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Bell Canyon Reservoir (copy)

Preservation of pure drinking water was a high priority among people responding to a Napa County survey. This is St. Helena's Bell Canyon reservoir. 


A Napa County survey shows 70 percent of respondents are satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the local quality of life, but 50 percent say they think things will grow worse over the next three years.

Weighing on the minds of residents are concerns over traffic, water quality, affordable housing and a need for jobs that pay a living wage for the area.

The county surveyed 2,155 people as part of its strategic plan update. It made the poll available on the county website from Aug. 24 to Oct. 9 and asked people to respond.

“Keep in mind, this was a non-scientific study,” strategic plan consultant B. J. Bischoff said. “It’s wasn’t like we called people and targeted people.”

But it’s probably the most feedback the county has ever received from such an effort, she said.

Bischoff touched briefly on the survey during the Oct. 16 strategic plan update before the Napa County Board of Supervisors. The Napa Valley Register asked for and received the survey results and hundreds of comments submitted by respondents. Go to to see a pdf of the survey.

Respondents rated a variety of environmental concerns listed in the survey as “extremely important.” Eighty percent put drinking water in this category, 73 percent water in streams and reservoirs, 73 percent groundwater, 70 percent city water supplies and related watershed protections and 69 percent development impacts on water quality.

The survey defined “extremely important” as an issue that respondents think must be a county priority for the three-year strategic plan.

“Our water resources are not without end,” one respondent wrote. “Please make a better effort to stop this unending expansion of wine tasting rooms and wineries. Leave our hillsides alone.”

Many respondents submitted similar comments. But another person wrote that the county needs to educate the public about existing county regulations that protect the environment and water quality.

“Governing by initiative is the wrong way to govern!” the person wrote.

That remark likely referred to Measure C, the watershed and oak woodland protection initiative that narrowly lost in the June 5 election after a bitter campaign. The strategic plan effort that has included community meetings in all five supervisorial districts is designed in part to heal such divisions.

Measure C co-author Mike Hackett at the Oct. 16 Board of Supervisors meeting endorsed the strategic plan effort. He said he represented the Growers and Vintners for Responsible Agriculture, with Warren Winiarski, Beth Novak Milliken and Robin Lail among the group’s participants.

“We are post-Measure C, and so as a result we decided as a group to completely give this process its day in court, you might say,” Hackett said during public comments.

On the topic of housing, survey respondents again rated various concerns listed in the survey. Seventy-two percent said affordable housing is extremely important. Forty-nine percent said homeless services are extremely important.

“Diversification of housing is at a critical level,” one respondent wrote. “We must look at alternative methods (co-housing, tiny housing, workforce). If we don’t maintain a solid base, no amount of McMansion construction will be able to save us from doom.”

Another wrote that smaller, “pod” pre-made homes should be allowed.

One respondent wanted the county to ease restrictions to allow more housing development. But another said rapid housing growth is adding to traffic woes.

“American Canyon and Vallejo are the most sensible locations to build cost-effective housing and other industry such as high tech,” a respondent wrote. “This is an overlooked and underutilized region, particularly Vallejo, Mare Island.”

Chuck Shinnamon of the Napa Housing Coalition said as wineries expand, they add employees. The coalition is eager to work with the county and wine industry on ways to house these employees, he said.

“I don’t know if you are really capturing that cumulative impact of all of this,” he told supervisors at the Oct. 16 meeting. “I think a significant number of those folks are on the lower end of the wage scale, probably commuting from elsewhere.”

Survey respondents rated several transportation topics in the “extremely important” category. Seventy-five percent said traffic congestion, 70 percent said road maintenance, 52 percent said ways to travel without a car and 48 percent said public transportation within the county.

“Get rid of the traffic,” one respondent said. “NO GROWTH!”

“We need a secondary road from American Canyon to Napa,” another wrote.

“Traffic solutions on the (Silverado) Trail and Highway 29 could be better served with traffic circles instead of stop signs at major intersections,” another wrote.

A few respondents criticized the structure of the survey.

“The questions tend to evoke all-or-nothing responses rather than eliciting informed concerns and proposals,” the person wrote.

In December, the county will propose concise action steps to make the strategic plan a reality, County Executive Officer Minh Tran said. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to adopt a three-year strategic plan on Dec. 18.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.