seem to survive in the high end wine business with little or no visitation at all. What percentage of total Napa winery revenues are attributable to at-winery sales, and is that percentage worth the impacts of urbanization, diminished quality of life and high costs resulting from tourism and real estate speculation that the Ag Preserve, Measure J and the WDO were originally intended to counter.

There are many people in the county who are concerned about the changing nature of the wine industry, and the impact of that change on the rural character of the county and the quality of their lives, and that have no interest in "taking down the wine industry". They recognize that the wine industry, built by resident vintners and growers that valued not only the success of their industry but the preservation of their rural communities, has always had the respect of the other rural residents that benefit from the maintenance of a rural environment and small town life that was its product.

But the industry, as the industry itself constantly mentions, is changing. And the nature of that change is toxic to residents who treasure the bucholic pleasure of an agricultural economy. It is difficult to know whether the wine industry is becoming, or is just acting as a cover for, the tourism, entertainment, real estate and consturction interests that are beginning to engulf us all with development. Traffic is only a symptom of a development boom that is filling the vineyards with buildings and parking lots, and clearcutting hillsides for estates, resorts and more vineyards to replace those paved over on the valley floor, and for the tourism conversion of the municipalities that eliminates affordable housing, local businesses and decimates the sense of small-town community life. And for the mining of parklands to build it all.

In a previous generation the wine industry fought the urbanizing trajectory that those industries represent. Urbanization is the death of agriculture. One is left to wonder why now, after 40 some years of the wine industry being the defender of a rural environment, it is now up to the residents, against all odds including the bullying of the wine industry, to try to save the rural environment which an agricultural economy needs to exist.

A couple of years ago, the Napa Valley Vintners launched a PR campaign dubbed Our Napa Valley, casting the urban impacts as solvable with more transport infrastructure and more housing, i.e. more development. Until the wine industry returns to the notion that curbing development is in its own best long-term interest, as well as the interest of all citizens concerned about preserving the rural character of this place, resident anger against the industry and the government that continues to do its bidding will only increase.

SF Chronicle: Napa Valley Inflamed

NV2050 Admin - May 21, 2017   Share


Proposed helicopter pad inflames Napa Valley’s winery wars.

The latest assault on Napa County resident's homesteads hits the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“When is enough, enough? People with lots of money are coming in here and doing whatever they want. They’re not the ones on the tractor, though. They don’t have any sense of the land.”
—Dan Mufson, President, Napa Vision 2050

Napa Vision 2050 supporters...

The San Francisco Chronicle today detailed the recent developments in the Palmaz Heliport proceedings, as well as the challenges facing Napa County residents at the hands of over development.

We need to keep the pressure on the Planning Commission and the Supervisors so that they wake up and start to represent all our voices. Please ask your friends to get on our mailing list! There's strength in numbers. Make democracy work for you!

The Battle for the Hills

NV2050 Admin - May 17, 2017   Share

"Napa is getting really carved up. We see it all over the western and eastern ridges - it's been relentless."
--Adina Merenlender, conservation biologist, University of California, Berkeley

We have a lot to lose if our Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission do not stop the movement of vineyards into our hillsides and watersheds.

This recent article from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies addresses the dangers of continued removal of shrub, oak woodlands, and forests for new vineyards on the County's environmental health, interviewing several biologists, vintners, and activists. "Extensive water diversions, groundwater pumping, and increased agriculture (vineyards) water use during the dry season have reduced the extent of suitable summer rearing habitat ... throughout much of the Napa River watershed," National Marine Fisheries Service scientists wrote in the Napa River chapter of a 2016 report. This threatens remnant populations of steelhead and salmon. Read the article here:

The article features interviews with our hard working local activists Kelly Anderson, Preserve Rural Angwin; Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett, the Water, Forest, and Oak Woodland initiative; and Geoff Ellsworth, St. Helena City Councilman.

Proponents are working to prepare an updated Water, Forest, and Oak Woodland Initiative and would like volunteers to help us gather signatures. Contact us at Your donation will support our continued work to create and maintain a "preserving harmony" in Napa County between agriculture and the natural world.

Heli-No! Your presence is needed!

NV2050 Admin - May 12, 2017   Share


Your Presence is Urgent!

Attend the next Planning Commission hearing of the Palmaz application for a private use helicopter Landing Use Permit (UP# P14-000261) on Wednesday, May 17, at 9 am, the County Administration Building. County staff has yet again recommended that "the proposed Project would not have any significant environmental impacts after implementation of mitigation measures related to potential impacts to: (a) Land Use and Agricultural Resources; (b) Biological Resources; (c) Cultural Resources; and (d) Noise."

Not only does this fly in the face of past testimony of biologists and neighbors, but it defies logic! Furthermore, the approval of this permit will open the door for many others!

Consider making public comment (three minutes!) and/or sending your comments to the Planning Commissioners (see addresses below).

Even if you do not wish to make public comment, your presence makes a difference. Presence means votes at the ballot box and our supervisors are watching!
Please consider the following comments from Calistoga resident, Christine Tittel, someone who has lived the nightmare of a Napa valley helicopter flying neighbor.

Talking Points:

Private use helicopters are solely for private recreational or convenience purposes with only negative impacts on the public.

Helicopters are prone to accidents.

Helicopters are noisy!

The County may not grant a Use-Permit when fully aware that in practice non-compliance to its conditions is impossible to monitor, impossible to document and that in its entirety is impossible to enforce. Currently there are helipads on Diamond Mountain, Pritchard Hill, Hennessey Ridge and reported landings at the above locations and on Tubbs Lane in Calistoga and Atlas Peak Road. All are illegal. Many other landings are also reported taking place around the county due to lack of enforcement .

A Palmaz approval will open the doors for many others who are watching and to the proliferation of helicopter flights over the Napa Valley skies. This will drive the final nail to our peace and quiet.

Absolutely nothing justifies the use of private helicopters! Stop private heliports in Napa County! Show up at the May 17, 2017, hearing, 9 am, and voice your objection. County Administration Building, 3rd and Coombs Street, Napa, CA.

Supporting Documents: HERE

Michael Basayne (707) 815-7042
Terry Scott (707) 251-5533
Jeri Gill (707) 337-4975
Anne Cottrell (707) 408-1166
Joelle Gallagher (707) 738-7108

Your Supervisor needs your input on the Definition of Ag!

NV2050 Admin - May 6, 2017   Share

Call to Action: Call your supervisor today!

Your supervisor is about to make a final vote on revising the zoning code definition of agriculture to include marketing and sales.

Such a change in definition opens the door for more marketing events and restaurant-style tastings in our protected agricultural lands.

This decision should be made by Napa citizenry, and not by elected officials. Measure J, which protects and preserves the unique character and quality of life here in our county, was passed by Napa County voters and affirmed by the California State Supreme Court in 1995. Measure P, also passed by Napa citizenry, states that agricultural, watershed and open space lands cannot be re-designated and subjected to more intensive development without a vote of the people. For more information on these measures and the history of the definition of agriculture, click here.

We, the citizenry in Napa County, in accordance with Measure P, have the right to decide this issue. Please take five minutes to call or e-mail your supervisor to tell her/him that you believe that Napa citizenry have the right to decide [via an initiative] if the definition of Agriculture should be modified.

When you call, please take an additional two minutes to email us at to let us know when you called, who your supervisor is, what you said and how your supervisor responded.

Listed below are the contact numbers for each of our supervisors. Please call or write immediately as the final vote is upcoming.

Thank you!
Napa Vision 2050

Brad Wagenknecht, District 1
(707) 253-4828

Ryan Gregory, District 2
(707) 259-8276

Diane Dillon, District 3
(707) 944-8280

Alfredo Pedroza, District 4
(707) 225-2019

Belia Ramos, District 5
(707) 259-8277

Healing Walk on April 29th

NV2050 Admin - Apr 24, 2017   Share

Yes! There is something you can do! Napa Vision 2050 and Napa Climate NOW! are partnering with Healing Walk Napa Valley this Saturday, Saturday, April 29, 2017:

Walk in solidarity with the People's Climate Marches in Washington DC and around the world!

The walk is a "peaceful pilgrimage rooted in the indigenous philosophy of invoking sacred space to heal the land and its people."

You have several options: Walk the whole distance (about 9 miles), beginning at 8:30 am, at Yountville Memorial Park, 6453 Washington Street. Sign in and Indigenous Water Blessing Ceremony. 9:00 am depart on 5 mile walk to Las Flores Park. Bring your lunch and drinking water.

Or: Join Healing Walk at Las Flores Park, 11:30 am, 2235 Las Flores Park. 12 noon depart for 4 mile final leg of Healing Walk.

Or: Join walkers at 2:00 pm at Napa Veterans Memorial Park, Main and Third downtown Napa and walk across river to Oxbow Commons.

Or simply join us for Oxbow Commons Healing Walk Rally at McKinstry Street, Napa, for indigenous drumming ceremony, prayer dances and short talks on local watershed and climate justice issues.

For more information:
Or visit on Facebook

Thinking Globally: United Nations Harmony with Nature Project
While our federal government has decided to officially back out of addressing Climate Change, making decisions that will increase global warming, the United Nations and We, the People, have not!

On Friday, April 21, 2017, the results of reports from experts around the world on mitigating the physical, social, and ethical challenges of changing climate were broadcast and are available on demand here.
Learn the universal recommendations to protect the rights of the Earth and her living inhabitants. Information regarding the Dialogue can be found here.

Thank all of you who visited our booth at Earth Day, April 22, 2017!

Napa Vision 2050 supports our County efforts to protect our watersheds, our water, our people! Join us in this coming year to work for a healthy environment in Napa County.

Supervisors OK Definition of Agriculture. Final Vote to Come

Stephen J Donoviel - Apr 21, 2017   Share

Defining agriculture is a seemingly simple task. Webster New World Dictionary has the following definition: The science and art of farming; work of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock. Various trade and citizen groups have addressed the definition in the Napa County General Plan and its land use policy, codes and ordinances, and this has proven vexing over the past decades and is an example of the saying, “the devil is in the details.”

On April 1, 2008, the Board of Supervisors proclaimed April to be Agricultural Preserve Appreciation Month and pledged to support the letter and the intent of the Ag Preserve. That Proclamation honored the visionary leaders who in the late 1960s, “…realized that agriculture is and should continue to be the predominant land use in the fertile valley and foothill areas of Napa County, where uses incompatible to agriculture should be precluded and where the development of urban type uses would be detrimental to continuance of agriculture and the maintenance of open spaces, which are economic and aesthetic attributes and assets of Napa County.”

The Proclamation summarized several milestones:
April 9, 1968--Supervisors adopted Ordinance 274, establishing the Ag Preserve District (APD) protecting 25,950 acres from urban development.

1979--Supervisors adopted Ordinance 610, increasing the minimum parcel size in the APD from 20 acres to 40 acres.

1980--Voters passed Measure A, limiting population growth in the unincorporated county areas to 1% per year.

November 6,1990--Voters passed Measure J, which spoke to certain land use Elements of the General Plan of June 7,1983 and prohibited changes without a vote of the people (emphasis mine).

The Finding and Purpose Section of Measure J reads in part:

“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. The unique character of Napa County and quality of life of county residents depend on the protection of a substantial amount of open space lands. The protection of such lands not only ensures the continued viability of agriculture, but also protects the available water supply and contributes to flood control and the protection of wildlife, environmentally sensitive areas and irreplaceable natural resources.”

Measure J was tested all the way to the California Supreme Court where it was upheld. Subsequently, Measure P, which readopted portions of the General Plan land use tenets of J, viz., agricultural, watershed and open space lands could not be re-designated and made available for more intensive development without a vote of the people.

Over the years, something has gone terribly awry with the codification and implementation of the vision and wisdom of the leaders in the 1960s, the drafters of Measures J and P and the wishes of the people who voted for those measures. Decades ago, the activities of agriculture, which had little or no regulatory restriction, were pretty much as Webster’s definition encompassed, and the “rural lifestyle” prevailed. Over time, more and different activities have been added and changed to those originally assigned to agriculture. Recently, activities related not to agriculture, per se, but to the business of agriculture, such as housing, marketing, branding, entertaining, and serving food, have taken center stage ahead of the product (wine) and have resulted in the uber-glitzy experiences that have been leapfrogging through our Valley.

The regulatory language related to the implementation of what was meant to protect our Valley, its farming and its citizens has been ratified without attention to CEQA and EIR analyses, resulting in the problems we currently experience and those the visionaries hoped to avoid. These problems include but are not limited to multiple ecological degradations, markedly increased traffic congestion, which results in increased driving hazards and road damage, and pressure on all infrastructure spheres.

Two perspectives seem to have emerged to the latest revisions to the definition of agriculture and modification of the zoning code that the supervisors favored in their vote of the first reading on April 3, 2017. One perspective views the revisions as “no big deal” and a mere alignment of regulatory language, and the other, to which I belong, views the revisions not only as an assault on the English language, but more importantly as an assault on the hopes and expectations of the visionaries and the voice of the people who passed Measures J and P. Land use changes per J and P can be made solely by the supervisors if certain, specific conditions are met, and these specific conditions are not being met. Therefore, I believe the supervisors should place this issue as an Initiative for the voters to decide in 2018. If you agree that we citizens of Napa should have a say in this matter, please let your supervisor know ASAP since their second vote will probably be coming soon.

This LTE appeared In Napa Register 4/19/17: The Definition of Agriculture.

The county's use permit problem

George Caloyannidis - Apr 21, 2017   Share

Use permits regulate development and activities on properties in Napa County (e.g. at wineries the size, production, visitation, etc.), loosely defined in the Zoning Code. The county Supervisors have a great deal of discretion in adjusting the conditions of the use permits as they see fit upon applicants' requests. On the face of it, one would think there is nothing wrong with that. This, however, presupposes a fair and equitable government that enjoys the trust of the people.

The use permit process begins with the applicant spending thousands of dollars in preparing detailed plans, environmental reports and other studies for staff to review for a recommendation to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission conducts public hearings attended by the applicant, county staff and legal counsel and the public. Such hearings may extend over two, even three, sessions before the commission approves or denies them. Its decisions may be appealed to the Supervisors involving additional public hearings. The Supervisors' decisions can then be contested in court at enormous costs, as is recently the case with the Syar quarry expansion and the Walt Ranch development.

While the applicant pays for the cost of staff time, he or she does not pay for the long-term costs of staff benefits and pensions, nor for the costs of the county facilities such as utilities, equipment, maintenance and depreciation. Nor does the applicant pay for the tens of thousands in consultants' fees paid by appellants, overwhelmingly meaning the impacted public. One must also consider that a proliferation in use permit applications necessitates ever-increasing numbers of staff. These enormous long-term costs are all borne by the public.

There are also unaccounted costs in lost productivity. The recent application by the Palmaz family to allow it to fly a personal-use helicopter from its property on Hagen Road, has already had three public hearings, each time attended by over 100 citizens, with a fourth scheduled. By the time appeal hearings are over, this use permit process will have cost the citizens between 3,500 and 4,000 hours of unaccounted for loss in productivity. Whether it is for one winery to increase its visitors or for a single person to use his property for the recreational activity of flying his helicopter, this system, in terms of public expenditure and in human capital investment, is grossly out of balance in favor of the applicant.

Equally, if not more important, are ethics issues arising when commissioners and supervisors have more and more discretionary power, which is what use permits give them.

The amounts of money spent on supervisors' election campaigns has mushroomed to obscene levels, primarily funded by wineries and other special interests certainly not motivated by charity but in the hope of gaining favorable outcomes to their use permit applications. The system is so grossly out of kilter that even wineries, that for years have been violating their use permits, not only receive forgiveness but are rewarded with many times over their production and visitation.

When the Reverie Winery received its forgiveness last year, including for serious environmental violations, it was also rewarded with triple its production levels and tenfold its visitation. Before the ink had dried on its new use permit, it turned around and sold it within days after the supervisors added millions of value in scandalous rewards.

If you are the director of corporate development for a winery tour company that relies on good winery relations for access, as one of our commissioners is, or a supervisor voting for a large donor's use permit, would it not be fair for the public to question the independence of their vote?

This is not a government that can be trusted - even in appearance - to make equitable and unbiased administration of the power it keeps giving to itself in the form of the use permit process?

There are measures that can be employed toward a solution.

First: For the government to regain credibility, any commissioners and supervisors who have a direct or proximate interest or have received substantial financial contributions from an industry or an individual seeking a use permit must recuse themselves from voting on them.

Second: A serious effort must be made to substantially tighten the Zoning Code - perhaps review it every five years - so that what is permitted and what is not, is clear. This will reduce the number of use permit applications, limiting the discretionary power of commissioners and supervisors. It will also reduce the cost in both monetary and human capital expended in the inefficient and unfair current system.

Finally, it will free up staff, commissioners and supervisors to allow them to devote their energy in addressing the fundamental issues the county is facing now and into the future.

Urgent: We all need to help clear the air in Napa County

Mike Hackett - Apr 19, 2017   Share

April 6, 2017: Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga - Clos Pegase/Girard field prep for new Girard Winery. Vines were pulled out just days before burn - too green and muddy. Several anonymous calls made - BAAQMD inspector halted the burn. Vines must be minimum 60-days dry. You can see the low, heavy smoke headed directly into adjacent home of elderly neighbor.
The majority of climate scientists, the 99%, and most of us in California are growing increasing concerned that we are living in a time of climate disruption. In the Napa Valley we experienced five years of mega-drought followed this year with record rain. Most significant is that 2016 was the hottest year on record, the third such year in a row. We must give our attention to our man-made climate crisis. Our elected officials at the state level appear to be taking action.

To address a strategy for tipping-point avoidance, Governor Brown signed SB-1382 in September 2016. The legislation requires, in part, a 40% reduction in methane and a 50% reduction in black carbon below 2013 levels by 2030. Methane and black carbon are two potent short-lived climate pollutants. Burning vineyard waste produces vast amounts of these toxic elements. The grape growing industry in Napa is fully aware of the problems of vineyard waste, but many in the industry are still burning their seasonally produced vine trimmings, and some are not following the requirements of the Bay Area's guidelines.

When government, industry and citizens alike recognize a pollution issue such as this, we know we're moving in the right direction. Last week, the Napa Register ran an article chronicling the Napa Valley Grape Growers formation of a Vineyard Burning Task Force aimed at raising awareness and setting best management practices to minimize the negative effect on air quality. The Grape Growers hail as their first success, a program developed to promote proper vine drying techniques. The Register article shows data that in 2016, 24,000 people suffered from diagnosed asthma in Napa County. This is certainly disturbing, but is a small subset of climate induced problems of burning vineyard waste.

Current regulations mandate a 60-day drying commitment. Burning is only allowed on "burn days" as mandated from Bay Area Air Quality District, no burning before 10 a.m., and no fuel added two hours before sunset. Failure to comply with these regulations violates governmental rules, and more seriously violates our rights. We justly deserve clean air, and when wet vines are burned, excessive smoke fills the air, our homes, our lungs and our atmosphere. If the "bad actors" are not stopped, those who properly manage their burns lose credibility and the ability to destroy disease pathogens. More seriously, those short-lived climate pollutants of methane and black carbon, which we should be drawing down, are actually increasing.

Alternately, vines can be chipped, or hauled to a landfill. Both these methods unfortunately hurt the environment. Most likely, an already existing process called fusion gasification will be used to store carbon in the earth (biochar), which greatly reduces the atmospheric carbon pollution.

We as citizens can file a complaint with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District at (800) 334-6367 toll free. This is the number to call if you see excessive smoke. All complaints are confidential.

Chain of Command

NV2050 Admin - Apr 14, 2017   Share

Why is the Napa County Chain of Command plaque in the basement of the County Administration Building, where almost no one sees it? CITIZENS are at the top of the organizational chart of Napa County, so why do supervisors hold public input sessions where none of the supervisors show up? In their place they send expensive, paid consultants to make expensive reports about what we say, paid for by our taxes. You do not hear it from US.

Supervisors and Commissioners: here are some suggestions for more transparency in decisions that affect our county:

  1. Be clear about who you have talked to and what about, before taking any vote on a new winery, vineyard, heliport, etc.Disclose not only these conversations but also fiduciary and business relationships, including cumulative campaign donations from project owners. If a campaign donation surpasses $500, recuse yourself from from discussions about or voting on the issue.

  2. Without a strict Conflict of Interest Ordinance/policy the public's trust is violated and suffers.

  3. During the decision-making process, treat citizens' expertise with respect. There is an apparent lack of regard or weight paid to citizens' knowledge of issues, concerns of risks/negative impacts to their well-being and damage to the environment. Three minutes for public comment is too short. It is insulting to let a project's consultants go on and on, and then cut off citizens who often have more accurate and critical information than the consultant . There is also no serious deliberation about the points we raise.

  4. Hold town hall or public comment meetings on evenings or Saturdays in larger venues where more can attend, including working families. Involve Youth. Make sure so-called town hall meetings are attended by two supervisors and/or commissioners.

  5. Provide supporting data of any project to the public at least a week before a hearing.

  6. Have district supervisors and their appointed commissioners hold monthly town hall meetings in their districts with the electorate.

  7. And last, but not least, move the chain of command plaque to the main lobby and have a copy of it outside the 3rd story, Board of Supervisors chamber, where we all can be reminded of it every time we meet!

And By The Way! Join us at the all day Board of Supervisors' Strategic Planning Session on Monday, April 24, 2017, 8:30AM-5PM. They need our input! Held at the Napa Valley College Community Room. Details to follow.

Lessons for our Supervisors:
How to Hold a Town Hall Meeting

NV2050 Admin - Apr 13, 2017   Share

Our Board of Supervisors could learn a thing or two about participative democracy from right wing republican Tom McClintock. a congressman from the Central Valley. McClintock knows how to treat people with respect, no matter what their politics.
Napa County Supervisors can take a lesson from him! In their so-called “outreach” for the development of their Strategic Plan, not ONE of the supervisors has attended, only their expensive, hired consultants! They seem to be doing everything they can to keep us at bay. Why don’t they hold an open session for public participation as they last did in 2015 when hundreds of residents filed the Napa High auditorium? And schedule the session on a Saturday so working families can attend.

In contrast, McClintock chose the largest venue in Sonora, and when 250 people showed up beyond the capacity of the hall, he stepped outside before the meeting and addressed the overflow crowd.

He told them that he wanted to hear their views and give them a chance to speak by organizing another meeting and by having those who already made their comment make room for those who hadn’t.

See the attached, highlighted article from the Sonora Union Democrat.

A huge lesson for us all here in Napa Valley! Listen! Hear us! Our views are important! After all, “This is what democracy looks like!"

Hot off the Press!

Last year citizens spoke through almost 6300 signatures to put the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative on the ballot. Elected officials did not listen!
Citizens, be persistent! We cannot be suppressed!

Today’s Napa Valley Register story:

From James Conaway’s Blog: (

"This issue has profound implications for the entire state of California and comes at a time when forests and fish face unprecedented environmental stress. Napa County is one of the few that can well afford these necessary precautions, and resistance by vintners and developers is both wrong-headed and unconscionable."--Conaway

Call to Action:
Napa County Agricultural Preserve at Risk!

NV2050 Admin - Apr 3, 2017   Share

Update 4/5/17: As expected the Board of Supervisors voted to approve the changes to the definition.

"In Napa, fine dining isn't limited to restaurants. A number of prestigious Napa Valley wineries now offer food pairings to elevate the traditional tasting room experience. If you believe wine is best appreciated with food, make reservations at these wineries."

- Rachel Ward, "4 of Napa's Best Food and Wine Pairing Experiences." ,

Is this agriculture? It's time to decide.
The Board of Supervisor need to hear from you!
All are needed for public comment!

Tuesday, April 4 at 11am, The Board of Supervisors will consider changes in the Definition of Agriculture. (item 9H here) The proposed ordinance expands the current definition, Agriculture is the growing of crops, trees, and livestock, to include many other uses currently allowed or requiring a conditional use permit, These include production/processing, marketing, sales, and farmworker housing.

The proposed ordinance has retained the hierarchy of growing of crops, trees, and livestock "by right" versus production/processing requiring use permits, and the requirement that marketing & sales be related, subordinate, and incidental to the main processing use. Nevertheless, changes to the Definition of Agriculture, zoning code 18.08.040, ripple throughout the General Plan, potentially impacting priority of groundwater, the Right To Farm, and farm/agricultural worker housing. What are the unintended consequences of this ordinance? Will an event center in the winery next door become "a right" that neighbors cannot object to, except by lawsuits? And will farmworker housing include the chef for the wine/food pairings ?

These functions are related to agriculture, but they are not agriculture. They threaten the integrity of the landmark Agricultural Preserve, allowing a commercialization of agricultural lands. Napa Vision 2050 recommends that the Definition of Agriculture remain the same until we understand the unintended consequences of such a change. Our agricultural lands are precious. The real change must be made to the General Plan itself - something this Board is not willing to do. To understand more, read Eve Kahn's Why You Should Care About the Definition of Agriculture.

Our Board of Supervisors need to hear from us!

Show up on Tuesday, April 4, to voice your comments (three minute limit) on this proposed ordinance, or e-mail or write our district supervisors.


Why should you care about the State Groundwater Sustainability Act (SGMA)?

NV2050 Admin - Mar 29, 2017   Share

The water wars have only begun!
Every project that comes before the Napa County Planning Commission must show that there is enough water for the project. We have witnessed a great deal of variance in how this is managed.

County hydrologists/consultants say there is plenty of water for a vineyard or winery and then nearby neighbors and communities run out of water, or have the quality of their water severely impacted by these permitted projects.

The most notable example is the Carneros Inn which has had to truck in water and is now asking for extension of a water pipeline from the Congress Valley Water District.

The State Groundwater Sustainability Act (SGMA) mandates that every county have a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) in effect no later than Jan. 1, 2022. It also mandates that a county which does not have a Department of Water Resources (DWR) approved plan in place by Jan. 1, 2017, must either form its own Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) or apply for an Alternative by demonstrating that it has been a good steward of groundwater resources for at least 10 years and that its practices do not have, nor will they, any "undesirable results."

Examples of such undesirable results in Napa County include: dewatering of streams, saltwater intrusion, land subsidence, decline in groundwater quality, groundwater surface levels declining (wells going dry, especially in the northeastern and southern portions of the Napa Sub-Basin).

Napa County has chosen to take the latter alternative route, which, given the proposal they've submitted, amounts to a very expensive subterfuge "end run" around both the letter and spirit of the law.

Many individuals and groups including NapaVision 2050 have submitted detailed comments in opposition the County's proposal. Other groups involved thus far have been: ICARE (Institute for Conservation Advocacy Research and Education - the fiscal sponsor for LRC), North Coast Stream Flow Coalition (NCSFC - an ICARE project), the Mt. Veeder Stewardship Council, Bell Canyon Watershed Alliance, the Nature Conservancy, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Watersheds Alliance of Atlas Peak, and, of particular significance, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

Three comments have been submitted supporting the Alternative, all from industry/trade groups: the Natural Resources Committee of the Napa County Farm Bureau (and that at the personal behest of Patrick Lowe, Napa County Natural Resources Conservation Manager), Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) and Winegrowers of Napa County.

What can you do?

You can read the comments here.

You can submit your own comments as the deadline for public comment has been extended to April 1st.

NapaVision 2050's comments are also here.

A Community Vision- Napa County to Host Roundtable Discussions

NV2050 Admin - Mar 22, 2017   Share

Napa County will host a series of local meetings throughout the valley to gather input and ideas for a community vision that can help shape the Board of Supervisors priorities. Meetings will be conducted in English and Spanish.

The Register article on the first meeting is here:
NVR 3/25/17: Citizens pepper Napa County leaders with ideas for the future

The schedule is as follows:
    � March 23: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., McPherson Elementary School multipurpose room, 2670 Yajome St., in Napa;
    � March 25: 10 a.m. to noon, American Canyon High School cafeteria, 3000 Newell Dr., in American Canyon;
    � March 28: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Calistoga Community Center, 1307 Washington St., in Calistoga;
    � March 30: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School multipurpose room, 1316 Hillview Pl., in St. Helena; and
    � April 3: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Yountville Elementary School cafeteria, 6554 Yount St., in Yountville.

The roundtable discussions follow the board's strategic planning retreat, which highlighted current and future opportunities and challenges the county faces.
The small group roundtable format will be led by county staff and consultants at The HR Matrix whose goal will be to collect information about areas of focus.

Why You Should Care About the Definition of Agriculture (updated)

Eve Kahn - Mar 20, 2017   View on SCR  |    Share

Update 3/16/17: Editor's note: On Mar 21st 2017 the Board of Supervisors will consider changes to the County Code of Ordinances to reflect 2008 changes to the General Plan which include agricultural processing, tourism processing (marketing) and farmworker housing projects all as part of the definition of agriculture. (item 9H here)

[letter first published in this NapaVision2050 newsletter in Dec 2016]

Prior to the 2008 County General Plan (GP) update, the definition of Agriculture in our County ordinance was quite simple: Agriculture is the growing of crops, trees, and livestock. Many other uses may be permitted/allowed but must remain related, subordinate, and incidental to the main use.

We are a county that has valued our Ag lands. In 1968 the Napa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) put in place the Ag Preserve, the first ever in United States, which protects most of our lands outside of cities and towns from development.

However, the huge success of the Napa wine industry during the 80's necessitated an ordinance to keep winery development consistent with the protection of Ag Preserve. On January 23, 1990, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved the Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO). This ordinance defined a winery as an "agricultural processing facility" for "the fermenting and processing of grape juice into wine." The ordinance also allowed for wineries to sell and market wine, but such marketing activity must be "accessory" and subordinate to production.


Every 10 years the Napa County General Plan (GP) is updated. The Steering Committee for the 2008 update was comprised mostly of industry representatives and winery owners eager to expand their business options. The updated GP, approved by the Board of Supervisors on June 3, 2008, expanded the definition of Agriculture to include not only the raising of crops, trees, and livestock, but also the production and processing of agricultural products and related marketing, sales and other accessory uses. Agriculture now also includes farm management and farmworker housing.

The second event began with the economic downturn of 2008. The wine industry pressured the BOS to include direct marketing as an accessory use of agriculture. The BOS approved this in 2010. This means that VISITATION, WINE AND FOOD PAIRINGS, AND RELATED EVENTS, are consistent with "accessory use of agriculture".


For parcels zoned Ag Preserve (AP) or Ag Watershed (AW), agriculture is a use "by right" (without a use permit). And the Right-to-Farm ordinance (signed by everyone buying property in Napa County) states that the County will not consider the inconveniences or discomforts arising from agricultural operations to be a nuisance. If you live next to a vineyard or winery, you have to accept the noise, odors, dust, chemicals, and operation of machinery which go along with agriculture. If you object, your alternative is to go to court.


What happens, then, when visitation, wine and food pairings, often four or five course meals, and outdoor marketing events are included in the Definition of Agriculture- not just accessory uses?

Are these marketing events provided the same level of protection under the Right-to-Farm as those of actually farming? Are these uses consistent with the protections of Measure J, the 1990 initiative amending the Napa County general plan that sought to preserve all agriculturally designated land? Any change in agricultural land use must be with voter approval. RESTAURANTS ARE SPECIFICALLY CITED AS GROWTH THAT HAS TO GO INTO THE CITIES OR ONE OF THE VERY SMALL URBAN NODES IN THE UNINCORPORATED AREA, UNLESS VOTERS ARE WILLING TO ALLOW AN EXCEPTION.

What about Housing on Ag lands in this Change of Definition of Agriculture? Who really qualifies as a Farmworker (often called Agricultural Workers)? Are the chefs or kitchen/wait staff at wineries and event centers the new Farmworkers? Can high-density housing be built on our Ag Preserve and Ag Watershed lands to accommodate them?

Changing agricultural lands to include expanded commercial uses (by right) violates the intensity of uses and protections under Measure P, which extends Measure J's protections until 2058.

One of the key phrases in Measure P: to protect the County's agricultural, watershed, and open space lands, to strengthen the local agricultural community and preserve the County's rural way of life. By expanding what is allowed (whether by right or by permit), the rural way of life is/can be destroyed. The number of unintended consequences is significant.

This issue will be coming to the Board of Supervisors soon. Please contact your Supervisor requesting that the definition to Agriculture not be modified until all the unintended consequences are understood.

Diane Dillon
Alfredo Pedroza
Ryan Gregory
Brad Wagenknecht
Belia Ramos

Highway improvements increase traffic (updated)

George Caloyannidis - Mar 16, 2017   View on SCR  |    Share

Katy Freeway, Huston - never wide enough
Update 3/16/17
NVR 3/16/17: Napa officials talk about scrapping Hwy 29 widening in American Canyon

This is one of the few government acknowledgements that road widening doesn't relieve traffic congestion, it enables future development and induces traffic increases to fill the lanes available, a fact already known to traffic researchers. This comes one day after the City of American Canyon presented their plans to widen Hwy 29 to encourage more development. The NVTA director then took issue with the reporting on this article in an editorial here. Kudos to the NVTA.

Dignitaries always flock to ribbon-cutting photo ops, but established traffic findings throw a damper on the champagne.

Research at UC Davis -- one of the best in the nation on traffic studies -- has shown that the widening of traffic arteries does not alleviate traffic congestion. In fact, as Professor Susan Handy who was a contributor to that research explained during her last April's presentation at the NV2050 Forum on the Tourism Economy, the widening of traffic arteries alleviates traffic congestion for between one and two years and then makes congestion even worse than it was before. Though Caltrans has not yet adopted that policy, it has posted it on its website. In the face of overwhelming evidence, it will surely follow in time.

That the widening of arteries alleviates traffic congestion is intuitive but the reason why it makes it worse is more complicated.

During the congestion easing phase, all traffic increasing projects which undergo CEQA review evaluate current traffic conditions and are given a green light on their traffic impacts which they might not have gotten had those improvements not taken place. In other words, more traffic-increasing projects are approved than would have been otherwise. This facilitates more traffic until the previous saturation point is reached. But the net effect is that more traffic is dumped on the side streets of communities and overall congestion gets worse. Not to mention increased parking requirements.

A great example of this pattern is the Highway 29/Trancas Street underpass. For those who remember traffic conditions before those improvements more than a decade ago, there was a bottleneck at that location but nowhere else further Upvalley. That ribbon cutting celebrated the easing of traffic congestion. But here we are today, the percentage of pass-through traffic remains at less than 10 percent, but additional development was facilitated by valid CEQA review and here we are with the intolerable conditions of today.

It is great that the eyesore utilities have been placed underground and that the easier left turns will facilitate better traffic flow for a while, but overall traffic will increase because of them. When the rest of the developed world is abandoning traffic lights in favor of roundabouts, St. Helena will get one more of those traffic-delaying relics to facilitate an unwise development project. Make no mistake; even more development will slip under the CEQA radar during the coveted window and the quality of life of local up-valley communities will suffer.

Sip the bubbly with caution!

Weekly Calistogan 10/4/16: Highway improvements will increase traffic
Barry Eberling series: Traffic Tales of Napa County

Roads on Mt. Veeder

Patricia Damery - Mar 15, 2017   Share

The following letter from Napa resident Chris Bell addresses the deplorable conditions of the roads on Mt. Veeder, conditions increasingly common on our county roads. Although the County continues to support growth in tourism and wine sales, the situation with our country roads is precarious and dangerous and the County contends there is little money to fix them . Mr. Bell raises the question: what about residents? With so much money pouring in from the hospitality and winery businesses, why is so little being used to ensure our roads are safe? Bell offers a solution.

My wife and I went to a sort of "town hall" meeting last week that the residents up Mt Veeder pulled together after enduring some pretty tough and dangerous situations in last month's storms. There were about 50 of us there with our district supervisor and the head of the county road department and local fire chiefs.

As we drove north for the 15 minute drive up Mt Veeder road to the meeting we passed three places where the road was only one makeshift lane. It had either caved off into the creek, or a landslide had come down into the road. The road was temporarily filled back in or graded to allow a tight and very slow passage. And then another one lane section that has caved off the hillside and has been that way for so long the temporary guard rail is now covered with moss. There were also a few other large sinking spots that were on the verge of failing with another good storm. None of the ditches that allow drainage were flowing because they haven't been cleaned out in years and the pot holes and huge fishers in the road promoted many a hit the brakes quick situation.

Remembering back about a month ago, we had a massive landslide just south of us on Redwood road that shut off the southbound path into Napa for a week, making this northbound route the only way out for about 600 people. This "detour" makes the normal 7 minute drive to Napa about an hour and 15 minutes during traffic hours.

What we learned in this meeting is this:

Our county road maintenance is paid for by a gas tax and hasn't been changed since 1993. What has changed is that now we have very efficient cars and electric cars, and revenue from gas tax has shrunk over 25% since 93. It seems most of that budget goes to Silverado Trail because of the high volume of traffic there.

Napa county passed "Measure T" last year but won't see any funds available until 2018 at which point they will be able to begin the year's worth of engineering and planning to repair our road. So today, in 2017 the road is barely passable - it's the only way out if there is a road failure heading south, and it's not going to be fixed until maybe 2021.

Now consider this scenario: This road travels thru some of the most wooded forest in California, and there's about 600 people, numerous wineries, commercial vineyards, a few 10-30 million dollar estates, it's a well driven back route for bikes and cars between Napa and Sonoma and a well traveled route for Mt Veeder grapes during harvest. And according to the officials, it will be 4 or 5 fire seasons between now and the time ANY if this is fixed???

If a fire starts up on the mountain we will have a mass exodus down the mountain at the same time we have potentially 100s of large emergency vehicles and equipment heading up the mountain - many of them weighing 10-20 times over what the roads have people admitted is a very low weight limit on the current road. Remember the footage of the residents in Lake County last year having to flee thru the burning roads to escape?

What we now have the potential for is a headline that reads "Hundreds trapped (or killed) in Mt Veeder fire" followed by billions in losses to property because firefighters could't get up the mountain with heavy equipment and emergency services.

This is scary and potentially possible.

