Another day, another code enforcement crackdown on a winery, this time with Castello di Amorosa in Napa County’s crosshairs.
In a citation issued Feb. 20, county Planning, Building and Environmental Services called out the Calistoga winery, whose architecture evokes a 13th-century Tuscan castle, on three code violations.
Chief among the violations is the hosting of tastings in areas originally approved for storage that lack the necessary exit signs and emergency lighting. The use of storage spaces for tastings and hospitality also runs up against the winery’s use permit, according to the citation.
To continue hosting tastings in these areas, the winery will need an updated use permit allowing the changes. The citations also note the doors throughout the building does not have the required “panic hardware” and some of the exit passageways fail to meet a minimum width of 36 inches.
Winery owner Dario Sattui offered a statement Wednesday: “We anticipate quickly resolving the issues we were cited for. We work closely with the County and look forward to continuing our collaborative relationship.”
An inspection last year by the county Fire Marshal brought the issues to the attention of Planning, Building and Environmental Services officials, who visited and cited the winery in February. The citation gives the winery the opportunity to make fixes and bring their hospitality scheme into compliance without penalty before a deadline of March 29.
The citation is one of the latest compliance clampdowns on a winery this year.
In January, the county issued drinks giant Constellation Brands a notice of apparent code violations at its recently opened visitor center for The Prisoner Wine Company in St. Helena. The county issued a similar notice to B Cellars in Oakville not long after.
Both notices called on the wineries to curb their food service, which the county said was more than incidental to the wine tastings offered at each.
The Board of Supervisors voted in December to adopt a new code compliance resolution to bring wineries in line with county rules and their use permits. The resolution came in the wake of criticism that prior rules and enforcement for years made it easier for wineries to flout their use permits and simply ask the county for forgiveness, rather than permission.
Violations can range from a winery making more wine than its use permit allows or hosting more visitors than it’s approved for. Until now, wineries seeking changes to their use permits have been able to apply for a modification, even after being caught.
Now under the new rules, wineries that know they are in violation have until March 29 to notify the county and offer a remedy for compliance.
Violators that miss the deadline, or are discovered by the county after March 29, will have to revert to what was originally allowed in their use permits and operate as such for at least a year before applying for a modification.
But despite the raised emphasis today on winery compliance, Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison said the citations against Castello di Amorosa were simply business as usual.
“We’re not going out and inspecting every winery currently to determine compliance,” Morrison said. “This happened to come to our attention and we’re following up on it like with all other compliance cases.”
Morrison added, “Certainly if there are any changes that need to be made to the use permit, the castle may want to submit before March 29.”
As for the nearing deadline for other wineries in violation to come forward, Morrison said, “We’ve had a lot of questions and conversations, but we haven’t seen that many applications so far.”
Asked how many might be expected to come forward with violations, Morrison said, “We’re curious ourselves.”
AMERICAN CANYON — American City Council members took a break from budget minutia and subdivision applications to weigh whether Bottoms Up Espresso is in reality a “bikini café” that qualifies as adult entertainment.
The unanimous verdict at Tuesday’s hearing was to uphold a city manager’s decision revoking the Bottoms Up Espresso business license to operate at the 3939 Broadway drive-through kiosk formerly used by Caffino. The council ruled that an adult entertainment aspect of the business ran afoul of city code.
City Council member David Oro successfully pushed for a vote that night rather than grant the applicant’s request for more time to respond to the city’s arguments. He showed a photo of scantily clad female baristas from a Bottoms Up Espresso franchise in another city.
“Let’s call it what it is – adult entertainment,” Oro said.
Attorney Ralph Andino on behalf of Mudwater LCC, the local Bottoms Up Espresso franchisee, said that the local business was just getting started when it lost the business license. He said no city official had seen an employee there wearing the supposedly objectionable attire.
“The decision of the hearing officer was made on supposition rather than established sources or personal information,” Andino wrote in a brief. “No Bottoms Up personnel had ever been present in the inappropriately described adult entertainment ‘costumes.’”
City officials pointed to the company’s corporate dress code, with a city legal brief using the term “bikini cafe.” One audience member called the business “a peep show hidden as a coffee shop.”
The City Council directed staff to prepare a resolution denying the Bottoms Up Espresso appeal for a vote at the next meeting.
Bottoms Up Espresso opened its first outlet in Modesto in 2011 and now has string of outlets in such Central Valley cities as Bakersfield, Chico, Marysville and Tracy. The company has been offering franchises since 2015, according to the company website.
American Canyon officials approved the Bottoms Up Espresso drive-through in December 2018 as a coffee shop. Then city officials found out about the chain’s reputation for having scantily clad female baristas serve up the coffee and breakfast sandwiches.
The city decided the business qualified as adult entertainment and said it intended to revoke the license. City Manager Jason Holley upheld the decision after a Jan. 22 public hearing.
Holley concluded in his written decision that the evidence portrays “a clear intention for female employees to prominently display specific anatomical areas while they perform acts of food and beverage preparation.”
