In just a few months, Napa County voters will receive ballots giving them the power to approve or reject an initiative to protect the purity of Napa County streams and the preservation of our oak woodlands.
I believe that measure will win. That optimism is partially based on a milestone decision of a few days ago. I refer to the decision of Napa City planners to deny a developer his desire to build an upscale residential community on the hills along Old Sonoma Road. The developer had done everything imaginable to win approval. He had reduced his desire for 63 mansions to 51. He would not clear-cut the oak woodlands. He would include a half-acre public park and two-mile walking trail in his development.
It wasn’t enough..
Thoughtful opponents appealed against the project for a variety of reasons. They pointed out that concrete streets up the hillsides, houses and garages along Old Sonoma Road would destroy the unique scenic beauty of the entrance to Napa City. They noted that one of the city of Napa’s attractions is its setting of green hillsides and woodlands. That they define the community. They reminded the planners that the General Plan calls for special treatment of open space. They argued that the plan of one man should not prevail against the values of a community.
Those are probably the arguments that influenced the decision to turn down a developer’s plan.
I also believe that the planners’ response was partially an indication that the national conservation movement has come to Napa city. People here have been watching TV and reading their national magazines for some time. They have seen people going public for one cause or another. Crowding the streets – wall to wall - in Boston and San Francisco, in Spain and Turkey. They have seen people like themselves giving voice to their hopes and dreams against some historic culture.
Napa people may not be ready for vigorous protests here, but they are realizing that their goals are legitimate. They have come to believe that people like them can produce constructive change. That they too can prevail against the power of prevailing interests.
For all the right reasons.