Now here's the ironic part: Napa county generates massive dollars annually in wine and tourist related businesses for the county and creates a hefty income for the federal coffers. And according to Google Napa county property tax records show an all time high of $30 billion last year. So there is plentiful dollars generated by the use of the roads and land in Napa County - yet the politicians have created and are allowing a potentially life threatening situation on ours ( and I'm sure most other) Napa county roads.

If you consider how many bottles of wine are produced in Napa County, and added a 5 cent a bottle tax ( charged to the buyer not the winery) on every bottle that went out of this valley to pay for the roads that everyone who makes, buys and drinks the wine uses: we would have ample funds available every year by now to stop this dangerous situation. But the valley gets richer, the tourists get drunker, the airport hosts more private jets and our roads get busier every year as we sit there and listen to all the red tape and political reasons why our rural county roads are not on any high priority lists for immediate repairs. It's time to rethink how this is working out now that lives are now in danger for our rural residents.

Political talk and justifications for "5 year plans" to repair and make our roads safe will be a huge liability when we have a tragedy that cost the lives of Napa residents.

In 2017 in one of the richest producing counties in the nation there is no excuse for this scenario to even be possible. But this is the reality on Mt Veeder in Napa, California, 2017.


Bill Hocker - Mar 16, 2017

Unfortunately, despite the vast amount of development that has occurred in the county over the last decades, all promoted and sold on the basis of the tax revenues that would be raised by the expanded economy, the taxes and fees generated are never enough to pay for the impacts the new development creates. George Caloyannidis makes that point here and is the subject of many of his other articles as well as other articles on the SCR Growth Issues page.

Goodbye, Napa Valley

George Caloyannidis - Mar 10, 2017   Share

We thought we would share with you a recent letter to the editor to the St. Helena Star, written by Chuck O'Rear. As many of you have, we knew Charles (Chuck) O'Rear and his wife Daphne Larkin.

Some people, like Chuck, have helped put the Napa Valley on the map, set it on a solid foundation towards a bright future and entrusted it to our local governments for its stewardship. Chuck's odyssey, rather late in life is a testament to our failed leadership from Calistoga to American Canyon. That leadership continues to remain oblivious to the distraction it keeps promoting week after week invoking mock environmental analyses and lending nothing but a deaf ear to citizens who have been sounding the alarm and continue to do so at public hearings.

I could do without all those irresponsible leaders if the Napa Valley could get its Chuck O'Rears and other locals back who have been leaving in alarming numbers. Supervisors, Mayors, Council members and Planning Commissioners you have done it! You took our valley from us and handed it over to those who never put in a day's honest work in its behalf.

As Chuck says: Goodbye, Napa Valley; and it is for good.

Citizen Power!

NV2050 Admin - Mar 8, 2017   Share

Hello Napa Vision 2050 supporters!

Are you yearning for some democracy?
Frustrated with Napa County’s continual approval of harmful projects?
Think it’s impossible to get something done against all odds?


Monday night, March 6, 2017, after a 18-month battle, our brave, dedicated and organized neighbors in “Fresh Air Vallejo” beat back plans to construct a private industrial port (VMT) at the mouth of the Napa River. The first tenant, as a part of the VMT/Orcem application, is a cement plant (Orcem/Ecocem). The bulk of the ‘future’ tenants are unknown. The project is being pushed by group of industrialists, including Jim Syar of his privately-held corporation Syar Industries—Syar Napa Quarry fame.

The proposed site is the historic Sperry Mill. It is located right next to Sandy Beach, the waterfront community where the San Francisco ferry slows down
as it enters the Mare Island Straits.

This site is so close to an elementary school that Orcem representatives and its attorney actually tried to explain why hundreds of diesel trucks flooding the residential streets next to the school were not a bad idea.

And in a textbook example of greenwashing, to lessen the diesel truck impact VMT/Orcem would utilize the 19th century railroad that runs through Vallejo up to Napa Junction and deploy barges up the Napa River.
Our neighbors were fighting for us too.
Dare we dream that it is possible for our Napa County officials to catch a strong case of democracy from Vallejo?
Today we are celebrating this effort, and ask that you join us in our mission!

Vallejo Chamber of Commerce Supports Residents: No Cement Factory!

NV2050 Admin - Mar 5, 2017   Share

VTH 3/7/17: Vallejo Planning Commission rejects Orcem/VMT project
VTH 3/6/17: Vallejo commission meeting Monday [3/6/17] to discuss Orcem/VMT

Press Release

On Monday, February 27, 2017, Vallejo's Chamber of Commerce (CoC) decided to support the City of Vallejo’s Staff recommendation, the vision formed in the New General Plan, and the wishes of the residents of Vallejo in opposing the Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT)/Orcem Project application. With this, they are proving themselves to be the next generation of leaders and relevant in bringing prosperity to Vallejo and our neighbors in coming decades.

Given we are well into this new age of information and business without borders, it begs the question: How does a CoC serve a purpose in the 21st century? If it upholds the vision and values of its community, then yes. If its members are the puppets of a dinosaur corporation, then it is time to let it die since it is no longer an "advocate on behalf of the community at large." Time for those people who are starting new businesses—co-working, Kickstarters, and home-based but global—to form a new kind of chamber.

CoC’s may no longer be defined by city boundaries. Their service territories can span as little or as much as the businesses forming them desire. CoC’s may focus their members around specific needs such as women-owned, LGBT, heritage, or regional- or shared-cyberspace goals.

However they form, they must be open to coalition building with neighboring and/or like-minded chambers because CoC’s are key in introducing B2B (business-to-business) to nurture growth. Sadly, profit can sometimes drive decisions that are in opposition to the health of a community. Right here on our own Napa River we've seen it: The “green” cement company planning to produce portland cement, the many meetings between Syar and Orcem: these relationships must be questioned: Who benefits?

That word ‘benefit’ is so important to the Millennial generation, that Deloitte studies show over 70% of Millennials demand companies value equally the 4-P’s: People, Planet, Purpose and Profit. And when major players like Unilever are now lead by CSR (corporate social responsibility), integrating it into all departments, ‘Benefit Corporation’ is no longer the stepchild of business, but the worldwide B-Corp movement. “B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.”

The challenge for any ‘institution’ is remaining relevant in this fast-paced climate; Vallejo’s Chamber of Commerce is heading in the right direction with this declaration supporting City Staff's recommendation for permit denial of VMT/Orcem.

Thank you,
B. Todi
Account Strategist, Tesser
Fresh Air Vallejo Volunteer

Watershed Initiative set back

Jim Wilson - Mar 2, 2017   Share

NVR 3/3/17: Appeals court backs Napa County in watershed initiative dispute

Dear supporters of the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative,

I'm very sorry to have to report this sad news. We received word yesterday that our appeal has been denied. Our attorneys disagree with the decision, of course, and are studying the opinion and considering our options. It is indeed annoying, and incredibly disappointing that we've come to this point after so much effort.

I will say however that we've never been more determined to place our measure on the ballot. Napa is a tiny county, and while the locals here in the past might not have been a hotbed of activism, people here get it! What we're seeing now is there's a groundswell of tremendous support for our work to get this initiative passed. The environment that sustains us and governs us cannot continue to wait for the protections offered by our measure, given the current threats to our forests and streams.

The initiative will enhance no-cut stream buffers to protect water quality, as well as put a cap on the amount of oak woodlands that can be destroyed. Our allies in Napa and throughout the State have been a terrific help in their commitment to action on our behalf. Recall Patricia Damery's comments last year, not long after the County removed our initiative from the ballot, speaking for all of us when she addressed the Board of Supervisors:

    "People want the opportunity to learn more about the issue of our watersheds, what keeps watersheds healthy, and to vote. Forests and our oak woodlands are essential to a healthy watershed. Watersheds are essential to clean, abundant water for now and into the future. Water is critically important to health, and we should have the right to vote on matters that affect our health."

It isn't quite what we'd hoped for but we're confident we can do this! Thank you for your patience. I look forward to updating you soon on next steps.

Las Vegas and the lessons of growth

George Caloyannidis - Feb 28, 2017   Share

During the Napa Vision 2050-sponsored forum on the "Tourism Economy" in April 2016, one of the panelists, Mr. Eben Fodor of the planning firm Fodor & Associates who conducted studies on the long-term fiscal impacts of urban growth, cited his 1998 findings on the Thornburgh mega destination resort in Oregon.

He calculated that after all fees and public improvement costs were paid, the net uncollected cost of incremental service capacity for a single residential unit was $33,408 for a total unaccounted public cost of $46 million.

As we have come to believe that growth and a balanced budget are the barometers of a healthy economy, the Thornburgh development in spite of its enormous size of 1,375 homes, hotels and golf courses did not garner the proper attention, considered specific to that development.

But, during a recent visit to informed friends in Las Vegas and based on a Feb. 6 article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there is evidence that that metropolitan area -- one of the fastest growing in the nation -- which hosts 75 percent of the state's population is experiencing similar negative development-induced effects. Both Las Vegas and the Napa Valley are tourist-based economies, and as they both found out in 2008, they are singularly vulnerable when the economy contracts.

But, according to Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International, the Las Vegas economy is poised for a "giant leap" with 170,000 new visitors, especially from China. The projected $200 million in economic growth will fuel additional casinos, hotels and a variety of new entertainment venues and homes.

In addition, when one considers the beginnings of some economic diversification attracting company headquarters and some 42,000 manufacturing jobs, the massive housing developments that keep prices and rents affordable ($875 for a 1-bedroom) in the ever-expanding outskirts, one would think that the Las Vegas fiscal future based on such growth couldn't be brighter.

However, there are signs that the growth model is not working out as planned for existing residents. For the past 12 years, Nevada has had and made do with a 3 percent cap on the annual property tax increase on owner-occupied residential units and an 8 percent tax on other residential and commercial properties. But instead of the cap being lowered by the revenue of the tens of thousands of new residential and commercial units as would be expected, there is a push to increase it. If development growth is a metric of economic success, shouldn't services improve and their costs go down rather than up?

According to the Journal, local officials rationalize that, "population continues to rise, oftentimes growing the demand for government services, but property taxes haven't grown at the same rate." This just proves Mr. Fodor's point. Here now, we have a major city asking its residents to finance its growth. Who benefits?

One must also consider that Las Vegas -- the only major U.S. city established in the 20th century -- has not yet faced the huge bill for the maintenance of the massive expansion and increased tourist use of the infrastructure due in the next several decades. But in the Napa Valley, that future arrived a long time ago.

The reality, as Mr. Fodor explained, is that once the economy enters the vortex of development growth, government becomes increasingly beholden to the immediate revenue of developer fees and other taxes just to keep up with the increased demands growth itself generates. "We do not charge developers enough," he said. The evidence is in the unending general revenue bonds, measures, fees, assessments and taxes to finance the repair and expansion of roads, schools, water districts, sewer plants and more growth-serving public employees and their pensions.

The big growth winners of the model are the handful of developers. The enablers are the growth-dependent governments playing catch-up to balance their ever- increasing budgets one year at a time. The loser is the working middle class that is footing the bill of this ingenious arrangement. And so the income gap widens.

Of course, there is good and bad growth. There was a time when the development growth model was in a contributing mode, the one that builds our bridges and roads. But when it crossed the line from contribution to exploitation on so many levels as it has, it left potholes in its wake for the common man to fix, a sign that the model has run its course.

It is high time for our small valley to explore new paradigms if it is to survive the induced-growth model pursued by its governments. The decades-old words of Robert Parker calling it, "the most beautiful wine country in the world" are hanging by a thread.

NVR version 2/28/17: Las Vegas and the lessons of growth

Open Letter To Alfredo Pedroza, Chair, Napa County Board of Supervisors.

Daniel Mufson - Feb 27, 2017   Share

When the Rains Don't Come: Irrigation Pond Bottom, January 2014
Alfredo Pedroza, ChairNapa County Board of Supervisors

On December 13, 2016 you and the rest of the Board voted to approve the Napa Valley Subbasin Analysis Report which concluded that the Napa Valley Subbasinwas now and will continue to be sustainable for the next 20 years. The reportwas prepared by Luhdorff & Scalmanini at a cost of over $600,000. This reportprovided extensive modeling in an attempt to prove its assertion of sustainability.

At the hearing on December 13, 2016 on this Report (Agenda item 9A), usingdata from the consultant’s slide presentation, I raised concerns about how thecounty would protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens if the projectedwater budget were on the negative side as the consultant presented. These dataslides which do not appear in the final report that showed a projected waterbudget (2016-2025) deficit of 14,300 AFY, projected for hot and low rainfallconditions. The report also made an assumption that the State Water Projectallocation would remain at an average of 42%. This is not realistic as theallocation has been dramatically cut in recent years to as low as 5%. I raised thepossibility of our municipalities needing to use ground water for their suppliesunder these conditions.

Neither you nor staff ever discussed or answered these important questions.And then last week on February 24, 2017 the County presented its Draft ClimateAction Plan at a Special Meeting of WICC. The draft plan reached an oppositeconclusion about the future Napa environment and water supplies more dire thanthose in the Subbasin Report. The draft conclusions were essentially the issues Ihad raised in December. I quote the report below:

    “… the County is still currently vulnerable to water supply issues due to drought and other factors. The County will facechallenges in providing sufficient water supplies in the future due to climate change effects, coupled with an increasingpopulation (i.e., mostly in the incorporated areas) and increasingwater demand. While the County has already taken stepstowards achieving long-term groundwater sustainability, there isstill a possibility that water supply availability may change in thefuture and will need to be further addressed. [Appendix C 21/26]"
So my question is, which report is correct? One says our water situation is finethanks and the other concludes Napa County has water vulnerability. One reportwas issued by Public Works and the other by Planning, Building & EnvironmentalServices. The County paid substantial money to consultants to produce bothreports in addition to devoting what appears to be considerable staff time.

Both reports were reviewed by WICC. Which report is correct?

Has anyone actually read the reports other than the volunteer members of NapaVision 2050?

Does no one see the contradictions?

When will our community see our governing officials address this glaringimportant and expensive inconsistency?

The future health, safety and welfare of Napa’s residents depends upon gettingthe right answer.

Will you act to get the County’s money refunded if you determine that one reportis found to be erroneous?

Will you act to have Napa County rescind its Subbasin report from the DWR?

“We can no longer afford to make infrastructure decisions that do not explicitlyaccount for climate change. Instead, the [government] must tackle adaptationissues head-on. This will require more research to better model and understandfuture impacts, a commitment to incorporating such research findings intoplanning, and on-the-ground projects that protect vulnerable communities andindustries.”[Alex Hall and Mark Gold (Institute of the Environment andSustainability at UCLA), Sac Bee, 02/26/17]

Napa Vision 2050 recommends that WICC to hold a Public Forum on themethodology used to create these reports and their conclusions. Methodologyshould also be the main topic at the May Watershed Symposium.

Daniel Mufson, PresidentNapa Vision 2050PO Box 2385Yountville, CA 94599Napavision2050

gmail.comwww.NapaVision2050.orgCC.Diane DillonRyan GregoryBelia RamosBrad Wagenknecht
Notes from Napa County Climate Action Plan, Appendix C, Climate ChangeVulnerability Assessment for Napa County, February, 2017

“For purposes of this assessment, where possible, climate change effects in theCounty are characterized for two periods of time: midcentury (around 2050) andthe end of the century (around 2100). Historical data are used to identify thedegree of change by these two future periods in time. The direct, or primary,changes analyzed for the County include average temperature, annualprecipitation, and sea-level rise. Secondary impacts, which can occur because ofindividual or a combination of these changes, are also assessed and includeextreme heat and its frequency, wildfire risk, and snowpack (CNRA2012a:16-17).”
    • Increased Temperatures• Increased Frequency of Extreme Heat Events and Heat Waves• Changes to Precipitation Patterns• Increased Wildfire Risk• Increased Likelihood of Flooding• Sea-Level Rise (with elevated groundwater and salinity intrusion)

“… the County is still currently vulnerable to water supply issues due to droughtand other factors. The County will face challenges in providing sufficient watersupplies in the future due to climate change effects, coupled with an increasingpopulation (i.e., mostly in the incorporated areas) and increasing water demand.While the County has already taken steps towards achieving long-termgroundwater sustainability, there is still a possibility that water supply availabilitymay change in the future and will need to be further addressed. [Appendix C21/26]”

“Increases in temperature, along with the frequency of extreme heat events andheat waves, can also affect the agriculture industry, which is a large driver of theCounty’s economy. The significant, overall outcome of warming is the likelyreduction in yield of some of California’s most valuable specialty crops (CNRA2014: 21). More specifically, climate change could have serious effects to thewine industry in Napa County, which produces an average of 90 percent ofAmerican wine (Mayton 2015). The County currently has 400 wineries,C-14 Napa County Draft Climate Action Plan producing more than 9.2 millioncases of wines totaling over $1 billion dollars in sales. The wine industry inNapa accounts for $10.1 billion of $51.8 billion economic impact fromwinemaking and related industries in California (Napa County 2013:28).Increases in temperature and moisture could impact the growing of winegrapes, by causing late or irregular blooming and affecting yields (Lee et al.2013:1). [C-13]”

“Increased average temperatures and a hastening of snowmelt in distantwatersheds, along with local and regional changes in precipitation and timing ofrunoff in local watersheds, could affect both surface and groundwater supplies inthe County. As a result, the County could struggle in the future in providingNapa County Draft Climate Action Plan C-15 adequate water supplies to itsresidents. Water users could face shortages in normal or dry years, if demandcontinues to increase. The points of sensitivity identified because of changes inprecipitation patterns are shown below in Figure 14.”

“In terms of agriculture, changes in timing and amounts of precipitation couldaffect local aquifer recharge for groundwater supplies in the future, which could inturn affect water supplies for agricultural uses. Conversely, as the weather getswarmer with climate change, agricultural demand for water could intensifybecause in extreme heat conditions water evaporates faster and plants needmore water to move through their circulatory systems to stay cool (CNRA2014:21). More specifically, attempts to maintain wine grape productivity andquality in the face of warming may be associated with increased water use forirrigation and to cool grapes through misting or sprinkling (Lee et al. 2013). [C-15]” The use of GW for misting was not mentioned in the Subbasin Report.

“A changing climate is expected to subject forests to increased stress due todrought, disease, invasive species, and insect pests. These stressors are likelyto make forests more vulnerable to catastrophic fire (Westerling 2008:231). Whileperiodic fires are natural processes and an important ecological function,catastrophic fire events that cannot be contained or managed, can cause seriousthreats to homes and infrastructure, especially for properties located at thewildland-urban interface (i.e., where residential development mingles withwildland areas) (California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection 2009). Ecologicalfunctions are further impacted as the risk of fire increases. When it does rain inburned areas, more soil washes off the hills and into roads, ditches, and streams.[C-16]”

Napa Valley Ground Water Sustainability-A Basin Analysis Report for theNapa Valley Subbasin

“The ability of the SWP to deliver water to its contractors in any given yeardepends on a number of factors, including rainfall, size of snowpack, runoff,water in storage, and pumping capacity in the Delta. Biological opinions onthreatened and endangered fish species are new significant factors affectingSWP deliveries. The actual delivery, or yield, varies from year to year and isdescribed as a percentage of the contractual entitlement. Annual SWP deliveriesare a percentage of Table A water, including additional amounts in some yearsfrom the carryover of unused allocations from prior years or water purchasedfrom the allocation of other SWP contractors. While 100% of the Table Aentitlement may be available in wet years, lesser amounts are delivered innormal, single-dry, and multiple-dry years. The current SWP Final DeliveryCapability Report 2015, issued in July 2015, projects that under existingconditions (2015), the average annual delivery of Table A water is estimated at61%. [78]”###

Concerns over water plan

Stephen J Donoviel - Feb 26, 2017   View on SCR  |    Share

On Dec. 19, 2016, the Register carried on article, "County Touts Water Plans," summarizing the Board of Supervisors' approval of the GSP-Alt plan which (in order to meet the requirements of the California Groundwater Management Act of 2014) is to be submitted to the State Department of Water Resources in lieu of forming a groundwater sustainability agency.

This act, which was designed to prevent unbridled over-draughting of ground water and to afford greater transparency and opportunity for public input, also allowed the procedure chosen by Napa, when various requirements were met. It provided a time period for the public's input, which ended Feb. 14.

Over the past several years, Napa Valley has experienced an ever-increasing growth in the number of vineyards and wineries accompanied by a proliferation in the numbers of wells and demands on ground water as more and more projects have shifted away from dry farming. Also, as proper farm land on the valley floor has been exhausted, more and more parties have sought and received approval by the planning commission and board of supervisors to farm the woodland hillsides which has resulted in the removal of untold numbers (undoubtedly in the hundreds of thousands) of centuries-old oaks from the watershed which in turn affects groundwater.

The presentation on which the Supervisors acted in December stressed that "a central feature of the Act (SGMA) is the recognition that groundwater management in California is best accomplished locally." I think the validity of this assumption is contradicted by the disastrous results in many of California counties, e.g., land sinking up to two inches a month in the Central Valley caused by massive over-draught of its aquifers and a poignant article in the August 2016 issue of the National Geographic, which chronicled the disastrous results for many communities across the entire central portion of our county, caused by the over-draught of the Ogallala/High Plains aquifer. Undue self-interest, greed and political pressure too often override good judgment and scientific analysis when decisions for all citizens are considered.

If one accepts that one of the intents of SGMA was to include the concerns, input and suggested solutions of affected citizens, I think that, despite the hard work and helpfulness of some civil servants, this intent was not met in Napa. Most of the data and conclusions required extensive review of relevant materials for the public to be able to understand and interact in a cogent fashion, which was not possible due to its very restricted availability.

Public meetings were announced with short notice; documents to be discussed and analyzed were in short supply, if available at all, and there was never time (3 minutes usually) for the affected citizenry to engage in meaningful dialog. It was not difficult to leave the meetings/hearings with the feeling that decisions had been made much earlier and the outcome had been a forgone decision.

A major concern involves an issue raised at a meeting of WICC, when one of the commissioners questioned the validity/reliability of the data presented by the consultants and used to support the Alt-Plan, viz., conclusions based on data collected from a very small sample of wells clustered near the Napa River raising the question of "cherry picking" the data.

Another requirement for an Alt-Plan to be acceptable requires evidence of 10 years of sustainable yield of groundwater. It appears this conclusion is not met because it was drawn by intermingling data from different wells across time, which, again, amounts to a major sampling error.

Another issue raised at the WICC meeting continued the use of drain-tile systems and its impact on ground water supplies. The handout indicated they had no data on the subject. However, casual observation suggests that huge amounts of ground water are being pumped into drainage ditches that flow to the Napa River, unlike earlier times when farmers pumped that water into mini-reservoirs/ponds for use during the summer.

The consultants' reports, other documents and presentations at the Board of Supervisors meeting made it clear that GSP-Alt does not apply to all the people living/farming, etc., in the entire county. It excludes our watershed and known locations with poor ground water. In my opinion, this creates a rather bizarre and untenable situation of how our elected officials can provide for necessary and expected governmental services to a large number of residents by excluding them from the plan while, at the same time, despite water rationing, cities and the county continue to "sell" water to certain businesses. Wineries and vineyards continue to be approved despite protests by neighbors -- often numbering in the hundreds -- noting their negative impact on ground water and water-related issues affecting the long-term residents making the rational for such decisions unclear and difficult to understand.

Donoviel NVR LTE version 2/26/17: Concerns over water plan

Helicopter Landings in Napa County

George Caloyannidis - Feb 23, 2017   Share

In 2004, Constant Diamond Mountain Winery and a Wine Country Helicopter operator filed an application for a landing use permit, arguing that winery helicopter landings would provide an economic benefit to the county and have a minimal contribution to traffic reduction. Thanks to the efforts of one Napa Vision 2050 Board Member, the supervisors were not convinced and made such landings illegal, under Napa County, Ordinance # P 04-0198-ORD, enacted June 15, 2004. This ordinance effectively prevented an entire new industry of helicopter operators from crisscrossing the sky and disrupting the Napa Valley scenic and quiet agricultural environment.


NVR 2/27/17: County prefers Mount George site for Palmaz heliport

Currently, there is a private use helicopter application for a Landing Use Permit on Hagen Road in Napa (UP# P14-000261) making its way through the process at the County with the scheduled hearing at the Planning Commission on March 1, 2017. Private use helicopters are solely for private recreational or convenience purposes with only negative impacts on the public on a variety of fronts, including risks of accidents, which helicopters are prone to, higher CO2 emissions and, especially, noise pollution . Absolutely nothing justifies their use.

Currently there are helipads on Diamond Mountain, Pritchard Hill, Hennessey Ridge and reported landings at the above locations and on Tubbs Lane in Calistoga and Atlas Peak Road. All are illegal. Many other landings are also reported taking place around the county due to lack of enforcement . All are waiting for Palmaz approval, which will open the door for them.

If this first use permit is granted, hundreds of wealthy homeowners will follow. Air taxi operators may also avail themselves of the business opportunity.

If this sounds farfetched, Uber tested this model during the recent Aspen Festival. The sure to follow proliferation of helicopter flights over the Napa valley skies will drive the final nail to our peace and quiet environment.

Stop private heliports in Napa County! Show up at the March 1, 2017, hearing, 9 am, and voice your objection. County Administration Building, 3rd and Coombs Street, Napa, CA.

Sign the Napa Vision 2050 petition opposing private heliports in the county here.

Ubercoptors? Heli-no!

Last Chance: Make your Public Comment on the Climate Action Plan!

Jim Wilson - Feb 21, 2017   Share

URGENT: Napa County's Climate Action Plan is nearing completion. If it becomes a reality, we'll be stuck with yet another "half-way measure" that places short term profit over the long term health and well-being of our dangerously compromised climate. This is outrageous.

Thursday, February 23, is the final public meeting on Napa County's Climate Action Plan (CAP). The county has contracted with Ascent Environmental to prepare a Climate Action Plan detailing measures that the county will take to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in alignment with state targets. This document can be critical to our efforts to control regional warming or it can be a drain on time and resources if it supports business as usual.

Unfortunately, our CAP is being finalized using antiquated measuring standards at a time when both the State and our regional air district (Bay Area Air Quality Management District) are shifting focus to “short-lived climate pollutants” which have a much greater warming effect than CO2 ((e.g. Methane, Black Carbon, F-gases and Ozone). Methane is 34 times more powerful and black carbon 900 times more powerful than CO2. Their global warming potential is even higher in the near term (ten years) when we still have a chance to postpone irreversible climate tipping points. We need to focus where GHG reductions can be most effective because the CAP will determine what future measures developers take to reduce emissions-- so let's make sure we get it right!

The CAP will require projects to comply with a dead-on-arrival GHG Consistency Checklist. Projects that comply are eligible for CEQA streamlining and need not analyze their GHG emissions. But this Checklist will not be prepared in time for in-depth public comment. Nor will it comply with recent GHG laws and regulations.


CAP fails to provide feasible forest conversion mitigation.
CAP fails to account for any wetlands and soil conversion GHG emissions.
CAP fails to fully account for winery and vineyard operations GHG emissions.
CAP fails to fully account for visitation GHG emissions.
CAP fails to provide adaptive management monitoring standards as required by CEQA.
CAP fails to comply with Senate Bill 1383 methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbon emission reduction standards.
CAP fails to comply with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District GHG emissions accounting standards.
CAP fails to set measurable targets for.reducing Vehicle Miles Travelled
CAP fails to set standards for new project emissions.

Take a look at the Public Review Draft, also attached, come to the meeting, and ask questions.

• Why does measure LU-1 target retaining only 30% of the existing tree canopy? What would emissions reductions be if 50% and 70% were targeted?
• Is planting 2500 trees each year realistic in terms of space and manpower available?
• How will measure LU-3, prevention of burning 80% of trees removed during land conversion, be enforced?
• How will the Napa CAP pursue the state Air Resource Board's 2018 goals for reductions in methane, black carbon, and F-gases when the CAP inventory does not separate out emissions contributed by these pollutants?
• How will the CAP Consistency Checklist determine the emissions of a project and the decrease in emissions by the CAP measures taken?
• Why don't the transportation measures set goals of reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled as a measurable target?
• What amount of emissions is allowable for a new project? What Threshold of Significance standard will Napa County adopt?


The solution we offer is to hire an expert ASAP to address the inadequacies of the proposed CAP and secure the best possible protections. The critical knowledge and action needed is within our grasp. Please make a generous donation today.

We have a right to a livable climate for a livable planet, now and for our children. Join us in demanding decisive action.


Thursday, February 23, 2017, 3pm

2751 Napa Valley Corporate Drive, South Campus, Building A
First Floor, Conference Room, Napa CA 94558

Pass a ban on private helipads (updated)

Daniel Mufson - Feb 17, 2017   Share

UPDATE 2/17/17:
County Planning Commission Hearing for the Final Environmental Impact Report on the Palmaz Heliport Project will happen on Mar 1st, 2017, 9:00am at the County Building, 3rd Floor, 1135 3rd St Napa. The notice for the hearing is here

The Board of Supervisors chambers were full last week [one year ago now] for the meeting on the Palmaz Heliport ("Proposed Palmaz helipad sparks big turnout at meeting," Jan. 17). It is difficult to understand why the non-essential pleasures of one individual can trump the health, safety and welfare of ALL of his neighbors.

We have collected more than 500 signatures on a petition against the heliport. Neighbors from Hagen Road, Coombsville and beyond came to protest this intrusion. The question asked by many was why even go through the environmental impact report process, isn’t there anyone (Supervisor) who can step up a demonstrate leadership and put a stop to this?

We understand that a proposed ordinance has been submitted to the Supervisors to change zoning regulations to prevent private helicopter landings. It would be marvelous if they could promptly act on this and save everyone lots of time and effort to deal with the environmental impact report process.

Helicopters are not safe. The Register carried a story (“FAA seeks industry help as helicopter bird strikes increase,” Dec. 28, 2015) about the FAA’s concern about bird strikes on helicopters. With so many large birds, including eagles, herons and geese, residing in the proposed flight path and about Mt. George it is inevitable that there will be an air strike and tragedy.

I recently suggested that if this heliport is approved, there will be many more applications and we will see the proliferation of Uber helicopters for the Uber rich. We have now learned that Airbus is working with Uber to supply these air taxies (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 18). So I say to the Supervisors, if you don't stop this project, we will be inundated with helicopter traffic. “HELI-NO!"

Oh, and while you’re at it, let’s ban delivery drones.

NVR version 1/23/16: Pass a ban on private helipads
NapaVision2050 Palmaz Petition page
SCR Palmaz screed

And coming to a theater near you! The Invasion of the Ubercoptors.

"Brownie, You're doing a heck of a job!"

Daniel Mufson - Feb 17, 2017   Share

Napa Valley Sustainable Groundwater Alternative

In late December Napa County filed a so-called Alternate water Plan with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). It basically said in hundreds of pages, costing taxpayers at least $634,200 in consulting fees alone, that the county had done sufficient monitoring of the Napa Valley Sub-basin water supplies over the past ten years to be able to demonstrate that everything would be just fine over the next 20 years, thank you very much. Or in other words, told the state to leave us alone.

Napa Vision 2050 and our affiliates filled comments taking exception with this conclusion as did:
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists;
  • US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service;
  • The Nature Conservancy.

Two trade groups, the Napa County Farm Bureau and the Napa Valley Vintners praised the report as in, it was a heck of a job!

Our key problems with the county's report are:

  • Cherry-picked data from a few monitoring wells, errors in calculations.
  • The role of drain tiles in dumping ground water from vineyards was not appropriately accounted for.
  • The report assumes that cities will not need to use any ground water as sufficient water will be available to the them from the State Water Project and the city's reservoirs for the next 20 years even in the face of prolonged droughts and raising temperatures.
  • Assumes that current use of ground water by vineyards and wineries will be sustainable.
  • Report assumes minimal growth of population and agriculture over 20 years.
  • The Alternative claims groundwater is sustainable yet the Sub-Basin has undesirable results such as: sea water intrusion, groundwater level declines, declining groundwater quality and land subsidence.
  • The county does not have, nor desires to have, a mechanism for dealing with well owners and neighbors who are experiencing loss of water supplies. Currently, they want to study the problems...... avoiding any direct help.
  • The public was afforded minimal opportunity to comment-there was no stakeholder engagement.
  • Details on these comments can be found here.
More Links to Napa's Sustainable Groundwater Alternative can be found here

Napa County Climate Action Plan

We wonder just how much it has cost the County (we taxpayers) to fund this report over the several years of its development in consultant fees and staff time? We feel that the County's current development of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) is taking a similar approach; using a consulting company that is trying to minimize the largest sources of GHG production--

Come see for yourself at the WICC Climate Action Plan Workshop next Thursday February 23rd, 3PM at 2751 Napa Valley Corporate Drive, South Campus, Building A, First Floor, Conference Room, Napa CA 94558.

We'll have more on this soon.

got Water? Will you have water?

Daniel Mufson - Feb 14, 2017   Share

Comments submitted to the DWR:
February 14, 2017

Bill Brewster
Senior Engineering Geologist, North Central Region
California Department of Water Resources CA
3500 Industrial Blvd, West Sacramento, CA 95691

I am submitting comments on behalf of Napa Vision 2050 regarding the “Napa Valley Ground Water Sustainability-A Basin Analysis Report for the Napa Valley Subbasin (large file)” submitted to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) by Napa County on December 16, 2016. Napa County suggests that the basin is being managed sustainability and therefore no Groundwater Sustainability Agency nor Groundwater Sustainability Plan is required.

We do not agree for the following reasons.

§354.10 Notice and Communication

Napa County claims to have held numerous public meetings. They held meetings but they were not exactly robust town hall meetings. I was at several where there were just a few people in attendance. You should ask the county to provide data on the number of citizens who attended these meetings. Typically these meetings would have two presentations, one by the Natural Resources Conservation Manager and then by the county’s engineering consultant, Luhdorff & Scalmanini. These slide presentations were voluminous, not readily comprehensible and typically took the entire allotted time: At one meeting 11/23/15 at the Napa Public Library, chaired by a County Supervisor, due to these prolonged presentations, there was no time for ANY public input or questions. Similarly at other so-called workshop meetings only three minutes of public comment was allowed per citizen and often the comments were not responded to. The feeling was that they were not seeking public input or discussion: It wasn’t democracy in action.

§344.18 Water Budget

SGMA is intended to strengthen the connection between land use planning and water management. However, the report submitted by Napa County does not address likely future conditions: prolonged drought and increasing temperatures in California. Currently Napa County relies upon three sources of water:
• Ground Water (GW)
• Surface Water
• State Water Project (SWP) via the North Bay Aqueduct.

The Report states that groundwater pumping has provided a substantial contribution to the overall water supply for the Subbasin since at least the late 1980s. Land use mapping by DWR indicates that a shift occurred from predominantly surface water to groundwater as the source of supply for agriculture between 1987 and 2011. “Local supplies have also been augmented since 1968 by water imported for municipal use from the State Water Project along the North Bay Aqueduct and more recently through the use of recycled water”. Augmented is a curious word to use here as it does not reflect that SWP accounts for 50% of municipal water usage in Napa County today.

And more importantly, while residential units in the unincorporated county and agriculture are now the primary users of the GW, the report does not address the possibility of municipalities within the basin needing and using GW extraction to survive. Instead they use a model that says the cities will use surface water:

“…land use units within City water system boundaries of Napa and Yountville were modeled to be supplied by surface water, with the exception of a number of parcels near Yountville which are known to have been supplied by recycled water since 1977”. [Section 6.5.2/Page101 of the Napa County Report]

In the Napa Valley Subbasin, the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the population is increasing, growing across all four of the incorporated municipalities in the Subbasin (City of Napa, City of St. Helena, City of Calistoga, and the Town of Yountville). And while Napa County’s second largest city, American Canyon, is not included in this Subbasin analysis, it must be considered in terms of the prolonged drought scenario that may require all municipalities to switch to GW. In order to protect its citizens, the county government is responsible for contingency planning.

SGMA requires that each agency shall establish a sustainability goal; specifically: Each Agency shall establish in its Plan a sustainability goal for the basin that culminates in the absence of undesirable results within 20 years of the applicable statutory deadline.

The report states that GW levels have been stable over the hydrologic base period (1988-2015). But as noted above, during this period of growth, significant quantities of water began to be obtained from the SWP to meet the needs of the municipalities. This suggests that the Subbasin system has not been truly sustainable.

During the recent prolonged drought, California has markedly lowered the SWP allocations and mandated water conservation measures from the municipalities and issued guidance documents such as, “Safeguarding California Implementation Action Plans 2016” to ensure that people and communities are able to withstand the impacts of climate disruption:

• “Loss of snowpack storage may reduce reliability of surface water supplies and result in greater demand on other sources of supply”.
• “As climate change reduces water supplies and increases water demands (as a result of higher temperatures), additional stresses are being placed on the Delta and other estuaries along the California coastline.”
• “Each local water agency will have to contend with impacts to their local watershed, as well as upstream and downstream watersheds that influence local water supply or water quality constraints.”

This Napa County GW Report does not address the likely impact of prolonged hot, dry weather on the ability of the state to deliver SWP water; for the surface water sources in Napa to be able to supply sufficient pure water and therefore the impact of the (at least) four municipalities demanding GW to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens.

A sustainable yield analysis by Napa County established that the maximum amount of water that can be withdrawn annually from the Subbasin groundwater supply without causing an undesirable result is within 17,000 acre-feet-per year (AFY) to approximately 20,000 AFY. The average municipal use in the Subbasin has been 17,300 AFY over the 1988 to 2015 study period. Thus, this analysis predicts that if the municipalities were required to use GW, the Subbasin would become unsustainable.

At the hearing on this Report (Agenda item 9A) before the Napa County Supervisors on December 13, 2016 using data from the consultant’s slide presentation, I raised concerns about how the county would protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens if the projected water budget were on the negative side as the consultant presented data slides which do not appear in the final report that showed a projected water budget (2016-2025) deficit of 14,300 AFY, projected for hot and low rainfall conditions. There was also an assumption made that the State Water Project allocation remains at an average of 42%. This doesn’t seem realistic as the allocation has been dramatically cut in recent years to as low as 5%. I raised the possibility of our municipalities needing to use ground water for their supplies under these conditions. No one, no Supervisor nor Public Works employee attempted to answer these issues and none have provided answers as of the submission of this comment letter.

