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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.

August Focus: Citizens' Voices

August 15th, 2016

From Our President

Dan Mufson, President, Napa Vision 2050

She'll be 37 in 2050: Are we acting ethically on her behalf?

The North Bay Business Journal held its annual Impact Napa conference on August 5. Warren Winiarski of the 1976 Paris Tasting fame was interviewed by Richard Mendelson. When asked about what characteristics make for “beautiful wine”, as Winiarski calls them, he responded, “ Richness, Ripeness and Restraint. Restraint so as not to loose the sense of place, the soul [by being overwhelmed by the alcohol levels].”

Restraint is what Napa Vision 2050 has been advocating also so as not to lose sense of this place, the soul!

I participated in a panel discussion entitled “Coping with Napa’s Success and the Way Forward” along with David Graves (Saintsbury) and Alfredo Pedroza (Chair, Board of Supervisors). I took the approach that we truly needed to consider how our collective actions today will influence our children’s and grandchildren’s futures in the year 2050. My youngest granddaughter will then be 37 while I’ll be 109!!

Regarding coping with success, I asked, Who is benefiting? Who is coping, and who is not coping?

Certainly the wine and tourism businesses seem to be thriving with ever increasing revenues while 43% of families with children live below the threshold for self-sufficiency.

And while the unemployment rate is low, many of the jobs are low wages with taxpayers making up the difference by providing necessary social services and benefits to the low wage earners: the low-wage business model has essentially turned public aid into a form of corporate welfare.

Only when “the economic and social costs of using up our shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations... can those actions be considered ethical."
   - from Pope Francis' Encyclical

A tale of two (cities): We discussed poverty on the one-hand and the purchase of “vanity” wineries and second homes on the other; of Napa-Chic (what tourists are led to believe we wear) vs. Napa-Real (what we really wear to Trader Joes); of how Napa is #1 in cancer rates in the state while the use of herbicides goes up, pollutants such as mercury are found in Lake Berryessa, and heavy metals are in the wastewater in Calistoga.

We recounted some of the highlights of the Forum on Tourism Napa Vision 2050 sponsored in April. In that forum Professor Mendlinger (Boston University) had said that tourism accelerates the polarization between the population and the very wealthy, and that polarization begins when businesses cater to tourists and the affluent locals at the expense of townsfolk. We were reminded of what Hal Rothman wrote about tourism in the 1990s, “The embrace of tourism triggers an all-encompassing contest for the soul of a place.” That is where we are at today in our Napa Valley--the push for ever-increasing tourism.

We’re seeing a diversion of interests in the valley. Once upon a time the community responded en mass to the harvest. Schools closed to allow children to bring in the stone-fruit crops. While we cannot turn back to the 50s, we local citizens are being left aside as the wine and tourism industry, under the helpful eye of the government, moves to ramp up visitors. And we are left to voice concerns about the health of our Napa and Sierra watersheds, the real impact of the loss of the Sierra snow pack on our state water supply, the increasing traffic and loss of the sense of community.

I closed my presentation with a quote from Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter, “On Care for Our Common Home”. “ Only when “the economic and social costs of using up our shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations... can those actions be considered ethical.”

You are now reading the fifth issue of Eyes on Napa. If you think we’re on the right track and you would like to help in some way, we invite you to contact us and join a team researching life here.

We would also ask that you consider making a contribution to help us in this work. Bernie Sanders said his average contribution was $27. Can you send us $27 once or monthly? It will really help, as just a few of us have been paying for legal research, attorney’s fees, copying, and consultants. We don’t mind the hours we put in but could use some additional moral and financial support. It’s easy. Please donate on line at

"The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. —WINSTON CHURCHILL"

When Governments Fail the Common Good

Editorial Board
"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories. "
   - Thomas Jefferson

Whom is our local government representing? Our elected and appointed county officials seem to be effectively bought by special interest groups. Planning Commissioners say they lack direction from the Board of Supervisors on limiting development in our Ag Watersheds. The Board of Supervisors claim the Commissioners are not using their authority to regulate.

Time after time we citizens witness projects approved because the projects meet the standards— of course, after mitigation by granted variances and road exceptions. Too often blatant code violation histories are overlooked. Projects have become so expensive to permit and build that only those individuals and corporations wealthy enough to purchase Napa land and endure the expense of the process are able to prevail. It appears that if you have enough money, you can do anything. A quote from a local land-use attorney: If you have 100 million dollars, you think you can do anything.

