Thursday, March 26, 2009

Supv. Wagenknecht : "Essence and Napa County"

“Essence” and Napa County, Valley, Cities, and Communities

Some Background to Simulate“Brainstorming” Thought if Supv. Wagenknecht is Able to Hold Hotel Summit

Draft (under construction) By John Olney - March 26, 2009

The needs and wants of the county’s southern most city of American Canyon are somewhat similar to those of its closest neighbors of Vallejo and Napa but differ hugely from those of the other cities of the county - Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga - and the Community of Angwin.

The Southern Napa Communities

County VS City
We often witness the County officials facing off with the officials of American Canyon and Napa over commercial lodging and residential housing development within the airport area and other light industrial and agricultural lands in the southern Napa County area. And, we witness the same between the cities of Napa and American Canyon.

City VS City
Both cities seek new office and lodging facilities and some have opened in both cities with more to come on-line in the near future. However, Napa already suffers from an abundance of office/retail space vacancies while American Canyon suffers a very high residential housing foreclosure rate. AMCAN also suffers from massive commute time traffic delays and as one of the primary corridors (others are Hwy 12/121 - going west - and Jamison Canyon - going east) for north/south traffic in/out of the county thus backing up traffic north of the Southern Crossing .

Within the City of Napa
An often perceived perspective, at least on the part of this observer, is the "protectionist” attitude, and indeed persuasive powers of the Downtown Merchantsto ensure that business developed for/around the central core of Napa. This wasparticularly obvious when the Napa Valley Wine Train sought its permits to locate its central start/stop train load/unload site along the small triangle of land through which their track ran in front of the Marriot lodge near the intersection of Redwood Road and the Hwy 29 frontage road of Solano.

They saw the condition of the “scenic view” while transiting from the 8th Street depot through the light industrial blocks then the rundown neighborhoods before crossing Hwy 29 and the land patch in front of the Marriot. The DTMA wanted the train to start/stop at the former location of the PG&E on McKinstry Street where the train currently begins its wine train excursions up valley because they thought it would deliver them much downtown business. I have seen no studies that support such thinking. See comments attached about business and city

Within the City of American Canyon (John Naab to define)

Meanwhile, the northern communities have their own issues:

Yountvillewrestles with questions about how to pack in another restaurant or apartment building into its limited borders. And believe it or not, businesses located north of about the site of “The French Laundry” do not fair as well as those to the south. I have not yet figured out why this happens.

St. Helena argues against expanding a supermarket which supplies food products to its residents and how to route in and around the town roads and pack in tourists to the cadre of wineries surrounding the city. Indeed a few years back they even fought the opening of an ice crème shop in the downtown area because it was believed it would attract too many tourist. Meanwhile, they have not stopped new/expanded wineries from their area, which definitely attract tourist traffic. Only recently have the residents and town officials started thinking that just maybe the “Wine Train” is not the most awful demon they have hated for so many years.

Angwin arguments focus on whether or not meat eating owners/workers associated to vineyards and wineries can co-exist in a community of prohibitionists and vgetarians.

Calistogaj ust sleepily waits for tourists to find and enjoy its healing waters while rarely complaining about anything that happens down valley. They would be happy if the Wine Train came to their town.

All of the above entities struggle to determine whether they are a tourist center or a local community and what controls are needed to slow growth or preserve “their way of life.”

While the north county develops more and more vineyards and wineries, they will not allow new or expanded roads to handle increased traffic or build lodging facilities for transient visitors or “affordable” housing for employees needed to plow the fields, pick the grapes and prune the vines, produce and serve the wine or mow the lawns of and clean the mansions.

Consequently, the south county is regulated to allowing the office buildings to contain the supporting infrastructure of warehousing product, financing, insuring and generally supplying the administrative needs of the wine production industry. It also recognizes the economic viability of housing the visitors as transient guests spending much money on the amenities of typical travel vacations/overnight visits to Wine Country.

Within this above simplified background summary, the people, and their governmental representatives, struggle with the definition of their “Essence.” They are wondering what the common thread is that they can count on to draw up a plan on where to allow newcomer and employee housing, visitor lodging, wineries and their tasting rooms, retail shops, restaurants, recreational facilities and all the other requirements and desires of a community.

So, how does one search down the “Essence “ of Napa County, Valley and its cities and Communities?

1st - We must be careful not to confuse the “Essence “ of the county with what attracts/tourism to the area which is overwhelming dominated by the word, “Wine,” with all it’s associated glitter, charm and enviable “style of life.”

True, our beautiful surroundings and relatively quiet, laid back living, of being located off the beaten tracks (Hwy 80, and Hwy 101), thus somewhat isolated existence from a fast paced whirl of traffic hustling to and from big cities and bedroom communities, does make others envious and desiring to capture a bit of it even it is for only a day or magnificent weekend.

Although “…hundreds of thousands of people each year…” come into the county -- as reported by NVR writer Jillian Jones in a recent article about future lodging development -- they are nevertheless, by a vast majority, only daytime visitors, and thus the “local communities” they do not make. They, nor their sought after wine, are therefore not what constitutes the essence of the county and its micro elements. Rather, they are simply the economic resource upon which the micro elements of the community ultimately feed.

2nd - So, we know that the micro communities view tourism as a necessary evil, however they endure the industry because of the chase after their dollar; also known as Napa’s economic savior.

In the micro view the tourist is blamed for changing “our style of life,” or put another way, “shoving the past - the old way - aside.” Yet, I defy those who decry the existence of tourism to show all of us how the tourist changed any of the following:

1. The traffic pattern, by “cruising” on the local’s residential street where the kid’s still play hide-n-seek, baseball, football, etc., while parents sit on porches or front yards and lawn chairs deciding the fate of the world while the BBQ is smoking away.

Or, are out there during the early morning and evening commuter traffic time keeping us from accessing the roads to and from work from our homes. Most wineries don’t open for retail business until about 10 am which is well after the morning commute rush. Most winery patrons are back at lodging facilities or have left town in the opposite flow of our locals commuting from work back to their homes in Napa County in the late afternoon.

2. The type of food product available at the neighborhood market or the supermarket chains.

3. The membership composition of the local boy/girls clubs, social/fraternal organizations, chambers of commerce, churches, and other community serving organizations.

4. Cause our local parks to be so full that citizens of each of our communities can no longer use the facilities for which they are paying to exist.

5. Crowd our schools with children possessing strange thoughts and life style experiences that could influence our local kids and entice them to forsake their parents and friends.

6. Come to protest along the sides of our local streets and highways against Ag Preservation and land trust set-asides.

7. Fill our Board of Supervisor and City Council meeting rooms to sway the vote of the elected officials over the inputs of the locals. No, indeed, it is the Developer - whether homes, winery, office, retail store, etc. - with local against local, sending out the flyers, making the telephone call soliciting support, etc. for whatever the interest is of the special group./developer.

3rd - I believe that one can actually find the essence of each of the cities of AMCAN, Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, Calistoga and the community of Angwin if one is looking at only the inherent elements within each of respective community on a separate entity level.

But, it is when attempting to identify a common thread that can run through the economic, social and governmental future of the widely different micro elements of the county to define a clear picture and definition of “its essence“ (the county, the valley, and the cities) that one runs into a wall.

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