It is important to note that, in earlier county documents the possible need for GW use by municipalities was discussed, and apparently forgotten. In November 15, 2005 a report, “2050 Napa Valley Water Resources” prepared by West Yost & Associates was presented to Napa County Flood Board:

“As municipalities consider potential increases in GW use, they should exercise caution, so that they do not adversely impact existing GW users”.

“An increase in Unincorporated [Water] Demands is possible, primarily due to an increase in vineyard demand [due to densification of vineyard plantings].” Various scenarios for municipal water supplies were presented that showed shortfalls by 2020 or 2050. To mitigate these shortfalls it was suggested that they use GW, purchase entitlements from other cities, purchase additional SWP entitlements, construct additional municipal GW wells, recycle water.

In response to the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Napa County has submitted an Alternative Submittal, Basin Analysis Report, where an analysis of basin conditions presumes to demonstrate that the basin has operated within its sustainable yield over a period of at least 10 years. However, this has been accomplished through extensive utilization of state surface water by the municipalities as they used less surface water. This suggests an unsustainable water balance especially as hotter, drier weather is forecast.

Napa County Grand Jury Report

In addition to the 2005 report cited above, it must be further noted that the Napa County Grand Jury issued a report, “Management of Ground Water and Recycled Water: Is Napa County in Good Hands?” on March 31, 2015. [They] investigated Napa County’s management of groundwater for the following reasons:

• Continued drought
• Napa County’s reliance on agriculture and its need for water
• Many newspaper articles expressing concern over increased
development and asking, “Where will the water come from?”

Despite the efforts by the County, this Grand Jury does have some concerns that we believe need to be addressed:
• The differences between what the well drillers and the geologist stated
and what the County believes is happening on the Valley floor with
respect to groundwater levels and aquifer recharge.
• Most well owners have groundwater extraction limits that cannot be
enforced by the County. With the exception of the MST, their
groundwater usage is not monitored, even for large water users. There are
provisions in the new SGMA that would allow the local agency to
impose fees to fund the costs of groundwater management, including the
costs of monitoring users’ groundwater usage.
• The County does not have a groundwater management contingency plan
in place should the drought continue.

This Grand Jury would stress that there are some troubling issues and that the County would be better served planning for a potential future disaster vs. waiting for it to happen and then trying to put a plan together quickly. Citizens should expect their governmental officials to be prepared for all potential outcomes and have procedures or policies in place that they may rely on when needed.

R1. By December 31, 2015, the Napa County Public Works Department to
develop a contingency plan, approved by the Board of Supervisors, that lays out the major steps to be taken in the event of severe drought conditions.
R2. By June 30, 2016, the Napa County Public Works Department to require major groundwater users to meter and report their water usage on a quarterly basis to ensure all well owners are following prescribed usage rates.
R3. By June 30, 2016, the Napa County Public Works Department to adopt policies to encourage all other groundwater users to meter and monitor their well water usage.

The Board of Supervisors responded that they would evaluate these recommendations, in the context of the Alternate Groundwater Sustainability Plan in their correspondence with the Superior Court Judge Stone on August 11, 2015 but they have not.

§354.34 Monitoring Networks

However, the Supervisors have not developed a contingency plan regarding GW allocation in the face of a prolonged water emergency affecting this Subbasin.

The Supervisors had promised the Grand Jury and the Superior Court significant outreach to and input from the public on Grand Jury Recommendations 2 and 3 regarding water metering and monitoring. No one can say that there has been significant outreach to the public on this topic or the Basin Analysis Report as evidenced by the non-existent turnout at “public” sessions. There is no plan to meter and monitor GW usage.


We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Alternate Submittal proposed by Napa County. Napa Vision 2050 asks that you do not approve the Report as it does not address the likely scenario of prolonged drought conditions in the state and the Subbasin which will likely culminate in undesirable results within 20 years. It does not address how the municipalities, with the largest populations centers, are to survive if the SWP supplies and surface supplies are curtailed and/or degraded in their quality.

Daniel Mufson, Ph.D., President
Napa Vision 2050
PO Box 2385
Yountville, CA94599

Concerns over Milliken Dam

Chris Malan - Feb 14, 2017   View on SCR  |    Share

Holes in Milliken Dam
NVR 2/14/17: Holes are the key to protecting concrete dam outside Napa

From: Chris Malan
Date: Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 8:50 AM
Subject: Milliken Dam
To: Mary Luros, Juliana Inman, Peter Mott , Jill Techel, Keith Caldwell, Alfredo Pedroza, Brad Wagenknecht, Diane Dillon, Ryan Gregory, Belia Ramos, Scott Sedgley

Orville Dam failure reminds us of our own aging Milliken Dam and it’s lack of full structural integrity since 1924.

Several years ago, the State Division of Dams and Safety (SDDS) ordered the owner of Milliken Dam, the City of Napa, to lower the water surface level in the reservoir such that the pressure against the dam would be reduced due to unacceptable long term ‘cracking' in the dam’s concrete structure.

It took many years for the engineers to come up with a design remedy short of lowering or removing the dam itself. The State engineers accepted the City of Napa’s remedy to bore 5 holes in the face of dam in hopes of keeping the water surface level 16 feet below the rim of the dam.

Given the winter storms and the earthquake in Angwin a few days ago I have these questions about Milliken Dam:

  1. How long has the dam been spilling this year? If so, for how long? Do you expect the dam to spill if it hasn’t yet? If so, when?
  2. Are the 5 holes bored in the dam efficiently keeping up with the volume of water coming into the reservoir such that the water surface elevation is kept the required 15 feet below the dam’s concrete rim to reach as required by the SDDS
  3. Are there any new structural failures of the dam? If so, what are they?
  4. When was the last time the Division of Dams and Safety inspected Milliken Dam? When was the last time new recommendations were made? If so, what were they?
  5. Who is the official at the SDDS that inspects Milliken Dam? When did SDDS last inspect the dam? Are the SDDS’s monitoring reports available to the public? If so, please provide a link.

Above Milliken Reservoir
These questions should be answered in a publicly noticed town hall meeting or put on the Napa City Council’s regular agenda.

Not only is public safety of utmost concern, but there is unique and valuable aquatic habitat below the dam. Both interests must be protected ahead of any dam failure possibility.

Given climate change (deluge to drought), increased erosion and runoff from watershed degradation (vineyards in the hills above Milliken Dam), and the age of this defective Dam, I would like to request that this issue be put on the City Council’s agenda for full public disclosure about the status of Milliken Dam.

Please advise.

Thank You,
Chris Malan
Institute for Conservation Advocacy, Research and Education,

Executive Director

What is Happening to Our Most Precious and Irreplaceable Resource: Our Water

Gary Margadant - Feb 13, 2017   Share

Editor: This interesting read researched and written by Gary Margadant and Elaine de Man describes why we need to think carefully about Napa County's alternative plan for groundwater management. In the next days we will post some of the public comments on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act alternative submitted by our Board of Supervisors to the California Department of Water Resources. It is critically important that citizens become aware of the stakes involved to our future water supply.

The number of wineries in the Napa Valley has more than doubled over the last twenty years—from about 280 in 1996 to around 570 now--all using free water from the ground. This growth is unsustainable, yet local government and wine industry trade groups continue to fund and market Napa Valley, attracting visitors from around the world at a rate that increasingly overburdens our roads and resources. What we don’t see, however, is what is happening underground to our water supply.

In 2014 Governor Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to address the alarming depletion of regional groundwater. Among other things, this act requires local governments to form a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) to create and implement a Groundwater Management Plan for water basins that have been designated as medium- or high-priority. The floor of the Napa Valley from Calistoga to Napa, more formally known as the “Napa Valley Sub-Basin,” is considered a medium-priority water basin.

Sustainable Water Management?

Instead of following SGMA’s plan, the Napa County Board of Supervisors opted to take an end-run by submitting an “alternative” plan to the GSA. Napa County claims that the groundwater in the Napa Valley has been sustainably managed for the past 10 years. To support that idea, the County hired consultants Luhdorff and Scalmanini (LSCE) to prepare a report on the state of the Napa Valley Sub-Basin and county’s management of it. The report, entitled Basin Analysis Report, was completed late last year and claims that the Napa Valley Basin has been ‘stable’ for the last 10 years, eliminating the need for a Groundwater Sustainability Agency or the Groundwater Management Plan that would otherwise be required by the state.

Careful examination of the LSCE report determined that there could be catastrophic errors in acting on the conclusion that the Napa Valley Sub-Basin has been adequately managed over the past 10 years. Recommendations by citizens were made to the Board of Supervisors that more study was needed. Nevertheless, this report was accepted, approved, and submitted to the State of California by the Napa County Board of Supervisors.

Factors not considered in this report:

* The report does not consider the impact of the changes in climate that we already are experiencing on groundwater supplies, including the impact of hot days, the effect of drought on groundwater and the diminution of water supplied by the North Bay Aqueduct (NBA).The NBA is a pipeline carrying water from the Sacramento River to Napa Valley and Solano Valley. The NBA water supply is dependent on the Snow Pack in the Sierra Mountains. In a drought, the amount can be reduced to 5% of normal, requiring cities in Napa County to rely only on their limited water reservoirs, Hennessey and Milliken (Napa City), Bell (St Helena), Rector (Yountville, Veterans Home), Kimball (Calistoga).

*Most of the grapes grown in the Napa Valley are grown on the valley floor. These grapes are grown using groundwater extracted from wells drawing on our aquifers.

*The amount of water extracted through these wells is not metered.

*Some well owners are not required to report groundwater extraction at all.

*Some are required to self-report to the county the amount of groundwater extracted.

*Water use estimations are part of a winery use permit, yet the water amount actually used is never verified.

These groundwater extraction reports are not available to the public. The bottom line is that no one really knows how much groundwater is being extracted from our aquifers. If the county is successful in dodging the establishment of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency, business will continue as usual and groundwater extraction will continue to go unmetered and unknown.

An Uncertain Water Budget

Part of the flawed LSCE analysis includes a “water budget”: a determination of how much water flows into the valley through rainfall versus how much water is removed from the valley or captured in ponds and reservoirs before reaching the valley floor for consumption by residents or agricultural irrigation. The chart below, not based on water meters, calculates that there should be a net gain within the aquifer of 6,000 acre ft/yr.

But, the data collected over the last 10 years does not show that to be the case. The aquifer has remained stable, not grown and will not grow in the future.

How can that be? As the LSCE chart indicates, uncertainty in the individual budget components (italicized) of “Upland Runoff” and “SW Outflow and Baseflow,” which represent the greatest amount of water flowing into and out of the aquifer, bear the greatest degree of uncertainty.

As some of these conclusions are based on hypothetical, calculated information, we might conservatively assume they may be off by 2%. And if we take a worst case scenario which is less input AND more outflow than shown we might see that:

Upland Runoff is actually 145,000 minus 2,900 (2%) or 142,100 ac-ft/yr
and, SW Outflow and Baseflow are 176,000 plus 3,520 (2%) or 179,520 ac-ft/yr

If that is the case, we would have an annual change in Subbasin Storage of negative 37,420 ac-ft/yr.

What the LSCE report fails to state is the actual margins of error in the calculations. So the question is, is the 2% margin of error we estimate a risk we are willing to take?
If the answer is yes, it would 1. save the county money by not having to create a new agency (GSA) and 2. avoid more bureaucracy. But we believe the answer is No. Ongoing monitoring of our water supply is paramount to the future of the wine industry and residents of the Napa Valley. Vineyard development of our hillsides and watersheds is rampant with more applications in the pipeline at the County’s Planning Department. No data has been presented to back up the LSCE report assumption that hillside vineyard development will not impact the “upland” flow of water into the subbasin. Although data may be available from wells that are already located in strategic areas, the groundwater levels are subject to the impact of hillside development. If those wells are not identified and we don’t have access to the data, we have no way of knowing what the negative impacts of the conversion of hillside forests to vineyards might be.

The consequences of the County’s current course of action are too high: lowered groundwater levels, degraded water quality, land subsidence, and saltwater intrusion into groundwater. These are the same undesirable results that SGMA was designed to curtail! It is imperative that we take the long view in this time of global climate change and inform the State of California of the serious errors in the County’s report and the dire consequences to our Napa Valley if we do not establish accurate groundwater data by metering. The fate of our water supply is in the State’s hands now.

Please use this link to comment to the State of California Department of Water Resources by February 15, 2017.

Talking points:

1. Although the County report prepared by Luhdorff and Scalmanini claims the Napa Valley Sub-Basin has been adequately managed over the past 10 years, there appear to be serious errors that could be catastrophic to the county’s water supply. More study is needed before such an alternative plan is granted.

2. The report does not take into consideration the impact of the development of the hillsides on the groundwater in the subbasin.

3. Until we have more available hard data on groundwater levels, water quality, land subsidence, and saltwater intrusion into groundwater wells, we cannot make responsible decisions on groundwater management. Recommend that use permit holders be required to monitor wells and to submit data to the county.

4. Any abuse of water use, when metered and identified, must be corrected.

Please also contact our Board of Supervisors and encourage them to support and enact this crucial monitoring of groundwater to fully understand the impact of hillside planting and wells on our groundwater supply.
From the Water Balance charts in the NV Basin Plan.

"Too Egregious"

Daniel Mufson - Feb 7, 2017   Share

Milliken Reservoir leading up to the Walt Ranch at the top of picture under the wing. Photo by Napa Vision Aerial Photo Team
Napa Vision 2050 applauds the decisions of five groups to sue Napa County over the permitting of the Walt Ranch development.

The litigants include the Center for Biological Diversity, the Napa Sierra Club, and three local groups: Circle Oaks County Water District, Circle Oaks Homeowners Association,
and the Living Rivers Council.

“Lawsuits are a last resort, reserved when all other options have been exhausted. This project, which would destroy 160 acres of woodland, more than 14,000 trees, was just too egregious. We had to challenge it by any means available.”
— Nancy Tamarisk, Vice Chair of the Napa Sierra Club

This project has certainly stirred so much concern. Thanks to everyone who has shown up at hearings and on the streets, made public comment and written letters, imploring our elected officials to listen to expert witnesses presenting conflicting data from with applicant's studies. Besides tree destruction, objections have been raised against the potential for pollution of Napa City's Milliken Reservoir. The project also presents hazards to our threatened species, the groundwater source for the Circle Oaks community, ground instability, and dewatering of Milliken Creek.

Stay tuned...We'll keep you up to date on the latest!

Napa Nostra? (updated)

Bill Hocker - Feb 3, 2017   Share

Update Dottie Lee LTE 2/3/17: Don't denigrate good citizenship
NVR 1/18/17: Napa's wine battles turn to pizza skirmish

From the NVR article: 'Stults called Vision 2050 “a small, divisive group of people with the ambition of taking down the Napa Valley wine industry.”'

I don't speak for Napa Vision 2050, but there are many people in the county who are concerned about the changing nature of the wine industry, and the impact of that change on the rural character of the county and the quality of their lives, and that have no interest in "taking down the wine industry". Quite the opposite; the wine industry, built by resident vintners and growers that valued not only the success of their industry but the preservation of their rural communities has always had the respect of the other rural residents that benefit from the maintenance of a rural environment and small town life that was its product.

But the industry, as the industry itself constantly mentions, is changing. And the nature of that change is toxic to residents that treasure the bucholic pleasure of an agricultural economy. It is difficult to know whether the wine industry is becoming, or is just acting as a cover for, the tourism, entertainment, real estate and consturction interests that are beginning to engulf us all with development. Traffic is only a symptom of a development boom that is filling the vineyards with buildings and parking lots, and clearcutting hillsides for estates, resorts and more vineyards to replace those paved over on the valley floor, and for the tourism conversion of the municipalities that eliminates affordable housing and decimates the sense of small-town community life. And for the mining of parklands to build it all.

In a previous generation the wine industry fought the urbanizing trajectory that those industries represent. Urbanization is the death of agriculture. One is left to wonder why now, after 40 some years of the wine industry being the defender of a rural environment, it is now up to the residents, against all odds including the bullying of the wine industry, to try to save the rural environment which an agricultural economy needs to exist.

A year and a half ago, the Napa Valley Vintners launched a PR campaign dubbed Our Napa Valley, casting the urban impacts as solvable with transport infrastructure and more housing, i.e. more development. Until the wine industry returns to the notion that curbing development is in its own best long-term interest, as well as the interest of all citizens concerned about preserving the rural character of this place, skirmishes will no doubt continue.

The pizzagate archive:
NVR 2/3/17: Don't denigrate good citizenship
NVR 1/30/17: Wealth, power and entitlement
NVR 1/20/17: Redefining Vision 2050
NV2050 1/22/17: Give pizza a chance
NVR 1/18/17: Just say no to bullying
NV2050 1/15/17: The wine industry strikes back
NVR 1/18/17: Napa's wine battles turn to pizza skirmish
NVR 1/10/17: Suffering a lack of leadership
NVR 12/310/16: No. 1 story of 2016: Wine industry under fire

Stand up for your rights

Mike Hackett - Jan 29, 2017   View on SCR  |    Share

    "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." - Alice Walker

At the women’s rights and anti-Trump rally on Jan. 21, we were all energized by the size, unity and spirit of the assembled citizens. When our congressman, Mike Thompson, spoke of conviction, courage and determination that this is the time to “stand up,” we all roared with strong approval and understanding. We were there to stand up for the rights of women to control their own bodies, the right to adequate health care for all Americans, the right to marry whomever one may choose and the right for all people, of all colors, ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs and socio-economic status to determine their own future; in other words, the right to self-determination without influence from the corrupt and small greedy segment of the one-percenters. These rights are bestowed to all our citizens from the basic structure of our bill of rights and our democratic system of government. They should include every race, gender and class.

I feel compelled to point out that the balance of power is off-kilter not only in Washington, but right here at home in the Napa Valley. I was shocked to read that a wine industry lobby spokesman felt compelled to call Forge Pizza with a “courtesy call,” to tell the owners they shouldn’t be getting in the middle of a dispute between Napa Vision 2050 and the Napa wine industry.

Yes, Vision 2050 is providing the needed resistance to expansion of vineyards into our hillsides, where the future of our water will be determined by whether we can enact and enforce sufficient protections for our watersheds. The environmental groups that comprise Napa Vision 2050 are totally supportive of the wine and tourism industry, but not at the expense of the citizen’s rights to a healthy, sustainable and quality future.

Vision 2050 understands that with climate change, we don’t have the time to allow any more mistakes. 2016 was the hottest year on record, for the third year in a row. If we want to ensure that there’s adequate water supply in the future, we must protect our County’s watersheds at all cost, even if that means capping the allowable deforestation on our hills for more wine grape production.

Portions of the wine industry lobby are, unfortunately, led by that small greedy segment of the very wealthy; by the same kind of bullies that many of us feel are stealing our rights at the national level. The wine industry creates thousands of jobs and donates millions to needy causes. But now some in the industry are turning a blind eye to residents’ rights and are seemingly interested in turning Mother Earth into a toxic, unlivable planet in the name of quarterly profits.

Is our level of democracy at risk right here at home? Yes it is. Last year, when the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative was drafted and more than 6,300 citizens “stood up” to get it on the ballot, County Counsel mandated it be pulled at the last minute due to a supposed “small legal technicality.”

Most disturbing is that the other two measures that the county actually helped get to the voters, contain these same “legal technicalities.” Why was the watershed initiative jerked from the ballot? It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that the long arm of the bully segment within the wine industry reaches deeply into our county political machine, perhaps because some within the industry saw this initiative as a real threat to their continued vineyard expansion into our hillsides, at the expense of our watersheds. The issue will be decided in the Court of Appeal this summer.

One need look no further than the friends who have filed in support of the watershed initiative to understand what’s at stake: California Native Plant Society, California Wildlife Foundation, Corporate Ethics International, Environmental Defense Center, Forest Forever, Forest Unlimited, Greenbelt Alliance, Save the Bay, Planning and Conservation League, Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, Environmental Protection Information Center and Sierra Nevada Alliance.

This watershed initiative example and the fundraiser show that democracy is in trouble in Napa County. If a small group dedicated to a sustainable future can’t even hold a fundraiser without being attacked by big business, we need to “stand up.” Local businesses should not be forced to pick a side when it comes to supporting a sustainable future for Napa County. Why would holding a fundraiser for a small community group alienate the wine industry lobby?

This is a clear illustration of the over-sized influence this industry has in our community. Local residents have a right to organize and share information about a sustainable vision for our community. What’s at stake on the national level is exactly what’s at stake here at home. So let’s all “stand up,” right here, right now, to ensure our democracy shines with a brilliance never seen before.

NVR LTE version 1/29/17: Stand up for your rights

Happy Birthday Napa Vision 2050!

Daniel Mufson - Jan 25, 2017   Share

Jan 20, 2015
It's been two years since our first meeting as
"The Grand Coalition."

25 people were invited and 50 showed up and it's been non-stop activity ever since to advocate for clean air and water; public health issues; compliance of wineries to their use permits and protection of our watersheds.
In two short years we have matured and grown, a coalition of 14 citizen groups who want to protect our valley from corporate pillaging of our environment. We are vintners, growers, doctors, lawyers, psychoanalysts, artists, teachers, and educators working to protect and preserve #OurNapaValley for future generations.

Join with us also on Facebook.

Redefining Napa Vision 2050

Harris Nussbaum - Jan 24, 2017   Share

In a recent front-page article in the Napa Valley Register "Wine Battle Now A Pizza Fight," Rex Stults from the Napa Valley Vintners is quoted as describing Vision 2050 as "a small, divisive group of people with the ambition of taking down the Napa Valley wine industry."

That troubles me because it so far from the truth. Vision 2050 is actually a coalition of 14 local groups that got together because they saw our political leaders approving every winery and vineyard development, without regard to its impact on the environment, water, residents, and the wine industry itself. It has a great appreciation for all the wine industry does for this valley and wants it to succeed.

It is actually a very large group of local citizens from 14 significant organizations including Get A Grip, Sierra Club, Mt. Veeder Stewardship Council, Save Yountville Hill, Protect Rural Napa and others. It consists of grape growers, vintners, doctors, lawyers, educators, business people, and many other professionals. They are bright and articulate local residents who have a concern for the future of this Valley.

The wine industry here is changing. Locally owned wineries are often being bought up by international conglomerates with little connection to the valley. Most follow the rules laid down when they were approved. As in most industries there are a few bad apples that greatly violate the conditions of approval. A problem was that so many new wineries were being approved the county could not provide oversight to what they were doing.

Each group in Vision 2050 has an issue they are concerned about and it has split the power of the group, but there have been changes because of their efforts. Now is not the time for us to fight over pizza or to call each other names. I believe we all want the wine industry to succeed, but many fear that without some foresight it will destroy itself.

I want to thank Vision 2050 for its efforts to bring many Napa residents together and to the wine industry for supporting many worthwhile programs.

NVR version 1/20/17: Redefining Vision 2050

Give pizza a chance

Daniel Mufson - Jan 22, 2017   Share

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    - Mahatma Gandi

So here we are a week since this unsavory “Pizza Money” story began. Thank you all who said hello at the magnificent Women’s Rally and talked to me of “pizza rights!”

The Good News: You-- the #Real Napa Neighbors-- stood behind us and we raised more money than months of Sunday pizza dine & donates.

Now the bad news is we missed having a fun time with you, our Neighbors, and we haven’t received an apology from the Napa Valley Vintners for scuttling our dine and donate scheduled for today. Rex Stults, an NVV executive of spoke for that organization when he said “I would have a hard time believing that a local restaurant wants to do a dine & donate for Vision 2050 and alienate the Napa Valley wine industry who they rely upon for a large part of their business.”

The bottom line is we had an agreement with Forge which they backed out of after getting a “courtesy” call from the Napa Valley Vintners, interference pure and simple. So the Napa Valley Vintners, who profess in their propaganda to be part of the community in our Napa Valley, would force local businesses not to serve the #RealNapaNeighbors ? Neighbors who are for wineries complying with their permits and not destroying the watersheds?

Gandi got it right - first we were ignored, then we were laughed at, now we're being attacked.

Just Say No to Bullying

Kathy Felch - Jan 17, 2017   Share

Sometimes things just take your breath away. This time it was the long powerful arm of the wine industry reaching out to snatch pizza funds from our nonprofit, Napa Vision 2050, a two-year-old organization devoted to protecting the health and environment of Napa County. This is the wine industry that won the nation’s top place in direct-to-consumer sales in 2016. Napa county’s wine industry sales are expected to surpass $1 billion dollars for the second year in a row, according to the Napa Valley Register.

Saturday evening I got a call from an administrator for a new local restaurant trying to build their business here by connecting with our community. On behalf of Napa Vision 2050, I had arranged a Dine and Donate event at this restaurant for January 22 – supporters come in, show the restaurant’s flyer about the event and a percentage of their bill comes to our organization as a fundraiser. We had worked out a monthly Dine and Donate schedule through November of this year.

The announcement for our first event on January 22 went out to the Napa Vision 2050 mailing list, which includes many representatives of wine industry trade organizations and wineries. Evidently we tipped them off to something they did not like. Within twenty-four hours, the restaurant had received so many calls from wineries and the industry objecting to its partnering with us that the restaurant cancelled the events.

I think your readers ought to know what this industry is capable of doing. Our Napa County belongs to us all… not to any one industry. Do they think they own the county? Our events would have helped this restaurant reach into our community and it would have helped us raise money to make Napa a better place for all of us. Jeepers, a pizza fundraiser?

Kathy Felch
Vice-President, Napa Vision 2050

The Wine Industry Strikes Back

Daniel Mufson - Jan 15, 2017   Share

Saturday Night Massacre: Goliath Gobbled our Pizza Money

A note from Napa Vision 2050 President Dan Mufson:

I have a disturbing story to tell you. This is a story of bullying and intimidation - the kind you read about in coal country. You don’t expect it here in Our Napa Valley.

On Friday we sent you an email newsletter describing the Register’s No. 1 story of the year, “Wine Industry Under Fire” and we told you of our January 22 fundraiser wherein we had partnered with Forge Pizza restaurant for a dine and donate event where they would give us a percentage of each check when you showed the Napa Vision 2050/Forge flyer.

That was Friday. Well, by Saturday night apparently enough wine industry reps and wineries had called the Forge to complain about our Dine and Donate agreement that Forge cancelled the fundraiser. Let’s get this straight, the billion dollar wine business objected to our nonprofit, dedicated to the health and environment in Napa, Our Napa Valley, collecting some donations from the pizza that its supporters purchased. The wine industry’s fingerprints are clearly all over this episode.

So now you have it, the magnanimous, gracious, “community-minded” wine industry steps in to deny us our pizza money—it would be hilarious if it weren’t true. Rest assured, Napa, we’re not going to be bullied away. We are your neighbors from all over the county. We have spent over $200,000 out of our own pockets fighting for sanity in growth, fighting for clean air and water. We’re continuing the fight against the expansion of the Syar Mine and its carcinogenic pollutants, the Walt Ranch deforesting Atlas Peak, digging into why Napa County has the highest rates of cancer among all California counties, shining light on the wineries who violate their permits and the County government that allows all of this.

You know we always look to Our Napa Valley to come together in these efforts. We’ve got a big lemon here. Let’s make a lot of lemonade. Big Bully Wine scuttled our Forge Dine and Donate so we’ll have to do our fundraising elsewhere. Scratch the Forge Dine and Donate on January 22 -- we’ll let know real quick when and where our Napa Vision 2050’s Fundraising Pizza Party will be.

Yours respectfully,

Dan Mufson
Napa Vision 2050

Suffering a lack of leadership

Daniel Mufson - Jan 13, 2017   Share

The title of the No. 1 story of 2016 ought to have been: Local Governments Under Fire, as it highlighted many issues: watershed destruction, public health, campaign finance and a lack of stewardship by the Board of Supervisors. As such, we, the members of Napa Vision 2050, think the title of the article, “Wine Industry Under Fire,” (Dec. 31) is somewhat misleading.

We participated in each of the stories mentioned in this article: Napa Vision 2050 has been the leader in raising awareness of the out-of-control growth of the wine and wine tourism industries. However, our focus is not the industries nor the associations and institutions whose mission is to promote their expansion. We welcome responsible winery development, which enriches the life of every Napa Valley resident and contributes to its brand in the best possible way.

At the same time, there are the problems that stem from lack of oversight by our government officials. Too often, there is little or no consequence when wineries violate their use permits or escape environmental review. As the valley floor becomes increasingly planted out, wineries bully themselves into hillsides, destroy neighborhoods, build in inappropriate locations that need to truck soil and water and export sewage in order to operate, and mow down tens of thousands of mature trees to plant vineyards. This all contributes to an overgrowth of wineries whose visitors and workers flood our streets.

When such enterprises are promoted to the detriment of a healthy infrastructure, our common resources and the environment, something is dangerously out of balance. And it is not just the wine industry that is responsible for such offenses. The proliferation of hotels and resorts and the expansion of carcinogen-spewing mining operations contribute to conditions that increasingly make our home county inhospitable to those of us who live and work here.

Who is watching out for the interests of the general public?

We are supposed to have “a sheriff” in town who has been elected to safeguard our collective quality of life. Unfortunately, our Board of Supervisors seems to have become beholden to the interests of these industries, neglecting the commons. Our supervisors accept campaign contributions from these industries, then consistently vote 5 to 0 in favor of their projects. We suffer from the lack independent leadership.

This is the void Napa Vision 2050 fills. Our mission is to promote the health and environmental sustainability of our community and to inform the public and raise awareness of these circumstances that affect us all.

Daniel Mufson

Napa Vision 2050

1/10/17 NVR version: Suffering a lack of leadership

Groundhog Day at the Planning Commission. Again.

Patricia Damery - Jan 9, 2017   Share

Anyone who sat through the presentations by the neighbors at the Mountain Peak Winery Planning Commission hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 4, must also be appalled at the apparent ignoring, again, by the commissioners of significant comments from informed and thoughtful neighbors about traffic, road conditions, safety and the meaning of building such an event center (and yes, this is an event center, not just a winery) six and a half miles up a substandard dead-end road originally built for residential use 60 years ago.

Videos of speeding cars passing trucks on double lines, photos of lines of trucks and trucks and trucks, and of flash floods inundating the road, water as deep as a foot, were shown. Residents raised the specter of the county’s liability. Who will be responsible when the county approves a project on a road they know is substandard and there is loss of life due to lack of safe egress during a fire?

Two commenters addressed the impact of the spoilings from the caves on the pristine, blue line creek that serves Rector Reservoir. When it silts in, when the county is sued, we, the taxpayers, pay— not Mountain Peak Winery.

Going to Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings is like watching Groundhog Day over, and over, and over. The same things happen: The applicant is helped by the Planning Department to fit their project into the rules, planners recommend approval, certifying that all impacts of the project are "less than significant." The citizens, noting that the impact on their lives and on the future of the county is significant indeed, protest the recommendation of the planning department to the Planning Commission, as they did yesterday.

The commissioners listen but ignore citizens’ data. When the commissioners okay the project, it is then appealed to the Board of Supervisors, where this process happens all over again: informed citizen comment (three minutes only, please!) and then, as if it didn’t happen, slam, bam, thank you M'am, it is rubber stamped. Those impacted, and that includes all of us in the Napa Valley, are given the choice: Do we spend thousands or tens of thousands to sue the county?

Our county’s elected and appointed officials continue to ignore the cumulative impact of these projects on our environment, on our roads, on the quality and quantity of our water and on the fabric of our community. If you have enough money, you can do anything. First step is to fund the campaigns of the Board of Supervisors, then do some modifications to your initially inflated plans to show you really are a responsible winery and/or vineyard owner.

You’ll be allowed to use mitigations, exceptions and variances to make your square project fit into the round hole of the “rules,” rules, that are, it should be noted, crafted by the wine industry to its own advantage. And then you say to those of us who are looking at the larger picture: I followed all the rules and now I deserve the permit.

The question is no longer can these projects, which increasingly infiltrate our watersheds and hillsides, be done, but should they? Our governing officials appear to lack the will, intelligence and moral courage to really take this on. Bullied by big (big!) money, they have fallen captive. In an issue as important as the spread of development into our hillsides and watersheds, we citizens need to wake up.

Write or visit your supervisor. Demand that he or she act for the common good of the people and the environment, not of that of a few corporate and wealthy interests.

NVR version 1/9/16: Groundhog Day at the Planning Commission. Again.

American Canyon Under the Bus

George Caloyannidis - Jan 1, 2017   View on SCR  |    Share

Where your Napa Valley experience begins
For some time now, many of us have been pointing out both in the press and in testimony at the Board of Supervisors what is now evident to anyone living in the Napa valley that the protections mandated by the State throughthe California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) have been falsely applied byNapa County and our up-valley cities in as much as they have consistently been applying very limited radius of impacts and neglecting to observe the mandated cumulative impacts of "future, likely projects" labeling them as"speculative". How speculative is it that one day someone will build a home,a winery, a hotel on an appropriately zoned property they own when a neighboring property has received similar approvals?

Anyone doubting the effects of this failure, can experience the nightmare of Napa valley traffic as compared to just a decade ago. And yet, though through-traffic has remained steady below 10%, our officials have been telling the public that all the projects they have been approving from winery visitations to resorts and hotels have "less than significant"impacts or that their impacts have been mitigated. At this point, only ourSupervisors continue to live under this illusion. And it is not just traffic. This extends to less obvious impacts on the rest of the general infrastructure which will come home to roost at the cost of tens and hundreds of millions.

From a wider county-wide perspective, the motivation is also that of any given jurisdiction bullying itself to infrastructure share advantage. Which brings us to the victimization of American Canyon.

As an example, just the two approved Calistoga resorts will generate 2,900 daily vehicle trips, added to the County's bit by bit tens of thousands of winery and events visitors. These approvals never cared to factor in their impacts on American Canyon as they should have. Now a mere 6,300 peak hour vehicle trips the three American Canyon projects will generate, pose almost insurmountable CEQA mitigations thanks to years of myopic government policies.

If one were to roll back the clock by several decades and had considered where most residential, commercial and industrial development in the county ought to have been, it is obvious American Canyon would have been the choice, leaving agricultural lands in true conservation status and the three small up-valley towns as true to character as possible. Most large commercial activity as the Napa Airport Corporate Center and the Napa Logistics Park and the 1,250 homes and apartments at Watson Ranch and space for others for affordable housing in sufficient numbers, would be in the least impacting location. That model would have required leadership towards some revenue sharing, a leadership we never got.

Now as late comer to the game, American Canyon realizes it has been duped by the up-valley gradual, massive accumulation of fake "less than significant impacts" now strangling its ability to develop regionally wise projects, all of which diversify the vulnerable, fluctuating, monoculture-tourist economy we rely on and provide much better paying jobs than it does.

Where has visionary government been?

When will County policies stop being beholden to the wine-tourism special interests? Who will take the lead to develop the comprehensive vision which will safeguard the remaining resource? The already compromised quality of life? Who will muster the courage to say "yes" to the right projects and "no" to the ones CEQA is supposed to insure us against?

The sad reality is, we have run out of infrastructure capacity. Building it out to the 6-lane freeway to Yountville and 4-lane freeway to Calistoga and re-designing dozens of dysfunctional intersections as the County Draft EIR predicted years ago with the full knowledge of the Supervisors, will not only cost hundreds of millions but will deliver the final blow to the Napa valley. This will seal the legacy of decades of county governments.

NVR LTE version 1/4/17: Considering the Impacts


Daniel Mufson - Dec 31, 2016   Share


Together, we are POWERFUL.

And in 2016, Napa Vision 2050, a coalition of 14 affiliates in Napa County joined together with the citizens of
Napa Valley to bring about 
the Napa Valley Register's #1 story for 2016,
"Wine Industry Under Fire".  


The Number 1 story in Napa in 2016 was the voices of citizens joined together to fight for environmental rights and environmental justice. It was a story of how citizens fought to protect their forests and watersheds. It was a story of citizen voices vs. corporate campaign contributions. It was a story of citizens who live here vs. corporations that don’t. It was a story of citizens who want to be heard by their representatives in county government. It was a story of citizens fighting for their Napa Valley.

Whether it's championing a citizen's rights in our community, delving into environmental issues affecting our Napa Valley and standing up with heart and courage against large corporations from outside our valley looking to alter it, the citizens of Napa Valley are POWERFUL. 

As we look to the new year, the fight will continue on the streets, in the County Government Offices and in the Court Rooms as we fight to regain our lost rights to place an initiative on the ballot and to challenge the lack of concern about toxic emissions and the public health.

Before 2016 comes to a close, you can support our efforts by making a donation today. Every gift will make a difference, and you can give with the knowledge that you are supporting programs that promote quality of life by preserving the agricultural nature of Napa County for the benefit of future generations of residents and visitors.

Donate Now and make a gift to Napa Vision 2050. ( Napa Vision 2050 is a IRC 501(c)(4) public welfare corporation. As such donations are not tax deductible.)

We at Napa Vision 2050 thank you for partnering with us in our mission to promote responsible planning in Napa County. Together we are POWERFUL.

We wish you and your family a very Happy New Year!

Napa Vision 2050

Copyright © 2016 Napa Vision 2050, All rights reserved.

view the email version of this article

Protect our watersheds already

Daniel Mufson - Dec 5, 2016   Share

Over 6,300 Napa County registered voters petitioned the Board of Supervisors this year to put a watershed protection initiative on November’s ballot. Following that, a majority of Napa County voters (24,000, or 64 percent) voted for an increase in our sales tax to provide protection for our water and hillsides through enactment of Measure Z.

While it appears that not enough voted in favor of this measure (66 percent required), the message is that citizens want our watersheds protected. Many of our government representatives including all of the county supervisors, most mayors, and city council members along with Congressman Thompson and Assemblyman Dodd publicly supported Measure Z.

Thus one would think that the supervisors would act to protect our watersheds and open space from development. The proposed Walt Ranch project would be the antithesis of these watershed protection goals as development threatens Napa’s drinking water source; threatens water quality and quantity; threatens wildlife habitats and the biodiversity of the Atlas Peak area. It would force agriculture into the MST watershed and open space of Atlas Peak.