But what is the impact of this process on the citizens of Napa County and on the Commons? What about our roads and air quality? Our watersheds and water supply? Why would the County approve a project such as the Walt Ranch project that potentially downgrades the water quality and supply for the City of Napa and the Circle Oaks community, despite objections from City officials?

Residents' concerns are too often dismissed as those of NIMBY's, and even by Alfredo Pedrosa, Chair of the Board of Supervisors, in a recent panel discussion at the annual North Bay Business Journal conference.

In a recent Napa Register article, Pedrosa stated that he's confident the county and the wine and farming sectors will have whatever discussions need to be had on watershed issues.

Why doesn’t he include the 6300 citizens who felt the need for the initiative precisely because the county and the wine sectors did not hold these discussions?

    Napa County has tried to manage its resources and the challenges posed by its success, doing such things forming the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee and addressing groundwater issues, Pedroza said. It has shown a commitment to the community that it does the right thing, he said.
Napa Valley Register, August 12, 2016

It did form the APAC, but it has not followed up on its recommendations. The county has studied groundwater in the AP. The initiative deals with watershed health in the AWOS.

    The wine industry has done such things as help form the Napa Green environmental certification program for land and wineries. Multi-generational farmers are thinking about the next generation, Pedroza said.
Napa Valley Register, August 12, 2016

The Napa Green program is good but it is voluntary.

    “We don’t need an initiative hanging over our heads,” Pedroza said. “We have people who want to make sure the future of our community isn’t worse, it’s better.”
Napa Valley Register, August 12, 2016

Who is this “we” he refers to? We have we the people who feel that our government is not listening to us. Almost 6300 people signed the petition to get the Initiative on the ballot. Not one of the supervisorial candidates, including Pedroza, Luce, Gregory and Ramos, received as many votes as initiative signers.

Do citizens matter?

We are confronting a moral issue. The question is not Can it be done, but Should it? Climate change and shrinking available land for vineyards are forcing this question. Do we leave it to those who have the money to finesse almost any project regardless of the cumulative impact on our environment and the community, now and into the future?

“Why do we choose to do so little about this problem, when we know so much about it and when so much is at stake? Why do we resist the facts about this issue? ”

   - Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future, Jeffrey T. Kiehl, Senior Scientist, The National Center for Atmospheric Research

What is frighteningly missing from almost all conversations is the specter of climate change, which we are already experiencing. None of these plans take into account the importance of the remaining forests and oak woodlands on our hillsides to watershed health, on future projections of temperature rise and the impact of this rise on the wine industry, of the diminishing quality of life for local citizens. Napa County has the highest rate of childhood cancer in the state, but this concern was too dismissed in a recent comment by the Chair of the Board of Supervisors.

When the economics of the wealthy few is the meristem of decision making by county and city officials and planners, when the glitz of wealth blinds even those elected and appointed to act on the behalf of all citizens, what is our recourse?

In times like these, it appears that we must take to the streets, the courts, and the voting booth. There is so much at stake and so little time left to act. As senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Jeffrey Kiehl states, “Why do we choose to do so little about this problem, when we know so much about it and when so much is at stake? Why do we resist the facts about this issue? ”

This issue updates the progress of various projects that we citizens of Napa Valley are working to have voice in. Please join us.

What the Halls Say Versus the Facts

Richard Cannon, Circle Oaks Resident

Protest at Hall's Winery on July 31, 2016

“How much is enough?” This is the question raised, and as yet unanswered, by the Walt Ranch project.

Most people in Napa County are aware of the Walt Ranch project because of the negative reactions that have been the subject of so many newspaper articles, letters to the editor and unprecedented County hearings.

These reactions bring to mind a dictum heard by some of us as school children : “One is never completely useless: one can always serve as a bad example!”

The Walt Ranch project is increasingly understood to be such: a bad example of land use in our Ag Watersheds.

But as such, the project is also serving as a catalyst to unite various small groups in Napa County questioning the wisdom of the pattern of development exhibited by the local wine industry. The Walt Ranch project may ultimately become reality at some level, but it will do so only after a protracted legal battle that may well shape the future of the wine industry in the Valley.

In a recent mailer sent to a sympathetic few, The Halls appealed for support. Here is the other side of some their statements:

What the Halls, and the Walt Mailer says regarding Water

“A groundwater analysis conducted by Richard C. Slade (2013) (states)….irrigation demands would not be expected to result in substantial lowering of groundwater levels in offsite wells or decreased availability of groundwater resources.”


