Napa Vision 2050 (NV): Why are you running and what sets you apart from the other candidates in your district?

David Graves (DG) What sets me apart—extensive experience in different sectors important to Napa County. A desire to serve as a full-time supervisor:

Napa County Planning Commissioner; also served as the Planning Commission’s representative on the Housing Element Update Task Force
The Carneros representative on the Groundwater Resources Advisory Committee Member of the Watershed Information and Conservation Council
Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee, once again representing Carneros
Board member and board chair of the Land Trust of Napa County for a total of almost twenty years.
A board member of Friends of the Napa River.
Public member, Napa Sanitation Board of Directors
Representative of the Napa Sanitation District to the GSPAC, and chair
Co-founder (1981) and Managing member of Saintsbury Winery, a pioneering Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producer in the Carneros district, now retired.

NV: What areas need improvement for the BOS? What are your solutions/suggestions?

DG:The business of government cannot be an insiders’ game. The people of Napa County deserve to be better informed and therefore better understand what the County government does and what its responsibilities are—funding public safety (e.g. rural firefighting, law enforcement, corrections, district attorney and public defender) social services (e.g.public health, First 5, elder support) and its planning and permitting responsibilities.

There is a prevailing belief that “the fix is in” that needs to be addressed by more transparency about the financial interests of the BoS, and more prominence for campaign disclosures.

I will report monthly on contacts with any applicant on any pending matter, not just when and if the matter comes before the Board, and any discussions of a general nature with all stakeholders is the people’s business.

I will narrow reporting in my own Form 700; currently, the reporting range for assets owned is for example “$100,000 to $1,000,000”. I will report in $100,000 increments— so, in this example I will report $100,00-$200,000, $200,000-$300,000, etc.

NV: What are your personal actions and involvements in advocacy for our social inequities? (such as housing, food insecurity, language access, LGBTQ+, racism, etc.)

DG: Pretty much every day of my working life in the wine industry, I worked alongside Latinx men and women, and over the years we have been blessed with a very diverse set of interns. My first mentor in a wine cellar was Primo Uribe, native of Mixtlan, Jalisco. He generously took me under his wing and laughed off my many mistakes and outright blunders. In helping run a small business for 40 years, it was our responsibility as employers to compensate all our employees fairly, provide them with benefits like health insurance and retirement savings, and to make sure that we provided a safe workplace where they could thrive. One of the most memorable things I was able to do was be a reading mentor to pupils in Napa elementary schools, first at Los Carneros school and then at Shearer school near where we live. Shearer, for example, has a student body where 91% receive free or reduced-price lunches, and 92% are Latinx. This experience gave me a sense of the challenges that Latinx working-class families face in our prosperous Napa Valley.

NV: Talk a little about your personal journey to understanding climate change. If you ever had a call to action, what was it?

DG:In my sixth-grade class (four years after the publication of Silent Spring) we could choose a topic for a presentation in a speech class. I chose what was then called “conservation” as mine, and spoke about the need for “conservation”. I remember being bowled over by the response from my classmates—they were galvanized and we ended up turning over a week of class time to the topic. (Thank you, Miss Costello!)

As a biology major at UC Santa Cruz, we studied past climate change as a driver of evolution and current climate as an important determinant of vegetation patterns, for example. And once I entered the wine business, climate of course is central factor in grape growing. For Pinot Noir producers, it was especially important for us to try to “decode” what climatic factors drove grape quality.

It was only a short step from trying to understand coastal fog patterns to a realization that anthropogenic climate change would have not only a game-changing impact on wine but had become a threat to our biosphere and human welfare. So, by the late 1980’s I had come to understand the problem, though not yet its severity. (I remember in particular a scientific paper from this period that resonated: Andrew Bakun, Global Climate Change and Intensification of Coastal Ocean Upwelling, Science, v. 247, 1990.) I am a 2017 graduate of the Al Gore Climate reality Project, and a member of the Bay Area Chapter.

NV: Climate change is not coming – it is already here. Napa County has yet to pass a Climate Action Plan. What are your goals and recommendations for Napa County?

DG: The County began drafting its Climate Action Plan on its own; the County is now working together with the cities is a better path forward. My recommendations are straightforward: 1) finish the GHG inventory 2) identify a policy to make a meaningful reduction for each of the top three sources of emissions 3) implement that policy.

What the GHG inventory report will reveal is no mystery—the biggest sources of emissions are transportation and buildings. The policy steps I will take are: require that developers electrify all future buildings and retrofit existing buildings, build out the EV charging network, make our County and its cities more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, and put PV arrays on new and existing buildings with storage.

The prospect of doing our part to avert disruptive climate change is why Saintsbury purchased and installed an 85kW PV array in 2007. Just produced our 2,000,000th kilowatt-hour.

NV: What is your understanding of California’s water resources? How do you intend to use your knowledge to inform and lead on Napa county’s water issues? What responsibility does the BOS have in establishing water security for Napa County residents, both rural and within city limits?