There are two major issues here: first to determine whether a given land-use project can be predicted to be compatible with the environment (does the environmental impact report demonstrate less than significant damage to the environment), and second, is it compatible with the needs of the community.

Four groups have appealed the Walt Ranch Vineyard Conversion project. They are the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Living Rivers Council and the joint appeal of the Circle Oaks Home Owners Association and Circle Oaks County Water District. They oppose the current project by urging the Board of Supervisors to overturn approval of the Walt Ranch erosion control plan because of serious flaws in the environmental impact report that they believe will harm the watershed and the biota.

There are many Napa County voters who believe that the county needs to act now to protect and defend community rights to clean air and water. Let’s be clear here, the Walt Ranch sits just above land that the city of Napa carefully guards to maintain the quality of the drinking water coming down the hills into Milliken Reservoir for city water users. They don’t let you get anywhere close to that water supply—it’s been said that birds are not allowed to fly over it. With a city of Napa water supply at risk, we must ask why county staff would believe it to be all right to cut down over 300 acres of trees, and disturb this watershed by deep ripping, blasting, and grading the Walt property located just above the reservoir.

NVR version 12/05/16: Protect our watersheds already

Walt Ranch's unresolved issues

Nancy Tamarisk - Dec 4, 2016   Share

There are good reasons for Napa residents’ unprecedented level of opposition to the Walt Ranch project. Five organizations are appealing the project to the Board of Supervisors. These include the statewide Center for Biological Diversity, and local organizations including Napa Sierra Club, Living Rivers Council, Circle Oaks Homes Association and Circle Oaks Water District. While it is impossible to summarize all of the issues in contention, these are some of the major ones.

Water: Circle Oaks is a small rural community of about 500 residents, almost surrounded by the Walt project. Its water district relies on wells adjacent to the Walt property. Circle Oaks is concerned that irrigating the Walt vineyards will deprive Circle Oaks of water, a worry supported by the findings of expert hydrologists. If Circle Oaks wells run dry, residents will not only be unable to supply their needs, but will also be unable to get homeowners’ insurance, because they will lack water for fire protection. Circle Oaks property owners would lose their investments in their homes.

The Walt project does not require any action if Circle Oaks wells run dry. The water district would have to prove that the Walt project caused the water shortage, a requirement virtually impossible to fulfill.

Napa City water is also at risk. For example, Patrick Higgins, a fisheries biologist, asserts that the Milliken reservoir, a Napa City water resource, is in danger of being overwhelmed by algae blooms with any increase in pollution from vineyards. While the City of Napa has reached an agreement with Walt, it requires only monitoring. It does not require Walt to take any remedial action if pollution exceeds predictions.

Regarding sediment, the Walt proponents maintain that vineyard installation will actually decrease sediment runoff. Our experts maintain that this is impossible: their calculations are incorrect.

Opponents also contend that the Walt could decrease flows to Milliken Creek, threatening downstream salmon and steelhead.

Greenhouse gases: Under its current incarnation, the Walt project would clear-cut over 14,000 trees, destroying the ability of those trees to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and producing “super-pollutants” such as methane when they are disposed of, either by burning or chipping.

The project proposes to “mitigate” this woodland destruction by establishing a conservation easement on other trees on the property. However, this is not mitigation! The protected trees will not magically absorb twice as much carbon dioxide to make up for the lost carbon storage of the destroyed trees. In the real world, greenhouse gases will increase.

Climate change is a crisis, both globally and for Napa. Already we have more wildfires, infrastructure (Highway 37) threatened by rising sea levels, less reliable water supplies, and even speculation about whether Napa can remain a premier grape-growing region. The contention that there will be no impact on greenhouse gases by the removal of 14,000 trees is a farce, and Napa County cannot be a party to it.

Special Status Species: Numerous species of concern are affected by the Walt project. Much of the opposition has focused on red and yellow-legged frogs and pond turtles. These species are the canaries in the coalmine, the first to go down as expansion of human development and climate change disrupt the natural world.

Experts’ testimony has noted that the environmental impact report provides such minimal information on the species studies that they are unable to even determine their adequacy. Two egregious examples include a watershed survey that was supposedly completed in only one day, when an adequate survey would actually require a minimum of one to two weeks to accomplish. Then, there are the surveyors of red-legged frogs, unable to tell the difference between a young frog and a tadpole, or to identify the frog species they encountered.

In addition, the limited buffers around the streams will be inadequate to protect anything approaching the actual habitat of special-status frogs and turtles. These creatures often over-winter hundreds of feet from streams and travel more than a mile to a new habitat or population.

NVR version 12/4/16: Walt Ranch's unresolved issues

Walt Ranch needs better environmental evaluation

Patricia Damery - Dec 3, 2016   Share

I’m writing to supplement several important facts from the hours of testimony from the Walt Ranch hearings, in the articles “Napa’s Walt Ranch vineyard hearings open with protest” and “Proponents of Walt Ranch make their case”.

The Halls, the applicants for Walt Ranch, have applied to convert 316 acres of a large, 2,300-acre tract of land in the Ag-Watershed into vineyards. Although the project has been modified following the protest of various environmental and local groups, it still involves cutting over 14,000 mature trees, the equivalent of cutting 62 percent of the trees on the city streets of Napa.

As this project started moving through the EIR process, the Halls began contributing large sums of money to various local lawmakers’ campaigns. As these hearings began, Chair Alfredo Pedroza asked the Supervisors for “disclosures.” They responded by stating any meetings or correspondence they (recently?) had. Not one disclosed any campaign contributions from the Halls. Can our supervisors make an independent decision that is for the benefit of the community and our environment when the project’s applicant has contributed thousands of dollars to his or her campaign?

One of the biggest dangers of this project is the fact that it is a large part of one of the five remaining biologically diverse areas in Napa County in which the original native plants, animals, and soil structure supporting them still thrive. As we face the uncertainties of climate change and a warming earth, it is critically important that we protect areas still intact and not further exploit them. This project includes cutting the oak woodlands, which will impact the entire ecosystem these remaining animals and plants populate.

Four different groups, appellants, found fault with the EIR and want the Board of Supervisors to protect our environment by sending the project’s contested EIR report back for future study. I was disappointed to see a lack of reporting on the appellants’ many reports from biologists, hydrologists, earth scientists, geologists, which took serious issue with some of the findings of the Walt EIR.

Attorney Tom Lippe also questioned the process of the EIR in terms of CEQA compliance. Former supervisor Ginnie Simms also pointed out that the project’s 35 blocks of vineyards, each with roads and water supplied to them, are a thinly veiled real estate development, ready to be sold separately for lifestyle vineyard estates— and wineries. The EIR’s responsibility is to anticipate the consequences of such possible future trajectories. This EIR did not consider such future development, which would have significant impact on water, traffic, and on ecology of the region.

We heard that four novice biologists spent only one day evaluating Walt Ranch for reptiles and amphibians when only one of them is a herpetologist and others could not identify a tadpole from a frog. And hydrologist Greg Kamman reported the proposed deep-ripping of the thin top soils in order to plant vines, a process recommended by Walt Ranch consultants, does not improve soil infiltration rates, thereby limiting runoff, but in fact destroys soil structure which naturally handles water infiltration. Even the Regional Water Quality Control Board says there is no evidence deep-ripping increases infiltration rates. These are only a few of the many counter claims.

There are too many discrepancies and the stakes are too high. Insist that the EIR be redone. Contact your supervisor to come down on the right side on this: send the EIR back for expert evaluation.

NVR 12/1/16 version: Walt Ranch needs better environmental evaluation

A Read Worth Sharing

Carl Bunch - Nov 28, 2016   Share

A Read Worth Sharing

Environmental activist Mike Hackett,
writes on the recent Napa land use fights reprised.

In this great read, Mike shares the perspective of
Land Trust of Napa County pioneer and life long environmental activist, Duane Cronk.

Duane is vehement about the similarities
between national politics and the political climate
here in Napa County, California.


We encourage you to share this with your friends
and help spread the message "of responsible growth and development here in Napa Country out to our community and beyond."

Deforestation in the time of drought

George Caloyannidis - Nov 21, 2016   View on SCR  |    Share

[Letter sent to Napa County Board of Supervisors 11/21/16]

Dear Napa County Supervisors:

I am sure you are aware of the November 18, 2016 U.S. Forest Service Report (attached here) regarding the alarming disappearance of trees in the state of California due to the drought. Not only is the number of 102 million trees lost staggering but even more alarming is the accelerated rate by which this is occurring: "62 million in 2016, a more that 100% increase over 2015 with; millions of additional trees weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years".

The Report goes on to state that "With public safety as its most pressing concern, the U.S. Forest Service has committed significant resources to help impacted forests, including reprioritizing $43 million in California in fiscal year 2016 to conduct safety-focused restoration along roads, trails and recreation sites".

This reality brings up once again the issue on which I have alerted you before: The tools by which projects are analyzed and evaluated in Napa county (CEQA / EIR) are inadequate in assessing the true impacts of projects as they are casting a very limited radius of impacts.

The Napa Land Trust, an organization whose mission and work is appreciated by us all, has saved 57,000 trees through land acquisitions and is supported by the voluntary financial contributions of many of our citizens, and the U.S. Forest Service is supported by the taxpaying public. Yet Napa Cities' and County policies are working in the exact opposite direction, having consistently approved or set to approve the clear cutting of some 30,000 trees in the past two years.

As the most egregious examples, the City of Calistoga approved the cutting over 10,000 mature trees (over and above the approx. 2,500 trees cut through a prior THP for roads) and the Walt Ranch project now before you is seeking to cut another 14,000 trees.

It is obvious that the County's policies are working against rather than in accord with state public policy and ignoring a statewide alarm.

It is imperative that Napa County adopt a more responsible and wider reaching radius and network of impacts when considering projects. That the current myopic tools are inadequate can be experienced daily by all of us - including you - in regards to the disastrous cumulative impacts on traffic as a result of the series of what you have been willing to accept as "less than significant impacts" as certified by the limited CECA and EIR findings and alleged mitigations. Impacts such as the rise of cheap commuting labor demand and the rise of CO2 levels due to stop and go traffic have never been addressed by the findings you deemed credible and have resulted to where we are today.

When the alarming loss of trees in California causes the U.S. Forest Service to raise the alarm in terms of public safety, it is irresponsible for the County to keep approving massive deforestation projects such as Walt Ranch with the sole purpose of accommodating the financial interest of a corporate entity. There are no effective mitigation measures for deforestation.


George Caloyannidis

Well, THAT was awesome! Let's do it again!!

Daniel Mufson - Nov 20, 2016   Share

An update from Napa Vision 2050:

People waged the Walt Ranch battle in the
Napa County Board of Supervisors chamber
and on the street Friday.

Upwards of 100 people joined together to rally against the cutting down of 15,000 trees in WALT Ranch for wine grapes! #HALLNo #HaltWalt

Photo credit:J.L. Sousa

Photo credit:J.L. Sousa

Local New Coverage

KTVU Channel 2 News : Nov. 18th, 2016

KTVU Channel 2 News: Nov. 17th, 2016

National news wires are listening!

As reported today in the New York NetWire. "The City of Napa estimates
it could cost its water ratepayers $20 million dollars
to deal with agricultural pollution from this single project." 

Get out! Stand up! Join Us!

Napa County Administration Building
1195 3rd St,
Napa, CA 94559

Tues. Nov. 21, 2016

These meetings are an opportunity to connect
with your Napa County Supervisor.

There is no rally Tuesday.

We ask you to spend some time with your supervisors. 

Use the contact information below
to schedule an appointment with your representative.
We encourage you to sit down with them
and clearly define your views on this issue.

Together we are stronger.

See you Tuesday!

Brad Wagenknecht   

District 1
Tel:  (707) 253-4828
Tel:  (707) 253-4386
Fax: (707) 253-4176

Mark Luce        

District 2
Tel:  (707) 738-7319
Tel:  (707) 253-4386
Fax: (707) 253-4176

Diane Dillon

District 3
Tel:  (707) 944-8280
Fax: (707) 253-4176

Alfredo Pedroza, Chair

District 4
Tel:  (707) 259-8278
Tel:  (707) 253-4386
Fax: (707) 299-4141

Keith Caldwell, Vice Chair

District 5
Tel: (707) 259-8277
Tel: (707) 253-4386
Fax: (707) 253-4176

Walt Ranch BOS appeal and protest Nov 18th

Jim Wilson - Nov 9, 2016   View on SCR  |    Share

NVR 11/15/16: Napa's Walt Ranch vineyard controversy goes to supervisors

Napa County citizens will rally in front of the County Administration Building at noon on Friday, November 18th. The appeal of the approval of the Walt Ranch Erosion Control Plan to the Board of Supervisor will begin at 9:00am

This occasion is the first day of hearings on the appeal against the Walt Ranch project. This project has aroused more ardent public protest than any in our county’s recent history.

The county wants to ignore us-- let's make it harder for them to do so. We'll have signs on hand, or bring your own.

Napa's Sustainable Groundwater alternate

Bill Hocker - Nov 3, 2016   View on SCR  |    Share

Chris Malan has sent this informative email concerning the WICC workshop that was held on Nov 3rd, with the resulting workshop report to be presented to he BOS on Dec 13th 2016 [now Dec 20th]. [Sorry, but I only received this email after the workshop.]


Public comment is open on the County's recent study of groundwater (gw) in the Napa Valley, in order to comply with the California State Law: Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, SGMA.

A workshop is being held tomorrow, November 3rd, from 3-6 at 2121 Imola, Napa County Office of Education.

Public comment (3 minutes) is allowed after their consultant presents the study.

You can review the Draft Basin analysis (DBA)/Napa Valley Groundwater Sustainability documents here.

There consultant is Luhdorff and Scallimini (LS) who say gw in the Napa Valley aquifer is stable and does not need gw management.

Their document is lacking in these areas (to mention a few):
  • False baseline of gw surface elevation: historically gw was at the surface (0 mean sea level) level in Calistoga-now gw is 10 feet below the surface in Calistoga and there is on-going dewatering of the Napa River from Calistoga to Hardman lane.
  • misleading information about groundwater quality-LS admit that gw quality is poor in many areas of the County due to boron, arsenic, nitrogen and heavy metals but dismisses this by calling it ‘normal’.
  • misleading information about the root zone modeling outcomes-LS discuss root zone modeling on the valley floor but ignore the upper/wild watershed in their water budget-this allows them to not model the impacts of deforestation on gw recharge
  • ignores Public Trust values and resources
  • fails to discuss or define ‘ undesirable results’ required by SGMA such as: declining gw quality, wells going dry, fish kills, dewatering of the Napa River and streams, salt water intrusion, land subsidence; all of which are occurring now, on-going and re-occuring since January 2015. If ‘undesirable results’ are present in the Napa River watershed, the County is required to do a Groundwater Sustainable Plan, GSP, by 2020 and a Groundwater Sustainable Agency, GSA, by June 2017.
  • mischaracterizes the water budget elements-discusses the vines production at 20,000 acres and holding and ignores the recharge area in the hills where deforestation and vines are being planted by thousands of acres each year
  • fails to account for the major use of groundwater at 60% during drought-causing dewatering of streams
Because of this, Napa County shouldn’t have this Alternative monitoring plan but instead get going on a Groundwater Sustainable Plan, GSP.

Background on why Napa County has chosen to do a DBA, (just continued monitoring) instead of Groundwater Sustainable Plan (includes a plan for sustainable extraction of gw): The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), historic legislation enacted by Governor Brown in September 2014, provided a new structure for sustainable management of California’s groundwater basins. On January 1, 2015 the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) began implementing the Act, including the development of new regulations to guide local groundwater sustainability efforts. SGMA established a sustainability goal for groundwater basins throughout the state, prioritized basins, established a timeline for implementation, and provided for new Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA). It also required the development of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs), or Alternatives that are equivalent to them, to ensure that basins are operated within their sustainable yield.

In basins that have ongoing successful groundwater management programs, a local agency may elect to submit a Basin Analysis Report Alternative that demonstrates that the groundwater basin is being sustainably managed. With direction from the Board of Supervisors on March 3, 2015, Napa County began work to implement SGMA through development of a Basin Analysis Report for the Napa Valley Groundwater Subbasin. Napa County was well suited to meet the requirements for this Alternative due to its groundwater sustainability program, which includes: an ongoing and evolving groundwater monitoring network and program, annual groundwater conditions reporting, an Updated Hydrogeologic Conceptualization and Characterization of Conditions Report (2013), development of new groundwater/surface water monitoring facilities along the Napa River, and a long-term public education and outreach program through the Watershed Information & Conservation Council of Napa County.

You should come tomorrow and listen to the presentation and be prepared to say something about the process and lack of correct information being presented to the both the WICC Board tomorrow and subsequently the BOS on Tuesday December 13, 2016 at a Special Meeting.

Keep in mind that if the BOS approve this Alternative to be submitted to the Department of Water Resources by January 1, 2017, and the DWR accepts this bogus Alternative this denies us groundwater management for an undetermined amount of time.

Our aquifers deserve our voice if we want sustainable gw for future generations. The time to act is now.

Chris Malan

The WICC Nov 3rd workshop agenda with supporting documents are here.
The county's page on groundwater sustainability is here

DIssenting voices to the County's proposed alternative to SMGA requirements by Gary Margadant and Gordon Evans among others are summarized in this response to comments, one of the documents in the Nov. 3rd workshop packet.

In an email to WICC Board Member David Graves after the Nov 3rd workshop, Mike Hackett of Angwin writes:

"Good morning David,

I need to fully understand why the County has painted itself into a corner by going "all-in" for the alternate plan. Initially, what individual or group came to that determination? Was it Patrick Lowe's regime, WIIC recommendation, BOS? I would hope it wasn't from the consultant group L&S. Our year long study related to enhanced protections for our watershed [the subverted Oak Woodland Initiative] uncovered strong needs for preservation of our oak woodlands and riparian corridors. This is about the future of not just supply, but equally important the quality of that supply. How can we plan for our children's future without ensuring quantity and quality?

I know you would agree that our water resource is THE most important resource needed to sustain life. Why are we gambling with this absolutely-necessary resource for life itself? What was the reasoning for selecting the alternate plan? It would be heartbreaking to think it was about $$. We need and will continue to demand an ongoing process like a sustainable groundwater plan. I simply am dumbfounded that we're trying to cut corners here! Dumbfounded!

Lastly, L&S appear to have cherry picked data and modeling to support the alternate plan, which is disturbing enough. But more scary is that their future assumptions are based on current conditions: like no increased development. What a "crock." We have the demand for 5,000 more acres of conversion from forest to vineyard in the pipeline right now. Many of those 113 wells are recently on line. We are gambling with our most important resource. This is outrageous and very troubling. I've admired your intellect and participation for several years now. Why do you not see the contradiction here? Those of us who are only in this fight because of the need for truth, justice and the dignity of life will continue to educate our fellow citizens that we are being sold ' a bill of goods" leading to the ultimate destruction of our Valley. We will continue until our last breaths to awaken our residents to these corporate blind ambitions.

Mike Hackett"

Is a restaurant agriculture?

George Caloyannidis - Oct 6, 2016   View on SCR  |    Share

Is a restaurant agriculture?

At least this is what Napa County wants them to become.

In the current Napa County Code, "Agriculture and Right to Farm," defines Agricultural Operation to "Include but not limited to...the production, cultivation, growing, breeding, harvesting or processing of any living organism having value as an agricultural commodity or product and any commercial practices performed incident to or in conjunction with such operations on the site where the agricultural product is being produced (emphasis mine), including preparation for market, delivery to storage or to market, or to carriers for transportation to market."

Hinging on the words "but not limited to," the County amended this definition in 2010 to include winery on-site sales and events in response to winery claims that marketing conditions had changed. The definition of Agriculture as it was and as it has evolved, makes all subsequent changes in what agricultural operations are, also a right. Quite of note is that any changes in that definition, also become part of the "Disclosure Prior to Transfer of Real Property" which states that: "No person shall transfer real property of or adjacent to agricultural lands without following disclosure as defined (in the Code)."

Under the guise of "Agriculture," the alcohol-tourism model has evolved -- whether we like it or not -- with all its associated problems from the lowest wages paid by it and by the booming hospitality industry, to commuters and traffic congestion, water rationing and exorbitant rates, insufficient sewer capacities, all increased infrastructure costs ultimately borne by the public.

Now we are faced with a new wave of changes in the code initiated by pressure from the alcohol-tourism industrial complex.

The most serious changes included in the proposed language as a right are: "The production and processing of agricultural products and related marketing, sales and accessory uses." Note that the "on-site" agricultural product requirement is removed. Included in the new definition is also "farm worker housing."

Two issues arise:

1) Housing developments are only permitted in the cities. If we allow farm worker housing in the Ag Preserve, the demand is in the thousands. Apartment buildings in the hills? Sorry, you were warned in the Transfer Disclosure Statement. And who exactly is a farmworker? One who works during harvest with a family of four and stays here employed elsewhere the rest for the year? Make no mistake, this is a backdoor to affordable housing in the Ag Preserve because the cities have consistently stonewalled it.

2) Now that the on-site production of agricultural products will no longer be required, beef, tomatoes or any agricultural product may be imported from anywhere, processed and sold here. Why not the manufacturing and sale of qualifying beauty products, leather goods or even biofuels? Staff argues that the price of land guarantees this will not happen. But relying on "the likelihood of something happening" is not a credible criterion by which narrowly defined activities would be inserted in the Code, which is what an ordinance does.

Which brings us to the certainty of restaurants in the Ag Preserve. What are they if not facilities that "process agricultural products" even though they may be imported from every corner of the earth? And that will be by right.

While the county's use permit process may modify or condition a right, I doubt it has the ability to deny it altogether. Undoubtedly, the courts will have a field day.

The supervisors and everyone living in the Napa valley ought to be apprehensive of opening Pandora's Ag Box of widening the permitted uses with their incremental degradation. It will be the second death nail in six years to the coffin of our Valley as we know it.

NVR 10/6/16: Is a restaurant agriculture?

Napa Vision2050 September Newsletter: Acorns to Oaks

Bill Hocker - Sep 8, 2016   Share

Napa Vision 2050 publishes a monthly email newsletter, Eyes on Napa, devoted to the impacts of ongoing development on the residents of Napa County.

Between art and reality on oak woodlands

Stephen J Donoviel - Aug 29, 2016   View on SCR  |    Share

Like others, two of the front-page articles in the Aug. 17 edition related to Napa Valley's oak woodlands caught my attention. One concerned "The Memory of a Tree” ("Oak-themed 'Memory of a Tree' mural to adorn Yountville gateway"), about the Yountville residents' wise choice to use the design by artists Sofia Lacin and Hennessy Christophel for murals to grace the Highway 29 underpass and the authorities for providing the resources to complete them.

It appears the artists' conceptual framework recognizes the history and significance of the mighty oaks to Napa Valley as well as their markedly diminishing numbers. This will, I hope, remind all of us, residents and passing tourists alike, of the significant role these disappearing giants play in our well-being by filtering the water we drink and the air we breathe as well as lending beauty to our surroundings.

The second article ("City of Napa, Walt Ranch reach agreement on water quality") centered around one of the major causes of the ongoing and increasing diminution of the oak woodlands, namely destruction/clear-cutting of significant numbers of trees (think filters) to make way for various entrepreneurial projects, e.g., the Walt Ranch (an operation reportedly held by Hall Brambletree Associates from Texas), which is not the only project, but certainly one, if not the biggest due to its size and widespread destruction/alteration of all or at least most aspects of the environment across the huge property.

It seems there is general agreement that the watersheds, particularly the Milliken, which delivers water to the residents of Napa city that is described as "pristine" (water currently being filtered by the mighty oak and other vegetation, the composition and configuration of the geological environment and relative absence of impact of man-generated pollutants), may be negatively impacted if Walt Ranch is allowed to proceed. The article references prior documents that indicated that to maintain the quality of the city water supply fouled by the project, filters costing an estimated $20 million would be necessary and the expense would be passed on to existing water customers.

Reportedly, Walt Ranch officials balked at picking up the tab. It's not clear if this would be a one-time expense or a periodic necessity like replacing the filter on a Brita home filter. For whatever reason, these details/concerns were dropped and city officials agreed to sign off on the project if the county includes requirements that Walt Ranch "monitor runoff water at nine locations and take steps to deal with problems that might arise."

I'm sorry but this seems like a very poor deal for the environment and everyone in it, except those directly connected to the Walt Ranch, because once the geology is disturbed and the tens of thousands of trees are destroyed, there is no going back to nature's filtration systems (not for generations to come) and residents are left with the bill for the filters.

If anyone is interested in seeing the speciousness of the argument that planting saplings (welcome as they are) will mitigate clear-cutting of mature oaks, they can judge for themselves by walking parts of our new bike path, or wander along the Yountville drainage collector outfalls where 10 to 15 years ago county flood control officials planted filling-in saplings along the banks. While they appear to be doing well, having been planted on creek banks, I think no one would argue that they even come close to approaching the size or filtering/soil stabilizing/shade capacity of a mature oak.

Another issue of significant concern, that of the pumping of hundreds of millions of gallons of water from our aquifers, was brought into sharp focus by an article in the August volume of National Geographic titled "To the Last Drop" authored by Laura Parker. The article chronicles in poignant fashion the draining of what is said to be North America's largest aquifer, the Ogallala that spans several central states. Reasons she identifies include the farmers' expansionistic over-farming in the quest for more income (an example, of what I think some politicians refer to as "growth" when occurring with businesses, communities, states, etc.), their unwillingness to self-regulate the amount of water they were pumping, even with the knowledge that, despite rain/snow fall of 50 to 100 percent above average, the aquifer did not recharge to previous levels and wells ran dry, as well as their officials' unwillingness to impose limits.

Maybe Napa County and the rest of the state -- certainly the Central Valley, which is already sinking -- have reached the tipping point where too much of a good thing leads to a disaster like that in the states served by the Ogallala aquifer. As a friend recently queried, "When is enough enough?" If subscribers have not read Ms. Parker's article, perhaps you can find the time to do so and hopefully we will treat "Yountville Tree Mural" with more respect and care than we have been doing with the real ones.

Napa's tourism revenue - the other side

George Caloyannidis - Aug 28, 2016   View on SCR  |    Share

Earlier this year, I visited Florence - generally regarded as one for the most beautiful cities in the world - for the third time since 1965. Its hotels, restaurants and stores are packed with tourists - 14 million of them. Its metropolitan area has a population of 1.4 million but all tourists descend only on its historic core where 380,000 make it their home.

One would think that with all its revenue, the city would be thriving, but the lawns and landscaping of the Boboli Gardens of the Pitti Palace ($16 entry fee) are brown, the giant 150-year old cypresses in the Santa Maria Novella court yard are dying because, though the Arno river runs through it, Florence is running out of water. Many of its narrow streets smell of raw sewage, indicating that its sewer treatment capacity has exceeded its limits. And the ability of its roads to carry its traffic was compromised decades ago.

Obviously, the massive revenue created by tourism is not enough to maintain its magnificent buildings and monuments, its slowly decaying sandstone columns, widow surrounds and railings of its historic bridges. Yet these are the assets that make Florence the attractive city that it is. The fiscal equation, while sufficient for providing immediately needed services to 10 times the people who live there, falls short in the long term capital costs they create.

Florence is not alone. The same fate is evident in all of the most attractive places in Europe including Ibiza - part of the Balearic islands - which professor Mendlinger had touted as one of the few successful models of a tourist economy at last April's Napa Valley forum on the tourist economy. But as Spain's minister of tourism recently reported, Ibiza has reached the limit of a variety of resources, including water.

If you ask the people who live in Florence, Ibiza, Santorini or Bruge whether they like it, they answer: "No, but this is where we make our living"!

Switching to the Napa Valley; if we are not there yet, we are awfully close. The percentage of tourist revenue the cities and county receive is somewhat in the order of a paltry 10 percent. All additional costs to maintain and expand the infrastructure its 3.5 million visitors require (25 per resident), in roads, sewer capacity, water treatment, administration, police, emergency services, cleanup, trash disposal etc. fall on the general population in the form of taxes, bonds and never ending funding measures. Despite the $50 million in Transit Occupancy Taxes, and more in sales taxes, we keep falling behind.

Calistoga and St. Helena are under orders to update their sewer plants, water is diverted from streams having to be defended in lawsuits, water and sewer rates are getting higher and everyone is aware of the sad condition of our roads, sidewalks and some 80 intersections at service level C or worse.

The reality is that the major winners of the tourist economy are the very few international corporations who have discovered the Napa Valley golden goose with their multi-million-dollar hotels and resorts but take their profits elsewhere, leaving behind the associated costs of services, the staggering long-term costs of infrastructure maintenance and expansion, the lowest paying jobs ($22,000 median for a single person) which create commuters and subsidized services - including grants for affordable housing - all spread among the wider population.

This is an unfair equation that satisfies mostly self-created immediate needs and ignores long-term costs. It is an ingenious cost-shifting vortex impossible to escape from.

There is no question that tourism is highly beneficial on many levels up to a certain point, but over-reliance on it has devastating fiscal, environmental and social impacts.

Because reliance on a tourism-based economy can never be scaled back until it reaches the point of collapse, I once again urge the county and the cities to commission a joint study before we get there.

NVR 8/28/16: Napa's tourism revenue - the other side

Napa Vision2050 August Newsletter: Citizens' Voices

Bill Hocker - Aug 15, 2016   Share

Napa Vision 2050 publishes a monthly email newsletter, Eyes on Napa, devoted to the impacts of ongoing development on the residents of Napa County.

Eyes on Napa August 2016 Newsletter: Citizens' Voices
The newsletter index is here
To receive the newsletter join here

Reject Walt Ranch

Stephen J Donoviel - Jul 18, 2016   View on SCR  |    Share

Reading the article “County approves Walt Ranch" (June 14) immediately brought to mind two comments: one, the response by one of the so-called "Original Ten" vineyard and winery owners during the late 1960s to a question about planting vineyards on the surrounding mountains, to which he replied: "The valley's for farming, the hills are for the deer." The second was a comment I often heard my mother say, "My, oh my, what money can buy!"

David Morrison, director of Planning, Building and Environment, stated in the article that all of the numerous concerns addressed in the EIR analyses for the above project could be mitigated and would not reach the level of "Significant." I disagree.

These concerns involve the entire ecosystem, including soil erosion, draw-down of tens of millions of gallons of water and damage to the water supply affecting local residences as well as necessitating costly improvements to the city of Napa water system; traffic issues, including road damage and increased pressure on recreational and residential mobility; threats to wildlife; geological threats to the adjacent community of Circles Oaks and many other families living in the surrounding area; various forms of noise pollution generated by heavy equipment, increased numbers of vehicles of all types, demolition explosions, etc.; and the potential risks to the health of these citizens (as well as the construction workers needed for the project) by possible exposure to carcinogenic dust being blasted into the atmosphere.

These degradations would result from the domino effects stemming from the extensive alterations to the landscape, and to conclude that all these can be satisfactorily mitigated does not, in my opinion, meet the smell or common sense test -- notwithstanding the numerous analyses and consultants that have been employed.

Central to many of the issues is the cutting of old-growth forest and there is no possible mitigation for time lost, i.e., the many decades to regrow the estimated 24,000 trees and vegetation to be destroyed and the resultant effects on the ecosystem. If we think of the trees as healers of the environment, e.g., removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, stabilizing soil and stream beds, providing cover for fauna, etc., the work provided by 24,000 trees cannot be compensated by the remaining forest regardless of their numbers or ratios.

Planting saplings, while a good idea, will take years and years to equal the healing capacity of what was destroyed. I think it paradoxical that approximately two weeks after indicating that the removal of 24,000 trees did not have a significant environmental impact, Mr. Morrison in a Napa Register article on July 4, concerning Napa's responsibilities to deal with the counties' carbon load, noted that one aspect of the plan could include planting 2,500 trees annually.

Anyone who has driven behind earth/rock-moving trucks (which have relatively tight covers over the load) knows that considerable dust escapes. Four years of construction noise may not seem "significant" when gauged from sound measurement techniques, however the effect undoubtedly would be deemed otherwise by local residents. Unlike the project developers and their staff and those public officials making determinations about the risks of this project, the citizens living nearby will face an estimated four years of daily direct exposure to the noise and air pollution from explosions needed to destroy mountains, cutting trees, constant rumbling of heavy construction equipment, workers vehicles, etc,.

I am puzzled why the owners who, when they opened the Hall Winery in St. Helena, touted it as a "green" enterprise, are now promoting a project that is the antithesis to that concept with the destruction of every conceivable aspect of the environment and all for no apparent good reason -- certainly not to put food on their table, clothes on their backs or grow grapes in an environmentally sound fashion. Looking at the plot maps, this looks more like a plan for multiple ranchettes than a farming operation.

I urge the supervisors to reject the totality of this project and, instead, encourage the owners to deed this bit of earth to future generations, which, as others have pointed out, would prove to be a much greater legacy, a la Warren Buffett, the Zuckerbergs, the Gates, and so on.

If this and other such projects that have negative impacts on the many to financially benefit a few get approved, it seems there are very few options left for us, one of which would be to seek redress through the courts. Obviously such an action would require the resources and clout that an organization such as the Sierra Club has. However they would need our support and I urge everyone who is not currently a member to join the Sierra Club since this project would have lasting negative consequences, in varying degrees, on all of us.

Stop Napa's watershed deforestation July 15th

Mike Hackett - Jul 13, 2016   View on SCR  |    Share

Recent widespread news reports concerning controversy over a San Luis Obispo County wine company bulldozing hundreds of acres of oak trees to plant vineyards have left many Napa County residents scratching their heads: The same devastation is taking place in Napa, much faster and on a far greater scale.

This deforestation project by Justin Wines in Central California is heartbreaking, and should help bring awareness to the current onslaught in Napa County.

We are right now confronting project after project calling for deforestation in our watersheds, and residents are alarmed — our county officials have yet to act.

Consequently, a coalition of Napa County citizens has drawn up and collected more than 6,300 signatures on a voter initiative for the Nov. 8 ballot — the Napa County Water, Forest and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative of 2016.

Its primary aim is to safeguard the county’s watersheds, water sources and forests. We need this ballot measure to restore balance between the wine tourism industry and the rights of local residents and communities, and to provide long-term protections for our oak woodlands and our water future.

This should concern residents of the Bay Area as well. The Napa River is the second-largest freshwater source emptying into the bay—a water body shared by millions. The Napa River has been impaired for decades and we need protections for the water sources that drain into it.

Napa County Planning Department records show nearly 3 million gallons of additional wine will be needed to satisfy the myriad winery expansions on file with the county. That would require an estimated 5,000 additional acres of new vineyards, sacrificing much of the county’s water supply and natural beauty—its forested hillsides and watersheds—to meet the demand.

Right now, we have at least 29 erosion control/vineyard conversion applications on file awaiting approval, according to Jim Wilson, vice-president of Defenders of East Napa Watersheds. “We don’t have any current protections for our oak woodlands, so we need the Initiative for a healthy eco-system,” he said.

“California has lost more than a million acres of oak-related lands in recent decades. These oak woodlands,” he said, “are responsible for water purification and replenishment and are essential to the environment and watershed health. Napa has the highest concentration of oak woodlands of any county in California, and this iconic ecosystem is disappearing at an alarming rate. This is significant because two thirds of Napa County’s drinking water comes from its oak-dotted watersheds.“

Joy Eldredge, Napa City Water Department general manager, has written: “The county should prevent the shifting of vineyard development impacts onto the city and its public drinking water customers.” The water manager goes on to state that “the City has seen a 400 percent increase in the level of effort required to treat Hennessey Reservoir for algae problems.”

This water quality degradation is due to vineyard development and run-off above the reservoir’s watershed. At times, 70 percent of Napa city’s water supply comes from Lake Hennessey.

Large vineyard developments above water reservoirs could require taxpayer money to clean up these reservoirs, if such developments take place.

Napa’s other reservoir faces a large vineyard development above it called Walt Ranch, associated with Hall Winery, which would cut and clear 24,000 trees, and the City of Napa water manager believes it could cost the taxpayers up to $20 million to clean up the reservoir’s water if this project is approved.

“The juggernaut of the wine industry’s encroachment into hillside forests threatens to bring serious impacts for humans, animals and the environment and after five years of drought, it’s only going to get worse,” says Wilson.

Napa Valley, is noted for its ideal terroir and climate for grape growing. More than 40 years ago, visionary Napa County activists such as Volker Eisele pushed through farsighted policies to protect the valley floor for what was considered its highest and best use—agriculture, including wine grape production.

Now, however, the accelerating demand from international corporations and wealthy individuals to convert thousands more forested acres to vineyards is pushing development onto sensitive hillsides and natural areas, threatening Napa County’s microclimates and future water security.

Although the Napa County Water, Forest and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative recently garnered more than 6,300 petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot, it is currently held up by the county over an alleged minor technical issue.

A lawsuit filed by initiative proponents will be heard in Napa County Superior Court on July 15 and a favorable ruling would allow the measure to go forward on schedule. In the case of an unfavorable ruling, the matter will be appealed to a higher court.

The Superior Court hearing is set for Friday, July 15 at 9 a.m. at 1111 Third St. in Napa.

More information is here

Diane Shepp: a vote for sustainability

Daniel Mufson - May 31, 2016   Share

Vote! Your voice is critically important to our water supply, our community, and Napa County's future.

Next Tuesday, June 7, 2016 is the Primary. If you haven't mailed in your ballot, please hand carry it to downtown Napa or to a local polling place. Your voice has never been more important!

If you live in District 4, you have several choices for Supervisor, including Diane Shepp. Diane is a local resident who has had years of experience in Napa County in the service sector and on the county Grand Jury. Almost all of her campaign donations come from individuals who want the community, the environment, and business to be in balance. She is not bought by special interests. We need governing officials not beholden to wealthy people or corporations who have voted to get and keep them in office. We hope you give her your vote.

We are in a crisis in Napa County, a crisis of consciousness that is a microcosm of that in our country and in the world. It can be summed up rather simply, although it is a complex problem: are we going to continue to allow economic interests of an increasingly small few, often outside investors, trump the needs of the larger population, the community, and the environment? The drought has pushed the issue: the quality of our Napa City water supply is impacted by the degradation of our watersheds.