The conclusions of the groundwater study (and state here what they are) conducted by Slade & Associates are questioned in an analysis of the study conducted by Matt Hagemann and commissioned by Circle Oaks County Water District, Circle Oaks Homes Association & the Napa Sierra Club. Addendum: Slade and Associates is the same firm that conducted the groundwater availability analysis for the Carneros Lodge project. As we know, that analysis was flawed, resulting in the need for Carneros Inn and area residents to truck in water purchased from the City of Napa.

What the Walt Mailer says regarding Tree Preservation:

“more than 212,800 trees will be preserved on the Walt Ranch vineyard property….”


Yes, and the current plan will remove 24,000 + trees. It is odd logic to count trees that will not be removed as “preserved”, particularly since there is no commitment to create a conservation easement. Absent a conservation easement, the remaining “preserved” trees are in danger when these 35 parcels are sold individually and developed by new owners.

What the Walt Mailer Says Regarding Erosion:

“….the project would not have an incremental increase on the sediment loading to the Napa River or Sacramento River.”


Disturbing over 500 acres of fragile watershed in the eastern hills, in some places to a depth of 6 feet, in order to plant vineyards, build roads and construct ponds, will have an effect. The City of Napa’s water department is concerned increased sediment will force the installation of new filtration equipment costing several millions of dollars, the cost borne by the citizens of the City of Napa.

What the Walt Mailer says regarding Traffic:

“Operation of the Proposed Project would not result in cumulative impacts to transportation and circulation in the area.”


Circle Oaks residents express a great deal concern about increased traffic in their residential neighborhood. And transportation circulation is not the only traffic concern to consider. Heavy construction vehicles on residential streets are also a concern. Circle Oaks Drive already exhibits problems similar to those found on Highway 121, which recently failed. As we know, slides have closed Highway 121 three times in the past 10 years.

Update: Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative

Jim Wilson and Mike Hacket, Organizers
The Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2016 would have established water quality buffer zones along streams and wetlands in the Agricultural Watershed zoning district.  It would also have required a permit for clearing large numbers of oaks from oak woodlands on parcels 5 acres or larger.  Unfortunately, the County's residents will not have an opportunity to vote on the matter in November's election.  

Local citizens teamed up in March to qualify the initiative, and gathered 6,300 signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.  3,800 valid signatures were needed.  On June 6, the Napa County Registrar of Voters certified the initiative but then, three days later, the measure stalled based on County Counsel's finding of an alleged procedural error related to the manner in which the initiative petition was written.  The Registrar of Voters rescinded his certification and refused to place the measure on the ballot.  

Proponents challenged the decision in Napa Superior Court, yet the challenge was denied.  Next, while it is rare that appeals courts will grant relief in the emergency context, an Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandate was filed with the First District Court of Appeals.  The petition was summarily denied.  An emergency petition was subsequently filed at the California Supreme Court.  A decision was a needed by August 10 in order for the Napa County Board of Supervisors to act to place the measure on the November ballot.  Unfortunately the Supreme Court denied the petition.  Amicus letters were filed with the appeals courts on behalf of California Wildlife Foundation/California Oaks Coalition, Forests Forever, Forest Unlimited, Corporate Ethics International, and California Native Plant Society.  

Our legal team is weighing all options for next steps to bring our initiative to the ballot.  Those options include a normal appeal of the trial court's decision, another signature gathering effort, or both.  We know that the voters remain as concerned as ever about their water. 6,300 have asked to have a voice in the matter.  They have the right.  

Coincidentally, our educational film has been completed.  It's a wonderful testimony to whom we are as community and the threat we face.  We'll have a you-tube version soon.  We were honored to be asked to premier it during the Sierra Club's community meeting earlier this week.  A special thank you goes to Marie Marx Strohm of Hummingbird Productions for her amazing work!  Thanks too, to the passionate human beings who offered to go before her camera to profess their love and concern for our endangered watersheds.  These are our friends and neighbors coming to grips with difficult realizations. 

Some highlights from film:

Paul Hughes, Director, Forests Forever:  When you take a natural oak woodland, and remove that oak forest from the scene, the impact to the watershed is that removing shade and canopy, dewatering the landscape, can cause additional erosion problems so that now sediment can wash down the stream as well as nutrients.  All have a free glide path into the reservoir.  The process is checked when there are forests there. 

Randy Dunn, Winemaker and Grower:  There are obviously hillside regulations but they're really not very strict.  They're not strict enough.  They're not enforced very well.  

Joyce Black Sears, Winemaker and Grower:  We have a well that's 900 feet.  The previous one was 700 feet.  We know very well that our water is disappearing.  

