As we come to the end of 2022, we look back at our successes as well as our disappointments. What becomes increasingly clear each year is how closely connected protecting our democracy is to land use policy and guarding the needs of the whole community. When citizens stay on board, things change. Justice happens.
1. Mountain Peak Winery. On November 8, 2022, for the first time that we know of, the Board of Supervisors voted to revoke a winery permit – Mountain Peak. This would not have occurred had not a group of citizens continued to appeal and sue the County for a flawed decision to permit such a large event center near the end of a substandard dead-end road. Our Relentless and Fearless Greenie Award goes to the folks who formed Protect Rural Napa. And around this issue, the The Slippery Slope Meanie Award goes to those county officials who will “mitigate” anything, including a substandard road where a fire truck cannot pass an exiting vehicle.
2. Walt Ranch was the bad news and the good news. Yes, 14,000 trees are slated to be slain by the owners, Craig and Kathryn Hall, self-proclaimed environmentalists, to make way for 35 vineyard estates, but had citizens not stayed on board, this could well have been 28,000 trees. Thank you to Walt Ranch Protesters who spent time and money trying to protect the pristine Milliken watershed. The Tree Hero Greenie Award goes to Sue Wagner and Friends. The Meanie award? It’s a tie between the Halls and the Supervisor, who may profit from the project he shepherded through the County.
3. The Defeat of Measure J is a big win for American Canyon. The parcel in question, zoned Ag Watershed and Open Space, cannot be annexed and used for industrial use. Big money was behind the measure, which was based on misinformation. A Keeping it Wet and Wild Greenie Award goes to Yvonne Baginsky, Eve Kahn, and Gary Margadant, who spent hours attending City Council meetings and working to inform the citizens of American Canyon about the threat to their beautiful wetlands, and to the smart voters of American Canyon who saw the truth. The Meanie Award: To those who thought they could get away with misleading the public to risk the integrity of the American Canyon wetlands and the Napa County Ag Watershed and Open Space zoning to make a mint on industrial development.
4. A Winning Combination Greenie Award goes to citizens of Districts 1 and 3 who elected two new supervisors, Joelle Gallagher and Anne Cottrell. Both supervisors are more promising in being in touch with the needs of residents in our county. We are hopeful that the rapacious reach of the wine industry will never swallow them whole.
5. Upvalley Wisdom Greenie Awards: We celebrate the election of Paul Dohring, Mayor of St. Helena, and Don Williams, Mayor of Calistoga. Both bring a culture of service, kindness, and intelligence to the leadership of their cities. We have great expectations for their thoughtful guidance and direction.
6. The Gettin’ It Cleaned Up Greenie Awards goes to Geoff Ellsworth and Anne Wheaten for their continued advocacy for a safe refuse site in St. Helena. In December 2022, the California State Waterboard offered a settlement to “Clover Flat Land Fill Inc. (Discharger), to pay liability of $619,400 for alleged violations of the General Permit for Storm Water Discharges associated with Industrial Activities. The violations include discharges of 40,000 gallons of leachate-laden stormwater as well as acidic stormwater to waters of the State and United States and failure to implement minimum best management practices, including slope stabilization and outdoor equipment spill and leak observation and response procedures.” Without their continued efforts, this may never have happened.
7. To our own Beth Nelsen, a Super Hero Greenie award for her bravery and careful research into Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza’s involvement with land and financial dealings for which he may profit and which may be a conflict of interest in his role as a Napa County supervisor.
8. A Smart Greenie Award to Supervisor Belia Ramos, who has shown us her bright intelligence and articulate voice as a supervisor. She has bravely spoken truth to power, and we look forward to more years of her leadership, especially now with two new supervisors on board. A team of great women is in our future, and look out – things could get a whole lot better for the people who live here and the environment we treasure.
9. The Historian Greenie Award to Bill Hocker, the relentless librarian and documenter of what goes on here. His archives (sodacanyonroad.org) are a wonder to behold and a lifesaver when tracking the history of issues.
10. A Making Us All Safer Greenie Award to SAFFR (State Alliance for Firesafe Road Regulations) The impact of this fierce, smart group of women, Marylee Guinon, Judith Olney, and Deborah Eppstein, received the Environmentalists Award of the Year 2022 from Sonoma County Conservation Council for their work in protecting the Board of Forestry Fire Safe Regulations for all new development within California. The pro-development forces (including our Napa County) lobbied heavily with the state to eviscerate these 31-year-old regulations, allowing development in fire-prone areas on long, narrow, and dead-end roads. SAFFR finally convinced the state Board of Forestry and Natural Resources Agency (and Newsom) not to gut these regulations. We appreciate their ongoing work to ensure the counties now follow these regulations.