Governing for sustainable growth
Ron Rhyno (Published in the Napa Valley Register May 29, 2016)

A 1980s State Water Resources Board report predicted intense competition for water by 2020 between agriculture, industry and homeowners. That same report said California was taking more water from our aquifers than was being replaced. The Central Valley is already there. There are two types of growth: more -- that assumes unlimited or accessible resources to support growth; and Better or Smart -- that recognizes limits and wisely manages finite resources to sustain healthy environments and economies.

The current and future supervisorial elections will determine the sustainable future of Napa County and the Napa Valley. Unanswered questions posed by high Napa County cancer rates for children and white and Hispanic males; unaffordable housing for winery, vineyard, hotel, restaurant, school and college employees contributing to traffic congestion beyond tourism; increasing development in fragile watersheds putting water quality at risk; more wineries creating unplanned competition causing requests for more events, visitations, and production to sustain healthy profit margins; our struggling Berryessa populations; and unseasonable climate variations affecting every aspect of county life, all point to the need for different governance for all the county's people.

Excellent governance has four aspects: governance as an ongoing deep learning enterprise; informed and wise planning and policies toward a sustainable future; intelligent decision making in the present intending a sustainable future; and courage in decisions to fix the mistakes of the past. Intelligent governing and wisdom come from lots of experience, and courage is the product of integrity with toughness on behalf of all those one is elected to serve -- all with constant learning.

In Supervisor District 4, is Alfredo Pedroza, with post-college credit union and banking experience, two years of an uncompleted City Council term and 18 months as a governor's supervisor appointee. The Register "Stark choice" endorsement on April 24 of Alfredo Pedroza as "unquestionably an establishment figure ..." and "He deserves election ... so he can prove his worth on his own terms," raised more questions than provided information. Perhaps insight can be gained from the more than $200,000 his campaign has raised largely from winery and business donors, including from three projects now before the supervisors: a precedent-setting private heliport in a residential area, the Syar pit expansion, and the Walt Ranch watershed vineyard development. Campaign contributions are investments; we contribute because we believe the values and decisions candidates make will support our values, needs and interests. What is it that the donors of over $200,000 to the Pedroza campaign know or believe about the incumbent?

By contrast Diane Shepp has over 25 years of leadership and coalition building for results; extensive life and community-serving experiences, an understanding of the systemic relationships and need for harmonic planning for human, environmental and economic well-being; a personal process leading with inquiry, courage and willingness to dig deep with thoughtful consideration, meeting commitments, keeping promises, investment in our county, not just the valley; and a personal experience with and commitment to diversity in all its aspects. Her campaign contributions tend to be small except for one out-of-state tech company.

With Belia Ramos, attorney, former aide to Congressman Thompson, American Canyon City Council member, running unopposed in District 5, our communities and the supervisors have Hispanic representation with extensive county and legislative experience. Diane Shepp will bring independent community-centered representation and new diversity to the supervisors, creating a board majority of three women for the first time in Napa County history -- women being a majority in Napa County.

In this District 4 election cycle Shepp is the choice toward a sustainable and enduring Napa County future, beyond 2050.

Ron Rhyno

Past president, Mexican American Political Association, Napa County; past Clinic Ole Board;past Solano-Napa County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board; Foreman, 1988-89 Napa County Grand Jury

Act to Protect Your Watersheds

Daniel Mufson - Apr 15, 2016   Share

If you live in a city you get your water from two sources, our reservoirs which capture watershed runoff and/or the State Water Project. With the prolonged drought and minimal snow pack in the Sierras, it is more important than ever to protect our local watersheds to allow maximum water capture and the quality of the water.

Please sign the Initiative, "The Water, Forest and Oak Woodlands Initiative of 2016" to place it on the ballot. Your neighbors are out this month at the Bel-Aire shopping center and elsewhere seeking your signature.

This is a photo of the headwaters of the Milliken Creek up on Atlas Peak Road. According to the Napa City water department, it has the highest water quality in the county. We must protect it.

Insights from the forum on the tourism-driven economy

George Caloyannidis - Apr 12, 2016   Share

The forum on the Tourism-Driven Economy organized by Napa Vision 2050 on April 1 offered valuable insights that are worth disseminating to the wider public (NVR 4/2/16: Vision 2050 forum looks at tourism -- the good and bad).

The panelists were Professor Samuel Mendlinger of Boston University who has consulted on many private and public projects on tourism in more than 20 countries around the world, Eben Fodor of the Planning firm Fodor & Associates who has researched the relationship of growth and prosperity in the top 100 U.S. metropolitan areas and analyzed the long-term fiscal models of large resorts in Oregon and Texas and Professor Susan Handy, an authority on sustainable traffic patterns at UC Davis.

According to Dr. Mendlinger, to realistically deal with the problems of tourism, both residents and governments in Napa Valley must realize that they are no longer dealing with an agricultural but a business economy.

That there is a difference between a hospitality economy reliant on services and a polarized distribution of incomes and a true tourist economy reliant on providing a wide variety of unique experiences and a more equitable distribution of incomes. He cited the Balearic islands as a successful model of the latter.

And unless a wise government engages its residents in seeking solutions, frictions between segments of the population will grow with the increased use of the infrastructure and the finite resources that impact the quality of life of local populations in negative ways.

Mr. Fodor's statistical analysis has shown that growth beyond certain levels, leads to diminishing median incomes among populations in metropolitan areas.

He also showed that governments tend to exaggerate the economic benefits of tourism ($1.63 billion in Napa County) by failing to account for the bulk of the revenue ending up outside the county to multi-national or international corporations and for the large expenditures associated with that growth in more than seven categories of services, most important in the staggering costs of maintenance and expansion of the infrastructure that comes in cycles of several decades.

Local governments receive only a very small amount of the overall tourist revenue such as fees, the Transient Occupancy Tax and sales taxes. Nevertheless, they depend on that revenue to finance the enormous infrastructure expenditures in a never-ending cycle of growth. He cited the sad condition of the local and national infrastructure as a proof of why we have been falling that far behind. "We never charged and still do not charge enough for the true cost of development," he said.

Finally, Professor Handy cited the research findings at UC Davis that proved that widening roads and highways does not alleviate congestion. This finding is now posted on the Caltrans website and in the face of overwhelming evidence is bound to be adopted as its official policy.

She pointed out that the 2007 Napa County draft environmental impact report's recommendations of widening Highway 29 to six lanes from Vallejo to Yountville and several other segments to four lanes by the year 2030 will not solve congestion problems if current growth policies continue. In fact, it will make them worse.

In response to American Canyon Mayor Garcia's comment that growth in the upper valley impacts traffic in his city, she acknowledged that the way traffic engineers currently analyze CEQA requirements for specific projects in Napa County is misleading by only considering their impacts on a very limited, inadequate radius. "This is not how CEQA is supposed to be analyzed," she said.

Unfortunately, in the way of solutions, the options of mass transportation and limiting growth were not encouraging.

NVR version 4/13/16: Insights from the forum on the tourism-driven economy
The NV2050 Economic Forum page is here


Bill Hocker - May 29, 2017

Excellent article!

Ag community or business community?

Patricia Damery - Apr 8, 2016   Share

One of the biggest takeaways in the recent Napa Valley Vision 2050 Economic Forum was a statement from Boston University professor and researcher Samuel Mendlinger. “We need to face the reality that Napa Valley is no longer an agricultural community, but a business community,” he said. “Only then can we ask the right questions.”

My husband and I are farmers—growers, as they say now— both from Midwestern farming families. I love the rhythms of farming, the culture and the intimate relationship with the earth, and I will continue to do so. The truth of this statement about our valley is not something I have wanted to accept— and yet it’s been hanging there, just off in the wings.

Privately, I discussed this more with Mendlinger, and with more specificity. We delineated some of the differences in these two approaches and the frictions that develop, frictions that only cause more polarization.

For instance, in an Ag community there often are spoken and often unrecorded agreements between neighbors (easements, agreements on water usage, etc.) which are held to in good faith.

When land becomes economically interesting, and those wealthy enough to buy land that has been handled in these older ways, trouble ensues.

Often, these people’s wealth comes from business, seldom agriculture. Neighbor agreements no longer work because it isn’t on the newcomer’s radar, and too often, concern. There are simply different rules in business.

In the Napa Valley, I have watched newcomers move in from out of county or state, and not consider that spoken agreements might exist. Even when easements have been recorded on titles, the county does not consider them in the permitting process.

Consequently, neighbors are forced into battles with each other, fighting it out in the Planning Commission, appeals to the Board of Supervisors, and in our courts. Yes, it causes friction —in part because we are operating in different paradigms: the “old” ways of agriculture and and the “new” ways of business. Could we find a happier medium?

And this is just one of the several challenges of outsiders moving in, viewing land as a business venture versus an agricultural contract with the land. Napa Valley is fighting the wrong fight in not recognizing this shift. Polarization only gets worse and any real problem solving, impossible.

If we can accept this shift, though, then maybe we can start formulating the right questions, which address not so much preserving agriculture, as protecting — and improving — the environment and the serious challenges we are facing with climate change and wine industry successes — to our watersheds, water, the social fabric, housing, traffic patterns.

This does not mean ignoring our Ag Preserve and Ag Watershed lands. It means recognizing, like it or not, the 2010 revisions to the WDO (Winery Definition Ordinance) has made these ag-zoned lands venues for intensified business activities.

How do we address this so business interests do not eclipse environmental, social, and fiscal considerations?

This, too, was a strong message in the forum: the importance of strong citizen groups in communication with our governing officials, and governing officials who listen. I applaud our county officials for the public hearings and times of public comment, for their willingness to engage with the public.

I applaud the forums where all sides have a voice. It is important that these officials make decisions with a broader perspective gained by this discourse. This could just be a process by which we find workable solutions that address the environment in all its dimensions: watersheds and water, economic health, and tourism in balance with a healthy community.

NVR version 4/8/16: Ag communit or business community's?

NVR: Napa Vision 2050 Economic Forum

Daniel Mufson - Apr 1, 2016   Share

Napa's resident-based agricultural economy is dying. It is quickly being replaced by a corporate-based tourism economy. What does that mean for the residents, the government, the physical environment and the soul of the county? Napa Vision 2050 has begun to explore these issues. Below is the Napa Valley Register summation of the forum.


Bill Hocker - Apr 2, 2016

For me the defining moment came late in the day. Dr. Mendlinger, while praising the involvement of residents in the planning process, seemed to bring a sociologist's clarity to the table: "Napa has a linguistic problem.", he said. "It claims to be an agricultural community when it is, in fact, a business community." I'm sure many of the pro-development members of the audience were quietly saying "duh!" The rest of us, obviously, have been spending too much time reading the vision statement of the Napa County General Plan.

Wed. Mar 30th: Imola-Coombsville Community Meeting

Daniel Mufson - Mar 18, 2016   Share

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 7-9PM
2121 Imola Avenue (The Napa County Office of Education Building)
There is no charge to attend. Translation service for Spanish speakers will be provided.

Napa Vision 2050 is a coalition of neighborhood and environmental groups from all around the county. Over the past year we have been working to restore some sanity in how land-use permits for new and expanding wineries, hotels and heliports are approved. Dan Mufson will present our report-card to you.

Many of your neighbors have been concerned about the operation of the Syar Mine & Asphalt Factory which emits dangerous gases and particles into the air we breathe. Come to this meeting to hear your neighbor Kathy Felch explain the risks to the health of your family and what we can do about it.
Did you know that Napa County has the highest rates in California of cancer in children and white adults and is #2 in Hispanic cancers?

We are sponsoring a ballot initiative to protect the city's water supply. Jim Wilson will explain why our watersheds need enhanced protection.

Come with your neighbors.

From a vision to a movement

Patricia Damery - Mar 10, 2016   Share

Attending the Napa Vision 2050 meeting on Wednesday evening, March 2, I was impressed with the accomplishments of what can only be described as a movement.

Napa Vision 2050 was formed a year ago when President Dan Mufson called together several citizen groups who were disturbed about what was happening in their own neighborhoods. He thought 20 people would gather at that first meeting at the Napa Valley Marriott & Spa; more than 50 of us crowded the room. Wednesday evening I counted more than 100 in attendance. The ranks of the disenchanted are growing.

In a short time, Napa Vision 2050 has made an impact. It has only begun.

The organization is now composed of representatives from more than a dozen neighborhood and environmental groups who see a pattern in their individual issues that affects our whole county. This pattern is one in which the economic interests of the wine and hospitality industries drive the decisions of our county planners, planning commissioners, and Board of Supervisors.

Despite the rhetoric, decisions being made have a cumulative negative impact our water supply and watersheds, our air quality, traffic, and the changing fabric of our community.

All these issues take a back seat when time and again deep-pocketed wine and hospitality interests influence our elected and appointed government officials decisions. Permits are handed out despite violations, safety concerns on roadways, and larger health issues (witness the silica, cancer-producing emissions of Syar and the fact that Napa County has the highest cancer rates in California. The Board of Supervisors has yet to take any action on this alarming situation.)

Amazingly, large event centers have even been finessed to be described as an "accessory use" of agriculture, effectively commercializing our "protected" agricultural lands!

It is not that wineries and hotels are an important part of the economy here. No one argues this. But they are only a part of the social fabric. Their wealth is on the backs of the rest of us: most of their workers are low-paid and many cannot afford to live here.

They have to commute, and along with tourists, fill our highways. The incursion of these event centers — which are deemed necessary by these investors for their direct marketing— impacts our watersheds and water supply. It changes climate. Cutting trees to plant vineyards contributes to conditions of drought.

We cannot count on the economic needs and demands of these industries to consider the larger whole. In fact, the presence of wine and hospitality industries' special interests degraded the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee (APAC) recommendations being adopted by the Board of Supervisors, even after hours of a supposedly democratic process over the last summer APAC was appointed by the Board of Supervisors from 17 stakeholders, business, and environmental groups in the Napa Valley to make recommendations that would guide the Planning Commission addressing problem issues around permitting and violations in wineries and vineyards in our county.

Napa Vision 2050 is a group working to give all of us a voice in what happens in our valley. In 2050, it is predicted by the state Natural Resources Department that the climate will be 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer and, should this occur, 60 percent of our vines will not viable. It is time we insist our governing officials not be bought by the financial interests of the wealthy few —who are increasingly outside investors— but consider the whole of us. We have to put our environment in all its aspects, first.

We are interconnected. The decisions being made are decisions that may bring more money for a very few for a little while, but they open the economic divide and degrade our water, our environment and our social fabric. Visit the Napa Vision 2050 website and consider becoming a part of this movement to make our county government one representing the all the people.

NVR version 3/10/16: From a vision to a movement

Cancer rates and Napa policies

Christine Tittle - Feb 18, 2016   Share

Four so close to home is one time too many.

On Sunday, February 14, a "marche blanche" - white march - took place in the center of Bordeaux in protest of pesticides following a two-hour French television documentary, viewed by 3 million, based on a leaked government database identifying the iconic wine region as one of the highest in pesticide use.

Hair samples of children from schools in the Gironde identified the presence of 40 dangerous chemicals. This comes on the heels of statistics showing that leukemia among children there is 20 percent higher than the French national average. In the premier sweet wine region of Sauternes, a whopping 500 percent higher!

Napa County has 22.8 children cancer deaths per 100,000 - a 69% rise between 2000 and 2012 - the highest in California and the second highest for adults with 488.9. Popular use pesticides have been linked to cancer, leukemia, kidney disease, Parkinson's and more. Napa County had 115 breast cancer cases and 20 deaths in 2014. When will we Napa residents wake up?

According to industry reports, 20 similar pesticides agents are used in Bordeaux, Napa and Sonoma.

The California Legislature has enacted AB289/AB947 (Jackson), known as the Pesticide School Protection Zone Act, designed to protect schools from pesticide drift. We can all guess why Napa County has not followed its recommendations.

Though such data are not new, Napa county policies on these life and death issues, rather than mitigate, continue to exacerbate the problems.

Its promotion of more and more visitors (200,000 more annually over the past two years) who along with the tens of thousands of low paid commuters both the wine and hospitality industries employ, are major contributors to carbon emissions with their cars moving at a snail's pace in what has become an urban-like, environment.

Mining and asphalt recycling operations at Syar spew carcinogen crystalline silica particles into the air which drift up-valley each and every morning with the inflow of the San Francisco Bay fog. Yet, the County is seriously considering its expansion, all in the proximity of no fewer than nine schools - never mind AB947 - and one hospital. Incredible as it is, in order to accommodate it, all new residences near Syar, including several hundred at Napa Pipe will be required to install 2.5 micron air filtration systems. Opening windows if at all possible or outdoor activities, will be at one's own risk. Have we lost all sanity?

There are over 50 pending applications in the County for new wineries and winery expansions totaling 567,000 new visitors and 2.9 million gallons of wine which according to the 75% rule will require 6,000 more acres of Napa vineyards, all in the watershed areas in the hills as the valley floor is already planted. With them come more deforestation, car emissions, pesticides and vineyard burns. Remember, three out of four weeks in January 2015 were declared no-burn days.

Our watershed replenishes our wells and the aquifer from which we all drink and irrigate. From there the pesticides find their way into our produce, and animals. They accumulate ever so little by little in our systems until one day we get the news no one wants to hear.

Geothermal discharges, antimony and arsenic end up in the Napa river from overburdened sewage disposal infrastructures starting as far upriver as Calistoga. Yet, hospitality development is proceeding full steam to accommodate the ever increasing demand solely fueled by County visitor policies. The Water Quality Board has been fining Calistoga year after year ordering it to mitigate its violations. In the meantime, many families will face tragedy.

Waiting to isolate the specific causes of our unenviable cancer record from study to study is only a way to provide cover to our officials for not doing what we all know they need to do: Instead of accommodating the proliferation of pollutants, they must enact policies that will reduce them. All of them. Now!

In a February 10 town hall meeting, Councilman Pedroza told the public that he is for "balance". When asked what he meant by balance, he said that there is a point beyond which growth disturbs the balance. Overuse of our infrastructure, traffic gridlock may be tolerated by some as inconvenience, but not cancer.

Mr. Pedroza's pro-growth voting record does not reflect the rhetoric. As the chair of the Board of Supervisors he has the opportunity to take the lead in changing direction. When the next of 50 applications for increased wine production and visitations (about two per week!) comes before his appointed Planning Commissioner or before himself on appeal, we will see if action will reflect sincerity.

When collusion between greed and campaign contributions weigh in on one side and the highest cancer rates in the State on the other, how many destroyed lives will it take to compel the supervisors to finally act on restoring balance?

Documents related to this letter
NVR 2/26/16: Napa explores reasons for high cancer rates
Christina Tittle LTE 2/21/16: Three close to home is one time too many

NV2050 March Community Meeting & April Economic Forum

Daniel Mufson - Feb 6, 2016   Share

Wednesday March 2, 2016, 7-9 PM

NapaVision2050 Community Meeting

Location Napa Valley College: The Little Theater (Building 1200-Room 1231) map

NapaVision 2050 is one year old. Please plan to attend our first anniversary meeting on March 2 to see our report card and get updates on the most important issues before us.

    • Welcome & First Annual Report (Dan Mufson)
    • Exploring the Tourism-Economy (George Caloyannidis)
    • Syar Quarry-Public Health Aspects (Kathy Felch)
    • Heli-No! The Palmaz Heliport (Rob Purcell)
    • Is County Government Responsive to our Needs? (Diane Shepp)
    • Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2016 (Jim Wilson)
    • Open Discussion

Friday, April 1, 2016, 8 AM through the afternoon

Economic Forum Sponsored by Napa Vision 2050:
The Tourism-Based Economy

Program Goals: We have assembled three experts to provide a framework to analyze the benefits and costs of a tourism-driven economy. Benefits and costs are environmental, fiscal and social. The panel will explore the various parameters and limits of each. We hope this forum will open the dialogue, and provide the framework, to plan for sustainable growth in Napa County.


The Social Impacts--Samuel Mendlinger Ph.D., Boston University
The Fiscal Impacts--Eben Fodor, Fodor & Associates, Oregon
The Environmental/Traffic Impacts--Susan Handy Ph.D., UCDavis
For more information and to register go to

Protect our precious commons

Patricia Damery - Feb 5, 2016   Share

Comments to the Jan. 28 article, "Proposed Initiative Targets Watershed Protection," reflect some of the wildfire of opinions around this issue. They raise the question: What is this really about? Property rights? Belligerence at being told what to do on one's own land? Worries about limitations of vineyard conversion in what has become prime real estate and investment opportunity?

The initiative addresses the environment of our watersheds. Finally, Nature has an attorney (Shute, Mihaly, and Weinberger, the firm also drafting our current Agricultural Preserve, the first in the nation). The initiative's stated purpose is that of protecting the "water quality, biological productivity, and economic and environmental values of Napa's streams, watersheds, wetlands and forests, and to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare of the County's residents." In other words, The Commons.

As property and vineyard owners, my husband and I know the annoyances of having to attend to regulations when making decisions about what happens on our land. Yet, as there become more and more of us in our county (and on our planet), as valley floor land is used up and investors turn their sites to the hillsides, it is time we understand the unintended consequences of converting even more of our oak woodlands and forests to vineyards.

Oaks and forests are important parts of the organ of watershed. Watersheds unite us as a community, as citizens of the county, of the country, of the earth. Oaks and forests are important in restoring aquifers and in healthy riparian corridors. Our current General Plan's tactic has been to suggest voluntary oak protections. There is little protection for the newer generations of oaks the ones that will replace the older ones in time. (Oaks under five inches can be cut without further adieu.)

Yes, older, larger trees should be protected, but the younger generations need protection as well. This initiative makes these protections mandatory and spells them out. Yes, it means more regulations on us land owners, but we are also protected from those of us who seem to see only dollar signs and "great cabs" in the surviving oak woodlands and forests.

The wine industry and outside investors are no longer the driver; county government, whose job is to represent all of us and protect our commons, is.

NVR version 2/5/16: Protect our precious commons

Public Health: Is Napa Valley on the road to Flint?

Kathy Felch - Feb 2, 2016   View on SCR  |    Share

Napa, California. Napa citizens raised "Flint-like" public health concerns to the Napa County Board of Supervisors as Napa has the highest incidence of cancer in whites and children, and the number two incidence in Hispanic adults, in the state. We have particular concerns about air borne toxins due to mining, vineyard and traffic-related emissions," said Daniel Mufson, of

The Napa Valley Register ran a Washington Post story (1/31/16) "The staggering economic cost of air pollution" which highlighted that the bulk of the cost of this pollution is the result of health impacts on morbidity and mortality. "The more info we have about what sources of pollution are responsible for those deaths-who's emitting them, where they're emitted, and what can be done to clean them up-the more likely you are going to have interventions that have their intended effect."

Kathy Felch, of, asked the county HHS to explain why the levels of cancer are so high and trending upward; what the levels of respiratory disease are in the Imola community; and then asked the county to establish airborne monitoring programs.

Contact: Kathy Felch, Dan Mufson

NapaVision2050 Presentation : The poisioning of an American city

Video clip of the Powerpoint Presentation to the BOS, 2/2/16:
the full BOS meeting video - the clip begins at 00:19:00 into the video

Is our county government unethical?

George Caloyannidis - Jan 14, 2016   View on SCR  |    Share

A few years ago, we noticed a slight sagging on a roof portion of a house we own. We engaged a carpenter to expose the structure below so that we could determine the extent of the underlying damage and obtain the appropriate permits. While this work was going on, a county building inspector happened to pass by. Contending that a re-roofing permit was required, he red-tagged the job and sent the carpenter home.

Such stories are common in this county where regular homeowners are red-tagged for failure to obtain building permits for minor projects, even when parking an R.V. on a prohibited portion of their property. As petty as such conduct may seem, modern societies can only function when all citizens obey their laws.

And most of them do; unless that is, they belong to the Napa Valley’s privileged cast the Supervisors have created: That of violating winery owners. For them, justice is allowed to peek under her blindfold.

Only a few weeks ago, the supervisors gave their blessings to a winery of which much has been written about by legalizing its violations involving converting buildings to other uses, spreading cave tailings on hillsides without grading and erosion control plans and building on stream setbacks, for which ordinary citizens would face fines if not criminal charges.

If this were not enough, this winery had also doubled its production and increased its visitations many times over for many years without permits. During the entire hearings, the winery’s ready buyer was allowed to remain anonymous. Shockingly and as morally offensive as this may be, the county bade the violator farewell by adding millions to his sale.

With such an egregious case receiving the blessing of our supervisors, the floodgates are wide open. So as not to miss the opportunity, another winery north of Calistoga has illegally converted a 2,350-square-foot home into a tasting room and another, south of St. Helena has done so with over 10,000 square feet of structures approved for other uses. No red tags there!

Dozens more are in the pipeline of absolution. The culture of rampant winery lawlessness and unfair competition is thriving in the fertile ground the Supervisors have nurtured.

The county calls this process: “bringing wineries into compliance,” which any normal person in good faith believes to mean: “Compel wineries to adhere to their use permits.”

But to the county in a twisted way, it means: “adjust use permits to fit the violations.” To justify this practice, the Supervisors publicly state that their hands are tied based on the “existing policy of forgiveness” embodied in its March 10, 1998 adopted Manual of Policies and Procedures. The problem is that bowing to public pressure, this policy no longer exists. It was rescinded by them on Dec. 13, 2005 as resolution No. 05-229 but only in name, because they continue to hide behind it and disingenuously justify the approval of violations claiming that this policy of forgiveness is still in force. Two of the sitting supervisors are ones who had signed that rescission.

The suggested violation remedies from the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee, currently under review by the county, are mere window-dressing designed to silence the outrage because, as incredible as this sounds, some supervisors have publicly stated that compelling wineries to adhere to their existing use permits is: “Out of the question”! What kind of government is one that states that obeying its own laws is out of the question?

Here is a tip: Join the scofflaw cast and invest in “winery violation bonds.” They are the most lucrative risk-free investment, backed by the fully guaranteed of Napa County. Unfortunately, law-abiding citizens need not apply.

More troubling is a conversation gaining traction at private gatherings and dinner tables of ordinary residents. When supervisors accommodate an ethically outrageous culture, offensive to every law-abiding citizen, when the identities of principals are allowed to remain secret, at least to the public, making the vetting of potential improper political contributions impossible, citizens have legitimate reasons to question whether corruption has crept into our political process.

The supervisors must show that they can regain the moral authority to govern and restore faith in a fair and moral political process. The cast system of scofflaws they have created that elevates them to preferential treatment status has place in other societies, not ones we wish to emulate. The supervisors’ seemingly legal acrobatics to justify some of their policies are being exposed. Let the public judge them for what they are.

NVR version 1/13/16: Is our county government unethical?

Many reasons to oppose helipad

Christine Tittle - Jan 8, 2016   Share

I read Barry Eberling's report on Christian Palmaz's application for permission to use a helicopter on his property so that since he "lives and breathes aviation" he can satisfy his "incredible passion," to use his own words. His ambition is to set the "gold standard for what it means to have a helipad for private use in Napa County" ("Proposed helipad creates waves in east Napa," Dec. 27)

But there are problems with such a standard, golden or not.

First: The people in Napa County don't want helicopters flying overhead.

They stated so emphatically in 2004 when 3,500 petition signatures were enough for the supervisors to create Ordinance P 04-0198 prohibiting helicopter landings at wineries. I was instrumental in that drive. In the Palmaz case, almost every single immediate neighbor of his - 187 of them - have signed petitions objecting to such a permit as have 377 of the general public just by word of mouth and not in response to any organized effort.

One might ask, for what purpose would one grant the request? is it to satisfy one person's "incredible passion?"

Second: Any assurances regarding flight paths and operation heights, which Palmaz assures the county he will follow, lie outside county's ability let alone jurisdiction to enforce. The county's jurisdiction extends exclusively on land use. Once the helicopter rises even one inch off the ground, the sole enforcing agency becomes the Federal Aviation Administration whose standards involve safety and only safety. For all practical purposes, once Palmaz is allowed to use his property to land a helicopter, he may do as he pleases as long as it is deemed safe.

Third: There are several thousand properties within Napa County that would satisfy FAA safety standards for helipads and thousands who can afford one.

We, as humans, are blessed with the ability to imagine such a future. We had better make use of it.

Fourth: Helicopters are not as safe as they are being portrayed. Just this past month, three non-military crashes occurred: Dec. 2 at Rancho Santa Fe; Dec. 10, McFarland; and Dec. 24 on the island of Fiji. All in all, six people dead. The Eurocopter model Palmaz proposes to fly has had 33 crashes since April 2004, 13 of them in this country. Bell helicopters have an even worse safety record. Attorney James Crouse ( who follows the industry, has compiled statistics that show that while airplane accident rates are 0.175 per 100,000 hours of flying, those of helicopters are 7.5. That is a staggering 42.85 times higher. One might ask, for what purpose would one grant the request? Is it to satisfy Palmaz's "incredible passion?" Or is it for us to find out what a "gold standard looks like?"

Fifth: Studies have shown that helicopter noise hurts some wild animal species of which there are plenty in that vicinity, though according to residents who have lived there much longer, not as many as before Palmaz Winery spread thousands upon thousands cubic yards of cave tailings over wetlands without prior grading permits for which the Bay Area Water Board leveled its highest ever fine.

In its 1987 survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that helicopter-induced noise "impacts all wildlife - especially waterfowl and colonial nesting species - ranging from minor behavioral responses to severe changes in the use of the area." One might ask, for what purpose would one grant the request? Is it to satisfy someone's "incredible passion?"

Sixth: Many towns have engaged in this experiment. In the Hollywood Hills, the problem has become so intrusive that even performances at the Hollywood Bowl are being disturbed prompting Senators Feinstein and Boxer to introduce Senate Bill 208/470 for appropriate regulation. Other communities such as Torrance and Long Island, New York have introduced complaint hot lines; an administrative nightmare and cause for residents' frustration for which there is almost nothing counties and cities can do once they have permitted landings. Is Napa County willing to go there just to satisfy an individual's passion?

Are there benefits for helicopter flights in this county? Indeed there are.

Wherever emergencies occur, crime, fires, injuries for which no landing permits are required. As far as Palmaz's offer to make his heliport available for emergencies, only a few thousand feet down the road is the Napa Valley Country Club with plenty of sites for emergency landings.

When it comes to the convenience of individuals and their joy rides, there is no one single means of transportation that impacts so many people in so many negative ways as private helicopters. Not one to be dismissed is the fact that residents within the impact radius of airports and heliports, must disclose this potential nuisance to any eventual buyer.

Sign the Napa Vision 2050 petition opposing personal helicopters

NVR version 1/8/16: Many reasons to oppose helipad

A time for mutual respect

Eve Kahn - Dec 16, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

[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.

Hodja's Donkey in Napa traffic

George Caloyannidis - Dec 13, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

I could never have imagined as a 7-year-old that my grandmother's story of "Feeding the Donkey,” one of some 500, by the 13th-century Sufi populist philosopher Nasreddin Hodja, would someday grant me a look under the cover of the Napa County planning philosophy.

As the story goes, in order to economize on the amount of oats his donkey ate, Hodja began cutting down on it. Seeing that after a few days, the donkey was doing fine, he continued reducing the amount little by little. One morning, Hodja found his donkey dead in the barn. When neighbors inquired, Hodja wailed: "Ahh, my poor donkey! He died just as he was getting used to hunger!” We are all too aware that incrementally increasing our food intake can kill us just as well.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was enacted to protect us all from the negative effects of projects by mandating mitigation measures to offset them. For any given development impact -- traffic being one of many -- CEQA requires evaluation thresholds ranging from "significant,” to "less than significant,” to "none.” Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors has been employing the reverse Hodja model for decades.

As traffic is allowed to increase little by little by each new project, it elevates the benchmark of volume against which the effect of any new project is being evaluated. When 10 added to 100 in the past was significant, it appears less than significant when added to 1,000 today. This skewed process can be experienced every Tuesday and Wednesday when the supervisors and commissioners meet for the residents' weekly force-feeding sessions of every traffic-contributing winery and event. Exactly what CEQA was supposed to protect them from.

But there are two problems with the county's manipulation of the numbers: The public has paid for a road system designed for anticipated traffic flow capacities appropriate for an agricultural community and sufficient to support a healthy economy. Once this traffic level is exceeded to facilitate overblown economic activity, the poor country donkey of agriculture is being flattened to death under the more than 181,330 cars in and out of the valley each day (Fehr & Peers study, December 2014), all rubber-stamped by a series of disingenuous "less than significant" impacts.

Even more serious: CEQA affords the public additional protections by mandating that "the cumulative impacts of other projects, past, current and probable future ones shall be considered in granting any use permit.” This means that every potential winery with its delivery trucks, visitors and special events allowed under the zoning law, is a potential development that must be factored in CEQA if we want to maintain any semblance of a long-term balance. Not so in this county where ever more is better no matter what.

The truth is that the supervisors never refuse anyone who comes before them arguing that their proposed winery has the same production, visitations and events as the one they approved five years before. In misapplying CEQA, they invoke "precedent,” "existing standards" and "niceness of the applicant" in approving it. They refuse to acknowledge the fact that baseline standards are constantly shifting with every new project.

The arguments they hide behind are not truthful: "We need to keep growing our economy.” But continued growth has reached the point where it comes at too high a cost. Population growth has only been 20 percent in the past 25 years while traffic has increased six-fold.

Their argument, "Traffic increases no matter what we do,” doesn't pass scrutiny either. Only 9 percent of all traffic is pass-through traffic. All 91 percent of it is legislated by them, by increasing number of wineries, visitor attractions, demand for accommodations and low-paid commuters.

CEQA has given the supervisors the tool -- mandated by the state -- to argue that each 50 more cars today are not the same as the 50 more cars of five years ago, that one more 100,000-gallon winery today is not the same as the one of five years ago. By avoiding the difficult decisions, they have paved the road for the drop-by-drop cumulative degradation of the Napa Valley's agricultural environment.

"Ahh, our poor Napa! She died as she was just getting used to binging!"

In the end, maintaining the balance is our collective responsibility and it is high time we do something about it.

NVR 12/13/15: Hodja's Donkey in Napa Traffic

Water for wineries in the pipeline

George Caloyannidis - Dec 4, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

Below is an email to County Planning Director David Morrison 12/4/15 in response the revision sent to the BOS and PC of numbers Dir. Morrison presented to WICC in Nov. The updated numbers show that:

  • There are 51 total pending winery applications currently in process;
  • Of the 51 applications, 29 are for new wineries and 22 are for major modifications;
  • The proposals request a total of 2.9 million gallons of new wine production;
  • A total of 567,000 new tasting room visitors are proposed;
  • A total of 110,000 new marketing visitors are also proposed.
  • There are several clusters of pending wineries, generally located near Calistoga, Pritchard Hill, Yountville, and Soda Canyon.


Dear David:

During the second APAC meeting, I testified that its work ought to begin with a comprehensive review of overall data and that such data be used as the basis for setting its agenda. Although you had presented many of these data at the March 10 town hall meeting, this did not happen.

I am most appreciative of the fact that you now have begun assembling such data on pending application as the ones below. What is now needed is the generation of a second tier of data derived from them which is something I hope you will undertake before the APAC deliberations by the Supervisors are concluded if their decisions are to be based on facts rather than on the agendas of a variety of factions and special interests..

Below I will address just one such process and that is the availability of plantable land and demands of water if the pending applications are approved:

Using the 2.9 million gallons in new production, the applicable 75% rule and a grape yield of 2.5 tons per hillside acre, the acreage which will be required in the Napa valley to satisfy this production is 6,000. I use hillside acre numbers because as we all know, all valley floor acreage has been utilized already. As all grapes grown in the Napa valley are being utilized under current production, there is no doubt that that acreage will be required. As a matter of fact, several thousand additional acres will be required if the unutilized existing use permit production numbers are to come on line. As an example, the Summers winery which produces 32,000 gallons on a use permit of 50,000 gallons is seeking approval for 100,000 gallons.

In order to, determine the amount of water which will be required, for the 2.9 million gallons, we need to calculate it by separating production from vineyards:
6 gallons of water per gallon of production results in 17.4 million gallons of water in the winery, plus 2.2 million gallons in vineyard irrigation at the rate of 110 gallons of water, equals 242 million gallons for a total of 260 million gallons of water.

These staggering numbers are for pending applications only. They are plainly unimaginable going forward even just 5 or 10 years.

A further derivative analysis APAC should have made regarding future water requirements and traffic impacts from the 677,000 visitors and workers (commuters) as well as new hotel accommodations to house the visitors who typically require 2 employees (commuters) per room and generate 12-15 vehicle trips per day per room is imperative if we want to begin to have a serious picture of water requirements and traffic impacts in the immediate future and under current County approval practices. We are looking at perhaps as many as an additional 30 - 50 million gallons of water and staggering traffic numbers.

The above figures alone make it abundantly clear that the APAC recommendations even if all were to be approved, will have no effect on stemming the enormous forces which are on a course to strain the Napa valley resources to the brink. It is time for the Supervisors to face the real challenges by engaging in a new policy model based on numbers as you have laid them out and their derivatives.

Once again, we are talking here of pending applications alone!

George Caloyannidis

Forum on Growth in Napa (updated)

Daniel Mufson - Dec 1, 2015   Share

Duane Cronk LTE 12/8/15: Kudos on development forum
NVR wrap up 12/1/15: Grassroots groups look to flex political muscle
Alex Shantz LTE 11/28/15: Forum will address growth issues (On Mon Nov 30th, not Fri)

The Napa County Green Party will host a panel discussion entitled, “Growth in Napa County: A Community Forum,” on Mon., November 30th from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. in the Napa County Library Community Room located at 580 Coombs Street in Downtown Napa.

The purpose of the panel is to present multiple community perspectives on various aspects of growth in Napa County and spark a robust county-wide discussion. Topics and panelists will include: The Impact of County Development on the Cities (Chris Malan and Geoff Ellsworth), Syar Mine Expansion Proposal (Kathy Felch and David Allred), Watson Ranch Project (Mike Schneiders), and Downtown Napa Development (Karen Garcia and Lowell Downey).