Tim Mulligan, Biology Professor, Napa Valley College:  The refill capacity of the mountains around Napa is sadly to the point where nature can't refill it.  I don't see how this valley can keep up with quality of water, and quantity of water, if we keep allowing so many forests to be torn down.  My hope for this initiative is that it will wake people up.  There's a lot of good people who don't realize that we've lost an awful lot of our Napa Valley.  And maybe this initiative will be the thing that gets people going, that gets people maybe even a little mad.  That say we've had enough.  

Kelli Anderson, Save Rural Angwin: What we're confronted with here is this concentration on global wealth, the global dream to grow a 99 point cabernet, and the forest is merely a hindrance that needs to be removed in order to get down to business. We're faced with people who have never met a resource limitation, who think it's reasonable to cut down every tree. How do we affect change so that these forests are protected from those who don't understand them?

Alan Galbraith, Mayor of St. Helena:  Riparian buffer zones are a standard way for protecting feeder streams.. Feeder streams are hugely important in terms of gathering of water that is clean, gathering of water that is of reasonable supply.  This is a modest initiative that is worthy of support from the voters of Napa County.

Julia Winiarski, Napa Resident:  We have an opportunity to do something, to protect our water, forests, and oak woodlands for the future.  And I hope that Napa County makes the decision for the long term benefit for our community as a whole, our county as a whole, and ultimately for the world.  

Michael Marx, Executive Director of Ethics International:  Abundant, clean, fresh water depends on forested hillsides, stream buffers, and sustainable use of our water.  We're dealing with the harsh realities of a mega-drought and record-breaking temperatures.  This is the challenge facing all of us in Napa County.  Threats to the quality and quantity of our diminishing water supply loom large due to a greedy segment of the 1%ers, and a lack of rock solid, fully enforced protection of fresh water for today, and long into our future.  

Disappearing Oak Savanna, Anthem Winery

Climate Action Protection and Walt Ranch Vineyard Conversion Project

Sue Wagner, Resident Circle Oaks and member of Defenders of the East Napa Watersheds

Enduring the Heat! Halt Walt Demonstration at Hall Winery, July 31, 2016

Destruction of thousands of oak and other indigenous trees for vineyard conversion projects has created a collision course with the environment, steadily reducing the ability of our earth to naturally offset green house gas (GHG) emissions.

In 2006, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) was passed requiring a sharp reduction in GHG emissions in California. It mandates all counties develop a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to help mitigate risks associated with climate change.

Each county is required to establish baseline GHG levels and then demonstrate that it has reduced its GHG levels by at least 15% to reach 1990 levels by 2020.

According to the 2012 draft of Napa County’s CAP, Napa County’s baseline was established in 2005 as 443,670 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). In order to meet the mandates of AB32, Napa County must reduce its carbon footprint by 139,550 metric tons of CO2 by 2020.

Following extensive efforts by the Planning Commission and input from other concerned environmental groups and residents to develop a Napa County Climate Action Plan (CAP), a final draft was recommended for adoption in early 2012. However, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) fell short of taking decisive action, sending the document back for further review. It is only now resurfacing for further reconsideration.

On June 30, 2016, the Napa County Department of Planning, Building, and Environmental Services (PBES) hosted a meeting for the purpose of revisiting and updating its approach to GHG in Napa County. Although Napa County’s 2008 General Plan has committed to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels, less than 4 years remain to meet this commitment.

On August 1, 2016 Napa County approved the Walt Ranch Vineyard Conversion Project which, according to the approved FEIR, is slated to destroy 24,000 + trees. Director Donald Morrison has stated that there are more than 900 acres of vineyard conversion projects pending approval.

One mature oak can remove nearly 500 pounds of atmospheric carbon per year. While a leaf of grapevine and a leaf of an oak have similar photosynthetic rates per unit area (or similar rates of removal of CO2 from the air per unit of surface area), a tree has far more surface areas and layers of foliage, making it much more effective in sequestering carbon.

This is not a time to lose trees!

Napa County policy makers need to recognize the cumulative effects of their actions. Continually approving new vineyard projects that encroach into the Napa Valley hillsides and watersheds will ultimately result in a very high cost.

Interview: Ginny Simms, County Supervisor 1972-1977

Eve Kahn, Chair of Get a Grip on Growth, local realtor, and V2050 director

Ginny Simms and Eve Kahn at Mike Thompson's Pasta Feed

Ginny Simms, the first woman elected to the Napa County Board of Supervisors, has long been an advocate for slow growth. She has been described as “one of those 'visionaries' that politicians and pundits clamor for when they can't come up with their own vision”. In this interview, Eve Kahn asks for her visions on the current challenges Napa County is facing.

