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The reasons why we left

The reasons why we left

  • Updated

Since my name came up in a recent letter ("Exit from Napa County, Jan. 29), I thought I should elaborate on why we left. Yes, it was becoming economically less sustainable for a retired teacher and a glass artist. But it was OK; the reasons for leaving were more than that.

It felt imbalanced, particularly Upvalley, that more value was placed on those who visited than those who lived there; many artists had left and a social caste system had begun. That may be universal in tourist destinations, but in a small town it is a sea change.

As I struggled for balance, the more I wondered if success would just accelerate the economic and social disparity by attracting more tourists. Or, was I saving the wealthy from themselves?

I was appalled when it became policy to cater to wealthy tourists, hoping for fewer of them. Then came the rise in both commercial rents and attitudes. People like us wound up driving for 45 minutes for anything, like normal food prices, repairs, contractors or people like us.

Was I assisting an exploitative industry? Remember the Small Winery Ordinance? Was I paying more taxes of all kinds to accommodate more tourists and make wine more profitable?

We felt like bait, like part of the Direct-To-Consumer advertising system. Tourists toured down our street, asked if they could buy our dog, pick our Hydrangeas, asked my husband if he was the gardening service. Streets went dark; strangers at the door became more frequent and unnerving.

Then, after the NIMBYS were elected in, laws were ignored with conflicts of interest, stacked committees, poor governance and the prevention of an updated General Plan. I supported its progress for 12 years and four years after we left, there still is no General Plan.

They nit-picked it to death, at least twice; it was a strategy. No GP meant that zoning, housing and code enforcement were weak and rich applicant self-interest ruled.

So, yes, it was economics, but prices rise everywhere. What was specific to our exit was pouring all those years into a place and then realizing we were just another couple of tourists there for the taking and art was there just to sell wine.

Sandra Ericson

Eugene, Oregon

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