This panel will highlight the varied and deeply interconnected issues concerning development and growth in Napa County. Attendees will be able to examine and discuss how issues ranging from the County’s revised definition of agriculture, wine tourism, low-paying jobs, lack of low-income and affordable housing, increased traffic, deforestation, and poor air and water quality are all interwoven in terms of development in Napa County.

“In order to understand these issues and the wide impacts, they have to be viewed holistically. This is what the panel hopes to accomplish by bringing together a wide range of stakeholders,” stated Alex Shantz, Co-coordinator for the Napa County Green Party. “Our goal is to bring together community members from throughout the County to discuss areas of concern and, more importantly, what we can do about them.”

Napa River is not a sewer

Chris Malan - Nov 30, 2015   Share

Napa County has a problem with growth that is severely harming the environment and consequently, our health, safety and welfare. Politicians should not approve development projects that at build-out will degrade our fresh water resources and fail to comply with our environmental laws.

Between Jan. 19, 2014, and Feb. 7, 2015, the city of St. Helena failed to properly manage and maintain its wastewater treatment plant so that 5.035 million gallons of partially treated wastewater surged from a torn holding pond, contaminating groundwater and nearby wells. The state recently issued a $290,177 settlement penalty (reduced from $498,465) because of harm to the environment. Since then, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board is considering orders that will direct the city of St. Helena to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant to meet new requirements or face more penalties and civil liabilities.

From 2014 and 2015, the city of Calistoga’s Dunaweal wastewater treatment plant released to the adjacent Napa River, elevated levels of pollutants in violation of their National Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems permit, NPDES. A recent Conditional Waiver issued by the water quality control board, with a reduced settlement for mandatory minimum penalties, was recently signed by the city in the amount of $12,000.

In addition, Calistoga’s wastewater treatment plant utilizes effluent storage ponds adjacent to the Napa River that have been percolating into the river for many years. The infrastructure of this problematic facility, which has operated under a cease-and-desist order for the past year, has not been able to handle the sewage load of its current population and has necessitated emergency discharges into the river when flows are low; yet, the city of Calistoga has approved extensive new resorts/housing developments despite public protests.

The Napa River is not a sewer! The Napa River is home to a unique assemblage of fish that need protection as more species slip into extirpation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency listed the Napa River as impaired (polluted) in 1988 due to pathogens, nutrients and sediment.

Invasive plant growth and algae are plaguing our waterways due to bio-stimulatory contaminates such as phosphate. During rain events these contaminants mobilize and flow to the receiving waters of the state. When this contaminated water is held in our municipal reservoirs and subject to warm days and sunlight, algae grows and multiplies exponentially.

Some of the many species of algae are harmful to human consumption and can form lethal toxins. Unfortunately, the current acceptable treatment for algae is bleach; however, chlorine has harmful byproducts that cannot exceed allowable limits in potable water. Both Napa and Calistoga cities used too much bleach in 2015 to treat municipal water from our reservoirs, hence the public had to drink contaminated water from bleach byproducts known as tri-halomethanes, which are carcinogenic.

In the meantime, no new wineries, hotel and spa facilities, housing nor vineyards should be considered or constructed (if previously approved) that will cause further stress to the communities’ sewer capabilities and water treatment facilities.

Our cities alone cannot assure that freshwater supplies remain potable.

The county shares the burden to collaborate with them to establish clean water policies and protective watershed zoning. Most of Napa County is agricultural watershed zoning, which allows for deforestation by vineyard development. Currently, there is a timber harvest and conversion to wine grapes planned for Bell Creek municipal watershed that will directly impact water quality for Bell Canyon Municipal Reservoir. In the Milliken municipal watershed the county approved or is approving clear-cutting of over 30,000 oaks. These lands are subject to high intensity pollution from industrial chemicals and pesticides used in the production of wine grapes.

However, this industry is not alone in polluting our streams, rivers and aquifers. Cattle continue to graze throughout our watersheds in and close to streams.

As residents, we also share in the responsibility to manage our homes such that chemicals don’t mobilize to the streams, rivers and ocean. Recent studies show that glyphosate, a byproduct of industrial chemicals such as Roundup is carcinogenic. This, too, is making its way into our food and water supply.

Our watershed continues to be grazed by cattle and deforested for grapevines. These activities in watersheds not only destroy wildlife habitat but spoil our potable water where our forests purify our water source and restore our aquifers. Additionally, we know that forests are excellent for storing and sequestration of carbon to help prevent climate change. Every one of us has a responsibility to protect our watersheds, which we rely upon for water in order to live, recreate, fish and swim.

All of this needs attention and change by all.

Come to the Monday, Nov. 30, Growth Forum, 7 p.m. at the Napa County Library, for a community discussion on these and other topics.

NVR version 11/30/15: Napa river is not a sewer

Stop urbanizing our ag lands

Patricia Damery - Nov 25, 2015   Share

At a time like no other in recorded history of climate change, I continue to be shocked and disgusted by our Napa County government's business-as-usual stance in regard to our environment.

Last March, our planet surpassed the tipping point of 350 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere, the upper limit considered safe, until the plants in the northern hemisphere started blooming; 97 percent of international climate scientists say this is due to human activity.

There are things we can still do to mitigate the damage to our climate, which in Napa County include protecting our oak woodlands, our forests and watersheds, the continued development of sustainable energy sources, and keeping fossil fuels in the ground. For Napa County, this involves stopping the urbanization of our Ag Preserve, Ag Watershed, and forest lands, planning our cities in ways that include availability to mass transit, and creating affordable housing for those working here.

But, sadly, after nine months of APAC meetings and discussions, economic considerations of the wealthy few continue to trump and define land use decisions. Last week, the Planning Commission, in a vote of 3-2, overturned the Planning Department's recommendation to disallow a variance (and I am relieved the Planning Department made this recommendation) for Summers Winery. It is as if the discussions and recommendations of the APAC committee did not happen.

Maybe to some it is a small issue -- a granted set back from the highway. Okay, but add to this the retroactive permitting of a non-permitted winery. This is yet another variance and yet another forgiveness in a long history of such practices in our county, practices which effectively urbanize our Ag Preserve and Ag Watersheds.

The practice of building without permits and then asking for forgiveness is taking the law into your own hands. This year, this has included a winery which dug non permitted caves with a punishment of waiting a year before it can brought before the Planning department again — to be permitted! This is lawlessness and our Planning Commission and our Board of Supervisors are supporting it with their habit of forgiving after action is taken. But more seriously, in terms of the environment, it is death by a thousand cuts.

Each of us, regardless our economic base, is faced with the conundrum of thinking of our personal interests in context of the common good, which above all, includes the environment. This is especially true for our governing officials whose job is to champion the common good. One wonders: do our Planning Commissioners and our Board of Supervisors understand that they are letting special interests bend the rules which were made to collectively protect the agricultural, social and environmental fabric of our county? Do they realize these decisions effectively erode land use decisions by the populace, rules made to protect our agricultural lands?

What do we, the citizens, do now? When the governing officials do not act for the common good, what is our recourse? It is time for serious thought, and then it is time for serious action. Please ask your district supervisor to reconsider the Planning Commissioner he or she has appointed in terms of their standing up for the rules in place and for the recommendations put forth by APAC. Don't let a few (and economic interests) redefine our protections.

The NVR version is here: Stop urbanizing ag lands (read the comments)

Traffic? Don't ask Alice

George Caloyannidis - Nov 12, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

One could easily have expected the results in the search for solutions to our traffic congestion when government and business get together. Expecting two addicts in unison to find ways to treat their addiction has predictable outcomes. Nicotine patches, e-cigarettes, perhaps periodic rehabs are certain to be the types of remedies they would suggest. So, we end up with solutions of the busing, shuttling, traffic impact fee, transit-on-demand variety. Patches!

Is it a wonder that no one had the courage to even suggest the untouchable root of the problem, which is that of curtailing growth? How about instead of prescribing sleeping pills to a smoker, going straight to the cause instead of the symptom? But asking two addicts who find comfort and mutual validation in each other for their addiction to suggest ways to cure what gives them their very euphoria, is too much to ask for.

Traffic congestion may be the one factor most visible at the moment caused exclusively by growth, but growth will have many more and much more serious and expensive ramifications in the not so distant future unless we bite the bullet with bold decisions our leaders carry the responsibility for.

Buses and shuttles will do nothing to solve the problems one third of the valley's additional daily population from the outside is causing in overusing our available resources and capacities, from water to sewer handling facilities. Transit-on-demand will do nothing to add to our limited power grid capacity, nothing to stem the unabated degradation of our water sheds. Traffic impact fees will do nothing to alleviate the shame of a community with people living in its garages.

It is time for a growth forum if we want to get real with our future. But no one has the courage to look into that looking glass. Much easier to step right through it into Alice's Wonderland.

NVR version: Alice's traffic problems
All George Caloyannidis' posts on SCR.

Being "Negative"

George Caloyannidis - Nov 10, 2015   Share

We had a lot of discussions over the Vision 2050 "negative" image; something which seems to trouble many.

In 1970, Albert Hirschman - an economist at Princeton - wrote a little book; Exit, Voice, and Loyalty in which he explored the options of dissent to the direction of large-scale enterprises, from the railroads in Nigeria to the war in Vietnam. In each of these enterprises were great failures and the individuals in positions of responsibility had three options in the way they could respond: Exit meant they could quit the enterprise. Voice meant to stay on the job and speak publicly for change in direction. Loyalty meant to stay on the job and keep supporting a failing direction.

Hirschman observed that in the majority of enterprises, most people chose loyalty and very few chose voice. Those who chose exit (which is what I did when Greece came under a military dictatorship) had only a small effect on the enterprise.

If gross errors and injustices are to be corrected, voice, as Hirschman says; "must be fearless and fierce, loud enough to be heard".

In his review of a recent book on Max Planck's life, Freeman Dyson - a Princeton scientist - draws parallels to Hirschman's model in comparing Planck's choice under the Nazi regime, in which he opted for loyalty, to his son's Erwin who chose voice and was executed for it, and to his friend's Einstein who opted for exit and later reverted to voice from the safety of the United States, which without comparing myself to Einstein, I did as well.

The reality is that Vision 2050 has no option but that of voice, one "to be heard loud and clear" which is the privilege we have protecting us from Erwin's fate. We can only be proud of it by making the most effective use of it, because it is the only avenue available to us if we want to change the direction of the Napa Valley piece meal destruction.

WAAP Groundwater Update - Nov 2015

Gordon Evans - Nov 6, 2015   Share

Hi Folks - Time for another unscheduled update:

1. New well at 2100 Atlas Peak Rd. Many of you have been wondering about this very visible project (now completed). Here’s what I found:

The well was apparently drilled sometime in the ’70’s, driller info and logs N/A. The casing was 8” diam., composition UNK. The well was sleeved with a 6” casing, composition UNK, sometime in the late ’80’s, again driller info and logs N/A. Depth was about 250’, the same as our well here at 2381 APR. When the Sellers moved out, they still had water in their storage tank, which also supplied the limited residential needs for realtor showings and such while the house was vacant. The prospective Buyers discovered the well was putting out only 1-2 gal./min. Through negotiations, it was apparently decided not to spend any more money investigating the existing well for possible rehabilitation, rather to concentrate on drilling a new one. The new one is located approx. 30’ from the old one, and is approx. 600’ deep, cost unknown. I’m told they got plenty of water (60 gal./min.) at 400’. This anecdotal “evidence” of “deep” water availability in the AP area has been backed up by the realtors with whom I spoke.

FYI - Current well drilling costs for a 6” casing run $50-52/ft. Add to that: $1500 for permits, sanitary seal, etc. and, if necessary, a new (2hp) pump & related equipment at $10,000. All costs are approximate, depending upon access, trenching, availability of electricity, etc. Lead time is running approx. 6-8 weeks minimum, regardless of drilling firm used.

2. Assessor’s Parcel Report Language. In checking on the above project, as well as my own residence and a few others in the area, I discovered that almost every rural property outside the MST (Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay) Basin, basically the valley floor, was listed as “Not in a groundwater deficient area." Through some rather tortuous navigating of various County departments, it appears that this is the default language used in software supplied by a (unnamed) third-party vendor to Public Works that characterized any parcel not falling within the study boundaries of the 2003 USGS MST Groundwater Resources Report That report was a joint venture with the County collecting and assimilating data during 2000-2002, and cost several hundred thousand dollars, and applied ONLY to the confined MST Study Area Boundaries, NOT the much larger MST Drainage Basins. That (geographically limited) data was relied upon heavily by the BOS in affecting the County Groundwater Conservation Ordinance No. 1294 adopted on August 7, 2007 and changes to the County Water Availability Analysis adopted on May 13, 2015. In short, unless a parcel located in the MST Drainage Basins was not specifically identified through the permit process as having a “water problem,” it was assumed that no problem existed, because those areas had not been studied! I thought the language was misleading in its inference that there was sufficient groundwater. I believed it should be changed the to something more realistic, e.g., “groundwater data unknown, no data available,” or something similar.

Several discussions with Steve Lederer, County Director of Public Works, led to a modification, and it now reads:

    "GW Ordinance: Parcel not in a designated Groundwater Deficient Area (actual groundwater conditions may vary)”

It’s not as misleading, but still has enough legal “wiggle room” to remain somewhat ambiguous. At least it should mean something a bit different and worth further pursuit to anybody who’s interested in a particular parcel and bothers to read it.

Of greater import, however, is the extent to which that original language and the 2003 report have been relied upon by various government agencies in the decision-making process to promulgate programs, policies and statutes - that may never be known.

3. Monitoring Wells in the MST Watersheds. Items #1 & 2 above led to researching the number and location of any monitoring wells outside the aforementioned MST basin. This info is NOT publicly available (I was told for reasons of privacy on privately-owned parcels and “national security,” i.e., the threat of terrorism on public lands). Discussions with Steve Lederer and Patrick Lowe, County Natural Resources Conservation District Manager, led to the following email response on 10/29/15 from Lowe:

    "Our monitoring program was expanded over the past several years to fill in areas where we had data gaps and to address State requirements under the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) legislation. You’ll find more about this in the annual report and studies on the website. As we add wells, the county’s costs go up due to the staff time needed to monitor the wells, from a minimum of twice annually to monthly for some. So we have to focus our efforts/resources on wells that meet our program needs and address state requirements.

    However, we are setting up a new program for well owners that may be outside of our current program needs but are interested in monitoring their wells. This will get underway in early 2016 with public workshops to provide more information and gauge the level of interest. If there is enough interest, we will provide training on portable “sonic” monitors that will be available for checkout, as well as information on relatively inexpensive monitors available for purchase. I’ll have both of these monitors available at the (League of Women Voters) Forum on November 23rd if you’d like to take a look at them.

    I also followed up with our groundwater consultant (LSCE), to provide additional information on your MST related questions:

    The County’s groundwater monitoring effort in the MST area focuses on the MST groundwater subarea in order to track conditions and trends in areas where groundwater use is concentrated and where geologically-controlled groundwater storage units have been mapped. This approach is consistent with the monitoring effort led by the USGS for the 2003 study, as well as the 1977 USGS study by Johnson. In fact many of the wells now monitored by the County were previously monitored by the USGS. The MST groundwater subarea boundary is consistent with the 2003 study area boundary.

    The County recently added two volunteered wells to the monitoring network that are located in the watersheds upslope of the MST groundwater subarea. These are accounted for in the 2014 Annual Monitoring Report by their location in the Eastern Mountains subarea. These upslope wells were added to the monitoring network, in part, to provide data on conditions in the vicinity of the MST subarea and to potentially inform the understanding of how much groundwater flows into the MST subarea as subsurface contributions from the watershed areas to the east.

    As you indicated, it is possible that in the future there will be a need for additional monitored wells in the watershed areas outside of the MST groundwater subarea.

    Reid Bryson
    Project Hydrologist
    Luhdorff & Scalmanini, Consulting Engineers
    500 First Street, Woodland, CA 95695-4026”

Curiously, Lowe’s earlier email response to me of 10/27/15 stated:

    "We do have monitoring wells throughout the MST and our groundwater consultant LSCE has indicated that we don't need additional wells at this time. I will keep you in mind should our needs change in that area. While we don’t provide precise well locations, you may want to take a look at the 2014 Napa County Comprehensive Groundwater Monitoring Program – Annual Report for additional information and maps. You can find it on the Watershed Information & Conservation Council (WICC)/Groundwater website, under the monitoring link.”

4. SGMA (State Groundwater Management Act). Our neighbor Chris Malan has discovered that the County may be trying to do an "end-run” around the SGMA of 2014. She writes, "Napa County BOS (Board of Supervisors) has fast tracked, without County-wide public hearings, to an GSP-Alternative, which is to continue to study the aquifers and NOT DEVELOP a SUSTAINABLE GROUNDWATER PLAN/SAFE YIELD." While doing a little digging on the County WICC (Watershed Information Center & Conservancy) website, as she suggested, I came across this sentence, which I extracted from this document.

    "In addition to groundwater monitoring, Napa County is also developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan-Alternative (GSP-A), or Groundwater Basin Analysis, for the Napa Valley sub-basin. Its purpose is to demonstrate the continued sustainability of our groundwater and to address requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).”

I don’t know if there are provisions in SGMA for this procedure, but the cynic in me says that their agenda is already geared to saying there’s no major problem now and they’ve got things under control, but are probably scared to death about the State telling them what to do. Rest assured, Chris and others are following up on this.

5. League of Women Voters Groundwater Forum (What’s Up With The Water Below?). They are hosting what should be a very interesting and timely presentation at the Napa Main Library, 580 Coombs St., Napa, CA 94559 on Monday, Nov. 23, at 7 P.M. Tentative agenda items (plus a Q & A period) include:

    A. Overview/Welcoming Remarks (Joyce Kingery, LWV & Supr. Brad Wagenknecht)

    B. Update on the Drought, El Nino, Valley Fire and local water resources, Phil Miller, Deputy Director, Napa County Public Works

    C. State Groundwater Management Act - “What is SGMA, what are we doing locally, what’s next?”, Patrick Lowe, Napa County Natural Resources Conservation District Manager

    D. Local Groundwater Conditions & Monitoring in Napa County - Improving our understanding: what we have learned, what we need to know, expanded groundwater monitoring, next towards sustainability, Vicki Kretsinger, Luhdorff & Scalmanini, Consulting Engineers

6. Donations. As stated earlier, WAAP is an information vehicle only, and does not solicit or accept financial aid. There are also many fine people who are working hard as volunteers on all our behalf to address our mutual groundwater concerns. However, these activities necessitate the use of experts (attorneys, engineers, hydrologists, geologists, biologists, etc.) who are familiar with the labyrinthian workings of government proceedings, and that requires money. You are heartily encouraged to contribute to one or more of the following:

    A. The Living Rivers Council, P.O. Box 2076, Livingston, MT 59047 (

    B. The Sierra Club Foundation or The Sierra Club Environmental Law Program, Napa Group, P.O. Box 5531, Napa, CA 94581 (

    C. Defenders of East Napa Watersheds (DENW), 153 Ridgecrest Dr., Napa, CA 94558 (Attn: R. Cannon, Treasurer) (

    D. Napa Vision 2050 (NV2050), P.O. Box 2385, Yountville, CA 94599 (

    E. Protect Rural Napa Educational Fund, P.O. Box 5184, Napa, CA 94581 (

These entities may be either 501(c)3 tax-deductible or 501(c)4 non-deductible, so check with the individual organization. Please earmark your funds for a specific use or project here in Napa County.

7. Help Wanted. If any of you have the interest and the time to help a beleaguered soul research and prepare these newsletters, your assistance would be greatly appreciated. No pay.

8. Photo of the Week: Note the language from the Napa Valley Vintners, “SOILS: Volcanic in origin, with basaltic red color, shallow with limited water retention, so irrigation is often required.” (Taken at Sattui’s Castello di Amarosa, Nov. 4, 2015)

Wine industry in need of public relations campaign

Bill Hocker - Nov 1, 2015   Share

Glenn Schrueder sends this link:

Tom Wark, Critics of The Napa Valley Wine Industry Are Losing Badly

Tom Wark is a wine marketer and publicist and he seems to think that the wine industry is in need of some in-your-face public relations work at the moment - which implies to me that the "critics of wineries" are not losing as badly as he claims. He bashes NapaVision2050 to make his points.

On the basis of the discussion at the bottom of the article, Rob McMillan on his Silicon Valley Bank Wine blog published Picking A Side In the Napa Winery Fight. After invoking NIMBYism (shorthand for the notion that defending one's community against development is less socially worthy than consuming it for profit) and proving that the vast majority of the population really likes the wine industry (no questions about the tourism industry apparently) he then takes a side:

"I am taking a seat on the side that protects the Valley from wanton growth, deforestation of the hillsides, unfettered growth in new wineries, ruination of streams and habitat, and the destruction of the nature and character of the regions in which we live. We don't need every winery approved without planning for infrastructure."

Sounds like he and NapaVision2050 are on the same side. Is Rob McMillan about to join the NIMBY army? Or does "planning for infrastructure" simply mean more roads to lubricate further development and diffuse NIMBY traffic angst?

He does zero in on the real issue driving the urbanization of Napa county: "its job growth more than tourism". To which I heartily agree. The real question should be how do we control job growth. Unfortunately the pro-growth side in the debate doesn't seem to see job growth as the problem to be solved, just the traffic it creates. More infrastructure and creative solutions needed.

KPIX on the winery debate

Gary Margadant - Oct 20, 2015   Share

An encounter with the dreaded media. "Self-righteousness meets self-righteousness, boom!" KPIX 5 Emily Turner interview of David Graves and Diane Shepp. The text below is not the whole interview and commentary.

KPIX video 10/20/15: Some Napa Valley Residents Seek Stricter Rules On Winery Tourism

    NAPA (KPIX 5) — Wine and Napa go hand in hand, but the influx of people enjoying Wine Country has changed the landscape, the industry and many argue the quality of life.

    Diane Shepp moved out of the city to avoid grid lock and urban sprawl. Thirty years later, Shepp said it has reached her Napa haven. A wine cave and tasting room the size of two football fields is slated to go in next door and bring 25,000 people a year to her one lane road.

    Shepp and her group, called “Vision Napa 2050,” are fighting for stricter regulation of the wine industry, including the cutback of special events and a return to the focus of winemaking over marketing.

    “It is overdue, long overdue,” Shepp told KPIX 5.

    The rules regulating the wine industry haven’t been changed in 25 years. There are now 800,000 more tourists and 230 more wineries in the county. So for the first time in a quarter century, Napa County is creating new rules, and that process has become a bitter battle.

    “It’s sort of like the perfect mix. Self-righteousness meets self-righteousness, boom!” said David Graves, a winery owner.

    Graves said it’s explosive because a major winery revenue source is under attack. New restrictions could cut back on the tourism and tasting industry- that make up thirty percent of his business .

    “We can sell to them directly, as opposed to through an increasingly clogged distribution system that has got lots of brands, lots of competing areas,” Graves told KPIX 5.

    If that changes, Graves said smaller wineries would face major economic impacts- and new brands wouldn’t be able to enter the market. He understands the need for more controlled development, but worries that process may hurt the industry that spurred it all in the first place.

    “If we just sort of say we’re done, then it’s kind like what Woody Allen said about sharks- if you don’t move forward, you die,” Graves said.

    “Napa is a famous wine producing region, for good reason, and now it’s becoming an adult Disneyland.” Shepp said.

On forests and vineyards

Christine Tittle - Oct 20, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

I do not profess to be an expert on global warming or its causes, nor do I think it is productive to just single it out as the one factor by which to evaluate whether deforestation in favor of vineyards or agriculture is beneficial or detrimental to the environment and the longterm health of communities. But I do know my history. And it is full of examples with plenty of warnings which are downright dangerous, though convenient to ignore.

We can start with today's environmental wasteland we call the Middle East, which is recognized as the cradle of our civilization when it was known by a different name: The Fertile Crescent. It is an area where over the course of 3,000 years, the Phoenicians, Romans, Ottomans and the British managed to virtually wipe out its magnificent 150-foot-tall forests known as the Cedars of Lebanon to build from ships to railroad tracks and convert land to agricultural uses until its changed climate decimated its entire ecosystem not just for these but for all uses. The denuded mountains of the Levant were left to face flash floods with nothing but eroding slopes. In recognition of this environmental catastrophe, an international reforestation program was begun in 1985. Yet here, we are debating whether steadily moving in the opposite direction is the right one.

In his acclaimed book "Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," noted Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond has outlined the socioeconomic collapse of Easter Island due to deforestation, and one need only look at an aerial photograph of the Dominican Republic, a thriving country and its poverty stricken neighbor Haiti to recognize the cause obvious to any thinking person: Thriving forests on the one and a moon landscape on the other, sharply divided from each other by a precise line as if cut by a knife.

Carbon sequestration calculations may be one thing but common sense dictates that rain falling over a forest falls slowly on the ground and shaded by its canopy gets a chance to penetrate into the ground before it evaporates. And common sense dictates that when rain pounds on the soil of leafless, winter vineyards, it runs off before it has a chance to replenish the water table. That run-off, even under the best erosion control practices, carries with it top soil and silt into the streams and ends up in the ocean.

In answer to Supervisor Luce's concern on whether we may be missing something in converting forests to vineyards, we need to admit that we are doing so in support of an economic model. But trying to rationalize this practice as the best option is quite another and it is disingenuous.

The difficult decisions Supervisors are burdened with are ones of right balance, not of rationalizing accommodation of special interests.

The public is beginning to sense that we are at a tipping point and that failure of leadership to stem the steady degradation of the fundamental elements of our ecosystem are beginning to show in our overburdened infrastructure and the deterioration in everyone's quality of life.

NVR version: On forests and vineyards

On Syar expansion: Facts matter

Julia Winiarski - Oct 19, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

The Register articles have consistently failed to accurately report the causes for opposition to the Syar project ("Napa County a victim of CEQA abuse," Oct. 19). The primary problem is the flawed, inadequate EIR (environmental impact report) -- which is based on incomplete or faulty analysis.

It is not just that the opponents want less or no expansion -- what citizens want, and what has yet to happen, in all the years this project has been in the works -- is a comprehensive, accurate and unbiased evaluation of its environmental impact. Such an EIR -- which would truly give citizens and planners a sound basis on which to make decisions affecting Napa for the 35 years of the permit and beyond -- is not the document we have.

The EIR as it stands does not allow a full evaluation of the risks and benefits of the project. Folks who have a lot of experience with these things say it is the worst EIR they have ever seen. Major flaws exist in the areas of traffic, air quality, water, noise and health risk assessment. Opponents have not just "done their own research" as the Register article claims. They have hired experts in these fields and submitted extensive reports that detail the flaws -- undercounting truck trips, misclassifying vehicle trips, missing primary noise reports, impermissible deferment of GHG reduction plans, reducing traffic and air quality impacts by claiming without documentation that 100,000 tons of aggregate are shipped by rail per year within a 14-mile distance.

The list goes on. That citizens have done this on their own dime is an unacknowledged benefit to the county.

Last week, for the first time, county said that the EIR does not have to prove the need for the expansion, flippantly comparing it to requiring a winery having to demonstrate the need to produce more wine. It is difficult to see why the county would make such a statement since Syar has argued from the beginning that its primary objective is to ensure a reliable local source of aggregate. The county echoes these comments, using language in reports and recommendations about meeting the project's objectives of meeting local need. Napa citizens and taxpayers are getting GHG impacts from the project’s impacts on groundwater, air quality, traffic, noise, loss of ag land, loss of a nonrenewable resource in the aggregate.

Responsible analysis requires the production of data on the assertions of local need and analysis of remaining reserves of the existing quarry. Syar could, but will not, provide the weigh tag data to support its arguments.

During the period of the EIR, according to traffic reports, the majority of the aggregate went out of county. Now, Syar states the opposite. Public Records Act requests to the county for weigh tags from the baseline study period 2004-2008 to corroborate this have only yielded incomplete, heavily redacted records for one year – 2014. Syar refuses to release this information now contending it is proprietary -- not open to public inspection. There is no way to independently confirm what Syar claims. Supporters of the quarry expansion who are concerned about length of the CEQA review process should really be asking why this essential information has been withheld.

Opponents of the quarry expansion are accused of being NIMBYs. This is not “my” backyard, this is not “your” backyard. This is OUR backyard, this is our air, our water, our open space, our watersheds.

As with the other issues currently being debated countywide -- where developments threaten community character, drain resources and affect the environment -- the problem here is that the Valley’s finite resources are not being managed wisely. To do so will take a change in the business-as-usual culture of approval by the county.

NVR version: On Syar expansion: Facts matter.

Napa County in 2050?

Daniel Mufson - Oct 14, 2015   Share

October 03, 2015 5:30 pm  • 

It is clear that Napa County is entering one of its periods of soul-searching, periods that in the past have produced the Ag Preserve, the Winery Definition Ordinance, and alternating waves of growth and no-growth sentiment.

The talk is much the same as previous rounds — what is agriculture? What activities are appropriate for rural areas? What is the best way to preserve our unusual swaths of open space?

And, of course, how much of a good thing is too much?

This new era began as a series of diverse and seemingly unrelated controversies, in various spots in the county with names that meant little to anyone outside the neighborhood: Walt Ranch, Silver Rose, Yountville Hill, Davies Winery, Syar quarry.

Gradually, it became clear that there was a broader set of common threads, particularly a sense by residents in these areas that their concerns were not being addressed. They began to meet at planning commission and supervisor meetings and other venues and compare notes.

This loose group in part led to the March “Growth Summit,” which in turn led to the recent Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee, which looked at possible ways to control development and tourist visitation in the Ag Preserve. And it led to an organized group, calling itself Napa Vision 2050.

The Editorial Board met with representatives of this group recently to discuss their history and mission. We were impressed by their passion and organizational ability. We applaud their interest in grassroots politics and making sure that the voices of average residents are represented.

So far, the group has mainly served as a watchdog or devil’s advocate on a series of projects, questioning the assumptions of planners, developers and environmental consultants. They jokingly referred to it as “whack-a-mole,” a process where proposed projects are coming forward so fast that there is little time to do anything but hop from one issue to the next.

While we may or may not agree with their positions on individual projects, we appreciate the role they have taken for themselves. We are also pleased that they share our view that issues in Napa County must be viewed holistically – a problem in Calistoga or St. Helena has implications in Napa and American Canyon and vice versa. The time has passed for the kind of geographic isolationism that has been the hallmark of Napa County life and politics.

It would be easy to dismiss Napa Vision 2050 as a coalition of NIMBYS. Most were motivated to action by projects in their own backyards that would have affected their lives and property values. Most of their activities so far have involved saying what they are against rather than what they are for.

The group members assured us at our meeting that they are aware of the danger of appearing to be NIMBYs, or of falling into the trap of saying only “no.” They said they would develop a positive vision and a political program as inclusive as possible given their diverse membership.

We hope they follow through on this promise. To become an effective political force, they will need to live up to their name and articulate a coherent vision for the county 35 years from now.

More broadly, however, we hope that Vision 2050 — and everyone else interested in development and growth issues — takes a step back and looks at the bigger issues facing the county.

As we have noted before, the details of wine industry growth in the Ag Preserve may be important, and they certainly dominate the discussion today, but they are not the main problem Napa County faces.

Instead, we are facing the results of a large and growing imbalance between housing prices and family incomes. As is the case in the urban areas of San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area, the middle class is being squeezed out of Napa, leading to increased traffic as workers commute in. The working poor, unable to afford to move out and commute, are being squeezed into substandard and overcrowded conditions in the shadowy corners of our prosperous valley.

We can talk all day long about permits, visitation, setbacks, parcel sizes, variances and code compliance at wineries, but what will really determine how Napa County looks and feels in 2050 is how well we deal with the relentless pressure of gentrification in our cities.

NVR Editorial Board 10/3/15: Napa County In 2050?

Grandstanding on agricultural sustainabilty

George Caloyannidis - Oct 6, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

It is natural, though hardly constructive, when an industry is criticized for some of its practices for it to hunker down in defense mode. This is the only way I can explain Stuart Smith’s guest commentary in the Napa Valley Register in which he characterized the concerns over the Napa valley’s communal quality of life a “cacophony” and “hypocritical” (“Agricultural sustainability is not possible without economic vitality,” Sept. 14).

I don’t know anyone who does not appreciate the wine industry’s contributions to the Napa Valley; its economy, its charitable activity, its very identity. But there is no industry whose operation is without faults or harm. The question is whether pointing them out is mean-spirited, as Mr. Smith suggests, or constructive.

It is indisputable that the wine industry could not be on a healthier financial footing. If nothing else, the proliferation of luxury cars in this valley is a good barometer. Is it not good enough? I simply do not follow Mr. Smith’s logic of why the industry’s vitality, in fact it’s very survival, relies on its unfettered growth. It seems to me the opposite to be true.

No structure can remain intact under continuous growth. It needs to transform itself beyond certain limits to survive, and therein lies the debate in which we all need to engage. The 2007 Napa County General Plan environmental impact report predicts that if we continue on this growth pattern, by 2030 we will need six lanes from Vallejo to Yountville and a four-lane freeway from Yountville to Calistoga only 15 years from now to maintain acceptable level “C” traffic flow. Caltrans will step in and do it whether we want it or not. Is this our vision of agricultural sustainability?

If the wine industry aspires to maintain its beneficial membership within Napa Valley, it needs to take a hard look at its longstanding support of unfettered growth. And so does the county. We have reached the point where such growth is no longer objected to by local neighborhoods. New wineries and hotels as far upvalley as Calistoga, generate serious problems in St. Helena and as far south as American Canyon with valley-wide ramifications. Is traffic congestion, loss of resources, water, forests, watersheds, a local workforce, our vision of agricultural sustainability?

Collectively, when in harmony, these are the essential elements of a high communal quality of life that are the ultimate attraction for residents and visitors; the very ones who support the wine market.

Here are facts that neither the wine industry nor county policy can no longer mischaracterize or ignore:

More than half the traffic generated in this county is directly attributable to the wine industry and its little sister, the hospitality industry, which relies on it for its lifeblood. According to the recent study, 16 percent of traffic comes from tourism and 25 percent from commuting workforce of these low-paying industries. Mr. Smith tells us that the Napa Valley population doubled during the past 45 years. Fair enough, but he fails to tell us that traffic has increased six-fold during that same period. Blaming it on the 9 percent pass-through traffic will no longer fly as an excuse.

Not to be ignored is a silent local workforce that can only afford to live in crammed quarters. Communal quality of life cacophony?

Moreover, who foots the bill for the subsidies low-paid workers qualify for? Who foots the bill for the high water rates? Who foots the bill for the accelerated deterioration of the local infrastructure, all due to the daily influx of outsiders to the tune of one third of our entire population? The reality is that everyone of us is chipping in to support wine industry profits. Perhaps this is the corollary side of sustainability, even charity.

And then there is this: Imagine if four out of 10 baseball players were using performance-enhancing drugs while the rest of them didn’t. Would the league afford to stand by and condone unfair competition? Would it in the face of the magnitude of abuse legalize drug use? When the honor system was compromised, testing and heavy penalties were introduced to save the very integrity of the game.

Not in Napa County. When wineries are abusing the honor system to the tune of four out of 10 as they do, and the industry remains silent with the help of the county that rewards rather than penalizes the cheaters, we have a problem affecting the very core values of our community generations of the farming community helped build.

And while the wine industry likes to project itself as stewards of a sustainable environment, it remains silent, fully cognizant that every use permit violation is an activity that avoided California Environmental Quality Act review and its protections afforded the community’s quality of life.

Such policies eat at the very heart of fairness and cheating embodied in our traditional moral fabric, which I have, no doubt, every resident of the county embraces. But the vintners and the county are first to circle the wagons when they are exposed and forced to take appropriate action. It seems to me that characterizing as hypocrites the ones who dare sound the alarm on the loss of balance, perspective and honesty is misplaced if not misdirected.

Let’s look at sustainability’s real lifeblood: If we continue to sacrifice our core values in the interest of ever higher profits, we are paving the way for a cynical generation to succeed us. Stewardship? What was that?

Caloyaniddis NVR LTE: Grandstanding on agricultural sustainabilty

What is Ag?

Daniel Mufson - Oct 3, 2015   Share

This presentation was made to the Napa County Planning Commission on Sept. 30, 2015 as they were considering the recommendation of the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee regarding possible changes to the definition of agriculture in the County General Plan. (click to view the full presentation)

Napa County Definition of the Word "Agriculture" Altered

Geoff Ellsworth - Sep 29, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

On Wednesday Sept 30 there will be an important meeting at the Napa County Planning Commission to discuss a change to the meaning of the word “Agriculture” that occurred when the county General Plan was updated in 2008. The original definition was altered in 2008 to include the wording “...related marketing, sales and other accessory uses” as part of the definition of the word Agriculture. In other words, marketing events are now considered equal to the farmer and his tractor as agriculture. This change was not brought to the attention of the public as it was being implemented, and surfaces again now as it is planned to be further embedded into our county codes.

Please take a moment to consider how changing the “meaning” of the word Agriculture changes the entire meaning of the Napa County Agricultural Preserve. The Agricultural Preserve was intended to save the land for farming. The new definition of Agriculture promotes/protects intensified commercial marketing events on Ag lands.This changes the fundamental concept of what it is we we are preserving and leaves an open door to intensified commercial/hospitality impacts and more paving over of our precious farm lands. This is an important meeting to attend if you can be there or please consider writing a letter/email to county officials if you cannot attend. (the meeting begins at 9, however it is difficult to determine exactly what time this item will be discussed)

Napa County Planning Commission
Wednesday Sept. 30 9 AM
Napa County Administration building
1195 Third St.
Napa, Ca 94559 (3rd and Coombs St)

Please feel free to forward or circulate this letter and consider immediately sending an email to County Planning Commission and Supervisors regarding this issue.

Setting priorities in protecting the Valley

Nancy Tamarisk - Sep 25, 2015   Share

On a recent evening, 100 people crammed the Napa library to share their concerns about development trends in Napa and its impact on our overburdened infrastructure. The meeting was convened by Vision 2050, a county-wide coalition of grassroots groups and individuals whose mission is to advocate for sustainability of our finite resources.

