I was born in Palm Springs in the early '50s. The Coachella Valley was mostly desert, except for date groves, citrus and grapes. The first ranch houses were built with adobe bricks made from mud gathered from flood water washes and then dried in the sun.
One of the early pioneers and Los Angeles land developer, R.P. Davie, built a road using only mules and handmade grading tools. He named the road, “Rio Del Sol,” “Road of the Sun.”
News of the secluded desert oasis spread through Los Angeles and Hollywood faster than gossip. My neighbor growing up on Sahara Road in Rancho Mirage was actor Frank Morgan, also known as the “Wizard of Oz.”
Following Morgan were more celebrities and well-to-do individuals that built vacation homes and in 1951, Thunderbird Country Club, the first 18-hole golf course was built.
Soon thereafter, Tamarisk Country Club was founded, and many others followed. This was the beginning of the end of the desert I knew in my youth.
Today, over 100 golf courses completely cover the once pristine desert land. Gone are the majestic date groves, verdant citrus groves and table-grape vineyards. Gone are the ever-shifting giant sand dunes off Cook Street. Gone are the original desert rats such as Harry Oliver of Fort Oliver and Andy the Donkey Man.
They have been replaced by U.S. presidents and their insatiable appetite for golf.
Condominiums, gated communities, strip malls, fast-food restaurants and resorts now extend from one end of the valley to the other. That once aptly-named road “Rio Del Sol” was renamed many years ago. It’s now “Bob Hope Drive.”
I could go on and on, but the desert of my parents, my brother and all my friends, is gone forever. If you want to see desert now, you can visit the Living Desert Preserve in Palm Desert – they have wonderful exhibits.
What happened to my desert could have happened in the Napa Valley, except 50 years ago a group of farsighted individuals wanted to protect our precious land from commercial development by enacting the nation’s first Agricultural Preserve. This land-zoning ordinance said that the highest and best use of the 30,000-plus acres is best served by agriculture.
The beauty of what we see every day in the Napa Valley is because we have cemented into law that ag is the highest and best use of our agricultural watershed land.
If Measure C passes it will be the first time in 50 years that Ag will not be the highest and best use of our watershed lands. And once the 795-acre limit of oak tree removal is met, the only thing left of value for the landowner and still permitted is the ability to construct mega homes and other development on our scenic hillsides.
Is this what we want for the Napa Valley? I do not.
Make no mistake, Measure C is an anti-ag initiative. The future and the preservation of our ag lands is only possible with a sustainable agricultural wine economy and protection from developers.
Without a sustainable wine economy, everything that we hold sacrosanct in the valley, such as our open spaces, farm lands, and oak woodlands are at risk. Santa Clara was also once a magnificent mecca for farmers; now it is totally lost to development and commercialism.
We are at a crossroads in our community. We can choose to go down one road and have serious discussions with our elected officials about real issues such as traffic, housing and water. Let them do the work we pay them to do.
Let us conduct verifiable studies and make informed decisions based on scientific fact, not scaremongering hyperbole, such as a young girl drinking out of a water fountain.
Measure C is not about saving our watersheds. It will severely limit future farm lands and will promote the development of luxury homes on our hillsides.
Napa County already has rigorous environmental regulations, some even describe them as onerous. Yet proponents want you to think that we have little regulation. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This other road, if adopted by the voters of Napa County, will be the beginning of the end of the Napa Valley. Please vote No on Measure C and protect our farmers and our valley.