That led to Tuesday’s City Council appeal hearing. Andino called the business a coffee shop and claimed it did not meet the city code definitions of adult entertainment.
“It’s not a cabaret,” Andino told the council. “There’s no regular performances. There’s no modeling, as is covered by the city code.”
In his brief, he wrote that the attire complained about isn’t illegal or inappropriate – depending on taste – for any member of the public to wear.
“Any person can wear any time the attire complained of by the city manager,” Andino wrote. “This is not only a violation of a constitutionally protected free speech right, but of due process as well.”
The official company website shows photos of women in bikinis. Names of espresso drinks include Sweet Senorita, Little Irish Girl and Sweet Cheeks. People applying for a job are asked to include a photo.
“Custom, high-quality drinks, creative names and sexy baristas make up our unique concept,” the website says.
Bottoms Up is not for American Canyon, several residents told the council.
“The business is along Highway 29 representing our city,” resident Janelle Sellick said. “It’s what the thousands of drivers on Highway 29 see.”
Belia Ramos spoke as an American Canyon resident and mother of three rather than as a county supervisor. She wanted the ability to limit her children’s exposure to businesses such as Bottoms Up.
Resident Mark Lederer worked for the incorporation of the city in 1991. He opposed having a local Bottoms Up Espresso.
“The bottom line is it really doesn’t have any place in American Canyon and it definitely doesn’t comply with code,” Lederer said.
Asked after the meeting if he would pursue other legal avenues, Andino said he had yet to discuss the matter with his client.
A united Napa City Council voted Tuesday night to look at new options for a civic center complex to replace its 1950s City Hall and a scattered collection of other buildings.
City staff and consultants will pursue alternatives to the four-story, 130,000-square-foot combination city hall and police station plan unveiled nearly two years ago.
The new evaluation is expected to produce various options for council members to review within five to six months – with the possibility of choosing different sites or even separate law enforcement and civilian hubs.
The analysis may sharply alter the location, layout and design of a project intended to gather Napa’s city services from seven locations into a central hub on First Street, on the Community Services Building site.
This plan has faced criticism from police, city employees and residents complaining about rising cost forecasts and a lack of community input. Debate about the project intensified during the 2018 council election, when the police union spent more than $50,000 on mailers backing Mary Luros and Liz Alessio, who both won seats on a platform opposing a combined police and civic building.
The move to rethink Napa’s path to a new headquarters was welcomed by John Salmon, a Napa attorney who has criticized the one-building concept as inefficient and costly and urged the city to swap downtown landholdings with Napa County to build a separate city hall and police station.
“Thank you so much for taking a step back and taking another look at what you’re doing,” he told the council.
While the new study may push back the finish line for a project originally scheduled for completion in 2021, Luros called it necessary to keep its cost and scope on a tighter rein. “If it means we don’t waste any of the information we’ve spent millions of dollars on, it’s worth it to me,” she said before the unanimous vote.
During the study, Napa staff and consultants would spend two to three months studying building sites, finances and city workers’ space needs, followed by two months creating three to seven options for the project. A month-long period would follow when the city would present a short list of alternatives for public comments, after which the City Council would make its selection, possibly as early as late August or September.
Among the challenges to city planners is to cope with labor and material shortages in the Bay Area’s construction industry that have pushed the civic center’s projected price upward, from $110 million to $143.6 million when including the cost of temporary office space during construction.
Among the money-saving ideas council members discussed in December was to delay or cancel a sale of the Second Street “superblock” that holds the existing city hall and police station. Such a move would allow workers to stay in place until their new offices are ready, but would deny the city of tax revenue from rezoning the block for housing, hotel and retail development – one possible way to more quickly repay construction bonds on the city project.
The financial analysis of the various civic center alternatives also will be less focused on revenue potential from the Second Street block or any other surplus city property. In a memorandum last week, Nancy Weiss, project manager for the civic center effort, said such studies would focus on the expense of the police and city offices, and would not rely on forecasts of the money raised from private development.
“We want to take little bites,” said Vice Mayor Scott Sedgley of the move to treat the city and private developments as separate projects. “Big bites are too hard to swallow.”
The civic center is at the heart of an overhaul that also would include a new downtown station for the Napa Fire Department, as well as an expansion of the Clay Street garage.
The county deputy sheriff’s union says focus on the immigration status of the late Javier Hernandez Morales — an undocumented immigrant who was killed last month after shooting at a deputy — is misdirected.
The true threats to society and safety are criminal justice reforms passed by California voters and legislators in recent years, the Napa County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association wrote in a statement Tuesday.
Law enforcement professionals across the state have expressed skepticism of criminal justice reforms passed in California. Many officers say anecdotally that the legislation has increased the rate at which some offenders cycle in and out of jail, and the union wrote that those laws prohibit law enforcement and courts from punishing criminals appropriately.
Told of the criticisms, a Sacramento State criminal justice professor says the union’s claims aren’t supported by statistics and state crime rates haven’t been affected by these laws.
