“Plan Bay Area 2050” Will Make Housing Demands
on Napa County. Our board member Eve Kahn has taken a closer look at this issue and asks, “What about the water?”

By Eve Kahn
NV2050 Board Member, Napa County LAFCO Alternate Commissioner

Growth has long been an issue in Napa County, where voter-approved laws protect rural agricultural land that is the backbone of wine country.

Voter-controlled Rural Urban Limits (RULs) define, and sometimes constrain, appropriate sites to house our local workforce. These boundaries direct new growth within an existing urban footprint, rather than allowing for further sprawl, while simultaneously preserving invaluable open spaces.

You may think that the County and Cities have total control of our future. In reality, regional organizations create long-range strategic plans that focus on the interrelated elements of housing, the economy, transportation, and environment.

As the smallest of the nine Bay Area counties, Napa benefits from the shared plans and funds available – for example: our highway improvements rely upon bridge tolls around the region. The regional organizations also expect that we plan for our “fair share” of housing.

Plan Bay Area 2050 predicts the Bay Area that had 2.6 million households on 2015 will grow to 4 million by 2050. Napa County is to see the smallest amount of growth out of the nine counties, going from 50,000 households to 56,000. That would be about 6,000 more households for Napa County over 35 years. Santa Clara County, in contrast, is predicted to add 453,000 households.

6000 households may seem like a small amount relative to the other Bay Area Counties but we are ‘forced’ to plan for this growth despite water constraints. Plan Bay Area seems to be mute on this issue. The type of home growth is also expected to differ. Plan Bay Area predicts 96% of new housing units in Santa Clara County by 2050 will be multi-family, compared to 35% in Napa County, where new single-family homes will still dominate.

Many housing advocates are beginning to question the proliferation of single-family homes in Napa County. Why not sprinkle in a few duplex or triplex units while planning a new subdivision? Corner lots offer unique possibilities. We should encourage flexible zoning that would support single family and multi-family residential options within all new developments.

In addition, the draft plan sees the Bay Area adding 20 square miles of urban land. Napa County would see the smallest amount of open space paved over, at less than a mile.

How does Plan Bay Area define “open space?” And where would the open space be located? Are the Horsemen’s and Ghisletta parcels at the South end of Foster Road and Skyline Park included in the one square mile referenced above? Or does Plan Bay Area expect housing development in isolated communities near Circle Oaks and Lake Berryessa?

Plan Bay Area emphasizes partnership and collaboration. Regional leadership lays the groundwork for local cities to use in their General Plan and Housing Elements.

Other than “sea rise”, the word WATER is nowhere to be found in Plan Bay Area’s vision! Is it reasonable to plan for 6000 additional housing units when we barely can support our existing population in frequent drought years and frequent fire storms?

Napa County should be focused on solving our long-term water situation BEFORE planning for new housing. Can we continue to grow our hospitality and winery industries or our housing developments without a water budget?