The crowd expressed overwhelming agreement on the importance of over a dozen issues to Napa’s future, including the need to develop protections for our quality of life, agriculture, natural resources and open space.

People shared their opinions aloud, via a paper-and-pencil survey and a vote on priorities.

So what did this group of citizens want us to know?

On the survey, people ranked the importance of each issue on a 1-5 scale. Over 80 percent of respondents rated the following six issues as important or very important to them (score of 4 or 5): protection of watershed and oak woodland; protecting wildlife and riparian corridors; stronger standards of development for wineries and hotels; protection of water for agriculture and residents; maintaining open space for recreation and ecology; and traffic congestion.

Six more issues were rated as important or very important by a smaller majority of 60–74 percent: adoption of a living wage; minimizing “event center” activities in agricultural areas; keeping marketing/hospitality out of the definition of agriculture; minimizing variances for wineries; developing proximity worker housing; and developing a climate action plan.

Finally, in the lowest range, considered important or very important by a “mere” 53 percent, was development of alternative transportation/light rail.

A second exercise, a forced-choice vote, allowed each audience member to choose up to four of the 13 issues as high priority. It revealed the following four top priorities: protection of water for agriculture and residents; avoiding commercialization/marketing in agricultural areas; traffic congestion; and developing stronger standards for development of hotels/wineries.

While these surveys were not scientific, they do reflect the feelings of a substantial group of engaged Napans who turned out for a two-hour meeting on a hot summer night. I heard not a single diatribe specifically targeting agriculture or wineries. But I did hear a great deal of concern about the effects of rapid development on local quality of life, on the character of our agricultural lands, and on our watersheds and wild lands.

Our community simmers with the energy to defend these core values of Napa County. Vision 2050 vows to be a leader in this effort.

NVR version 9/25/15: Setting priorities in protecting the Valley

The false choice in development issues

Lisa Hirayama - Sep 24, 2015   Share

There is a growing grassroots movement in Napa County. Anyone reading letters to the editor will know that those participating in this movement are labeled by their detractors as anti-growth/anti-tourism.

The pictures painted by the writers of these letters inform us that tourism and more wineries are necessary to sustain economic viability. They argue that without this growth, the economic base of the Napa Valley will collapse. This is a false reality, and like all false realities, this one distorts the truth. So what is the truth?

The first truth is that we all need a safe, dependable water supply. On Sept. 15, the Napa City Council began considering policies and procedures surrounding the issue of “trucking water.” Many Napa city and county residents probably do not know that the City of Napa sells water to county users outside the city limits.

A PowerPoint presentation that evening identified four categories of water sales: construction, residential, commercial and irrigation. There is a need to supply water during construction to keep dust down, and the presentation noted that most of the water supplied for this reason is used within the city. There are also county residents who are without water for various legitimate reasons and the city supplies the basic domestic water needs of those residents.

There is one commercial account the city serves: The Carneros Inn. This development was approved by the county, which was assured that there would be an adequate water supply to support the development. This information was incorrect. Currently, the city of Napa sells trucked water to Carneros Inn because without this water, this county-approved development could not survive.

Residents of the area fought the inn development years ago because of concern for their water supply. Now these residents must also depend on the city to provide their water because their supply is no longer adequate. Is this the type of development we are expected to support to maintain economic viability? Is it the average citizen’s economic viability that is at risk if we fail to support such development? Or is it the economic viability of a few that is being served instead?

Another use of trucked water is irrigation. This is used to support some vineyards, and it's true that the number of vineyards supported this way by the city of Napa is small. It's also true that trucked water accounts for a small percentage of the city’s total water supply.

But the quantity of trucked water is not the issue. The real issue is development in areas that do not have the necessary resources to support such development. If the city of Napa must provide water, then that's a development that's been allowed by the county that is unable to be self-supporting.

Is vineyard development in areas with insufficient water something that is to be expected in order to maintain economic viability? And if so, whose economic viability is being sustained by these developments? Who gains, and at whose expense is this gain achieved?

If the grassroots movement must address the false reality of an anti-growth/anti-tourism image, then let the truth be told about what issues represent reality. Should we be expected to sacrifice our water supply on the Altar of Economic Viability so a relatively few vineyard and winery owners can make profits most of us can only imagine?

Should we support construction of a six- or eight-lane highway through The Valley allowing tourists easy access to their destinations all on the Altar of Economic Viability? Should we support more hotel rooms with low paying jobs for people that must now commute in and out of the Napa Valley each day because they cannot afford to live here, thus adding to the already crowed roads?

Should we support unsustainable development, the sole purpose of which is to provide large incomes to a relatively small group of people? Should we support vineyard development in the watersheds because the developer says there is plenty of water to support it?

No, it is false to say the grassroots movement is anti-growth/anti-tourism. The reality is much different. Sustainable, intelligent growth is their real goal. It is sustainable growth that will maintain the health and safety of all of us in Napa County, not just the financial health of a few, some of whom do not even call the Napa Valley their home.

NVR version 9/21/15: The false choice in development issues (read the comments)

The cultivation and farming of tourists

Patricia Damery - Sep 20, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

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.

NVR version 9/19/15: The cultivation and farming of tourists

Napa Vision 2050 gets the Star treatment

Daniel Mufson - Sep 16, 2015   Share

[The editorial board of the St. Helena Star has endorsed the framework if not entirely the content of Napa Vision 2050. The editorial is here. And here:]

    If you ask a representative of Napa Vision 2050 about what's ailing Napa County, you won't get one concise answer.

    And that's OK, because there really isn't one.

    After meeting recently with three members of the fledgling advocacy group — Dan Mufson, president; Mike Hackett of Save Rural Angwin; and Geoff Ellsworth of Citizens' Voice St. Helena — we were impressed by their appreciation for the complexity of the challenges posed by growth.

    They understand that no silver-bullet solution can solve a set of problems this amorphous and multifaceted. The goals they proposed to us included stronger enforcement of winery use permits, protecting watersheds, keeping wineries away from urban residential areas and requiring businesses to pay employees a living wage.

    For some grassroots groups, a lack of focus can be disastrous. But in the case of Napa Vision 2050, we agreed with Mike Hackett that their diversity of backgrounds, interests and goals is actually a strength.

    The first step for an organization like this is to get people engaged. They can worry about refining their message later.

    At the most basic level, Napa Vision 2050 is trying to protect what we all enjoy: a high quality of life made possible by unique natural resources that fuel a world-class wine industry.

    But being such an attractive place has its consequences. People want to visit here, so we need roads and hotels to accommodate those tourists. The businesses that serve those tourists need low- and middle-income workers, who are finding it harder than ever to afford the cost of housing, which has been driven up by high demand among outsiders who want their own piece of the Napa Valley.

    Winery development is at the heart of Napa Vision 2050's concerns. The disruption of traditional distribution models and a rise in small boutique wineries have driven a trend toward direct sales and face-to-face marketing, which puts even more pressure on our roads and infrastructure.

    But that's where things get complicated. Traffic studies have found that between 15 and 17 percent of traffic on weekdays was attributable to wineries. That includes visitors, employees and other business-related vehicles. If that 20 percent were eliminated, the roads would no longer be congested — but our valley's economic model depends on that 20 percent.

    Representatives of Napa Vision 2050 can dispute those numbers, but the fact is that not even a moratorium on new wineries would make the traffic go away. The traffic problem is primarily us, the residents, commuting to and from work and going about our daily lives. And we're not going anywhere.

    Or are we? A recent study by UC Berkeley examined the trends toward gentrification and displacement around the Bay Area, and found that Napa County's urban areas are most at risk for displacement due to rising housing costs. That problem isn't limited to the rural areas like Atlas Peak and Angwin that Napa Vision 2050 is primarily concerned with: It's affecting downtown St. Helena, Calistoga and Napa, and it has nothing directly to do with winery development.

    We've seen this dynamic play out in the last few years. Low-income workers have resorted to deplorably substandard living conditions, and even middle-class professionals making the county's median income of about $70,000 can't afford the median home price of around $500,000 and rising — and almost $1 million in St. Helena.

    If you take some of the ideas espoused by Napa Vision 2050 to their logical extreme, they might even contribute to these problems. A strict mentality “I've got mine, so let's shut the door to everybody else” would drive property values up even further and promote the same exclusivity that's lent the Napa Valley so much allure.

    But for the most part, Mufson, Hackett and Ellsworth acknowledge these complexities. We didn't hear them propose a moratorium on winery development or expansion, and they didn't pretend that any of their solutions would solve all of the problems we're facing.

    That's why they're not laser-focused on a single goal. They're fighting individual projects like Walt Ranch outside Napa and the expansion of Reverie winery outside Calistoga, but they're also lobbying the Board of Supervisors to place tighter controls on new winery development and crack down on the scofflaws who violate their permits.

    They're also encouraging a few people to apply for a soon-to-be vacant seat on the county Planning Commission, and they might end up running their own supervisorial candidates.

    By spreading their energies in so many different directions, they're broadening their base – which makes sense on an organizational level – and respecting the complexity of the problems they're fighting.

    While we disagree with Napa Vision 2050 on some of the details, we applaud their emphasis on positive community involvement and their refusal to oversimplify Napa County's many challenges.

Day of action on watersheds: Sept 15th

Jim Wilson - Sep 13, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

Dear Defenders of East Napa Watersheds, and all supporters of healthy municipal watersheds,

Please join us Tuesday, September 15, for a day of action in support of the City's call for greater protections in its sensitive municipal watersheds. We will be holding signs and speaking during public comment.

These protections have to come from the County, ultimately by enhancing protections by ordinance. Our more immediate purpose is to make sure the county is aware that the City is strongly opposed to issuing discretionary permits that will result in so much new pollution in Milliken, that $20MM in new infrastructure would be needed to protect Napa citizens from it. Our message is, THAT IS WRONG, AND THE PEOPLE DO NOT GIVE PERMISSION.

Note yesterday's Register report of unsafe drinking water being found in downtown Napa taps. Milliken's water, according to Eldridge, is by far the City's best water, needing just a "dab" of polymer. Will we allow it to be destroyed?

Background: Hall wants to strip 507 acres of native vegetation to net 356 acres of wine grapes, much of it in the Milliken Reservoir headwaters. We met with Council member Scott Sedgley in June, spoke during public comment at City Council meetings in favor of better protections, got an agenda item for a staff report on the condition of Napa's two municipal watersheds (Hennessy and Milliken). At the August 18 City Council meeting, the City Council unanimously approved of urgent action to be taken as per Water Division staff recommendations. Since then, Joy Eldridge has reached out to David Morrison for assistance in implementing her recommendations for strengthening watershed protections.

Our Tuesday action is for city and county residents to connect this process to the County Supervisors and to make sure they are aware of the City's urgent need of better protection of its municipal watersheds. It is the BOS who will be hearing our appeals on WALT and Kongsgaard vineyard conversions. We want them to vote NO against polluters, and YES in favor of healthy people and healthy water supply.

9:00 AM - Board of Supervisors meeting - public comment in favor of urgently needed protections as per City staff report.

3:30 PM - City Council meeting - public comment thanking council members for their unanimous support of staff recommendations.

6:30 PM - City Council meeting - same as 3:30 meeting - try to make one or the other... (at the 6:30 meeting trucked water is on the agenda.)

Below is additional information to support our case, if you like.

I hope you can join us!

Here is the Register article on the August 18 City Council meeting that decided in favor of strengthening watershed protections:

Here is an excerpt from David Morrison's letter (full letter here) to the Mayor before the August 18 City Council meeting:

    Finally, the staff report concludes by suggesting several long-term implementation items, including the following:

      "Establish a revised County Ordinance to increase restrictions on development in sensitive watershed areas to limit the water quality impacts to the watershed.
      Require development in watershed to monitor the creek water quality upstream and downstream of the project runoff and submit data directly to the Water Division.
      Impose mitigation measures on development in sensitive watershed areas that is shown to degrade water quality in order to contribute to watershed protection investments and water treatment improvements."

    As the Council knows, the City does not have the land use authority to unilaterally adopt ordinances, condition development, or impose mitigation measures on land use development within the unincorporated area. However, the County remains open and available for inter-agency discussions on these topics and other areas of mutual interest that impact the broader community.

Here are comments (from the video) in favor of improved watershed protections we can hang our hat on:

    I'd like to immediately start working with the County to strengthen their code and discuss appropriate zoning for municipal watersheds. We are justifiably concerned about our local source of water, and where are we going to go from here? I support, agree with all of the speakers who mentioned this tonight except maybe with Mr. Reynolds, there might be a few things I disagree with his statements. It's time we need to move ahead on this and we need to move forward quickly.

    The cumulative impacts of these projects are greatly impacting our community, and I agree with all of the short-term and long-term solutions that were presented tonight.

    Our Water Department's done a great job over the years really managing our water supply and making sure we make smart critical moves to make sure we have a good water supply. Part of that is what's being proposed here, and I think these are very prudent moves. I'm fully supportive of the measures here, and we can talk about the long-term measures and their time frames.

    Techel: I was encouraged that we got a memo today from the Planning Director of the County. And in this letter, he mentions he is open and available to have discussions on this topic. We're going to need to work with the County, and we're going to have to marry what the City's interests are with the County's processes, because these processes are in the county. I appreciate your report, I appreciate the different strategies you put out, and I encourage you to make a phone call tomorrow to say yeah, let's start the conversation going forward.

    The issue of protecting our watersheds - I think we need to take a more proactive - a more aggressive - and I sincerely believe in working with the County and talking to the county and trying to convey to them this urgency in our watersheds, and in a greater sense the county's watersheds in their entirety. I think a good way to do that is to create a resolution that says we are serious about this and let's get to work on this.

    Techel: The phone call tomorrow shows the urgency of how the Council feels about this. That beats waiting two weeks for a resolution.

    I'm going to argue we're taking the urgent action here. We're asking our expert what we should do right now and she's given us a list of things to do in the next couple of years. And I think we should focus on doing these things instead of just saying how we feel [resolution].

Here are the proposed long term solutions endorsed by Council from this city staff report:

    Hennessey and Milliken Watersheds

    Implement recommendations and update the Watershed Sanitary Survey as required every five years and review baseline data, identify changes to water quality, reasons for water quality changes and make recommendations for mitigating and restoring water quality.

    Establish a revised County Ordinance to increase restrictions on development in sensitive watershed areas to limit the water quality impacts to the watershed. (emphasis mine)

    Update the Municipal Code to authorize financial penalties for violations of unauthorized watershed recreational uses.
    Require development in watershed to monitor the creek water quality upstream and downstream of the project runoff and submit data directly to the Water Division.

    Impose mitigation measures on development in sensitive watershed areas that is shown to degrade water quality in order to contribute to watershed protection investments and water treatment improvements.

The Forgotten Man

George Caloyannidis - Sep 7, 2015   Share

Who is she? Who is he?

They are the people who live in this valley, who go about their work and daily activities, the ones who support our schools, support businesses day in and day out in summer and in winter. They are the ones who go to sleep at night trusting that the officials they elected act in their own interest, which simply put is to safeguard their quality of life. Because of this trust, they have not organized, do not lobby and don’t have a financial interest to support candidates with large campaign contributions.

But if increased public participation at county hearings, the flood of letters to the editors, the forming of neighborhood coalitions (I attended one such meeting of 98 participants at the county library at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 18, 2015), and the willingness of residents to devote so much time and energy away from their homes at dinnertime is any indication, they are the ones who feel marginalized by their government when they ought to count the most. They are the forgotten ones.

Whether it is the ever-increasing traffic congestion, the accelerated use and deterioration of the infrastructure on their dime and the depletion of resources by a disproportionate number of outsiders, the gentrification and its associated rise in the cost of living, the erosion of our agricultural identity and natural habitat, they all contribute to an unsustainable loss in the forgotten man’s quality of life.

For those who dispute the government’s cold shoulder to the forgotten man, when was the last time a use permit for a new winery or the rampant legalization of winery violations were denied in the face of local opposition?

Residents spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on research, lawyers and consultants, to formulate legitimate concerns, yet none makes a difference. The moneyed lobbying malaise that has poisoned the entire country’s political process has found fertile ground — infinitely more destructive than the manageable winged sharpshooter — in our heretofore innocent wine country, systematically chipping away use permit by use permit at our quality of life, each masquerading behind the deceitful language of “less than significant impacts,” refusing to acknowledge the profound cumulative ones.

As a result, what has been a beneficial symbiosis between development, tourism and residents for many decades, even the very impartiality and trust in government have reached the tipping point of moneyed influence and any sense of proportionality.

The supervisors’ arguments are disingenuous to say the least:

They tell us that much of the traffic and the overuse of resources is due to development in the cities. But how many come to this valley not attracted by wineries? This is where it all starts. They tell us that traffic increases regardless of what they do but this is not true either; only 9 percent of all traffic is pass-through traffic, the rest is controlled or fueled by policy. Should other communities be so lucky to be similarly positioned!

They tell us that wineries can no longer exist without “the new reality,” meaning the massive inflow of tourism. Yet none of that is true in such concentration in any other premium wine country in the world. The truth is that one can find thousands of international wines in this country, but Napa wines are conspicuously absent around the world.

Under the guise of “the new reality,” we have created the model of lazy winery owners who are no longer willing to put up with the travel around the country, let alone the world in order to sell their wine. Much easier to keep visitors piling in on their way to the 23,000 approved events in a continuous assault on our agricultural character and quality of life.

An even more disingenuous fact is that the disastrous traffic conditions we are experiencing have been predicted by the county’s own 2007 Traffic Environmental Impact Report, where in order to maintain acceptable service level “C,” our arteries will have to expand to six and four lanes up and down the valley by the year 2030. In the meantime we have to deal with bumper-to-bumper traffic. But the deception continues. They tell us this will never happen, fully aware that it is not they, but Caltrans who has control over state highway service levels. When traffic conditions become substandard, one more Caltrans lane next to another will destroy what little we still have of our charming rural roads such as the still-clinging-to-life Highway 29 from St. Helena to Calistoga.

To make matters even more unfair, while arguing the issue of compliance, the supervisors are setting their sights on the small homeowners on Imola and Solano Streets who happen to have a tarp-covered boat on their driveway, considering to cite them, even place a cloud on the title of their properties as means to compel them to remove it. All the while they are willing to accommodate, without imposing a single penalty, scandalous winery violations that circumvent the very California Environmental Quality Act in a systemic way through the selective application of the law on the forgotten man.

What can the forgotten man do? Get informed, organize, lobby, vote for those who will commit to respecting their quality of life.

Napa Valley Register version: The Forgotten Man

Donate to Napa Vision 2050!

Geoff Ellsworth - Aug 25, 2015   Share

NAPA VISION 2050 is a non-profit countywide coalition of citizens groups and individuals whose mission is to advocate for responsible planning to insure the sustainability of the finite resources of Napa County.

Please help us protect our rural communities, unique microclimate and winegrowing region as well as this rare example of a successful Agricultural Preserve known throughout the United States and abroad.

Donate on our Napa Vision 2050 site here

Stop Syar Expansion

Julia Winiarski - Aug 20, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

The name of our group is Stop Syar Expansion (SSE), not Close Down Syar. We acknowledge the need for aggregate, even while we know aggregate mining to be one of the the most destructive and polluting of land uses. However, quarries do close. They extract a material that is non-renewable in human time scale. They grow as far as they can based on surrounding uses, or they run out of rock. The Syar Napa Quarry will not be operating forever.

It is precisely because the rock is a non-renewable resource that it must be properly managed for Napa’s needs. Like groundwater. Although the aggregate is under land that is privately owned, because of its critical nature to many kinds of construction processes, the county is obligated by its exercise on our behalf of management of the public trust. It cannot allow a company to plunder this resource.

Look at the environmental impact report, the document of record for the project, the document that, according to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), is supposed to contain the information necessary for reasoned analysis by the public and county officials, and rational planning decisions by the county officials.The environmental report states: “Currently, the majority of truck trips travel south on SR 221 to SR (Highway) 29 south to SR 12 (Jameson Canyon Road) and access to I-80 or further south to American Canyon and deliver aggregate materials throughout the Bay Area. In discussion with Syar Industries, this pattern is expected to continue in the future.” Taking that scenario to its logical conclusion, we can see that we would soon arrive at the scenario the expansion’s supporters tell us we should fear — that we will run out of rock for Napa.

The quarry, properly managed and right-sized, could continue to serve Napa for many years. But not if it is producing more than what is needed to satisfy local need and exporting that to other counties. This is just one of the many areas of the environmental report is lacking in objective analysis.

Another area of deficiency is with regard to mitigation, which in several key areas is inadequate, impermissibly deferred or lacking proper enforcement mechanisms. As just one example, the formulation of a mitigation plan for greenhouse gas emissions is deferred to at least three years beyond the point where allowable levels are exceeded.

Regarding mitigations and environmental protections more generally, Syar has promised mitigations to such an extent that the expansion is being sold as a net environmental gain. This is, in fact, proof that all that could be done to protect the environment is not being done — despite Syar’s claims in the environmental report that all “best practices” are already being implemented. If the best is already being done, what could be improved? The county acknowledges that the past permits were lacking in environmental and community protections. The question is what is stopping Syar industries from improving the operating conditions now? Why must they wait for a new permit to, for example, upgrade their fleet of mostly tier 0 and tier 1 vehicles—the most polluting?

Our citizen group, Stop Syar Expansion, has submitted expert comments in the areas of traffic, hydrology, noise and air quality, detailing the numerous flaws and inadequacies of the environmental report, and demonstrating why it cannot be certified. We spent a great deal of time and money to gather this information to assist the county and its citizens in making a good decision for the future of Napa.

We have shown that environmental impacts have been systematically and grossly underestimated through basing analysis on faulty data and methodology.

The decision for a 35-year project must be made with a long view, on the basis of sound reasoning and with comprehensive understanding of fundamental facts. Not on the basis of politics, personalities or scare tactics. The planning commission is mandated to evaluate projects for the benefit of local residents—including the environment- as a whole, not to serve business interests. To fully evaluate a project, we all have to know the true price tag. The true price tag of this project, now in its seventh year, is still unknown.

The need for the project is also unknown. When we are about to undertake any project, we have to know: “Why are we doing this?” We have to ask, “What is the need?” Let’s say you are at the grocery store, and someone in your household says, “Let’s get more apples,” don’t you ask, ‘how many do we have at home? How many have we been eating? What are we doing in the next week, and how many will we need?’

For a project that undeniably impacts the environment and our community, how can we not ask the same questions: What are the reserves of the quarry? How much aggregate has Napa actually used? How much will we actually need, based on factual analysis, not hypotheticals, assumptions, or mere assertions.These fundamental questions are missing from the environmental report.

In the interest of space, I won’t repeat here all the analyses provided in the expert comments we have submitted, which are or will shortly be on the county’s website. However, to touch on just one point: The environmental report uses the number of 8.9 tons per year per person for the analysis of county need for aggregate. Where does this number come from? It is an average for the North Bay region from studies carried out from 1960 to 2011. Napa is a slow-growth, agriculturally-based county with an Agricultural Preserve. Even for the larger region, can we possibly believe that the same amount of growth will occur from now forward for 35 years that occurred in the rough half century between 1960 and today? What agricultural ground in Napa are we planning to pave over?

Stop Syar Expansion has looked at the information from weight tags for Syar Napa quarry aggregate use by all county entities for the last 10 years. We do not have access to contractor purchases, but we have seen Public Works purchase orders from all the cities, the township of Yountville and from the county’s Public Works department.

Although it can readily do so, Syar Industries has chosen not to provide the weight tags for the years used to establish the baseline for the environmental report. By not making public the records that actually establish the true need for the quarry’s need to expand, Syar Industries disserves the community and its governing bodies. The amount of Syar Napa Quarry aggregate known publicly to be used in Napa is far lower than the regional average calculated over a time-frame of rapid growth. Furthermore, there are other companies (Cemex, Shamrock, Mark West BoDean, for example) that supply aggregate to Napa County. It is simply not believable that only Syar Industries will be providing all of Napa County’s aggregate needs for the next 35 years instead of sharing the market with other companies as it currently does.

That the county proposes to make a decision affecting the future of Napa for 35 years (a very long time for a permit, given how fast technology, environmental understanding, and community needs can change) without this fundamental information is, frankly, frightening.

What forces are directing our local governments? What influences are guiding their decisions? I fear that the same influences are behind recent thinking and decisions and on large building projects, winery event centers, massive vineyard developments in our watersheds, and a permitting permissiveness that bends over backwards for applicants and rewards violators. If the county continues to serve the few at the expense of the many, we have to get involved and make changes.

Napa is the beautiful place it is because of people who had the wisdom to see the need to protect this agricultural treasure. We need a new wave of champions coming forth to protect the land, air of and water of this valley and to fundamentally reshape the way the county does business. Our new and evolving understanding of the health risks involved, as well as social responsibility, true sustainability, climate change, and social justice demand no less.

Napa Valley Register version: Flaws of Syar process related to other County issues

Napa Valley: From purists to tourists

Mike Hackett - Aug 12, 2015   Share

It is clear to all those paying attention, that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the laws of nature and economics in the Napa Valley. When I moved here in the mid-'70s, this valley was all about agriculture. Because of the soil, climate and abundant water, the early grape farmers recognized right away, that this was a very special place to grow grapes and make estate wine. They were purists, driven by their passion to grow the best grapes and make the finest wine. They wanted to show the world that the Napa Valley rivaled the best wines in the world. And they shared their knowledge with each other.

Unfortunately, this success was noticed by large corporations who came in to the valley with the bottom-line mentality. Over the last 20 years, many more wineries have been built to accommodate the world’s growing appetite for high-end wine. At one point along the way, we seemed to have a balance. What was good for the agricultural industry was also beneficial to our citizens.

However, when the recent economic slump hit the United States, wine sales tailed off, tourism rates decreased, and pressure was put on county policies because the tourism industry’s bottom lines were hurting badly. The pressure worked, and with newly minted approval to sell all kinds of things, and have food and events galore, the wineries started evolving into event centers, catering to the tourists and neglecting to care about their community.

Now we the people who live here are feeling all the negative effects when the laws of nature and economics clash. Our roads are crowded, our water future is in doubt, our watersheds and old growth forests are being ripped out, and our basic infrastructure has a much shorter life span. We are out of balance, and need to work together to advance the cause of the average man and woman in this county. The benefits are going to a few while the many suffer the consequences.

This has not gone unnoticed. As James Conaway, respected author and historian on the Napa Valley, so succinctly writes, “Many concerns among residents inevitably boil down to one: thwarting attempts by individuals or corporations who want a larger part of the action than the community is willing to give.” We need to get back into balance.

We sell twice as much wine as we grow grapes here. Half the grapes are imported. We have a special tax levied on hotel guests here, which funds the very existence of the Napa tourist industry’s lobbying effort, to the tune of $5.6 million per year. Already we have 3.5 million visitors per year.

County staff revealed two weeks ago that current permits allow as many as 23,000 “events” at wineries in Napa each year. That’s potentially over 60 every single day. We, the residents, should not have to put up with that kind of intrusion in our lives. They use our roads, water and total infrastructure. We the residents pay through our taxes, and the money goes to industry. We need to get back into balance.

The awareness within county offices grows with each debate before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. A group named the Agriculture Protection Advisory Committee was formed by these politicians, but the majority of members are from tourist-related industry. So far, they have voted to block all the ideas floated that would have served the community’s needs more than their own.

An obvious first step would be to rein in the ancillary uses at wineries. With over 23,000 “events” already approved, and tourism’s lobby group hunkered down, it doesn’t look good on that one.

Of course the hospitality industry supports a payroll of $300 million in the valley, with $52 million in tax revenue. That makes for a very strong lobby. That effort has led to the constant refrain heard from developers, “its always better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.” The current philosophy demonstrated from our county Planning Commission reflects that sentiment.

Recently, I’ve sat in the audience and watched the majority of the commissioners forgive every single abuse brought to its attention. These include abuses of use permits, major winery expansion and development where county building department requirements were ignored, even a winery that dug a cave without a permit. All these cheaters were exonerated. We need to get back into balance.

We have reached the critical mass necessary to put the concerns of the community first. We will not have our tax dollars used to line the pockets of the tourist industry any longer. There’s a darker side to Napa’s success, and the residents are shouldering the burden.

NVR version: Napa Valley: From purists to tourists

Who pays the costs of Tourism?

George Caloyannidis - Jul 26, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

I have read with interest the two-part series by Pam Simpson, CEO of the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce, published in the St. Helena Star in which she analyzes the tourist contribution to the valley’s economy. Citing the findings of the recent Visitor Profile study that shows that in 2014 the annual visitor spending per Napa Valley resident was $11,741, she concludes: “This means $11,741 is the amount each Napa Valley resident would have to spend to keep our economy going if visitors were not here”. If it only were that simple.

There are about 147,000 residents in the Napa Valley and they host 3.5 million visitors. Together, they require an entire accommodating physical and service infrastructure including adequate road capacities, utilities, hotels, restaurants and retail stores. Unfortunately, our hospitality and retail section of the economy pay the lowest wages, with a median wage of around $22,000 while the Napa County Self Sufficiency Standard (SSS) for a single person is around $28,000 and the wine industry median wage is around $35,000 below the SSS for two adults with no children, which is around $39,000. This workforce commutes from outside the county and accounts for 25 percent of all traffic adding to the 16 percent of direct visitor traffic. The public pays the difference between the low tourism wages and the SSS through a variety of social programs.

If one interpolates the 2014 Fehr & Peers Travel Behavior Study data, the Napa Valley population increases during season by 1/3 from the influx of visitors and outside workers, and they come with costs in 13 different categories ranging from increased services, to the physical infrastructure: Fire and EMS, public safety and government facilities and services, road transportation, waste water and storm drain systems, water service facilities and increased cost of water. The associated workforce able to earn a decent SSS, requires mandated affordable housing, school system and parks and recreation facilities and not least, it has to cope with visitor caused cost of living increases which pushes the SSS farther out of reach to the spiral freefall of even more commuters.

Unfortunately, there are no studies that have quantified the actual costs of tourism but there are tangential studies regarding the comprehensive costs of resorts in Oregon, which offer strong indication that the $11,741 is likely to move from the positive to the negative side of the ledger.

One such study by Fodor & Associates for the Thornburg Resort in Dechutes County, Oregon (population 157,000)—a large mix of hotel, timeshare, full occupancy homes and golf courses—quantified only 6 of the 13 cost factors. They show a deficit for infrastructure capital improvements (or the proportional shared cost of existing improvements already paid for by the public) of $51 million. On the other hand, it shows a net annual revenue of $466,000 from room and other taxes and fees. When this net revenue is capitalized over 20 years, it still results in a net deficit of $46 million.

Making the matter worse is that by then, the infrastructure will require updating to the tune of several million dollars; one more spiral freefall.

A good local example is the multimillion dollar widening of Highway 29 just south of St. Helena for which every California resident is paying, solely necessitated by the population increase caused by the tourist industry and the types of jobs it creates. According to the 2007 Napa County draft environmental impact report, just to maintain level C road service by 2030, 6 lanes will be required from Vallejo to Yountville and 4 lanes for Yountville to St. Helena, or it will be bumper-to-bumper traffic. Just these costs will eat up not only any fiscal tourist contribution but leave an enormous gap to be borne once again by the public.

Napa County is in urgent need of a comprehensive study on the cost of growth that will calculate the net fiscal impact of the ever increasing visitation model. It is the only rational way by which from a purely fiscal point of view we can determine whether this is the way to, as Ms. Simpson writes, “keep our economy going”.

However, as dubious the fiscal model is, it is not the most important factor to consider, and that is whether we really want this way of “keeping our economy going”. Do we like the urban type traffic congestion in our supposedly agricultural area? The gradual displacement of neighborhoods by part-time residents? The inflationary impact and unsustainable local services? Do we want to end up Bowling Alone in the anonymity caused by the disproportionate influx of visitors in what Robert Putnam in his eponymous seminal book coined as “the loss of social capital”?

In the end, for whom do we keep this economy going?

Napa Valley Register Version 7/24/15: Does tourism really pay for itself?

The Devil's vineyard

George Caloyannidis - Jun 24, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

I just returned from a trip to Europe.

One of the visits was to the island of Sylt on Germany's North Sea. The island is connected to the mainland by bridge with road and train service. Its spectacular 25 mile long sandy beaches have always been the secret playground of the German rich and famous. Beautiful thatched roof homes used to comprise a cohesive country community, always a big part of the attraction.

In the last few decades, tourism discovered Sylt as an opportunity resource for exploitation. The massive proliferation of expensive hotels, second home buyers and Porches for rent have gradually pushed out the local population. The steadily diminishing number of children forced its first elementary school to close a few years ago, then the second one combined classrooms with children of different ages. Recently, the last school was forced to close leaving no alternative for the remaining children but to board the train to the mainland. Local residents complain that they no longer have neighbors they know or to talk to. While the local economy seems to be thriving, the social fabric has been torn to pieces. Low paying jobs are proliferating, the income gap stares one in the face... Stage 3.

The second, the historic city of Bruges in Belgium is as charming a mediaeval city as there is. Lovely steeped roofed brick homes, two incredible cathedrals, cobbled streets and canals bring tour bus after tour bus with 3 million tourists a year on to its 117,000 residents. Chocolate and waffle shops abound, restaurants are packed with tourists. The economy seems to thrive but the income gap widens. One can understand why locals hate living in what has become a Hansel and Gretel Disneyland... Stage 3.

Late last year, a few thousand locals staged massive protests against the onslaught of tourism in Barcelona. The least obscene banners proclaimed, "Don't step on Barcelona" and "Tourists don't trample on us". Similar scenario, with GDP declining and the national economy relying on EU bailouts. No difference in Portugal...Stage 3 1/2.

Greece which completely sold out to tourism after joining the EU, found out that the jobs it brought are the lowest paying ones. Subsidies to supplement them have proliferated and so have government jobs, the only ones paying decent wages. We all know how this bankrupt scenario has played out... Stage 4.

The literature on tourism generally recognizes 5 stages in its trajectory. The first, is purely supplemental and supportive to an existing economic base. Stage 2 leads to the local economy's increasing reliance on tourist dollars and is perceived by local governments and businesses as essential. Stage 3 sees the beginning dislocation of the local population, a gradual tearing of the social fabric, the proliferation of low paying jobs with the associated concentration of outsider investor wealth at the top. With those factors in place, turning back the clock is almost impossible. That process is irreversible by Stage 4. The deficit economy of tourism becomes evident as the 30 to 40-fold wear and tear of the infrastructure requires ever increasing funds for maintenance and further destructive expansion.

By stage 5, the Faustian Deal is complete. Local government has negotiated itself into the corner of no alternative than the vicious circle of even more and more tourism to pay the bill. It never catches up. Finally, tourism having left thriving communities in tatters both in terms of infrastructure and social capital, it moves on little by little to other destinations to devour.

The Napa Valley is steadily approaching the Stage 3 tipping point and the local population is starting to feel it in its bones.

Napa Valley Register version: Tourism's Faustian deal (read the comments)


Sandy Ericson - Jan 14, 2016

R.W. Butler: Tourist area life cycles synopsis and the full article

It just occurred to me that this is the "Platex Strategy" again! In the lingerie garment industry Platex would place a big order from the manufacturer . The company was thrilled and went out and bought machines, rented space and hired workers to make the order -- they could not turn down the order. The next order was for a lower price but the company had debts by then and so had to accept the price. The next order was even lower. Until you can guess the outcome but by then Platex was on to another company. In the industry this was a famous case study in business schools.

Why I Started Attending Supervisor Meetings

Patricia Damery - Jun 24, 2015   Share

Believe me, it was not my idea of how I want to be spending any morning of the week! Badger-like, I have defended morning time forever. It is when I write, walk, muse. There is always some competing, worthy cause or project to fight off. Work all too often impinges. So what am I doing?— spending some these precious hours at the APAC meetings (Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee)(every other Monday), the Board of Supervisors meetings (some Tuesdays), and the Planning Commission meetings (Wednesdays)?

It was panic that got me started. Our county officials have become eclipsed by business interests, for whatever reasons: campaign contributions, their own self interests, ignorance as to the conditions on, and literally, in the ground. But the environment— and water— have changed the conversation. This was brought home to me by the threat of what is being termed an event center next door.

We fight for what we love. My husband and I have lived on this ridge for 22 years now on the edge of one of the few remaining oak savannas. Two hundred-plus year old trees skirt the edges of a beautiful meadow. Sadly, we do not own it most of it. Our neighbor, who valued it, had to sell it in the economic downturn of 2008 to new neighbors who view this oak savanna as an opportunity for a superior Cab, and the land as a site for an expensive winery. Water? almost an afterthought, at least until the drought. This ridge is a story of dry and low preforming wells.

When our neighborhood discovered what this neighbor had in mind, we quickly gathered, and then educated ourselves to the much larger and similar picture in our county. It seemed any project proposed, however egregious, was being approved. This is when I got serious about attending some of these meetings with the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, and then APAC.

But what I learned surprised me. I have enjoyed attending! I have to confess how little I knew about how county government works: how these rules and regulations we abide by get made and, hopefully, changed. What is the relationship of the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors? Who is elected and who is appointed? How does change happen? Who holds power, and what kind of power? And last, but certainly not least, where does the environment stand in all this?

I am surprised that despite (in my opinion) some very bad decisions continuing to be made, I feel more a part of our local government. I have enjoyed meeting with my local neighborhood group, Dry Creek Road Alliance, and I have met some incredible people that I never would have under other circumstances. Many are retired and using their various areas of expertise in support of citizens' voices being heard around land use and the environment. It is the best use of older citizens' talents— for the common good.

We are in for the long haul, for almost certainly, it will be that! But our presence is critically important. So if you haven't yet attended one of these meetings, consider doing so, if even for a portion of the meeting, if only occasionally as you can. Pick up a Vision 2050 button, pin it over your heart, and join the citizens' voice. A schedule and agenda for the various meetings can be found on the County of Napa site where you can even sign up for emailed meeting announcements at My Napa County.