Sheriff John Robertson declined requests to be interviewed for this story because it dealt with issues raised by the union. “I’m not a part of the (union) so I’m not going to speak to their statement or about it,” he said through a spokesperson.
“Javier Hernandez Morales’ immigration status is just one small component of a much larger picture,” the union wrote.
Hernandez Morales had been arrested five times in Napa County between 2010 and 2016 before he shot at Deputy Riley Jarecki, who approached his car while patrolling her beat in a rural part of the county on the night of Feb. 17. Rumors began circulating online that he may not have been lawfully present in America.
U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) said later in a statement to Bay Area TV station ABC7 that Hernandez Morales had been deported three times, and the Napa County jail ignored three requests in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to detain him until ICE agents could arrive. The county gave ICE a courtesy call each time, as required by state law in those years, and had previously turned him over to ICE in 2010, before those laws went into effect, said Ryan Gregory, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.
The union criticized four pieces of legislation:
— Proposition 57 from 2016 allowed certain nonviolent offenders to be considered for parole sooner, among other things. It “paved the way for early release of hardened felons,” the union wrote.
Supporters say it helped reduce the prison population and rehabilitate offenders.
— Assembly Bill 109 from April 2011 was drafted in response to a Supreme Court order that California reduce its prison population, so legislators opted to move some prison inmates to county jails. This “shifted thousands of convicted felons from state prisons to county jails,” the union wrote.
A 2015 report by the Public Policy Institute of California found that the state still had not met the prison population target.
— Senate Bill 54 from 2017, known as the Sanctuary State bill, limits how much state and local law enforcement agencies can work with immigration officials. The law “allows criminals who are illegally living in this country … to engage in further criminal activity,” the union wrote.
Supporters say the law builds trust between immigrants and law enforcement in a community.
— Proposition 47 from 2014, which downgraded many theft and drug felony charges to misdemeanors, worsens negative impacts of the other three pieces of legislation and “makes it almost impossible to lock up serial offenders” for drug and property crimes, the union wrote.
A Public Policy Institute of California analysis last year found that the proposition seemed to increase property crime and larceny theft rates, but reduced recidivism rates.
Bill MacDonald, senior deputy sheriff and vice president of the union, declined to provide specific examples about how this legislation may have impacted the county. But MacDonald said Napa Valley is fortunate because it has a lower crime rate than other parts of the Bay Area.
The union also wrote that politicians and biased media reports cast law enforcement in a negative light.
“The normalization of criminal conduct by the media, the entertainment industry and continued downplay of criminal conduct by politicians” negatively impact law enforcement and communities, the union wrote.
Jennie Singer, a Sacramento State criminal justice professor, said those four criminal justice reform measures were positive changes for California’s overly punitive criminal justice system and that she would like to see them implemented nationwide. She called the union’s statement a “moral panic” in response to a situation in which an officer was shot by an immigrant who should not have been in the country.
“Highlighting one bad thing that an immigrant did is very small compared to all of the millions of immigrants that we have in California that need our protection,” she said.
Singer supported AB 109 overall, but took some issue with moving prison inmates to county jails. The bill claimed to target “nonsexual, nonviolent, non-serious” offenders, but officials only considered a person’s most recent crime, she said. Someone could still qualify for a move to county jail if they had committed five violent crimes in the past, but were serving time for a nonviolent crime, for example.
The bill also appropriated funding to counties to create rehabilitation programs for such individuals, but some counties did more than others, Singer said.
She was not critical of the other pieces of legislation, including Proposition 57 to allow nonviolent offenders to receive a quicker parole hearing. People who committed minor felonies are less likely to reoffend if they spend more time out in the community, Singer said.
Proposition 47 to change many drug and larceny felonies to misdemeanors is a more rehabilitative solution.
“Addiction is a disease, not a crime,” she said, adding that jail time is criminogenic, or makes it more likely for people to commit crimes.
Gregory of the Board of Supervisors expressed a desire to speak with area state representatives Sen. Bill Dodd and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry about the state’s criminal justice laws following the Sheriff’s Office’s recent officer-involved shooting. It’s a misconception that the board has any sway in making such policy changes, he said.
Gregory said he felt it would be positive for immigration authorities to have a closer working relationship with the Sheriff’s Office, as was once the case.
“None of us want criminals on the streets,” he said. “If ICE can be a partner, great.”
Robertson wouldn’t speak for this report, but gave a 15-minute interview Tuesday on Napa Broadcasting that addressed some of the same issues outlined in the union’s statement. Robertson spoke generally and not with regard to the union’s statement.
Like Gregory, Robertson said he wished local law enforcement agencies had more freedom to work with federal officials.
“When we are presented with cases of repeated violations … I think it’s really important that we’re allowed to contact them and not wait” for immigration officials to reach out first, he said on the radio.
The investigation into whether Deputy Jarecki lawfully discharged her weapon is still open.