What would you do if you were a Supervisor now?

The Board of Supervisors (BOS) needs to articulate to staff the rules for new wineries. The staff is drifting and needs clear direction. It is very dangerous to negotiate with lawbreakers. [Ginny’s comments here refer to the Halls who left a trail of problems with their investments in Texas]. When there is a (known) history with owner/developer, County should require protections, enforcements, penalties, etc that send clear message that we won’t tolerate having County/taxpayers accountable for cleanup, damages…

The BOS should re-look at the Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO) and the unintended consequences (and evolution) of wine and food pairing. Changes to the General Plan (GP) in 2008 included marketing as part of the definition of agriculture. Changes to the WDO in 2010 added wine and food pairings. The combination of these two has significantly altered the activities in the Ag Preserve, impacting the cities as well.

The Board’s attempt at ‘saving’ the wine industry during the down economic cycle has been exploited by many older and new wineries. [Eve: Some of us on APAC and Farm Bureau supported returning the GP definition to its original and core essence but was rejected by BOS.] The WDO never envisioned the number of visitors nor the impact that would have on roadways, rural neighborhoods, loss of ag land, and water.

We also need to find a faster way to gain common ground/understanding on existing permits and clearer direction for new wineries. The process underway is at least a 2-year effort just to get the permits understood and agreed upon before requiring wineries to report annually. [Eve: I have raised the issue of marketing event compliance to BOS without success. 10 wineries are permitted for over ½ the 27,000 total marketing events. Start with these and better understand what is permitted vs what is actually happening. This will send a message that county is serious in their goals]

Are the residents benefiting from our tourist based economy?

The enormous expansion in events at wineries plus food and food service is not what people bargained for when the AG preserve was established.

The wineries are the reason visitors come - not because there are more hotel rooms. The vintners don't want controls on wineries, only controls on hotels. Visit Napa Valley says they do not try to draw visitors here on weekends as there’s already enough outreach. All you have to do is look in the Sunday Chronicle (possibly Marin, East or South Bay papers too) and you will see numerous ads from wineries. The Wine industry is not owning up to their part in drawing tourists here!

The wine industry is not taking responsibility for the effects they create - they blame the tourists or they blame the local workers without the recognition that they are the true source of the low paying jobs.

Will the residents be holding the bag, and paying the bill for repairs to our roadways?

Too many wineries on narrow/steep hillside roads push the burden on the community for their impacts.

We must realize that entertainment, food, parties, and even tastings are all commercial activities [versus the unintended consequences of the WDO's inclusion of these activities as "accessory uses of agriculture"]. What are the external costs? And who pays them?

What will Napa look like in 2050?

Right now there are competing visions. Wine industry’s vision is an ever increasing number of wineries, wine production, and events that allow them to sell wine direct to consumer (at higher profit as well). Vision 2050 and other citizens (individual or groups) are trying to protect our natural resources, agricultural lands from being paved over, and balanced perspective.

Those new to the valley or just younger residents don’t really understand or appreciate the purpose of the RULs (rural urban limit lines on the cities) nor the ag protections established over the past decades. And this needs to be changed, otherwise we might be destroyed by our success.

I don't feel that Napa will be recognizable. Climate change can have a severe impact on our wine industry - and if we lose it, what will remain? Will the industry stay in Napa and overturn the 75% rule so that they can import more wine from other areas of the state? We are creating an environment where the grapes command a premium price - not the land itself.

Millennials drink more beer. Will their tastes shift to wine? Are they more interested in entertainment than wine?

Traffic & housing problems are not unique to Napa.

The challenge in the restaurant industry is that the profits are in alcohol, not food. Locals are more focused on value for $$. Locals already feel that development is focused more on tourism than the residents. Most retail and restaurants cannot survive only on weekend sales. Just look at the recent closing of restaurants in downtown Napa to see the trend. Locals strongly support restaurants like Norman Rose or Grace’s Table but higher end places like Atlas Social and Ninebark could not survive.

What is your hope for 2050, your own Vision?

At a high level, my hope is that our success doesn’t destroy the fabric of our communities nor the beauty that locals and visitors enjoy. Opportunities for more than just wine tourism is underway. The Vine Trail, rural recreation at Lake Berryessa, expanded Park & Open Space funding are signs that the scenic beauty of this valley will survive.

Calendar (Full calendar here)

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