Process Grapes Not Tourists

Bill Hocker - Jun 22, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

[Comments made at the June 22, 2015 APAC Meeting]

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.

Vision 2050 general meeting #3

Bill Hocker - Jun 17, 2015   Share

Third general meeting of Napa Vision 2050 at the Napa County Main Library, June 16th 2015

More than 50 people attended the third general meeting of Napa Vision 2050. In addition to representatives of the numerous Napa community groups under the Vision 2050 umbrella there were representatives of Sonoma groups active in similar issues as well as individuals from organizations involved in affordable housing and living wage groups.

Urbanization by Over-Visitation

Geoff Ellsworth - Jun 17, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

[Update: NVR version Urbanization by over visitation - lots of comments]

Please look at the chart of suggested Napa County roadway expansions from the 2007 Napa County Draft Environmental Impact Report.
They include:

-Widening much of Silverado Trail to 4 lanes
-Widening much of Highway 29 to 4 and even 6 lanes in places
-Widening of upvalley 2 lane roads such as Deer Park road and Chiles-Pope Valley Road into 4 lane roads

While these expansions are explained as “…inconsistent with the current county General Plan”, they are also noted as the “the necessary roadway improvements that when applied to the 2030 network would mitigate the significant traffic operation impacts at the locations specified” and would “reduce peak hour and daily levels of service to acceptable levels.”

We are already experiencing twice daily gridlock traffic along both Hwy 29 and Silverado Trail. Our currently over-impacted road/traffic situation will degrade further with every new high visitation project approved as more tourism and the hospitality workforce to support that tourism will be required to travel up and down our roads.

Our infrastructure and roadways WILL SIMPLY HAVE TO EXPAND if we continue to accommodate a heavy-visitation tourism based economy and the traffic increases brought on by continued approval of winery and hospitality endeavors.

This infrastructure and roadway expansion will create a further and rapid urbanization of Napa Valley/County, intense pressure on our Agricultural Preserve as well as a threat to the rural character, community fabric and quality of life in Napa County/Valley.

This will be urbanization by over-visitation, the Napa Valley and Napa County will be transformed by the necessary roadway and infrastructure increases to accommodate the increased visitation currently promoted.

While this may seem unthinkable to those that love and care about the rural character of Napa Valley/County, our communities and of protecting our growing/farming lands, it is clear that If we continue adding heavy visitation-oriented development our current two-lane roads or “feeder arteries” will be stressed to the breaking point, and our Ag Preserve/ growing lands will get further paved over to accommodate this visitation/ hospitality/marketing aspect.

We must also consider the effects on our precious grapegrowing microclimate of 1000’s of slow moving cars and trucks idling in our narrow valley, as well as water limitations.

There are over 55 new and expansion projects in the county pipeline waiting for approval. Is this urbanization the future we want for Napa Valley and Napa County? We must stop now and analyze the cumulative impacts of current development before we allow more. We must analyze the carrying capacity of our roads, infrastructure and water availability in relation to the health, welfare and safety of our citizens and community.

The time to stand up is now for those that believe in our Ag Preserve as a Growing/Farming region, for those that wish to protect our communities and the rural nature of our county, We must find the common ground upon which to stand together now.

Please contact all County Supervisors and Planning Commission (below),
write letters to our newspapers, and become involved with groups such as the NapaVision2050 Coalition,
Sooner is better.
Feel free to pass this letter on or to contact mebest,

Napa Valley Register Editor - Sean Scully
St. Helena Star Editor

Brad Wagenknecht
Mark Luce
Diane Dillon
Alfredo Pedroza
Keith Caldwell

Heather Phillips
Michael Basayne
Anne Cottrell
Terry Scott
Matt Pope

Napa Vision 2050
Advocating for Responsible Planning to Insure Sustainability for Napa County's Finite Resources

Vision 2050 Moving Forward

Daniel Mufson - Jun 12, 2015   Share

Robert Pursell LTE: Oppose new helipad permit
Geoff Ellsworth LTE: Urbanization by over visitation

Vision2050 community meeting, June 16th

Daniel Mufson - Jun 9, 2015   Share

Please RSVP to if you plan to attend

APAC #4 statement

Geoff Ellsworth - May 28, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

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 danger to our watersheds

Patricia Damery - May 19, 2015   Share

One of the most important documentaries to see in this fifth year of severe drought is “The Russian River: All Rivers -- The Value of an American Watershed.”

The film features the Russian River and the impact of the ignorance, exploitation and neglect of it, particularly by commerce and agriculture. It should be required viewing for every governing official, vintner and voting citizen. It is particularly pertinent for those of us who live here in the Napa Valley and are concerned about its environmental future.

I raised my sons through their early years on that river. We learned her many moods: her rushing insistence in the winter which we could hear even as we drifted to sleep; the way she took the town, flooding homes and businesses alike, when the rains went on for too long.

One of my worst experiences with her happened the summer I took my sons, aged 2½ and 7 months, swimming at the quiet beach that used to be Ginger’s Resort. We sat in the shallow water and played. And then we learned that Santa Rosa had another “accidental” spill of sewage and we were sitting in it. It was during this time that a masked local businessman, affectionately known as Manure Man, took his tractor and manure spreader to Santa Rosa and spread manure around the courthouse, stating, “If it’s good enough for Guerneville, it is good enough for Santa Rosa!”

Sewage spills upstream contaminated our wells for days after. The Press Democrat printed a picture of a Santa Rosa city official drinking a glass of treated water from the sewage treatment plant, showing how safe it was, a picture we scoffed at. These were war days: a battle of those downstream from those farther up. It was really a coming-into-consciousness of how much we impact each other. What is that old saying? — we all live downstream?

“Russian River: All Rivers -- The Value of an American Watershed” is gripping in its scope: This is not just the Russian River, folks! It’s all rivers! If we keep up our ignorance of how we manage water, watersheds and rivers, we are going to be out of water!

It is also a wake-up call: There is still something to be done. This need not be a battle, but rather an awakening to the impact of our actions and a gathering of all sides to protect the commons: our land, our watersheds, our rivers, our air.

This is not about property rights, right-to-farm, profit, tourism, individual entitlements: It is about survival. The documentary has several screenings, including a 7 p.m. screening on Wednesday, May 20, at Copia Center in Napa. Although there is no charge, there is a request for a donation at the door. You do need to make a reservation, however, as there is usually a full house.

The screening is sponsored by Friends of the Napa River, Green Party of Napa County, Institute for Conservation Advocacy, Research & Education, Napa Vision 2050 Coalition.

Napa Valley Register version: Documentary Shows danger to our watersheds 5/19/15

Vision 2050 Update May 14, 2015

Daniel Mufson - May 14, 2015   Share

No Helicopters over Hagen

George Caloyannidis - May 12, 2015   Share

The Palmaz family is applying for a conditional use permit to construct a helicopter landing pad and fuel storage area on their estate below Mt. George east of Napa city. This letter sent to the residents in the neighborhood of the winery explains the request. Should this project be approved, the implications for the serenity of the whole of Napa County are not hard to imagine as mega-wealthy Napans begin to act on their new-found helicopter envy. We encourage you to let the Supervisors and Planning Commission know your concerns and opposition to the proposal.

Palmaz Residence Private Use Helicopter Application
4031 Hagen Road, Napa, CA 94558
Use-permit P14-00261 (put P14-00261 in the global search box)

According to extensive California case law, Conditional Use Permits are to enable a municipality to control certain uses which could have detrimental effects on the community or that they are in the best interest of public convenience. The Palmaz application serves no public purpose and can only have detrimental effects on the welfare of this community.

Please sign the petition on the NapaVision2050 website.
or Print and mail in this petition

George Caloyannidis' detailed analysis of the proposal is here

Vision 2050 Update May 1, 2015

Daniel Mufson - May 1, 2015   Share


Carl Bunch adds this note to Sup. Pedroza:

Al, thank you so very much for your leadership and influence in connection with the captioned permit application. You are who we're looking for in these kinds of outrageous activities by winery rule scofflaws. We really appreciate your efforts as a member of the Napa County Board of Supervisors.

The direct-to-consumer boondoggle

George Caloyannidis - Apr 17, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

The Direct to Consumer Sales Model, April, 2015.

The premise that the wine sales model has changed, requiring direct sales for wineries to survive, which the County believes is basically false. For it to be understood in terms of implementing policy, it must be recognized for what it is and separated into its different components.

While in Los Angeles, I spoke to two people in the wine distribution, brokerage, retail and import trade. They have been at it for as long as I have known them; 40 years.
The 3-tier sales system is alive and well. No new laws have changed it.

What is true is that the number of distributors has become smaller due to consolidation and the large distributors prefer large volume wineries. Though fewer, they sell more wine than ever before.

However, the slack has been picked up by many more wine brokers who handle smaller wineries. Scores of them would love to sell the many wines that wineries choose to sell directly to customers.

But, just as before, direct sales are more profitable, eliminating the middle tier costs of storage, commissions etc. Nothing new.

There are two ways to sell wine direct: One is benign and one is destructive.

Direct sales are easier to implement than they have ever been. In addition to winery trade tastings, winemaker dinners at markets around the country, the internet has provided a powerful new tool for developing a direct sales data base and increased winery profits.

Trade tastings and winemaker dinners involve travel and hard work which the new winery owners are not willing to engage. They prefer the easier way and have convinced the County that this is an issue of survival. And the County keeps accommodating them with increased visitation rights. It is a short sighted policy.
Direct sales as such have no direct impact on the valley. Entertainment at the wineries is another story.

The concept of bringing the customer to the winery, instead of taking the winery to the customer is not the result of "the changing marketing reality". It must be recognized for what it is [event related] and the consequences it has for everyone.

More tourist traffic and more hotel rooms, the primary drivers of an accelerating low wage job market, create more commuter traffic, diminished quality of life, more use of the infrastructure and its deficit maintenance/expansion/replacement costs which are borne by the community at large. All for the benefit of very few who are not willing to put in the work.

Any formula which increases the number of winery visitors unleashes this destructive chain. Tying visits to production levels will only increase the applications for increased productions.

This chain of consequences gradually transforms the agricultural character of the valley to one of retail entertainment. It is a slippery slope and it lies at the root of the increased search of new definitions and variances, around what constitutes agricultural or commercial use.

We should not be having this debate.

Vision 2050 makes headlines

Bill Hocker - Mar 30, 2015   Share

NVR 3/29/15: A new coalition, Vision 2050, will scrutinize county's future

    Thirteen people sat around a table at a house on a rural Dry Creek Road hillside talking about a Napa County future they intend to help shape.

    They are on the steering committee for a new group in town, Vision 2050. What unites them as they fight their varying growth battles is the shared idea that development threatens rural Napa.

    This coalition might attempt a 2016 land-use ballot measure if its doesn’t see changes in Napa County policies to its liking.

    Kathy Felch, a member of Stop Syar, opposes the proposed Syar quarry expansion near her neighborhood. She said citizens feel a “hapless hopelessness” when they don’t think their voice matters.

    “But that’s changing,” Felch said.

    Ginna Beharry, a member of the Dry Creek Road Alliance, opened her Dry Creek Road home northeast of the city of Napa for this recent Vision 2050 meeting. She expressed concern about proposed large wineries on not-so-large parcels.

    She pointed to the proposed Yountville Hill Winery on Highway 29 outside Yountville as a key example of what she said she thinks is going wrong.

    Chris Malan has long fought local environmental battles and is on the Living Rivers Council. She talked about hillside vineyards and the effects these can have on watersheds and the streams flowing to the Napa River.

    “If you get up in an airplane, you’ll see a patchwork effect of what it’s done to our forests,” she said.

    Different battles, common threads. Vision 2050 is a coalition of local groups that seek to merge their individual voices into a much louder voice.

    From the Sierra Club to Protect Rural Napa to Get a Grip of Growth, they will try to flex some combined muscle. Vision 2050 wants to make certain that world-famous Napa County’s glitz and glamour don’t swamp its agriculture and open space.

    David Hallett lives in Soda Canyon northeast of the city of Napa and is a member of Protect Rural Napa. He talked about an inverted pyramid, with Vision 2050 at the bottom supporting its individual member groups at the top.

    David Heitzman lives in rural Circles Oaks between the city of Napa and Lake Berryessa. He is a member of Defenders of the East Napa Watersheds, a group fighting the proposed Walt Ranch hillside vineyard development in the hills between the city of Napa and Lake Berryessa.

    Heitzman said Vision 2050 might hold a California Environmental Quality Act workshop. Citizens could learn the ins-and-outs of state-required environmental impact reports, a legal force so powerful that they can delay, and sometimes even stop, major, proposed projects.

    “We’ve got to be armed with the knowledge and then we can make a difference,” Heitzman said.

    Chairing Vision 2050 is Dan Mufson, a member of the Watersheds Alliance for Atlas Peak. He became involved in local growth battles several months ago after learning about the Walt Ranch proposal.

    Vision 2050 formed partly out of frustration, Mufson said. For example, he mentioned how the Planning Commission has allowed some new wineries to be built closer to roads than county rules allow.

    “Lately, it just seemed for all the effort we were putting in, nothing is really happening,” Mufson said. “We go to the meeting and talk about why we don’t think there should be a variance and the next thing you know, there’s a variance.”

    Basically, group members say they think things are getting out of control. Napa has too many wineries that are tourist centers, Mufson said.

    As a political action committee, Vision 2050 might back its own candidates. If it can’t change the mind of existing elected officials, it might try to change elected officials.

    Vision 2050 held its first meeting more than a month ago and 50 people showed up, Mufson said. To keep the meetings manageable, the various groups chose representatives for the steering committee.

    But Vision 2050 doesn’t have the only vision for the valley. Wine industry officials talk about a changing economic landscape that has seen small wineries depend more on tourism and direct-to-consumer sales.

    Even so, Rex Stults, a spokesman for Napa Valley Vintners, welcomed the formation of Vision 2050.

    “We live in the Unites States of America,” he said. “It’s a free country …everybody deserves to have a voice in the process.”

    Working with other stakeholders is nothing new for Napa Valley Vintners, Stults said. The vintners worked with the Sierra Club, Friends of the Napa River and other groups on the Napa Green effort to establish environmentally sound wineries and vineyards.

    “Once you get everybody in the room to sit down, you try to figure out what our vision is for Napa Valley. I think you’ll find it’s not going to be really disparate,” Stults said.

    Napa Valley Vintners invited Vision 2050 to its recent meeting on potential Indian casinos in the valley. Both groups would likely oppose this type of development.

    County Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said Vision 2050 has his attention.

    It appears to him various neighborhood organizations attending county meetings found they had similar issues. They seem to have come together organically, he said.

    Wagenknecht expects Vision 2050 will be taking part in the county’s upcoming Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee effort to look at county growth policies.

    “It will be good to have them be part of APAC,” he said.

    After only a few weeks of existence, Vision 2050 seems to have found a niche and role.

    “We’re going to be the watchdog and say, ‘Is this a proper application? Is it being scrutinized like it should be?’ ” Beharry said.

Sierra Club on APAC

Nancy Tamarisk - Mar 16, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

March 16, 2015

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.

Thank you for your consideration.

Nancy Tamarisk
Napa Sierra Club.

A shared backyard

Patricia Damery - Mar 16, 2015   Share

Many of us are reluctant to be characterized as NIMBYs when we object to projects in our "backyards" such as event center wineries or vineyard incursions into our hillsides and watersheds. Such a designation often implies a narcissism.

The American Dictionary defines NIMBY (Not-In-My-Back-Yard) as "a person who objects to the siting of something perceived as unpleasant or potentially dangerous in their own neighborhood, such as a landfill or hazardous waste facility, especially while raising no such objections to similar developments elsewhere." Many definitions include that this objection is to a project that is also for the common good.

We protect what we love. Many of us, and maybe most, love this valley we call home. A project next door that we perceive as harmful in some way to us or to our environment sparks this love. Often our individual situations reflect much larger issues in our county, in our country and in our world. It wakens us to the way things may be out of balance, and in the case of land use issues in our valley, to the ignorance that would further degrade our hillsides and watersheds, our air and community fabric, whether that ignorance be our own or of those ambitions that seek profit, regardless of impact.

These projects often pushed by developers and financial interests can rarely be called "in service of the common good."

Thank goodness for NIMBYs! But our love of homeland and our life here — our sense of place — must extend to a larger vision of where we are going. Vision 2050 is a growing movement in Napa County in which a dozen-plus local citizen groups are gathering out of love of this land and our lives here. We are in serious need of changes in our policies around the environment and water, climate action, and economic pressures that have defined our commerce without substantive regard of those who implement it: our farm and hospitality workers.

This is a movement that needs all of us -- residents, growers, wineries, laborers and local governing officials -- to join in truly acting for the common good.

Napa Valley Register version: Let's hear it for the NIMBY's

Mar 10th 2015 BOS-PC statement: George Caloyannidis

George Caloyannidis - Mar 13, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

Comment to the Napa County Supervisor Hearing on Policy March 10, 2015

Honorable Supervisors:
Not that long ago, as recently perhaps as 20 years ago, the Napa Valley had a healthy infrastructure and a high quality of life.

The county and the cities balance their budgets each year, but as evidenced by their never ending need for revenue and the declining condition of the infrastructure and level of services, the fiscal model by which they address growth is heading in the wrong direction.

While we know what each tourist spends, we do not know what each tourist actually costs, and simple logic tells us that the current long-term equation is negative. It is imperative that we resolve this question because it lies at the heart of any future planning policy.

The overall underlying deficit has reached a point where, with the exception of the very few who are reaping the profits, people are not happy. We are in urgent need of employing fundamentally different models in assessing the comprehensive costs and effects of growth and assign an equitable responsibility for their recovery.

Here are some numbers which we cannot be proud of:

* According to the 2013 California Community Economic Development, 27% of Napa County residents live below the Self Sufficiency Standard (SSS) of $ 27,841 for a single person as do 43% of families with children.

According to the California Employment Development Division:

* The Manufacturing/Winery sector is our largest employer. Its median wages are around $ 35,000 per year, barely above the SSS for a single person but not enough to support a second person (SSS - 39,242). The bad news is that it is expected to grow by 10% over the next 5 years.

* The Accommodation/Food Service sector has the worst median wage record of around $ 22,000 per year - only 56% of the SSS for a single person. Worse yet, this is an even faster growing sector.
While the County has no jurisdiction for the associated development in the cities, it is the County which enables that growth by increasing winery related tourism.

* Other major sectors of our economy, such as Retail, Waste Management and Administrative Support, pay median wages of around $ 27,000 per year, only 70% of the SSS for a single person.

On the other hand, we do not have any data on the income distribution of the Napa valley economy and its trajectory over time; something which needs to be done. In a model of growth from which business owners and developers profit, it would be grossly inequitable to distribute the cost of growth - both in monetary as well is in quality of life terms - on to the general public, including the 27% and 43%, all the way to teachers, police and fire fighters.

We have reached an unsustainable point in our economy which is based on taxpayer support to supplement the shortfall in SSS with various programs for 27,000 employees. Even the cost of affordable housing, which will never be built to a level high enough to make a difference in commuting, is being charged at highly discounted in-lieu fees and therefore relies on tax-payer subsidies.

Because of the low wage environment and the lack of well paying jobs:

* A full 1/4 of jobs in the county are imported and 16% are exported. This means that 32,000 workers commute twice a day outside the county clogging Hwy 29 and the Silverado Trail, degrading everyone's quality of life.

Even worse, the projections are downright frightening:

If current policies continue, the low paying job sector will increase by 10% over the next 5 years and by 45% over the next 15 years. This is a path to a disastrous decline in the quality of life at every level and for every Napa county resident.

According to 2012 Napa Valley Register statistics, hotel rooms in the Napa Valley grew from 3,693 in 2002 to 5,232 in 2012, a 42% increase with 2,000 more in pending applications. These would add some 4,000 of the lowest paying jobs.

The combined cost of the increasingly intense use of the infrastructure and resources is astronomical. According to credible studies, this leads to an ever widening - not a narrowing - gap between revenues from fees, sales taxes, property taxes, TOT and actual costs.

Local governments are caught in a downward spiral having no choice but to grasp at any short-term revenue of the "Deficit Growth Model". As a result, we are piling the enormous and increasingly out of reach costs of growth on to the general public while the profits go to a handful of financial entities. This is not only a fiscally unsustainable model, it is also an unethical one.

Solutions will require workshops of the most diverse and brightest people in the county. The prospect of continuing current policies without systemic changes is frightening.

BY: George Caloyannidis, PhD
Professor Emeritus School of Architecture, University of Southern California
Calistoga, CA 94515

Napa's data-based death spiral

George Caloyannidis - Mar 7, 2015   View on SCR  |    Share

There are some 80,000 jobs in Napa County, which has a population of 140,000. More than half of these jobs serving 3,000,000 visitors are in the low-paying wine/ tourism/retail and waste management sectors.

According to the California Center for Community Economic Development, 27 percent of the county’s population is currently living below the Self Sufficiency Standard. As a result, 25 percent of all low- paying jobs depend on importing workers and 16 percent of our local workforce leaves the county because of our well-paying job deficit. That, in turn, means that 32,000 workers clog highway 29 and the Silverado Trail twice a day commuting from and to other counties.

To make matters worse, the low-paying sector is the fastest growing in the county — 10 percent over the next five years—with overall commuter traffic projected to grow by 9,100, a whopping 45 percent by 2030, according to projections compiled from the U.S. Census, the California Employment Development Division and the Association of Bay Area Governments’ 2013 Projections if current patterns do not change. One would cringe looking at 2050 if we fail to make fundamental adjustments.

Any logical set of solutions in addition to effective public transit is limited to putting the brakes on the accommodation of low-paying jobs at wineries, events and resorts, promoting the creation of high-paying ones and prioritizing the actual building of work-force housing. Napa county has one of the lowest home affordability indexes in the nation at 21 percent, equal to San Francisco’s but given the paltry in-lieu fees charged to developers, land scarcity and the not-in-my-backyard attitude of the general public, it is certain that enough work-force housing to make any appreciable difference on traffic will never be built.

County Supervisors and mayors cringe at the prospect of limiting winery and resort development or putting the brakes on weddings and events at wineries. We need the tax revenue, they will say, or our infrastructure will crumble, essential services will diminish. The problem with this model is that it leads to a downward fiscal spiral.

How is it that our entire nation has reached the point where its roads, bridges, all distribution systems; its entire infrastructure is crumbling requiring staggering amounts of money we don’t have? The urgent need to keep up with the most rudimentary patchwork repairs has led governments at every level to be beholden to any revenue regardless of its consequences.

Multiple studies by Oregon-based consultants Fodor & Associates analyzed the long-term cost of urban growth and compared it with the off-site impact fees municipalities typically charge developers. They found that such fees focus on individual impacts but neglect to account for the mushrooming cumulative ones. While a left-turn lane may be sufficient to mitigate a single development’s impact, the addition of three or four down the line may require miles of road re-surfacing due to increased use, additional lanes, larger schools, fire stations, planning departments, sewer plants, more police, etc. The general public is left holding the bag or suffers from diminished services while the developers reap the profits. This is the fiscal—even ethical—legacy embodied in our current fiscal model, resulting in such public cost-shifting instruments as our recent Measure T or the California Water Bonds — with similar ones sure to follow — because we have surpassed the tipping point of deficit growth.

Fodor’s impact fee analyses for Oregon — California’s fee structure is similar — showed that each additional home in Eugene in 1998 burdened the tax payers with $27,587 in uncollected costs, and that each residential unit in Oregon destination resorts left taxpayers with a deficit of $22,374. The projected extra cost of all proposed Oregon resorts in 2009 was estimated at $747 million. These numbers do not account for the harder-to-monetize deteriorating quality of the environment or that of Oregonians’ lives.

There are approximately 2,000 new homes (including 260 taxpayer- subsidized affordable ones) and 1,400 hotel rooms (creating 2,794 more low-paying commuter jobs) planned in the county. Each one of these projects comes with huge profits for the very few while shifting multi-million dollar costs, hard-to-imagine congestion, water shortages and more no-burn days on to the general public.

Not unexpectedly, Fodor’s methodology has been attacked by special interests. But as the current state of the nationwide infrastructure attests, no competing study has proved that growth has a net positive longterm fiscal effect in our communities. Any growth at this point in history requires a meticulously researched balancing act.

Napa County and its cities are caught in a self-defeating downward spiral in following current growth models favoring the proliferation of low-paying jobs in the wine and hospitality industries. When one considers all factors and asks oneself whether the quality of life in the Napa Valley is better now than it was 15 years ago—the ultimate test of successful governing — if the unlikely answer is “yes”, wait 15 years down the road when “no” will become irreversibly clear to all.

The road ahead involves difficult and courageous decisions — even deeply ethical ones — but in employing new models, the future is not entirely without solutions. Anyone want to be a Supervisor?

Statistical citations for the article
Napa Valley Register version: Anyone want to be a Supervisor?

2nd Grand Coalition (Vision 2050) meeting Feb 24th

Daniel Mufson - Feb 17, 2015   Share

The Grand Coalition --> Vision 2050

Next Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015 Meeting @1:00PM
The Horseman’s Clubhouse, 1200 Foster Road (map)
(Directions: Off 29 @ Imola, go west to end of road, turn left (south), 1/3 of a mile on left is the Horseman’s)


1. Coalition Goals and Objectives
2. Preparation for March 10 Meeting

The coalition Steering Committee, with members from all around the county, has met weekly since the Marriott meeting and has discussed how we can affect positive changes in our home. The mission statement and name reflect our desire to bring about responsible planning.

Our Mission is to: Advocate for Responsible Planning to Insure Sustainability of the Finite Resources of Napa County.

On March 10 the Supervisors will hold a meeting with the Planning Commission to discuss the future of Napa. The official agenda has not yet been issued. However, the agenda per Morrison will be:

1. A broad view of past trends and future projections regarding demographics, housing, economics, and the wine industry.

2. A summary of the NCTPA travel study (the first time it has been presented to the Board of Supervisors). The full study is here (via the St. Helena Window). Just the conclusions are here

3. A presentation on tourism data. You can bone up on this study and this study done in 2012

There will be time for public comment. We are also looking to set up a place to submit comments electronically after the March 10 meeting, so that the conversation can continue.

Since we met last there have been many more development projects thrown into the hopper. It’s been taking so much energy to study them and respond while all the time wondering why so many variances are always granted. Don’t they ever say no? (One Supervisor did proudly tell me that indeed they rejected a project several years ago)

We want a seat at the planning table—as citizens we own the table don’t we? Unfortunately no one from the county staff has approached us to ask our opinions, as they have from the industry, so we need to speak up. We need to meet and plan how we want to respond to issues of growth: At this coalition meeting we will designate response teams to prepare our public comments on these topics:

· CAP (GHG); Oak Woodlands; community rights
· Commons; It’s our table
· Compliance/Enforcement
· Cumulative Analysis
· CQEA (Variances)
· General Plan (Watershed/Ag; Hillside Development)
· Public Costs of new (tourism) development
· Water (WAA)
· Watersheds
· WDO Ordinance

Our Marriott meeting was quite exciting. This one will be more so. Please invite a friend to come with you. Feel free to call or write with your comments.

Grand Coalition and Farm Bureau

Mike Hackett - Feb 6, 2015   Share

Good afternoon everyone,

As the Chairman of Save Rural Angwin, and a participant and advocate of the Grand Coalition, I met today with Cio Perez, Committee Chair regarding Land Use Issues of the Napa Farm Bureau, who is filling the large void created with the passing of Volker Eisele. Volker was on the SRA Steering Committee and held all the power positions at the Farm Bureau over the years. SRA has been supported, in every way, by the Farm Bureau, and this important connection must be maintained.

Along with the Vintners, the Grape Growers, Land Trust, Sierra Club, etc. the Farm Bureau is a voice of reason and restraint, and a powerful and influential group. Much like the Grand Coalition, they are defining their next step in regards to the same issues we are tackling in Angwin, Yountville, Dry Creek Road, Soda Canyon Road, Walts Ranch and Calistoga, etc. etc. These issues of inappropriate watershed destruction and winery expansions that border on entertainment centers are central to their concerns much the same as the Coalition's.

Cio has, and continues to lead through example. His passion for maintaining the watershed in Napa County is unsurpassed. Cio and I agreed that without the watershed, there will be no wine industry. And for that reason alone, we must all get on board the train that will establish new visions for what is appropriate and what is not. Protecting watershed is in NO WAY in opposition to farms, ag land protection or vineyards or open space. They are, in fact critically aligned.

Just like the Grand Coalition, the Farm Bureau needs some time to define their strategies and to examine all the facts. I believe we will soon see the day when the Grand Coalition will be in step with the Farm Bureau's position. In my opinion, they will be our staunchest ally. And we need to give them time to tackle these issues and offer their recommendations.

I urge each contributor of the Grand Coalition to establish a visit with Cio. He is open to opinions, both dark and light, and having the support of the F.B. as we roll out our own mission and strategies, is an imperative we cannot overlook.

Thank you all.

Mike Hackett
Chair of Save Rural Angwin


Allen Spence adds:

It seems that we are totally supportive of wineries and vineyard but opposed to over developing both Winery Entertainment Centers and Water consuming Vineyards when we are blind to the critical tipping point of too much.

A Grand (and verbose) Coalition Recap

Bill Hocker - Jan 23, 2015   Share

I also attended the initial Grand Coalition meeting. I agree with Sandy Ericson that given all of the energy surrounding these developments over the last year such a meeting would be inevitable. Yet even the inevitable needs a bit of help sometimes, and thanks are due to the efforts of Dan Mufson of the Watersheds Alliance of Atlas Peak for organizing it.

Those in attendance came together because a wide variety of projects had ended up being proposed in their backyards: resort developments in Calistoga, housing developments in Angwin, rural tourism wineries near Yountville and on Mt. Veeder, Dry Creek and Soda Canyon Roads, urban wineries in St. Helena, vineyard conversions on Atlas Peak, quarry expansion in Coombsville. The issues for each sometimes overlapped, sometimes not: traffic, tourism impacts, water depletion, watershed deforestation, viewshed destruction. Much of the meeting was spent just acquainting one another with our individual interests and strategies to date. Our hopes for this coalition were also expressed; some saw it as an extension of the individual battle they were waging, and were ready to name it and to discuss the strategies to get the message out, assuming a common purpose identical to their own. Others were more appropriately circumspect, seeing this as only an introduction to a potential coalition. The process was a bit like blind men feeling an elephant. It was understandable that no statement of purpose (or name or bumper sticker) came out of the meeting. It was too big to take in even in three hours.

At some point in the meeting it seemed as if some center of gravity had shifted in the direction of watershed preservation. In PC and BOS meetings the Atlas Peak contingent has been quite ferocious in its opposition to deforestation and water depletion and the Mt. Veeder, Calistoga, Angwin, Coomsville and Dry Creek groups all see deforestation as one of their main concerns. Watershed preservation has also been led by Chris Malan, a lion of activism over the last two decades. Wilderness preservation also fits in with a longstanding tradition of community activism, and the Sierra Club, the logical umbrella group for wilderness prootection, was also in attendance. But, it is an important issue that has only tangential importance to those confronting the impacts of the tourism onslaught into the county and of the many development impacts that people are already experiencing all over the valley.

A series of words had been written on sheets of paper on the wall as potential talking points. I listed some of them above: traffic, tourism, etc... The elephant in the room was the one word not written (perhaps because it was too obvious), the one word that brought everyone to this room: development.

Ginny Simms gave a keynote of sorts at the beginning which, IMHO, should be the building block of the purpose here. It was summarized below as promote slow, smart, sustainable growth. She has fought the encroachment of urban growth into the rural county for decades both inside the system and out (her interview on the JLDagfund site begins on page 214 here). Her current organization, Get a Grip on Growth, manages to summarize in its name her decades of battle. Her efforts and that of the other preservationists have given us a rural environment that all think is worth fighting for now, 45 years on.

But (here comes the pie-in-the-sky) we now need to do more, because despite the groundbreaking legislative battles that have been won to control growth, the war is still being lost, the outward signs of which have brought the participants to this room. Simply slowing growth means that the agriculture and the rural life that are treasured may disappear more slowly, one stop light, one parking space, one acre of vineyard or forest at a time, but they will still disappear. The purpose now should be to find the will and the means to stop growth, reverse it if possible, and to allow a stable agricultural economy to survive in an ever urbanizing world. It is perhaps a goal as unthinkable as the ag preserve was in 1966, but Napa, given the value of its agricultural crop, may be one of the few places where that goal is possible.

Were I to devise a mission statement for this group (easy since I don't have to bear the burden of consensus - or plausibility) it would be:
    dedicated to the furthering and protection of an agricultural, rural, small-town economy and way of life for the entire Napa County in the midst an urbanized world.

Grand Coalition Update

Daniel Mufson - Jan 23, 2015   Share

Thank you all for participating in our Grand Coalition meeting on Tuesday. It was a remarkable and a most pleasant sight to have so many concerned citizens from all over convene to discuss common concerns about over development. I have reviewed my scribbled notes and the those scribed by Jim Wilson and extracted the following points:
    -Promote slow, smart, sustainable growth
    -Long term sustainability of natural resources, of land use
    -BOS are powerful; only 3 can change things
    -Don’t get rolled over; use methods to make them hear us
    -Find our commonality
    -Stand up for quality of life; Ag is not the best and highest use of all land
    -Seek a moratorium
    -Encourage compliance with existing regulations
    -Move from swatting flies to regulation changes e.g. CAP
    -Be a coalition, share resources, coordinate responses
    -Law, jobs, money [define the battle, strategy, weapons]
    -Wine industry is not our enemy
    -Get a seat at the table

With 50 attendees it was difficult to get to the point of specific organizational plans. We agreed that a steering committee should be formed to continue the dialog. Therefore, I have invited leaders of the key groups present to meet as a steering committee to flesh out how we might work together.

The Grand Coalition initial meeting

Bill Hocker - Jan 21, 2015   Share

Sandy Ericson of the St Helena Window attended and has given a description of the meeting in an email which I take the liberty of copying here (since I can't figure out how to link to the email directly):
    It had to happen. Yesterday at the Marriott Hotel in Napa, 50 leaders of neighborhood (some un-named) and district organizations came together. The goals were to organize and pool their energy, resources and plain ol' clout in the on-going struggle for citizens' interests to be represented as winery expansion reaches saturation. The meeting was historic and will result in more highly skilled opposition to proposed plans, not to mention major changes in the County's political climate. Some of the players: Get a Grip on Growth, Save Yountville Hill, Mt. Veeder Stewardship Council, St. Helena citizens, Calistoga citizens, Defenders of the East Napa Watersheds, Save Rural Angwin, Living Rivers Council, Protect Rural Napa, Sierra Club.

    The mood was balanced but serious and the room was highly aware of the need to move decisively and soon. Budget season is upon us, there are 40+ pending applications, the drought is on-going, Direct To Consumer is turning wineries into Disney sets and daily life is gridlock. Nonetheless, over and over, people came back to the greatest threat, the loss of trees, wildlife and natural resources that once gone will never return as we face a rising climate heat.

    It is critical now that there be a moratorium on applications and a County-wide summit meeting of all interests to establish a new philosophy/policy/plan for our collective future. Meeting room combat over every application without a breather or a new approach is a waste of time and resources -- just the costs of EIR's and attorneys alone will be exorbitant. To begin the thinking, here's a short one-page place to start. It is about fundamental ethics.

    The issue is also about business. The thinking of many in the wine industry goes like this: Too many wineries mean too much demand for NV grapes, which will mean either more vineyards in the hills (with little water) or demand from wineries to drop the 75% NV grapes rule. Then what?

Sandy has an encyclopedic knowledge of the issues we face and her emails are always an informative (and often entertaining) read. Please sign up for her email list here.

Meeting of the Grand Coalition to Save the Napa Valley

Daniel Mufson - Jan 19, 2015   Share

Meeting of the Grand Coalition to Save the Napa Valley
Tuesday, January 20 at 1 PM Napa Marriott 3425 Solano Avenue

    Community activism has been largely responsible for the increased scrutiny of the cumulative impacts that current development practices are having and going to have on the county. It is up to all of the community groups that have just been born, or operated in isolation for many years to join together to represent the one constituency that has consistently been left out of previous planning decisions - the residents.
    - Bill Hocker Jan 8 2015

We have all been mobilized to fight some outrageous project at our doorstep. In many cases we’ve met one another and shared thoughts on how to cope with the onslaught. We all agree we need to take action to find a way of changing some of the rules so that we are not forever consigned to fighting neighborhood fires. The purpose of this meeting is to begin that action.
Please come prepared to briefly introduce your group-but more importantly to describe what course of action you foresee to get a grip on this growth mania fueled by those who would destroy the wonderment of Napa County. The Supervisors will hold a meeting with the Planning Commission on March 10 and so we need to have our thoughts and plan of action in place by then. Making a list is the easy part. We will need experts to help us prioritize the plan and to be wise in how we approach the effort. A note from Geoff gives you an idea of the complexities, “Many in our camp are reticent to reopen WDO for fear of losing even more ground to the hospitality industry, that’s why many are talking about increasing parcel size, implementing Climate Action Plan and redesignating AG/Watershed zoning instead of going back into WDO, basically building the protections around it.”
To stimulate your thinking, here’s a list of issues that have suggested:

    • How do we get a moratorium on winery and vineyard conversions until a cumulative analysis can be performed?
    • Ag/Watershed/Open Space: how do we make watersheds more important as the best use of hillside land over ag?
    • WDO changes
    • Climate Action Plan, originally presented in 2010, needs to be adopted by
    • How do we establish a Mandatory Oak Woodlands Management Plan?
    • Compliance with existing regs (if 40% of self-questioned wineries are out
    of compliance with their permits what does that portend for all of the wineries?)

Save the Date: We have made arrangements for the documentary: “Russian River: All Rivers” to be shown at the Cameo Theater on March 5 at 5:45. The producers will be in attendance. This will be a good opportunity for us to get out the “votes” for watershed conservation.
Gravestones of Trees: Deforestation in Angwin
This haunting photo by Duane Cronk shows 13’ high piles of downed and chipped trees to make way for a vineyard!
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