This is an archived version of the Napavision 2050 website prior to Sept, 2017.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.

November Focus: Is this Ag?

November 21, 2016

From "A wine tasting feast (Courtesy Signorello Estate)"

"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."

Three Projects Which Could Profoundly Change Your Life in Napa County

Patricia Damery, Editor
Napa County Board of Supervisors will shortly consider modifications to county codes to expand the definition of Agriculture and allowable uses on Ag lands. Realtor Eve Kahn describes some of these consequences and what they could mean to you.

Tuesday, November 22, will be the second of three hearings (the third being December 6) before the Board of Supervisors for the Walt Ranch Project. Jim Wilson tells you why this 500 acre project is devasting to our environment, to the water supply for the City of Napa, the Circle Oaks Community, and for our climate.

Kathy Felch reports on court action filed this week against Syar Industries, Inc., for violation of Proposition 65, failure to notifiy citizens of harmful emissions. Napa Vision 2050 has joined the Stop Syar Expansion Committee in this action.

Please join us in writing letters, making public comment, and taking to the streets to make sure that Big Money doesn't make Big Decisions in Our Napa County. Return Napa County to its citizens.

Why You Should Care About Modifications in the Definition of Agriculture

Eve Kahn, Chair of Get a Grip on Growth, local realtor, and Napa Vision 2050 Director
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 Pedrosa
Mark Luce
Brad Wagenknecht
Keith Caldwell

Don't Let the Halls Decide Your Future in Napa County!

Jim Wilson, Organizer and Napa Vision 2050 Director

Photo credit:J.L. Sousa

We are citizens fighting back against clearcutting developers.  We are not anti-wine.  We like wine— many of us are in the wine and vineyard business. But the problem we face is an old one:  newcomers arrive and start by clearing their forests, which profoundly affects us all. Although the Hall's have just modified their application for Walt Ranch to cut half the trees they originally planned, they still intend to cut 14,281 trees, the equivalent of cutting 62% of the trees lining the streets of Napa.

Wine should be free of forest destruction.  Our county leadership has a quirky moral perspective on it. Government offers up the forested hillsides ringing the valley to developers whose goal is not farming grapes but a thinly veiled plan to make money on real estate.  It is well-established science that for clean, abundant water in reservoirs, a healthy catchment area must be maintained by protecting  ancient natural land cover.  The City of Napa and Circle Oaks Community, the contingent rural water district to Walt Ranch, are strongly opposed to the project because it threatens their water security. 

Cutting forests is inconsistent with what is needed by the climate, which is in full-scale meltdown. According to the World Meteorological Organization, 2016 appears to be the hottest year on record, topping only last year, 2015.  There are a lot of good people who don't understand the urgency of this. This includes our elected officials.  Tearing out and burning ancient oaks contributes to global warming and will further threaten our children’s future. 

WALT Ranch, which lies at the heart of Napa County, is an area of amazing biological diversity.  Rather than invest in preserving it for many healthy tomorrows, WALT Ranch has applied to become a hotspot of deforestation.  Will personal gain be permitted to trump the needs of the citizens of the City of Napa, of Circle Oaks Community, and of a healthy commons? 

We, the people who live here, ask our elected and appointed officials to act on behalf of us and of the common good. The Halls have called us the "homegrown political complications”. We— the homegrown political complications, better known as the citizens of Napa County— won't take their amputation of the heart of the watershed lying down.  We want to our children and grandchildren to inherit a world where deforesters and real estate speculators don't get their way. 

Syar Twice Challenged in Court

Kathy Felch, Stop Syar Expansion Steering Committee

In the Board of Supervisors Chambers immediately after the July 11 approval of the Syar EIR and 35 year permit. Left to right: Jim SYAR, his wife Susan Syar, Supervisor Keith Caldwell (seated) in whose district the Syar Napa quarry lies, John Perry, Syar Vice President and principal in Yolando Engineering, and Chair of the Board of Supervisors Alfredo Pedroza, recipient of SYAR campaign contributions prior to voting on project approval.

Syar Industries, Inc., a privately-owned corporation, operates a strip mine and asphalt manufacturing complex at the very mouth of the Napa Valley. Most tourists to the Napa Valley motor by the mine’s entrance on the Napa Vallejo Highway whiffing asphalt and inhaling lungs-full of toxic chemicals and dust. Not so lucky are the staff, students, patients and users of Skyline Wilderness Park, Napa Valley College, Napa State Hospital, school children, toddlers and nearby neighborhood residents. They breathe Syar’s pollution every day. Government agencies charged with protecting the collective health, safety and welfare of the surrounding community facilitate Syar’s pollution by granting long-lived permits with loose sometimes meaningless conditions that historically have gone unenforced altogether.

On October 18, 2016, Napa County Supervisors gave Syar another 35 year permit to continue operation so close to our settled population and expand even closer. The County-approved EIR remarkably found that the almost 500 acre strip mine and asphalt/recycled asphalt manufacturing operation has a “less than significant” effect on our environment. These findings, of course, defy reality.

Napa Vision 2050 joined the all-volunteer Stop Syar Expansion citizens’ group and two of its members in a lawsuit filed on November 8, 2016, for violation of Proposition 65 by Syar Industries by failing to warn about excess exposure to its diesel particulate matter pollution (10 times that allowed by law), and for an injunction to stop the spread of dust and toxins from the Syar operation to neighboring properties. Here is a link to Proposition 65/nuisance and trespass lawsuit. In a separate but related lawsuit filed November 17, 2016, Stop Syar Expansion challenges the County’s approval of the Syar EIR. Here is the link to the EIR lawsuit.

Stay tuned. In the next edition: how Syar challenges Napa citizens’ rights to get relief from the courts.

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