“I wanted to write a story about a couple wanting to buy some property for their dream of a retirement home in the Napa Valley, but that dream has become a nightmare for us.”
Those are the words of Ana Vigil Footman after she appeared before the Napa County Board of Supervisors at a public hearing to address the deforestation of Napa County Oak woodlands and watershed for the conversion to hillside vineyards on January 29, 2019.
Of the more than 60 speakers at that public hearing, Ana’s heartfelt story about her new neighbor’s conversion of a forested hillside parcel into a vineyard and future estate home had the audience and the board listening with attention. The essence of her plight was that a new neighbor, an extremely wealthy doctor from Florida working with a local vineyard management company, had cleared the adjacent forest, hauled in dirt to create a small hill for a picturesque vineyard, and in the process created an inundation of water runoff onto her property. She also reported that workers don white protective suits, gloves, and respirators, work with tractors and apply unknown pesticides and herbicides within 50 feet of her home. “They never told us what they are spraying or when. What is so secret?,” she said.
Ana’s iPad is loaded with photos she has taken over the past four years of this project that has upended her life and the life of her husband she cares for who has Alzheimer’s disease, and has had several strokes.
Before the water issue began to flood her property and garage, she noticed her fruit trees started dying. She had asked a man from the vineyard management company what they were using for fumigation, and he replied “We know what we are doing”, but refused to look her in the face, or answer her questions. Ana says, “They tell you one thing and then turn around and do something different.”
Ana’s property line with this neighboring parcel had a small ditch to channel the normal runoff, but with the new raised vineyard on this parcel Ana had to gather rocks to elevate the side of the ditch on her side to handle the large volume of water. As an older person she realized that she could not handle this herself any longer, and has had to hire men at her own expense to help her. Even this was not enough, as the excessive flow of water breached her higher ditch, flooded her patio and garage, and now requires sandbags to help hold back the newly created run-off.
This same garden patio area had been a site of rest and tranquility for Ana’s family and friends, but is no longer since the patio sits within 50 feet of the new vineyard where tractors incessantly create noise, and send out dust that also carries pesticides, herbicides and sulfur. As Ana explains, “This is really happening. It is not my imagination. What does it mean that employees are in white suits, gloves and respirators? They don’t want their employees to be poisoned, but it is OK for us?”
Ana explains that her granddaughter and great grandson are living with them. “I don’t want them to be poisoned from what is being put on the soil and in the air. What do they expect will happen to us? It doesn’t matter to them what happens to all of the old people on Linda Falls Terrace.”
Following Ana’s heartfelt three-minute speech (which can be seen here, at 2:16:19 – and we encourage readers to listen to her testimony) to the Supervisors, and at the close of comments, Planning Director, David Morrison (3:35:39), says that he was unaware of her situation, and has asked code enforcement to look into the situation. As of this writing, no one has contacted Ana.