DG: I first learned about the Hetch Hetchy controversy when I wrote a report in 6th grade on John Muir. Soon thereafter my Boy Scout troop visited the Delta Pumping plant of the Central Valley Project. That same year my family stopped at Shasta Dam while on a family vacation. The Grand Canyon hydroelectric dam controversy heated up two years later—and a little known fact is that David Brower advocated for coal-fired power plants as an alternative to the “cash-register” dams that BuRec proposed. My point is that my interest in water in the West goes back a long way.
My complete answer to the question would require an accompanying syllabus because of the vastness of the topic. The short answer is that in our climate (and with climate
change making this more true each year), California’s water supply will never meet the demand for it as that demand is currently structured. We have developed engineering “solutions” that do not answer what are really economic, social and ultimately ethical questions. Statewide, lack of reliable supply must rein in use by agriculture; acreage will shrink and over-planting of water-demanding perennial crops will become a thing of the past.

Locally, the choices we face are to use less, and to invest in local supplies by stormwater capture, and more and better recycling. We can shift the timing of when we pump groundwater to reduce impacts on streams. Implementation of the recently- adopted Napa Sub-basin GSP will provide additional safeguards for local streams and groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Use of aquifers to store water in wet periods to tide us over droughts is the most promising strategy to address more volatile precipitation. (Investment in surface reservoirs like the Sites project is not a solution.) With the creation of the state-mandated DWSTF, the County has more responsibility for water security for individual well owners. The Supervisors have broad reach in the water sector, and of course have a seat at the Flood Control District, our local SWP contractor.

NV: What is your understanding of current land use issues in regards to deforestation?

NV: What are your concerns regarding the watersheds, water usage, and biodiversity within high fire-prone areas. How would these impact your decision on upcoming applications?

NV: One of the latest policy controversies was the Walt Ranch decision. Could you please share your understanding of the different sides of this issue as well as how you would have voted if you were on the Board?

DG: 7), 8), and 9) are to me all of a piece. The 2009 General Plan calls for many laudable goals for land use policy, some of which are notable for still requiring action. The County’s land-use policies going forward should be thought of throughout the lens of landscape-scale planning. The County needs to have a plan that looks at each tributary for its resources and its vulnerabilities. By resources here I mean not only resources like arable soils and water for irrigation that can be economically valuable, but irreplaceable biological resources like habitat for species of concern (eg steelhead over-summering habitat), habitat connectivity, and avoiding consequences like excess erosion that impact stream health. And of course, many vegetation types will face challenges in a hotter climate with more water stress, and not just from fire. (For example, see the work of UC Berkeley’s David Ackerly et al. in Climate Change Impacts on California Vegetation: Physiology, Life History and Ecosystem Change, a white paper written for the California Energy Commission in 2021.) The goal of 30 x 30 should be embraced—a minimum of 30% of our watershed area permanently protected by 2030.

The Walt Ranch deliberations should have given more weight to all of these considerations—biological resources, connectivity, the certainty of climate change, and how much vineyard development in the vicinity has already fragmented habitat. Emissions in the County from transportation and buildings (from the Ascent Environmental analysis in 2014) totaled approximately 274,000 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalents versus 27,528 Mte emitted from the Walt Ranch project over its lifetime. The mitigation measures are not strong enough to keep the emissions at this level, so the project should shrink or the mitigation measures should be strengthened.

My belief is that new hillside vineyard development should be scrutinized more closely and that existing hillside vineyards with Erosion Control Plans should be required to rectify their erosion control practices every five years. I believe that the Howell Mountain area has been the site of so many projects in the last 20 years that it merits a special look at how much has already occurred and how much capacity there is for any more vineyard projects. Foss Valley may also merit more scrutiny.

As for fire policy, I am a strong supporter of the contemplated county-wide quarter-cent sales tax for investment in fire protection and fuel management. As fuel management measures are undertaken, such projects should very much take into account the presence of species of special concern. On many sites inappropriate fire frequency (too much suppression, followed by frequent re-occurrence) will need to be corrected.

NV: Have any current or future land use applicants, to your knowledge, reached out to you to donate money or goods to your campaign?

DG:Some contributors have use permits for their businesses from the County. None that I know of have active applications in process at the County.

NV: What suggestions do you have to increase involvement and public participation for residents throughout the valley and especially those who are Spanish-speaking?

DG: More outreach to high schools will help all young people understand that they have a stake in how the Supervisors govern. All written material prepared for the business of the County should have at least a summary in Spanish. As a start, an English-Spanish translation of the video feed should be available when the meetings are posted on the County website at a minimum, perhaps like an SAP channel. Eventually, I think a simultaneous translation would be appropriate. And all the county departments should institute a summer intern program for qualified college students to help with their development and to provide a conduit to their community of family and friends of what the County does and why it matters.